The Demise of Solomon
1 Kings 11:1-43
When we come to this chapter in Solomonís life, we come to one of the most puzzling stories in the Bible. For approximately 30 years (20 in building his palace and Temple, and another 10 for the other building projects), Solomon had faithfully served the Lord. Throughout chapters 1-10 we heard over and over again about the wisdom Solomon displayed, first in following the advice his father David had given him and second in depending upon the wisdom the Lord had entrusted to him at Gibeon. Representatives of nations throughout the world had come to hear for themselves the divine word proceeding from his lips. What went wrong?
I believe several factors led to Solomonís demise. First, when we normally think of wisdom, we think of it in terms of a person knowing all the wonderful mysteries of God. There is truth to this statement; however, when you look at 1 Kings 1-10 more closely, you see that in most instances that wisdom as applied to Solomon referred primarily to administrative capabilities. A young man who emerged from an agricultural nation embarked upon a building program unrivaled in Israelís history before the modern period (since Herod the Great was not an Israelite, he does not count). Moreover, he devised an organizational chart for administering Israel which led to efficient government of the nation. All these are valid; however, they do not touch the heart. Building a building can come directly out of the head and not nourish the heart. The soul must be cared for, or else a person can lapse into the same problem Solomon lapsed into.
Another factor deals with Solomonís age. The passage informs us that this occurred after Solomon became old (11:4). His are not the sins of youth but the sins of old age. That seems strange because you would think that sexual sins would be the sins of youth. Thatís not always true. Each person goes through the different stages of life: childhood (identification), adolescence (independence), young adult (association), median adult (the envisioning stage of life), and senior adult (simplification). The transition from median adult stage to senior adult stage concerns us here. For years certain parts of a personís life may have functioned properly. He could watch certain movies; he could cheer on certain sporting teams; he could seek the favor of others; he could have the wife, home, and children he always wanted; etc. All these things together made up the sum total of his life giving him satisfaction. What happens though when he gets older and realizes that whereas these things may be good in their proper place, they are totally unsatisfactory when they become ends in and of themselves. It is normally during the transition from one stage to another that this dissatisfaction surfaces. And dissatisfaction became a hallmark of Solomonís later years. Read Ecclesiastes and hear Solomon proclaim that ALL IS VANITY. Ecclesiastes is the book of a man who has found out that the different elements of his life apart from God lead to frustration and vanity. (Before you write this off, know that men at this stage in life go through as much change as women do. Men likewise go through physical changes as well as through emotional, psychological changes. The wise wife will acknowledge this and help her husband through it.)
What is a person to do in this situation? Hopefully in accordance with Jeremiah 2:13 that person will turn away from cisterns which provide no water and drink from the fountains of living waters, Jesus. If not, he is going to turn to other things to make up for this extreme dissatisfaction: more work, power (have you noticed how many old people there are in politics?), sex (they go after younger womenólook at Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones; he did not marry her for her mind), etc. If God does not take care of this area in your life and mine, then we are headed for disaster.
Go back now to Solomonís life. For 30+ years his life had been one of construction projects and accumulating wealth. Now that he is old, he has discovered the futility of these things. (The only thing Solomon really was supposed to build was the Temple; the rest was of his own doing.) So where does he turn to find fulfillment? Sex. To call this love would probably be saying too much. Love for one woman, yes; love for 2 Ė 7 women, maybe; love for 700 wives and 300 concubinesóabsurd. This is the gratification of lust, nothing more. It's just a way to fill the emptiness of life. As part of that gratification, he gives the wives whatever they want, even at the peril of losing his own soul. I believe this is what explains his downfall.
SOLOMONíS APOSTASY (11:1-13)
The author of 1 Kings informs us that now Solomon loved many foreign women and that these women turned his heart away from fully serving the Lord as his father David had done. He goes on to list the nationalities of the women Solomon married and the gods they worshiped: women of Sidon (Ashtoreth), of the Hittite nation from modern-day Turkey (Ashtoreth), of Edom southeast of Israel (unnamed), of Ammon to the east of Israel (Milcom/Molech), and of Moab southeast of Israel (Chemosh). The goddess Ashtoreth was the moon goddess known as Aphrodite, while Chemosh, Milcom, Molech, etc. were variations of the same sun god. The author of 1 Kings also mentions the daughter of Pharaoh who was married to Solomon right after he ascended to the throne in order to create an alliance with Egypt. It is normal at this time for OT scholars to claim that this marriage led to the other marriages, that this marriage led to his downfall. Thatís simply not true. The fact is that Solomon married an Ammonitess at least 2 years before he ascended the throne because from this union came his son Rehoboam who was 41 years old when he ascended the throne. Since Solomon reigned for 40 years, he had to have been born the year before Solomonís ascension to the throne.
