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The Shape of Kings

Like the books of Samuel and Chronicles, the book of Kings is so long and detailed that it was divided into two scrolls. But it is clearly a single book, one which begins with the construction of Solomon’s Temple and ends with its destruction. When its major events are taken into account, its internal symmetry becomes more evident.

Peter Leithart writes:

This is a gloss and summary of the overview I offer in my Brazos commentary on 1-2 Kings. Though the book is detailed and sometimes convoluted, the overall shape is neatly symmetrical.

A. David and Solomon found the United Kingdom; Solomon builds a house.

B. Jeroboam founds the Northern Kingdom; he builds shrines for golden calves.

C. Omri founds a dynasty in the Northern Kingdom; he builds a capital, and his son Ahab builds houses for Baal.

This a descent into idolatry – from Solomon who turns from Yahweh late in life, to Jeroboam who introduces calf-worship of Yahweh to hold his kingdom together, to Ahab who promotes worship of the false god, Baal.

At the center of the book is:

D. Elijah and Elisha.

Then the three foundings are undone, in reverse order.

C’. Jehu destroys the house of Ahab, dismantles the houses of Baal.

B’. The Assyrians capture Samaria and take Israel into exile. Some time later, Josiah destroys Jeroboam’s calf shrines.

A’. The Babylonians capture Jerusalem, take Judah into exile, and destroy Solomon’s temple.

Each narrative thread begins with a David-like founding king, one who is also a Solomon-like builder of temple. Each ends with the destruction of a kingdom or a dynasty, and a destruction of the associated temple.

The punch line, though, is that in the midst of all the destruction, Yahweh preserves one royal house. Even when the Davidic kingdom is interrupted, Yahweh rescues the house of David. In the coda to 2 Kings 25, the Davidic king Jechoiachin is elevated from prison, set over other kings in exile, and given a place at the table of the king of Babylon.

Here is one indestructible dynasty, sometimes hanging by a thread, but always recalled to life by the faithful promise of God.

Aligning this sevenfold symmetry with the various facets of the Bible Matrix allows more than the symmetry to shine. Since sacred architecture is always a promise, the historical events in the book of Kings are the Tabernacle/Temple blueprint measured out in history.

TRANSCENDENCE

Creation / Genesis / Initiation / Day 1 / Sabbath / Ark of the Testimony
A. David and Solomon found the United Kingdom; Solomon builds a house.
The bloody ministry of David is Adamic, and Solomon is the prince of peace. Likewise, the Tabernacle of David was still a nomadic tent of skins with an interior glory, whereas the Temple of Solomon, with its “multiplied” furnitures and priesthood, was an established “Evian” house with both an inward and an outward glory. The Ark is carried into the Temple.

HIERARCHY

Division / Exodus / Delegation / Day 2 / Passover / Veil
B. Jeroboam founds the Northern Kingdom; he builds shrines for golden calves.
The division of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms due to kingly sins is sacrificial. Jeroboam is given authority but his usurpation of worship reminds us not only of the impudence of Cain, but also of the Egyptian sins of Israel at Sinai. The cutting of Ahijah’s robe symbolises the tearing of a veil.

ETHICS

Ascension / Leviticus / Presentation / Day 3 / Firstfruits / Altar and Table
C. Omri founds a dynasty in the Northern Kingdom; he builds a capital, and his son Ahab builds houses for Baal.
As Leithart observes in his commentary, the dynasty of Omri in the north is an idolatrous copy of the house of David in the south, and a reunion via idolatrous intermarriage alludes to the corruption of the line of Seth through intermingling with the line Cain in Genesis 6. Here, Omri’s dynasty as a Bronze Altar is the establishment of a rival Israel, and its Cainite firstfruits is King Ahab. The bread and wine on the table is child sacrifice, a perversion of the redemption of Isaac.

Testing / Numbers / Purification / Day 4 / Pentecost / Lampstand
D. Elijah and Elisha.
Elijah and Elisha together form a head and a body, just as Christ ascended and sent His Spirit upon the Church. Elijah’s ministry features fire from heaven and a flaming chariot, whereas Elisha carries out miracles with a more earthly focus. Elisha opens the eyes to see the flaming chariots of God on earth. The school of the prophets becomes the foundation for true worship in exile.

Maturity / Deuteronomy / Transformation / Day 5 / Trumpets / Incense Altar
C’. Jehu destroys the house of Ahab, dismantles the houses of Baal.
Just as the Incense Altar is the heavenly version of the Bronze Altar, so Jehu’s ministry is the Lord’s answer to the worship of Baal under the house of Ahab. His chariot is the chariot of the Lord, and he brings about the death of the false bride, Jezebel. But Jehu’s actions are only a warning of greater judgment to come.

OATH/SANCTIONS

Conquest / Joshua / Vindication / Day 6 / Atonement / Mediators
B’. The Assyrians capture Samaria and take Israel into exile. Some time later, Josiah destroys Jeroboam’s calf shrines.
The sins of Jeroboam are finally judged. Josiah acts like a true Priest-King.

SUCCESSION

Glorification / Judges / Representation / Day 7 / Booths / Shekinah
A’. The Babylonians capture Jerusalem, take Judah into exile, and destroy Solomon’s temple.
Israel’s Priestly kingdom was symbolised by the two bronze pillars of the Temple. They are the last items to be destroyed, and their dismantling is described in detail. They pictured the two trees in Eden, and here they are finally destroyed in a great social “flood.” The “representation” of God by Israel to the nations was ended, since she misrepresented Him. The rest and rule of Day 7 were once again forfeited. Instead of being a tree of righteousness for the nations, Israel’s house was cut down and burned up. Whereas the fire of heaven signified the Lord’s approval at the beginning of kings, the fire of the Babylonians completed His rage.

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