DISOBEDIENCE AND IDOLATRY CAUSE THE DOWNFALL OF SOLOMON’S KINGDOM VIA DIVINE DISCIPLINE
We have already witnessed the glory of Solomon’s great reign. But despite the riches of God’s blessing in terms of both wisdom and wealth, we have also seen the seeds of kingdom disintegration. Solomon’s decline did not happen all at once. It was a slow process of his heart turning away from undivided loyalty to the God of the Covenant. Now in Chapter 11, the fatal flaw for Solomon will be magnified. His demise will lead to the dividing of the kingdom. God’s discipline is dramatic and severe. We must analyze the reasons for Solomon’s fall and guard our hearts against the sins of compromise and idolatry.
Dale Ralph Davis: some writers moan so much over what they divine of Solomon’s affluence, indulgence, excesses, extravagance, exploitation, and oppression, that one can be duped into thinking that such items are the principal trouble. That’s why it’s so important to notice that 1 Kings 1–10 are almost wholly positive toward Solomon and then to hear chapter 11 clearly, for the latter trumpets that the problem is not wealth or luxury or high-handedness or wisdom or popularity or renown or splendor or achievement but other gods. First commandment stuff.
Donald Wiseman: At the beginning of his reign Solomon had been promised and given wisdom, which he successfully employed in the accumulation of wealth and displayed in a massive building program, rearmament and government. However, the continuance of his ruling house was dependent not on this outward show but on his inner spiritual state. Thus the account of his reign ends with his decline and with the seeds of evident unrest which were to lead to the break-up of the united kingdom. The theological evaluation of this is found here in the description of his personal failure to keep the law forbidding intermarriage with non-believing wives (vv. 1–13), and in part attributed to his weakening internal unity in the face of external adversaries (vv. 14–24). All this culminated in the rebellion of Jeroboam, inspired by foreign foes (vv. 14–25) and fueled by internal dissent (vv. 26–40). The account is interspersed with theological comment to show that these events were divinely allowed as self-judgment brought upon Solomon for the sin of law-breaking, despite warnings (Deut. 7:1–4; Exod. 34:11–16).
R. D. Patterson: When one considers the grand heights of Solomon’s spiritual fervor and the great wisdom granted him by God, it seems impossible that he could have been so foolish as to succumb to idolatry. Yet it did happen, not overnight, but by slow degrees. First it was tolerated in his household. Once he became accustomed to it and comfortable with it, he also began to participate in idolatry with his wives. Solomon never renounced the Lord, but his heart was not entirely devoted to the Lord either. The syncretism that he began to display was a curse that plagued Israel through the years and ultimately led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and to the exile of the people.
Solomon’s life stands as a solemn warning against ungodly alliances and relationships that can only destroy the believer’s spiritual vitality (cf. Neh 13:26).
I. (:1-13) DOWNFALL OF KING SOLOMON – MARRIAGE COMPROMISE LEADING TO IDOLATRY
A. (:1-4) Fatal Flaw
1. (:1-2) Solomon’s Mixed Marriages with Foreign Women
a. (:1) Priority of Affection and Political Alliances to Foreign Women
“Now King Solomon loved many foreign women
along with the daughter of Pharaoh:
Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,”
MacArthur: Many of Solomon’s marriages were for the purpose of ratifying treaties with other nations, a common practice in the ancient Near East.
b. (:2) Persistence in Disobedience Regarding Separation
“from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the sons of Israel, ‘You shall not associate with them, neither shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.’ Solomon held fast to these in love.”
2. (:3-4) Solomon’s Huge Harem
a. (:3a) Multiplication of Sleeping Companions
“And he had seven hundred wives, princesses,
and three hundred concubines,”
b. (:3b-4) Misdirection of Heart Loyalties
“and his wives turned his heart away. 4 For it came about when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.”
Dale Ralph Davis: This infidelity is also subtle because it is gradual. Verse 4 has a scary line: ‘When Solomon was old, his wives had turned away his heart after other gods.’ It was not some sudden attack or irresistible assault that explains Solomon’s plunge into pagan ecumenism. No, it took years—the result of the creeping pace of accumulated compromises, the fruit of a conscience de-sensitized by repeated permissiveness.
