The first three kings to reign over Israel were Saul, David, and Solomon. However, it wasn’t until the leadership of David that the kingdom was fully united and strongly progressing. With the rise of Saul, Israel goes from being a nation of changing tribal leaders to being led by a king. The introduction of the monarchy in Israel occurred after the people approached Samuel and requested a king (1 Samuel 8:4-5). This request displeased the Lord because the people’s desire for a king was driven by wrong motives (1 Samuel 8:7). James Hamilton observes, “It was prophesied that Israel would have a king (e.g. ), so the desire for a king is not itself evil. The evil lies in the fact that rather than desiring a human king through who Yahweh will exercise his power and authority, the people reject Yahweh” (‘God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment’, 163). God’s standard for a king was outlined clearly in the Mosiac Law (Deut. 17:14-20).
Israel’s first king was Saul the son of Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. Saul was a tall and handsome man, and his appearance appealed to the people. Furthermore, Saul also demonstrated military capabilities with a number of successful campaigns. However, though there is some positive actions can be seen in his life, his overall direction is viewed as negative. In the end he is seen as a man that was rebellious and rejected by God. His demise occurs because he did things his way and not God’s way (1 Samuel 13:13-14 and 15:23). The occasion that led to God’s formal rejection of Saul was when he was commanded to wipe out the Amalekites including their livestock. He carried out the task but didn’t fully obey the Lord. The prophet Samuel said to Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice…because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king” (1 Samuel 15:22-23). Saul panicked, and when Samuel walked away Saul grabbed his robe and it tore. Samuel then said, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and given it to a neighbor of yours, you is better than you” (1 Samuel 15:28). This prepares the way for David.
The kingship of David marks the beginning of a family dynasty that finds its fulfillment in the King who will rule for eternity with perfection, namely Jesus Christ. David’s life and leadership is presented in contrast to the life and leadership of Saul. David is not a perfect king and David commits terrible acts. Yet genuine repentance and a heart for the Lord characterise him. The prophet Samuel anointed David, the youngest and shortest son of Jesse (1 Samuel 16:1-12). Early on in his life, David displays courage and confidence in the Lord as he enters into combat with Goliath. With his sling he strikes Goliath in the skull, and then cuts his head off (1 Samuel 17:50-51). This event clearly shadows the plan of God to strike the serpent’s head by the coming of the King of kings (cf. Gen. 3:15). The words character, covenant, compromise, and conflict provide a summary of David’s life.
David’s fame began to spread among the people of Israel (the people cheered “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” 1 Samuel 18:7). Even members from Saul’s household show loyalty and love toward David. Saul’s frustration and anger are directed toward David. Saul hotly pursues David seeking to take his life. Yet God protects David. On two occasions David had the opportunity to take Saul’s life, yet David refuses to do this (1 Samuel 24:10). During this difficult period, David displays godly character. The Lord’s evaluation of David’s character is that he was “a man after my heart” (Acts 13:22). Later David is anointed king of Judah (2 Samuel 2:1-7) but rebels in the northern tribes reject God’s anointed. In time these men are murdered, but David had nothing to do with these actions. After these events, David then becomes king over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-5) and under his leadership the nation becomes a united kingdom. Borders are expanded and the kingdom prospers. David makes Jerusalem the capital city and has the Ark of the Covenant is moved to Jerusalem (6:1-23).
David desired to build a house for the Lord. The prophet Nathan endorsed this idea, but then the word of the Lord came to him and instructed to tell David not to do this. However, the Lord said He would build a house for David that will be a ruling dynasty. The promises God makes to David will be fulfilled in David’s lifetime and after his death (2 Samuel 7:8-13). He was promised a great name (7:9), that his offspring would take the throne and be king (7:12), and from his line would come one who would be king and would rule forever (7:13). Like the covenant made with Abraham, this reverses the curse and finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ. At this point in David’s life there has been much success and he displays signs of being a new Adam and going about the task of spreading the fame and glory of the Lord throughout the land.
But David goes from a man of faithfulness to a man of failure. Like the first Adam, David is tempted and dishonours the Lord. David lusts after a married woman named Bathsheba, commits adultery, and has her husband murdered. David’s perversion was exposed by a parable by the prophet Nathan. The Lord warns of devastating consequences that will occur in his family as a result of this sin. David demonstrates why he is a man after God’s own heart. David earnestly mourns his transgression against the Lord, confesses his sin, and repents (2 Samuel 12 and Psalm 51). David sinned greatly but God forgave graciously. David expressed the consequences of his lustful rebellion and consequences of the Lord’s loving restoration in two of his Psalms (32 & 51).
The rest of David’s life is marked by conflict that primarily arises from within his own household. Even though David repented, the Lord remains true to His promises and the effects of the curse continue to abound and spread.
Solomon was the son of David by Bathsheba. Solomon’s reign has a great start but sadly it doesn’t end well. The kingdom continued to expand and flourish, but it didn’t take long to it to begin to rot within.
The Rise of Solomon
When David was old and frail, Adonijah, the fourth of David’s sons, exalted himself and planned to make himself king in his father’s place. When David was informed, he instructed Zakok the priest and Nathan the prophet to anoint Solomon as king (1 Kings 1:28-31). David charges Solomon to be faithful to the Lord (1 Kings 2:2-4). With the rise of Solomon to the throne, positive signs are seen in his reign. Like previous individuals (Noah and David), Solomon functions like a new Adam. And where Adam fails, Solomon succeeds. This is seen in the way he dealt with Adonijah’s devious plan to claim the throne (1 Kings 2:13-25).
The Reign on Solomon
Early in his reign, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked him what He would desire from the Lord. Solomon didn’t seek anything from a selfish heart but instead asked the Lord “give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). God graciously grants Solomon this request. A dispute between two prostitutes is a recorded occasion of how wise Solomon was (1 Kings 3:16-28). The book of Proverbs contains many of the wise sayings of Solomon. The kingdom greatly expanded and flourished during his reign. The highpoint of Solomon’s reign is the building of the temple (1 Kings 5-8). Solomon’s reign pointed back to the Garden of Eden, and then gives us a glimpse into the future.
The Ruin of Solomon
The downfall of Solomon was seen in his disobedience to the Law of God with regards to the character of a king (Deut. 17:14-20). Solomon loved many foreign women and accumulated 700 wives and 300 concubines. This compromise produced corruption as “his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4). This is a sad ending.
If Ecclesiastes was the last book Solomon wrote (which it likely is), then this reveals that he had a repentant heart. As an old man, after looking back at his life and the many accomplishments he concluded, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
 James Hamilton, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment,