DESPITE THE GIFT OF WISDOM, SOLOMON PURSUED KINGDOM PROSPERITY WITHOUT HEEDING DIVINE WARNINGS REGARDING APOSTASY
On the surface, everything in the kingdom seems trending towards prosperity. But below the surface you can see the signs of Solomon allowing prosperity to divert his heart from full obedience to the covenant commands. That is why the Lord is so forceful in warning Solomon again of the curses for falling away into apostasy.
West Palm Beach Church of Christ: The temple of the Lord is completed. Symbolically the great temple is where we see the presence of God dwelling, though Solomon notes that there is nothing in creation that can contain the greatness and majesty of the Lord Almighty. Chapter 8 records the dedication of the temple, calling upon God to be merciful to the people when they violate the covenant. When the people turn toward the temple in repentance, Solomon calls upon God who is in heaven to listen to the prayer of the people and forgive. The temple represents the covenantal promises of God and the place of mediation between God and his people. Turn your hearts to the covenant and God will extend mercy toward our sins. I believe chapter 8 records the pinnacle of the kingdom of Solomon. The chapter ends with everyone going home joyful and with gladness of heart because of the goodness of the Lord. . .
Notice how things begin to slip from the hands of Solomon, a foreshadowing of what was to come to his rule in this kingdom. The hub of the problem seems to be found in verse 16 where we read that Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh. Recall that this was God’s command against marrying people outside of the nation of Israel.
You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the LORD would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. (Deuteronomy 7:3–4 ESV)
So with this violation we will begin to watch the disintegration of the nation. First, we see Hiram, the King of Tyre, being dissatisfied with the twenty cities that were given to him in the land of Galilee (9:12-13). Instead of God’s name and generosity being praised among the Gentiles, Solomon damages the reputation of the Lord.
Second, we see Pharaoh doing what the people of Israel should have done but did not do. In verse 16 we read that Pharaoh destroyed the Canaanites who lived in the city of Gezer. This city stands as one of many failures in the days of the conquest of the land, as recorded in the book of Judges.
And Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites lived in Gezer among them. (Judges 1:29 ESV)
The Gentiles do for the kingdom what the people themselves should have done but willfully did not accomplish. A Gentile is more obedient to the command of the Lord than the people themselves, an interesting foreshadowing.
Third, Solomon enslaves the Canaanites rather than utterly destroying them (9:20-21). Listen to how the book of Judges recalls this failure:
When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely. (Judges 1:28 ESV)
Zebulun did not drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, or the inhabitants of Nahalol, so the Canaanites lived among them, but became subject to forced labor. (Judges 1:30 ESV)
Naphtali did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, or the inhabitants of Beth-anath, so they lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became subject to forced labor for them. (Judges 1:33 ESV)
The Amorites persisted in dwelling in Mount Heres, in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim, but the hand of the house of Joseph rested heavily on them, and they became subject to forced labor. (Judges 1:35 ESV)
This is not what God commanded the people to do. The book of Judges records this act of subjecting them into forced labor as a failure because they did not drive out the people. This led to the downfall of the people of Israel in the days of the Judges. In the same way, the same people are being left in the land again, pressed into forced labor, rather than being driven out of the land as God decreed. The symbol is used to picture the coming downfall of Solomon. Solomon is not walking in all the ways of the Lord as he was warned to do at the beginning of the chapter. So we are reading about the kingdom slipping from his hand.
Dale Ralph Davis: Both major sections begin with a reference to Solomon’s building Yahweh’s house and the king’s house (vv. 1, 10). We seem to have a survey that, from a mid-reign perspective (cf. v. 10), looks back over his construction that had been completed to date. The building terminology does not tightly control the chapter but loosely holds together a highly directive (vv. 1–9) and a mostly descriptive (vv. 10–28) section, which suggest two primary emphases.
– The urgent need for faithfulness (vv. 1–9)
– The ongoing business of kingship (vv. 10–28)
Constable: First, God promised He would do what Solomon had petitioned in his dedicatory prayer (8:22-53; 9:3). Second, He said He would provide a continuous line of descendants from Solomon to sit on Israel’s throne if Solomon would continue to follow God faithfully (cf. 2:1-4). . . God maintained Solomon’s line because, generally speaking, Solomon remained faithful to the Lord. Third, if Solomon, the subsequent kings, or the people abandoned the Lord’s covenant, He would do three things. He would remove the people from their land, abandon the temple, and make Israel a byword instead of a blessing. This, too, God did for Israel, because overall, Israel did not remain faithful.
I. (:1-9) TEMPLE DEDICATION PROMPTS COVENANT REMINDERS OF BLESSINGS VS CURSINGS
A. (:1-2) Context
1. (:1) Mission Accomplished
“Now it came about when Solomon had finished building the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all that Solomon desired to do,”
David Guzik: This was some 24 years after Solomon came to the throne. The temple and the palace work at Jerusalem were finished. Now Solomon had to deal with life after completing his greatest accomplishment.
