Ministry Resources

Tents, Temples, and Palaces

In this course you will study the Old Testament, the first part of the most important book in the world- the Holy Bible. The Old Testament tells about the Creator of the heavens and the earth. It is the account of His dealings with the people he chose to use as an instrument through whom to bless the world. Series written by Rick C. Howard.

A Kingdom United

Under the leadership of Joshua, God’s people entered the land of Palestine. They made many conquests and settled there. Then they went through a troublesome period of transition under the judges. Times were difficult, but God raised up leaders to deliver Israel from their oppressors. It was during this time that the last judge—Samuel—became Israel’s leader.

It was Samuel who anointed Saul, Israel’s first king. Saul’s reign marked the beginning of the kingdom era. This era of the united kingdom continued through two more kings, David and Solomon. Each of these three kings ruled for about forty years.

The kingdom era was the most brilliant of Israel’s history. The dark ages we have studied became a golden age. It was a time when God’s promise was fulfilled. Israel took its place among the nations of the world. Its buildings, writings, and prosperity showed forth God’s blessing for all the world to see! In this lesson you will learn about this marvelous time of blessing and prosperity and about the first three kings who ruled Israel.

The Idea of Kingship

God’s Instructions

Israel had not had a man as king until this time, for Jehovah had been their king! They had a theocracy, or a “government by God.” The idea of a theocracy, in which God ruled through His appointed leaders, had not failed. The people, however, were unable to appreciate its benefits.

Although it was not His perfect will for Israel, God allowed them to have a king. He had foreseen the day when they would want one. Before they came into Palestine, He had given them instructions concerning how their kings should behave.

We may summarize these instructions by stating the following four principles:

  1. The kings of Israel were not to rule by their own will.
  2. They were not to rule for their own honor or glory.
  3. They were to be concerned about the will of God and His direction for the good of the people.
  4. The king was to be as much the subject of Jehovah as the humblest Israelite.

In all the future reigns of the kings in Israel these principles operated. As long as a king was dependent upon the will of God, he prospered. When a king made a practice of disobeying God’s will he was ultimately dethroned.

The People’s Demand

The people of Israel saw the nations around them and felt disunified and powerless in contrast. Also, Samuel’s sons were evil and the elders wanted some way to avoid having them become Israel’s leaders (1 Samuel 8:1–5). The Israelites gathered at Ramah, Samuel’s home, and demanded to have a king. Their impatience, lack of trust, and rebellion was a grievous sin, and Samuel sought the Lord in sorrow. While God wanted Israel to be His special people, they wanted to be like the nations around them (1 Samuel 8:5, 19–20). Their request for a king showed that they did not trust God to protect them, as Samuel pointed out later (1 Samuel 12:6–12). God reminded Samuel, “‘It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king’” (1 Samuel 8:7).

After the people had been warned of the consequences of their action, they still insisted on having a king. Then God told Samuel to go ahead and give them one (1 Samuel 8:19–22). When Saul had been anointed as king, Samuel gave his last message to Israel as their leader (1 Samuel 12). In his message he asked them to agree that his conduct had been blameless, which they did (vv. 3–5). He reminded them of what the Lord had done for them and told them again that they had sinned in mistrusting the Lord and asking for a king (vv. 6–12).

The people were fearful at his words and at God’s miraculous confirmation of them which followed. They cried to Samuel, “‘Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king’” (v. 19). Samuel reassured the people and told them to serve the Lord. The principles which he stated formed a prophecy concerning all the kings which were to rule: “‘Fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away’” (vv. 24–25).

Though Samuel was no longer to be Israel’s official ruler, he still was to have a great influence on the nation. The people sensed their need for his help, and Samuel responded gracious and beautiful manner (vv. 19–23).

Has the Lord reminded you of people for whom you should pray? Perhaps they, like the people of God during Samuel’s time, have strayed away from the Lord. We should follow Samuel’s example and not sin against God by ceasing to pray for them.

The Reign of Saul

Chosen as King

Although the people did not choose a king by electing one, it is obvious that God picked one based on their desire. Saul was a handsome man in the prime of life, “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites—a head taller than any of the others” (1 Samuel 9:2). He was the people’s idea of a king.