William Barnes: This was not necessarily outright apostasy (a conscious forsaking of the faith), but still it was syncretism or religious compromise. In 11:4 he is designated as not being “completely faithful to the Lord his God,” and in 11:6, he is described as refusing “to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done.” Modern readers of these ancient texts will surely recognize that many formerly strong believers have walked down this path: a little compromise here, a little there, satisfying cultural expectations, glorying in God-given wealth and privilege, but ending up dooming themselves, and, alas, dooming many others as well. Even the wise King Solomon was not exempt from this sad fate; how much less any of us today?
B. (:5-8) Impious Idolatry
1. (:5) Worshiping 2 Major Idols
“For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians”
Goddess of love and fertility
“and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites.”
MacArthur: associated with the sacrifice of children in the fire (Lv 18:21; 20:2, -5; Jer 32:35).
2. (:6) Summary Denunciation
“And Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD,
and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done.”
3. (:7) Worshiping 2 Other Major Idols
“Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem,”
“and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon.”
4. (:8) Summary Denunciation
“Thus also he did for all his foreign wives,
who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.”
Donald Wiseman: The move away to syncretistic worship (polytheism) is stressed by the iterative forms of repeated action, burned incense (‘made smoke’) and offered sacrifices (repeatedly) to these gods.
C. (:9-13) Kingdom Kaput
1. (:9-10) The Lord’s Indictment Against Solomon
“Now the LORD was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the LORD had commanded.”
Dale Ralph Davis: His anger flows out of his jealousy for supreme place in his people’s worship and affection (and jealousy is simply the character of any love that is worth its salt when that love has an exclusive claim). But our culture is shocked by the Lord’s anger, for he does not conform to canonical human expectations. And—as we’ve said before—Yahweh is unique among ancient Near Eastern gods, goddesses, and godlets. No pagan deity demanded exclusive devotion of his/her worshipers. And the anger of the biblical Yahweh bothers contemporary man because it clearly tells him that the God of the Bible is not a pluralist. He does not fit our times and mentality. Why should he be so irate because someone (like Solomon) wants to spread his liturgical devotion around, to expose himself to other religious traditions, or to broaden one’s horizons by investigating alternate forms of human spirituality? Folks in our time want no truck with a God who will brook no rival, nor do they want to face Yahweh-in-the-flesh who sits on Galilee’s shore, peers across the fire, and assumes he has the right to keep probing us about our love for him (John 21:15–17).
2. (:11-13) The Lord’s Sentence Against Solomon
a. (:11) Loss of the Kingdom
“So the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant.’”
b. (:12) Merciful Delay
“Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.”
c. (:13) Merciful Reservation of One Tribe
“However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”
Dale Ralph Davis: Clearly the principle is: Yahweh’s judgment does not involve cancellation of Yahweh’s promise. When Yahweh announced his judgment to Solomon he placed two restrictions on it: not now (v. 12) and not all (v. 13). Ahijah underscored these same qualifications to Jeroboam (vv. 32, 34, 36). The judgment will be delayed in time (in the days of Solomon’s son) and restricted in extent (Solomon’s son gets one tribe). And why these restrictions? Because Yahweh has made previous commitments, previous choices. Yahweh has an elect person (David, v. 34) and an elect place (Jerusalem, vv. 32, 36); covenant king and covenant worship are non-negotiables. They cannot be completely obliterated. Jeroboam’s rule must take place within these confines (vv. 35, 37–38). Verse 39 implicitly suggests the restoration of David’s line to full strength: “So I will afflict the seed of David because of this—but not all the days.” Yahweh’s promise then may be eclipsed but not eliminated. Verse 39 states the principle in a nutshell: affliction but not abandonment. The rays of hope flicker from behind the clouds of judgment.
Donald Wiseman: Note that one tribe will survive (v. 13, cf. 2 Kgs 17:18), Judah now being merged with Benjamin.
II. (:14-40) DIVINE DISCIPLINE — THREE ADVERSARIES TO SOLOMON RAISED UP
A. (:14-22) Hadad the Edomite
1. (:14) Background of Hadad the Edomite
“Then the LORD raised up an adversary to Solomon,
Hadad the Edomite; he was of the royal line in Edom.”