2. (:2) Meeting with the Lord Revisited
“that the LORD appeared to Solomon a second time, as He had appeared to him at Gibeon.”
William Barnes: Solomon appears to be the only king of either kingdom so honored by such divine visitations. Normally a prophet served as an intermediary between Yahweh and the king. Sadly, Solomon’s experience of two theophanies only renders him even more guilty and deserving of punishment for his heinous sins of syncretism.
Peter Pett: This point at which Solomon had completed his desire to build the Temple and the Palace Complex is to be the second major moment of his life, the first having been when YHWH spoke with him at Gibeon. This is in itself a reminder that in spite of his great wisdom he received few direct revelations from God, for this was only his second visitation in twenty years. In it God accepted the genuineness of his attempt to please Him and accepted his gesture, but on conditions. God was already aware, as Solomon was not, of the wayward tendencies in his life. If he was to enjoy the blessing promised to David, he must walk as David walked.
B. (:3) Consecration
1. Attentiveness of the Lord
“And the LORD said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me;’”
2. Significance of the Temple
“I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.”
Mordechai Cogan: I have consecrated this House that you have built to place my name there forever. A unique idea. It is usually a human who dedicates (Heb hiqdîš) gifts to God (cf., e.g., 2 Sam 8:11); here it is God who endows the gift presented to Him with holiness (the same Hebrew verb), apparently meaning that He has agreed to receive Solomon’s gift and take up residence in the Temple (cf. 1 Kgs 8:10–11).
MacArthur: God was not saying He will dwell in that building forever, since in less than 400 years it was destroyed by the Babylonians (cf. vv. 7-9). He was saying that Jerusalem and the temple mount are to be His earthly throne as long as the earth remains, through the millennial kingdom (see Is 2:1-4; Zec 14:16). Even during the New Heaven and New Earth, the eternal state, there will be the heavenly Jerusalem, where God will eternally dwell (see Rev 21:1, 2).
Eyes . . . heart – These symbolized, respectively, the Lord’s constant attention toward and deep affection for Israel. By implication, He promised them access to His presence and answers to their prayers.
R. D. Patterson: God acknowledged the temple, consecrating it by putting his name there. Neither the ritual nor the splendor of the building made it the dwelling place of God. It was God’s sovereign and gracious choice to thus dwell among his people and to acknowledge them as his own. Solomon had asked (8:29) that God’s eyes might be on the temple. God replied that not only his eyes but also his heart would be there. The following verses state the conditions.
C. (:4-5) Continuity in Blessing for Obedience
1. (:4) Responsibility
“And as for you, if you will walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you and will keep My statutes and My ordinances,”
Donald Wiseman: Walk before me is to conduct oneself (live) in the presence of God and his law. This is timely advice because Solomon, now in his twenty-fourth regnal year, is pressed by his own desires (vv. 1, 19, ḥāpēṣ, ‘what he took pleasure in, ambition’; cf. 2 Chr. 7:11, ‘all he had in mind to do’) which led to wealth and fame and then to self-reliance. The latter can be the enemy of integrity of heart (v. 4, 3:6, tām lēbāb), ‘completeness’ in the sense of being in accord with truth, not perfectionism. Uprightness includes honesty. There are qualities which must distinguish God’s covenant-keeping people.
2. (:5) Reassurance
“then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, just as I promised to your father David, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’”
D. (:6-9) Cursing for Apostasy
1. (:6) Apostasy
“But if you or your sons shall indeed turn away from following Me, and shall not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you and shall go and serve other gods and worship them,”
William Barnes: This is the classic description of apostasy; the Hebrew expression for “abandon” here (shob teshubun [TH7725, ZH8740]) is emphatic for “turn (aside).” Once again, the emphasis is on the people’s obedience and loyalty, not on the presence or absence of any temple building.
R. D. Patterson: These verses give dire warning as to the disastrous consequences that result from apostasy. Solomon’s history (ch. 11) shows that this warning was needed and particularly at this time in his life. This appearance of God was an act of grace and was intended as an urgent reminder to Solomon to guard his heart. A second thing to note here is that the consequences of disobedience are far-reaching. As kings, Solomon and his successors were responsible for the whole nation. Failure on the king’s part affected all the people. Israel’s subsequent history amply illustrates this principle. As the king went, so went the people.
2. (:7-9) Abandonment
a. (:7a) Rejection
“then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My sight.”
b. (:7b-9) Humiliation
“So Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by will be astonished and hiss and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ 9 And they will say, ‘Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them, therefore the LORD has brought all this adversity on them.’”
Mordechai Cogan: will whistle. the astonished observer seems to be expressing his consternation, further shown by shaking the head and clapping the hands in Lam 2:15; see Greenberg 1997, 564 ad Ezek 27:36. “The horrific wounds inflicted on Jerusalem will appall those who see them, and a sharp expelling of the breath, indicative of the terror which the sight inspires, will issue as a kind of whistling” (McKane 1986, 453).