After God revealed to Samuel that Saul would be king (1 Samuel 9:15–17), Samuel anointed him in a private ceremony (vv. 27–10:1). Samuel told Saul about the signs God would give him to confirm this choice and told Saul to wait for him at Gilgal. The signs came to pass as Samuel had prophesied. Then at Mizpah, after reminding the Israelites of their sin in asking for a king, Samuel publicly declared Saul to be king (1 Samuel 10:1–27).

Victories and Failures

As commander of Israel’s armies, Saul was a brilliant leader. He won victory after victory. But Saul could not bring himself under the authority of God. This failure ultimately caused God to reject him as king

Rejected as King

After Saul’s disobedience at Gilgal (1 Samuel 13:8–12), Samuel told him for the first time that he and his family would not continue to rule Israel. “‘The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command’” (1 Samuel 13:14). After Saul’s second disobedience, Samuel repeated his statement, now in stronger language:

“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Samuel 15:22–23).

As Saul’s life went on, he frequently admitted his sin but never really changed.

The Reign of David

The prophet Samuel prepared the way for David, Israel’s greatest king. David had spent much of his youth as a shepherd, and these experiences form the background for many of the psalms he wrote which are recorded in the book of Psalms. But David did not remain a shepherd, for he was the man God had chosen to be a king.

Anointed as King

God stirred Samuel from his mourning over Saul and sent him to Bethlehem to the family of Jesse. David was Jesse’s youngest son.

Samuel anointed David, and the Spirit of God took possession of him from that time on (1 Samuel 16:13).

Awaiting God’s Time

But several years passed before David actually became king of Israel. At first, David was associated with Saul’s court, where his musical ability soothed the spiritually troubled king (1 Samuel 16:14–23).

David displayed his courage and trust in the Lord by answering the challenge of Goliath the Philistine (1 Samuel 17:20–58). His victory brought him to the attention of the people of Israel, and his popularity with them caused Saul to become jealous (1 Samuel 8:6–9). But none of the plans that Saul made to destroy David were successful. David married Michal, Saul’s daughter, and became close friends with Jonathan, his son.

As David’s military successes increased, so did Saul’s jealousy of him. Saul knew the Lord was with David (1 Samuel 18:12, 28). Finally, David was forced to become an outlaw, fleeing from Saul’s efforts to kill him (1 Samuel 19:11– 17). The prophet Gad (whom David had probably already met among the prophets who were with Samuel at Ramah) was associated with him during this time and later on as well (1 Samuel 22:5; 2 Samuel 24:11–25).

At first David sought refuge in the kingdom of Israel. Later he fled to the nation of Gath to King Achish (1 Samuel 21). When he returned to Israel he took refuge in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22) where many men gathered to him. After the prophet Samuel died and was buried at Ramah, David went to Paran (1 Samuel 25:1). Finally, after many narrow escapes, he made his headquarters at Ziklag (1 Samuel 27) where he remained until Saul’s death.

During these years of exile and danger, David chose to submit himself to God’s will.

In his submission to God’s will, David represented the true ideal of kingship. Saul was just the opposite. His willful rebellion ultimately led him even into witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23; 28:3– 25). The closing years of Saul’s reign were a struggle between the wayward king and God. Finally, in a terrible moment of defeat, Saul died by his own hand on Mount Gilboa. Three of his sons including Jonathan, David’s closest friend, had already been killed in the battle with the Philistines. It was a tragic end to the career of Israel’s first king. David’s moving lament for Saul and Jonathan is recorded in 2 Samuel 1.

Ruling Over Judah

After Saul’s death, only the tribe of Judah recognized David as king. He was anointed by them and reigned over Judah from Hebron for seven years (2 Samuel 1–4). Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, reigned over the rest of the tribes, which were collectively called “Israel.” But whereas David’s family and descendants grew stronger, Saul’s grew weaker. The two parts of the kingdom came into conflict with each other. Then, in a series of violent events, Ishbosheth was murdered by two of his own captains.

Ruling Over All Israel

After the death of Ishbosheth, the tribes all gathered at Hebron and anointed David as king over all of Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 5:1–5). David took Jerusalem from the Jebusites who lived there, and established it as the capital of the united kingdom (2 Samuel 5). He reigned there for 33 years.