Dale Ralph Davis: Yahweh’s work in history is in accord with his previously stated principles, his covenant policy. What covenant policy? In this case, Davidic covenant policy, and the applicable section is found in 2 Samuel 7:14: “Should he [any covenant king descended from David] commit iniquity, I shall punish him with the rod of men and with blows from the sons of men.” Yahweh is simply carrying out his previously announced measures in case Davidic royalty proved unfaithful. In Solomon’s case the rod and the blows came from Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam. 1 Kings 11 simply depicts Yahweh’s faithful application of Davidic covenant principles to a particular historical situation. Yahweh is so consistent.
2. (:15-18) Refuge in Egypt
“For it came about, when David was in Edom, and Joab the commander of the army had gone up to bury the slain, and had struck down every male in Edom
(for Joab and all Israel stayed there six months, until he had cut off every male in Edom),
that Hadad fled to Egypt, he and certain Edomites of his father’s servants with him, while Hadad was a young boy. And they arose from Midian and came to Paran; and they took men with them from Paran and came to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house and assigned him food and gave him land.”
3. (:19-20) Relationship with Pharaoh
“Now Hadad found great favor before Pharaoh,
so that he gave him in marriage the sister of his own wife,
the sister of Tahpenes the queen.
And the sister of Tahpenes bore his son Genubath,
whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh’s house;
and Genubath was in Pharaoh’s house among the sons of Pharaoh.”
4. (:21-22) Release from Egypt
“But when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the commander of the army was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, ‘Send me away, that I may go to my own country.’ Then Pharaoh said to him, ‘But what have you lacked with me, that behold, you are seeking to go to your own country?’ And he answered, ‘Nothing; nevertheless you must surely let me go.’”
Wiersbe: The death of King David and his general Joab meant that it was safe for Hadad and his band to return to Edom. There Hadad planned to strengthen the nation and direct a series of attacks against the Israelites. Hadad knew he couldn’t take over Solomon’s kingdom, but the Lord used him to harass Solomon and his troops in a series of border attacks. This constant irritation from the south should have reminded Solomon that God was discipline him and calling him back to a life of obedience.
B. (:23-25) Rezon Son of Eliada
1. (:23) Background of Rezon Son of Eliada
“God also raised up another adversary to him, Rezon the son of Eliada, who had fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah.”
2. (:24) Refuge in Damascus
“And he gathered men to himself and became leader of a marauding band, after David slew them of Zobah; and they went to Damascus and stayed there, and reigned in Damascus.”
3. (:25) Rancor Towards Israel
“So he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, along with the evil that Hadad did;
and he abhorred Israel and reigned over Aram.”
Wiersbe: Rezon established a dynasty of strong rules in the area (known as Aram), all of whom gave trouble to the kings of Judah (15:18-20; 20:1ff; 2 Kings 8-13 and 15-16 passim.) Rezon was king of Aram (Syria) during the time of Isaiah the prophet (Isa. 7:1-8; 8:6; 9:11).
C. (:26-40) Jeroboam Son of Nebat
1. (:26) Background of Jeroboam
“Then Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah,
Solomon’s servant, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow,
also rebelled against the king.”
MacArthur: In contrast to Hadad and Rezon, who were external adversaries of Solomon, God raised up Jeroboam from a town in Ephraim, as an internal adversary. Jeroboam was from Ephraim the leading tribe of Israel’s northern 10 tribes. He was a young man of talent and energy who, having been appointed by Solomon as leader over the building works around Jerusalem, rose to public notice.
Iain Provan: A divided heart will lead to a divided kingdom: that was effectively God’s promise to Solomon in 11:9–13. This last section on the great king pursues this theme of division. It tells us of still further seeds of destruction that were planted in the earlier part of his reign and have now grown into plants whose shadow looms darkly over the kingdom. It tells of opposition on the edges of the empire, and it introduces for the first time the man who will be the focal point of that same opposition within Israel itself—the man who will eventually become king of the northern tribes in place of Solomon’s son. He is Jeroboam son of Nebat; his name will later echo throughout the book as that of the archidolater.
2. (:27-39) Reason for His Rebellion
“Now this was the reason why he rebelled against the king:”
Donald Wiseman: The life and action of this usurper was to become symbolic of “sin against God and his people” and subsequent kings were warned of, or described as, “walking in the ways of Jeroboam” (15:34; 16:2, 19, 26; 22:52).
a. (:27-28) Promotion of Jeroboam
1) (:27) Defensive Fortifications
“Solomon built the Millo, and closed up the breach
of the city of his father David.”
