1 Kings 11

The account of King Solomon’s death as recorded by the Chronicler belies how sad a figure the wisest man who lived became later in life—

As for the other events of Solomon’s reign, from beginning to end, are they not written in the records of Nathan the prophet, in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite and in the visions of Iddo the seer concerning Jeroboam son of Nebat? Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years. Then he rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son succeeded him as king.

Thankfully we have the Historian’s account of King Solomon’s decline and death preserved for us in 1 Kings 11. Up to that chapter, we have a beautiful picture of how God blessed the son of David and fulfilled His promises to the King and the kingdom abundantly.

Solomon, the young man who started off so well asking only for wisdom and discernment in governing God’s people had been given divine wisdom, plus riches, power, and magnificence beyond anything his father, David, had ever dreamt of.

There is no getting around it; Solomon was blessed by God “over-the-top.” Yet, despite being the recipient of such blessings, Solomon, as foreseen by God, did exactly what he was forbidden to do. Deuteronomy 17:16—17,

The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

No matter how much a person has been blessed by God, God’s Word must never be forgotten or forsaken. God had bestowed upon Solomon the abundance of what he asked for and what he hadn’t, but Solomon, enjoying the life God had given him, failed to uphold his part of deal:

It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:19—20)

You cannot ignore your obligation to God for long without impunity. Had Solomon done his part, he would not have been led astray by what God had given him, or anything else. Instead, Solomon did precisely that which the Law forbade his doing. He took it upon himself to multiply his riches and the number of his wives and his horses. God’s promise was kept; Solomon was rich and glorious beyond any king of his day, but eventually Solomon took control away from God and the means he used to enrich himself further revealed a heart far from God and led to the dismantling of the kingdom.

Solomon is the greatest failure of all time, and his experience reminds us of Luke 12:48,

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Here was a man with everything; opportunities unlimited! But he blew it. The tragedy of Solomon’s life was not a sudden catastrophe, but the very gradual decline of his complete devotion to God.

1. Why too many wives is a bad idea, verses 1—8

As was stated, Solomon’s practice of collecting many wives ran contrary to God’s policy for Israel’s king. Unfortunately, the influence of David, his father, was greater than that of the Word of God, for women were David’s undoing, as well. Like some men collect cars, so Solomon collected women; women from all cultures and nationalities. It was on account of his wives that Solomon, in his later years, came to condone that which he repudiated early in his life: false religions and idolatry. In fact, he not only condoned such things, he participated in them.

As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. (verses 4, 5)

Incredible, is it not? How could such a “man of God” fall so far so quickly? Is it possible to get so used to God’s presence in your life and so accustomed to His blessings that you think you can get away with anything? Apparently Solomon thought so. Verse 6 says a lot:

So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.

What is truly despicable about Solomon’s condition is that he was not following the Lord “completely.” The RSV says that Solomon’s heart was not “wholly true.” In other words, his heart was divided in its loyalty to his many wives and what they wanted and his God and what He wanted. If the story of Solomon proves anything, it is that one cannot serve God with a divided heart; the essence of Christianity is that it is an all-or-nothing proposition. To be loyal to anyone or anything apart from God is to be disobedient; there is no such thing as “partial obedience” or “part marks” in being disciples of Christ’s. It took a while, but it became apparent that God was not at all happy with Solomon.

2. God’s angry words to Solomon, verses 9—13

Verse 9 is a verse nobody wants in connection with themselves: The LORD became angry with Solomon. Just because Solomon continued to prosper and the kingdom was in very good shape, all was not well. God is holy and He makes no exceptions when it comes to sin and unrighteousness. Even the most highly favored and blessed individual is not exempt from facing God’s anger. What should be noted, though, is that even though God was terribly angry with Solomon and what he did, God’s anger and message of judgment was mixed mercy.

Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. (verses 11, 12)

Solomon could not escape God’s punishment; God’s judgment on the king for straying would become evident with the splitting up of the kingdom after his death. For now, though, Solomon would have to live the knowledge that most of what he had achieved during his lifetime would not endure. That was, perhaps, the greatest punishment for him. Solomon had, pretty much, over a span of four decades done nothing of enduring value.

3. Enemies as tools of judgment, verses 14—40

The incidents involving these foreign leaders, Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam (an Israelite), serve to show us that God began to stir up trouble for Solomon long before his death. All three men had been around for a while, but as Solomon’s reign drew to its inevitable conclusion, they all became more of a concern.

Hadad (verses 14—22) was a member of Edom’s royal family. He was the sole survivor of a terrible massacre when David’s army slaughtered some 18,000 Edomites for an unknown reason. Hadad was able to escape to Egypt, where he married into the Egyptian royal family.

Hadad harbored strong bitterness against Israel and in particular against the House of David, and for some time after David’s death, he pestered King Solomon; what was an irritation for so long became a troublesome threat during Solomon’s later years.

Rezon was also not a big fan of David’s. He eventually seized territory to the north where he, like Hadad to the south, caused endless trouble for Israel and Solomon. Also like Hadad, the older and weaker Solomon got, the more Rezon threatened the kingdom.

Hadad and Rezon, though not the promised punishment from God, He nevertheless  raised them up to serve as constant reminders that the king of Israel owed everything he inherited from his father and achieved during his reign to the mercy, the faithfulness, and the patience of God.

Would all this have happened had Solomon been faithful to God? These enemies of Israel had always been around and likely would have been trouble regardless of how faithful Solomon was. However, God is faithful. When we are faithful to Him, He helps us face trials with a strength that is supernatural. When we faithfully serve Him, He is able to make all kinds of grace abound to us.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The phrase “in all things at all times” is the key. God’s grace is not dependent on our circumstances, in fact, the bleaker our circumstances, the brighter God’s grace! There is no doubt had Solomon been faithful to the Lord; he could have easily handled these enemies. But when he disobeyed God, he walked out of the shadow of divine protection and opened himself to all kinds of evil and wickedness he never experienced before.

What’s worse, Solomon’s folly sealed the fate of his kingdom, as well. It would never again reach the glorious heights it reached just a few scant years before.

And what of Solomon? He ruled for 40 years, and died on the throne. Assuming he was no more than 20 when he came to the throne, Solomon did not live a long life. Whether Solomon actually returned with his whole heart to the Lord is widely discussed by scholars; Scriptures are more or less silent on that. If Solomon is The Preacher of Ecclesiastes, as most conservative scholars believe, then it seems as though he did come back to the Lord—

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the [duty] of every human being. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14)

(c)  2010 WitzEnd


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