What did Solomonís sin actually consist of? Did he worship these gods alongside his wives? Some claim that he did. Most likely though verse 8 explains the nature of his sin. According to verse 8 Solomon to appease his wives built for them altars to serve their gods outside of Jerusalem. For example, on the Mount of Olives just to the east of Jerusalem he built altars to Chemosh and Molech. Now he did not build this altar in Jerusalem itself most likely because he considered Jerusalem to be the city of his God. He compromised by building the altars outside of Jerusalem. In other words, he compartmentalized his thoughts and actions. Only Yahweh was to be worshiped in Jerusalem, Godís city, the site of His temple; however, the other gods could be worshiped in Israel outside Jerusalem.
Solomon is not the only person to have ever compartmentalized his behavior and thoughts. A lot of us let Jesus be lord of our lives on Sunday mornings. We look good, act good, pretend to be good; however, once we get out of the church and into the public Monday through Saturday, people see us in a different light. How do you treat the car repair person when he doesnít quite do it the way you thought he should? How do you treat the person at the tax appraisal office whenever your taxes are raised? Is the local police person a ďpig,Ē or do we use unflattering names for people of different races and backgrounds? Jesus demands that He be lord of each area of our life, not of just a particular time during our week. Are you good at church and yet a crummy, insensitive spouse at home? If so, you are compartmentalizing your life like Solomon.
Note the first recurring theme in this chapter that appears in this passage: ďSolomon did not follow the Lord fully as his father David had done.Ē David was the standard by which succeeding kings were measured. Solomon compared to David was an abysmal failure. How can this be when David not only committed adultery but also murder? Simple. His sins were definitely sin; however, they were sins of the flesh. Solomon deliberately and willfully attacked the belief that Yahweh God alone was to be worshiped, the very heart of a personís relationship with God. On the surface Saul never sinned as badly as David did; however, Saulís sin was a rejection of the lordship of God in his life, while David though a sinner never rejected Godís lordship. Solomon unlike David did.
(Note that today although David was a great man, Christians should not measure themselves up against David nor against each other. Our standard is Christ and Christ only. If you want to see whether or not your life is measuring up to what God would have it be, see how it compares with the life of Jesus.)
The next recurring theme in this chapter appears at this point: Godís gracious treatment of Solomon for the sake of David. Because of what Solomon has done, God is going to split the kingdom into 2 parts: a northern part with 10 tribes (Israel) and a southern part with one tribe (Judah which has assumed the tribes of Benjamin and Simeon). God though is going to show mercy to Solomon by doing this after he dies. In other words Solomonís son Rehoboam is going to be the one to pay for Solomonís sins, not Solomon. Why does God do this? Solomon is Davidís son. God loved David. As a result, out of love for David God will not punish his son who in this case just happens to be Solomon. Itís nothing for what Solomon has done that God shows him mercy; it is only because of what David has done. Sometimes we are blessed because of somebody else in our life, in spite of what we have done.
God informs Solomon that Godís promise to David will go unchanged in spite of what Solomon has done. Just like God had promised David (2 Sam. 7:8-17), God will make sure that a lamp for the house of David will not go out in Jerusalem. This promise has 2 parts. First, Davidís line will be eternal because one day one of his descendants will be the Messiah who will reign eternally. Second, the reign of the Messiah is linked inextricably to the city of Jerusalem. Not only does Davidís Son Jesus have an eternal role to play, Davidís City Jerusalem likewise has an eternal role to play. (It is no coincidence that Jerusalem continues to be right at the heart of international affairs.)
SOLOMONíS ADVERSARIES (11:14-43)
Hadad of Edom (11:14-22)
Although God had informed Solomon that He would split the kingdom only after his death, He nevertheless raised up adversaries against Solomon who would trouble him during the latter years of his reign. The first adversary God raised up was Hadad of Edom. Earlier after David launched a campaign against Edom, Joab the commander-in-chief of Davidís armies led in the mop-upping operation which was intent on killing every male eligible to fight. During this campaign Hadad who was of the royal family escaped along with some servants to Egypt where he was welcomed by the Pharaoh. There Hadad finished growing up. He also married into the Egyptian royal family by marrying the sister of the Pharaohís wife, the Pharaohís wifeís name being Taphenes. He later fathered Genubath who was raised along with Pharaohís children. After the death of David and Joab, Hadad became intent on returning to Edom. Although Pharaoh tried to persuade him to stay in Egypt (ďWhat more could you want than what you have here?Ē), Hadad was determined. As a result he returned to Edom where he proved to be a thorn in Solomonís side.