2) (:28) Delegation of Leadership Responsibilities to Jeroboam
“Now the man Jeroboam was a valiant warrior,
and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious, he appointed him over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph.”
b. (:29-33) Prophetic Indictment of Solomon and the Nation
1) (:29-30) Object Lesson of Divine Discipline =
Tearing the Cloak
“And it came about at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had clothed himself with a new cloak; and both of them were alone in the field. 30 Then Ahijah took hold of the new cloak which was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces.”
2) (:31-32) Application to Jeroboam and to Solomon’s Son
a) (:31) Application to Jeroboam
“And he said to Jeroboam, ‘Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes”
b) (:32) Application to Solomon’s Son
“(but he will have one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel),’”
3) (:33) Explanation for the Downfall of the Kingdom
“because they have forsaken Me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians,
Chemosh the god of Moab,
and Milcom the god of the sons of Ammon;”
Iain Provan: Solomon’s abandonment of God, it should be noted, is also the people’s abandonment of God. This is demonstrated in the plural phrase, they have forsaken me, which reflects the way that in the book of Kings, kings are characteristically models for and representative of the behavior of their subjects.
“and they have not walked in My ways,
doing what is right in My sight
and observing My statutes and My ordinances,
as his father David did.”
c. (:34) Preference Shown to Solomon in Delaying Discipline for the Sake of David
“Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of My servant David whom I chose, who observed My commandments and My statutes;”
d. (:35-39) Promise of Kingdom Division But Still Davidic Kingdom Preservation
1) (:35) Kingdom Division
“but I will take the kingdom from his son’s hand
and give it to you, even ten tribes.”
2) (:36) Kingdom Preservation
“But to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may have a lamp always before Me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen for Myself to put My name.”
R. D. Patterson: It ought to be noted in addition that not only is the line of David perpetuated as a light is kept burning, but this light is in Jerusalem, the city where God chose to put his name. There is in view, then, a future for God’s city, Jerusalem.
Donald Wiseman: The lamp was a symbol of:
(i) Continuing life. To put out a lamp (nîr, a rare form for nēr) or a brazier meant the end of the family line.
(ii) Continuous succession (cf. 2 Sam. 14:7). There is no need to equate this with ‘dominion’ (Akkad. nīr, ‘yoke’).
(iii) And, elsewhere, divine guidance. For God’s word is always ‘a lamp to our feet’ (Ps. 119:105; 2 Sam. 22:29; Prov. 6:20, 22). But to forsake God’s law is to condemn oneself to walk in darkness.
3) (:37) Kingdom Opportunity for Jeroboam
“And I will take you, and you shall reign over whatever you desire, and you shall be king over Israel.”
4) (:38) Kingdom Covenant Charge
a) Obligation to Obey
“Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did,”
b) Promise to Bless
“then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.”
5) (:39) Kingdom Discipline Limited in Time
“Thus I will afflict the descendants of David for this,
but not always.”
3. (:40) Refuge in Egypt
“Solomon sought therefore to put Jeroboam to death;
but Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt to Shishak king of Egypt,
and he was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.”
(:41-43) EPILOGUE – END OF REIGN OF SOLOMON
A. (:41) Recording of Solomon’s Wisdom and Deeds
“Now the rest of the acts of Solomon and whatever he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?”
John Gates: The book of the acts of Solomon mentioned here is quite evidently a manuscript no longer extant, to which the author of the book of Kings had access.
B. (:42) Length of Reign
“Thus the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel
was forty years.”
R. D. Patterson: Solomon left a big mark in history. His memory and fame live on. He represents the first stage in the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant; and, despite his faults, he foreshadows the coming Christ, the true Son of David. In addition his inspired words of wisdom as recorded in Scripture have challenged, taught, and inspired men throughout the ages.
C. (:43a) Death and Burial of Solomon
“And Solomon slept with his fathers
and was buried in the city of his father David,”
William Barnes: Here ends the lengthy discussion of the reign of Solomon, both the good and the bad. Like his father, David, Solomon was a compelling figure, unforgettable even when he was far from the will of God. There will not be such a king (of either of the kingdoms of the divided monarchy) until the time of Hezekiah, or even Josiah. With Solomon’s death, the golden age of the united monarchy of Israel came abruptly and irretrievably to an end.
D. (:43b) Succeeded by Rehoboam
“and his son Rehoboam reigned in his place.”