David continued to show his submission to God’s desires. His first act was to bring back the Ark of the Covenant and place it in the capital city (2 Samuel 6). You remember that this symbol of God’s presence had been lost at the battle of Aphek by Eli’s godless sons, and then returned by the Philistines because of God’s judgment upon them. The Israelites, also in fear, had kept it in a barn at a place called Kiriath Jearim. Although this place was only 8 miles west of Jerusalem, the ark had remained there for more than 20 years (1 Samuel 5–7), including all of Samuel’s time as judge, all of Saul’s years as king, and part of David’s reign.

It was at this time that God made His covenant with David, promising him an everlasting kingdom. As time went on, David extended Israel’s borders by making foreign conquests. He defeated the Philistines, the Moabites, and the Ammonites (2 Samuel 8–10).

He committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for her husband, Uriah, to die in battle (2 Samuel 11). Uriah had been David’s associate and military captain for a long time. David’s sin was brought to his attention by the prophet Nathan, and God’s judgment was announced. The child Bathsheba bore to David died (2 Samuel 12:15–23). David sincerely repented and was forgiven by God and because of his humility and brokenness, God continued to use him. David wrote Psalms 32 and 51 at this time of conviction.

God then, as though to prove to David His complete forgiveness, gave him and Bathsheba (who was now his wife) another son. This child was called Solomon, and it was he who became the next king of Israel (2 Samuel 12:24–25; 1 Kings 1:39–40).

But though David repented, the results of his sin were seen in his family. Most notable was the outbreak of wicked behavior among the sons of his different wives, such as Amnon’s rape of his half-sister, Tamar, and Absalom’s subsequent murder of Amnon (2 Samuel 13–14). Finally, there came the attempt of Absalom to overthrow his father. David was even driven from his throne for a short time by Absalom (2 Samuel 15–18). He was then restored to his kingdom (2 Samuel 19–20), and in a wonderful psalm of thanksgiving he honored God (2 Samuel 22– 23).

David sinned again by numbering his people. This showed that he was trusting in the number of soldiers he had, not in the Lord. A plague was sent to Israel. After David’s repentance and intercession, the plague was stopped, and David built an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor which belonged to a man named Araunah (2 Samuel 24:10–25).

As David reached the end of his life, one of his sons, Adonijah, tried to claim the throne. He was prevented from doing so, however, and Solomon became king. David died and was buried (1 Kings 1:1–2:12). As Israel’s history unfolded, it was to his reign and his devotion to God that all other kings were compared.

The Reign of Solomon

Obedience and Success

During the reign of Solomon, God brought Israel to a magnificence that astounded the world. Solomon ruled for 40 years (1 Kings 11:42) and began in greatness. When God asked him what he would like to have, he requested wisdom to rule God’s people. This request pleased the Lord (1 Kings 3:5–14) and Solomon became known for his wisdom (1 Kings 3:28; 4:29–34). He trusted and loved God (1 Kings 3:3).

During his reign, many sacred songs and writings were produced. Solomon alone wrote 3,000 proverbs, of which some 375 are preserved in the Old Testament. He also wrote 1,005 songs, three of which are in the Bible (Psalms 72 and 127, and the Song of Solomon).

Four of the eleven chapters which tell about Solomon’s kingdom are given to a description of the temple he built (1 Kings 5–8). This temple, which was built at Jerusalem on the same place where David had built his altar (2 Samuel 24), amazed the world. Its value in today’s currency would be incalculable! The labor force alone included 30,000 Jews and no less than 153,000 Canaanites.

During those years of Solomon’s reign, the kingdom of Israel was an illustration of God’s desire to bless His people, the people with whom He had made a covenant. The description we read in 1 Kings 10:14–29 suggests how great that kingdom was. God’s people with His glory upon them were a wonder for the world!

Disobedience and Failure

But in spite of all of Solomon’s success, he failed in his devotion to God. His kingdom increased in wealth and fame. He made alliances with foreign nations and married many wives from outside Israel, although God’s command was against a king having many wives (Deuteronomy 17:17). Solomon’s wives led him away from his father’s God (1 Kings 11:1–8). He worshipped other gods, and the Lord judged him because of his disobedience.

Solomon behaved like the tyrannical kings who ruled in the surrounding nations. When he died, the kingdom which had risen to such greatness was on the decline. Nevertheless, the glory and wealth of his kingdom are an example of the abundant blessings God wants to give His people.

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