This chapter shows us Solomon’s faults, which were his eventual downfall. David did not have Solomon’s wisdom but Solomon did not have David’s heart for God, which is why King David is considered the standard by which all the future kings of Israel and Judah are judged, not Solomon.
Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of them were non-Israelite women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and the Hittite empire. They brought culture and their gods with them. Not all of his marriages were politically motivated:
“Solomon held fast to these in love.” (1st Kings 11:3)
Solomon’s first marriage was to Pharaoh’s daughter, a foreign woman. This is symbolic of the fact that Messiah’s bride is not limited to the direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The gods that these women brought with them are recorded in 1st Kings 11:5-7, including Ashtoreth (aka Asherah, Ishtar and Easter) the goddess of the Sidonians, Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites, Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. Solomon accommodated the worship of all his foreign wives, and they were allowed to burn incense and make sacrificed to their gods. Solomon knew these things had no value but he considered helping them feel at home.
The gods these foreign wives brought in with Solomon’s consent caused the people to pollute the worship of God. In archaeological digs, they have found statutes and inscriptions that say “YHWH and his wife, Asherah.” Mixing the holy with the profane, never makes the profane holy but instead makes the holy profane.
We know that God notices these corruptions and was not happy with them:
“Now the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD ….” (1st Kings 11:9)
What laws did Solomon violate? We read it first in Deut. 7:1-5, which says that the people should not enter into any alliances with the people of Canaan, including, the Hittites. Solomon broke this by marrying Hittite women. The people were also instructed to tear down all their idols and worship houses, not to pay for construction and maintenance as Solomon did.
In Deut. 17:14-20, God gives specific instructions to the king and Solomon broke every single rule listed in this text. The kings of Israel, which are to be chosen from among the brethren (not a foreigner) shall not:
- multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never again return that way.’
- multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away
- greatly increase silver and gold for himself, in the form of heavy taxation and conscription of labor
The king was also supposed to write a copy of the Torah for himself. We don’t know if Solomon did this or not so we can’t say he broke this last rule but it’s clear from Solomon’s life he broke the first three.
There were three antagonists in Solomon’s life that God brought upon him to punish him for going astray.
The first antagonist was Hadad, the Edomite. He has a prior history with Solomon’s family, and it wasn’t a pleasant one. Hadad had fled from Edom to Egypt as a boy because Joab in a war with Edom had killed every male in the land. We get a lot of detail about this man, even though he is not directly related to Israel. When Hadad grew up, he married into the Egyptian royal family, the queen of Egypt was his son’s wet-nurse yet Hadad’s heart did not belong in Egypt, it still belonged in Edom. Hadad’s Egyptian wife did not change his wife to Egypt, yet Solomon allowed his wives to take his heart away from the Lord.
The second antagonist was Rezon, the son of Eliada, “who had fled from his lord, Hadadezer, king of Zobah.” In 2nd Samuel 8 we see King David’s war with Hadadezer of Zobah, which is a region north of Syria.
When King David went to war against Hadadezer and won that war, he ham-strung Hadadezer war horses. The important point is that David did not covet these horses for himself, just as Torah warned him not to do, yet Solomon did not learn that lesson.
The third antagonist was Jeroboam, who was brought into Solomon’s life to rebuke him for how he heavily taxed the people to quench his insatiable thirst for silver and gold.
The punishment God selects addresses a specific problem in our lives. God’s punishments are not random, they are a teachable moment for us, if we are careful to pay attention.
Banner Photo: The Four Kings, photo by Enoch Lau via Wikipedia Commons.
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