Rezon of Syria (11:23-25)
Trouble came for Solomon from the northeastern realm of his empire. David had conquered all the territory which extended from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates River near modern-day Iraq. Part of this territory included Damascus. One of the rulers in that region Hadadezer, king of Zobah, ran off Rezon. After gathering about him a gang of marauding robbers, etc., Rezon eventually was strong enough not only to conquer Damascus for his headquarters but also like Hadad to be a thorn in Solomonís side during the latter part of his reign.
One thing is of particular interest concerning these 2 men. It appears that they were able to return to Edom and to conquer Damascus early during Solomonís reign. This appears to contradict though the statement in verse 14 that adversity befell Solomon only during the latter part of his reign. The 2 though do not contradict. These men were coming into their own earlier during Solomonís reign; however, they were not able to trouble Solomon until later.
The implication of this is that if Solomon had remained faithful to the Lord then these men would have been kept under control, they would not have troubled Solomon. Simply because they had returned to Edom and had conquered Damascus does not mean that they would have necessarily troubled Solomon later on. What removed the divine restraints off these men was nothing less than Solomonís faithlessness. Although everything was prepared to discipline Solomon, it was his sin which removed the divine restraint, not their cunning and not their power.
I believe the same applies to you and me as well. We may think that nothing bad is going to happen to us because we appear to be on top of things. You do not know what God has allowed into your lives to discipline you if you prove faithless to Him. You may not feel like I do about what the Dixie Chicks did; however, I believe that God disciplined them. Look at what God had allowed into their lives to discipline them. God allowed them to be popular in music, country western music. If they had succeeded in any other brand of music, they would have gotten away with what they said. They felt that because they were so popular they could say anything they wanted; however, God allowed them to succeed in country-western music, the last place you can get away with slandering your southern president. God has elements in your life to discipline you if you decide to turn your back on Him whether you recognize it or not.
Jeroboam, the future king of Israel (11:26-43)
The last and most threatening adversary God raised up against Solomon was Jeroboam. It was he God was going to use to split the nation in two. Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, was a gifted man, so gifted that Solomon elevated him to foreman of the forced labor of the house of Joseph (the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh). One day after Solomonís lapse into apostasy, the prophet Ahijah appears to Jeroboam wrapped with a cloak around him. He tears the cloak into 12 pieces and orders Jeroboam to pick out 10 pieces for himself as a symbol of him becoming ruler over the 10 northern tribes (Israel). After explaining the significance of this to Jeroboam, Ahijah informs Jeroboam that for the sake of David, Solomonís father, this event will not take place while Solomon was alive. God will elevate him to king over Israel only after Solomonís death. God then promises him that if he follow the Lord like David did, then God will establish his dynasty.
Notice one thing in particular. Twice in Ahijahís communication with Jeroboam, he tells Jeroboam that Jerusalem is the place where God has chosen to place His name (this theme appears 3x in the entire chapter). In other words, although the kingdom is going to be divided politically, it is not to be divided religiously. Jerusalem and Jerusalem alone is the place where Godís people are to offer sacrifices to God. Only in Jerusalem did the ark of the covenant reside with Godís unique presence attached to it. It is a not-so subtle warning that Jeroboam will neglect to his own peril.
Jeroboam fails to live up to the standard set by David. As soon as Jeroboam receives this communication, he attempts to overthrow Solomon. David, on the other hand, waited until Saul had died to assume his rightful position as king over all Israel. Solomon like Jeroboam fails to live up to the standard set by David. Instead of repenting, Solomon goes after Jeroboam so that Jeroboam is forced to flee into Egypt where he receives aid from Shishak.
Just a final note here. Solomon not only brings disaster upon his son Rehoboam by erecting altars to foreign gods and goddesses, by driving Jeroboam into Egypt he is most likely creating the situation where Shishak invades Judah (Rehoboamís half of the kingdom) and Jerusalem, plundering the southern kingdom. It may not seem fair to you and me; however, God warned Solomon (and us too) that the sins of the fathers will be visited to the third and fourth generations (Ex. 20:5). It is important not only for us but also for our future generations how we live.