II. (:10-28) TROUBLING SIGNS OF SLIPPAGE DESPITE OUTWARD KINGDOM PROSPERITY
A. (:10-14) Diplomacy between Kingdoms Seems Disingenuous
1. (:10-11) Questionable Land Deal
a. (:10) Project Completion
“And it came about at the end of twenty years in which Solomon had built the two houses, the house of the LORD and the king’s house”
b. (:11a) Hiram Delivered
“(Hiram king of Tyre had supplied Solomon with cedar and cypress timber and gold according to all his desire),”
Hiram more than held up his end of the deal.
c. (:11b) Solomon Disappointed
“then King Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee.”
Solomon had no business mortgaging these properties since the Promised Land was not allowed to be transferred out of Israelite ownership and control.
Peter Pett: In 18th century BC Alalakh in Syria the exchange of ‘settlements’ by contracts was seen as a means of adjusting borders. That may well be what is happening here. Solomon was ceding to Hiram a part of YHWH’s inheritance, a further indication of his casual attitude towards the covenant in spite of his protestations. The author would certainly not have been anything but displeased at the idea, but leaves us to pass our own judgment. (They may, of course, have been Canaanite settlements, especially in view of their poverty-stricken appearance, but this is nowhere stated, and the land was still part of YHWH’s inheritance. When they were later returned to Solomon he is said to have ensured their habitation by Israelites – 2 Chronicles 8:2)
2. (:12-13) Quality Inspection
a. (:12) Hiram’s Disapproval
“So Hiram came out from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him, and they did not please him.”
b. (:13) Hiram’s Dispute
“And he said, ‘What are these cities which you have given me, my brother?’ So they were called the land of Cabul to this day.”
Dale Ralph Davis: Hiram toured the area and was unimpressed. Not much he could do about it but object. He could tell Solomon he thought they were sorry samples of towns. But Hiram is no dunce. He’s not about to be so upset that he would boycott joining Solomon in a lucrative sea trade (vv. 26–28).
3. (:14) Quantified Payment
“And Hiram sent to the king 120 talents of gold.”
MacArthur: Solomon sold these 20 cities in Galilee to Hiram in exchange for the gold (about 4.5 tons) mentioned in v. 14. Probably these cities lay along the border between Tyre and Israel, just outside the territory of Asher. Later, Hiram gave the towns back to Solomon. (2 Ch 8:2)
Peter Pett: Solomon Has So Extended His Resources That He Feels It Necessary To Obtain A Secured Loan From Hiram, Secured Against Galilean Settlements (1 Kings 9:11-14).
It is an indication of the wealth that Solomon had laid out on his enterprises, and the great cost involved, that even he had subsequently to resort to a private loan, in spite of the wealth continually flowing into his kingdom. But, of course, no hint is given of a commercial transaction here (unless possibly in the naming of the lands as Cabul). It simply consisted of ‘gifts’ between extremely wealthy kings. The ‘settlements’ (cities/towns/villages) are ‘given’, both as a gesture of gratitude and as security for a further loan, without any such commonplace suggestions being made. Hiram then views them and is not very pleased with their ‘quality’ but nevertheless decides to send Solomon a huge amount of gold. He knew, of course, that his investment was safe and that he would eventually get it back in return for the ‘settlements’, no doubt at a somewhat enhanced premium.
B. (:15-24) Defense of the Kingdom Relies on Questionable Assistance
1. (:15) Employing Forced Labor for Building Projects and Fortifications
“Now this is the account of the forced labor which King Solomon levied to build the house of the LORD, his own house, the Millo, the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer.”
Israel was supposed to drive out their enemies from the Promised Land; not use them for forced labor.
Donald Wiseman: Solomon fortified strategic cities to guard the main approaches to his kingdom. The list runs north to south. All show archaeological evidence of identical construction work of the Solomonic period, casemate-type walls and similar ‘six-roomed’ gate towers. Hazor (Tell el-Qedah), eight kilometers south-west of Lake Huleh (now almost drained dry), controlled the road from the north; Megiddo (Tell el-Mutesellim, see on 4:12) the road from Phoenicia and through the Carmel range.
William Barnes: Returning to the issue of forced labor, such was regularly practiced, and such were the expectations of the times—kings either fought battles or built structures, and both sadly seemed to require a form of de facto slavery (i.e., the military draft and the civilian corvée) to accomplish their intended results.
Wiersbe: Solomon also strengthened and extended “the Millo,” the terraced area next to the walls of Jerusalem that buttressed the wall and gave more protection to the city. The word millo means “to fill.” This was an “earth-fill fortification” that was begun by David (2 Sam. 5:9) and continued by Solomon (9:24; 11:27). The king and his family, the people of the city, and the wealth in the temple and the palace all had to be protected.
2. (:16-19) Egyptian Assistance
a. (:16) Dowry Gift of Gezer from Pharaoh
“For Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up and captured Gezer, and burned it with fire, and killed the Canaanites who lived in the city, and had given it as a dowry to his daughter, Solomon’s wife.”
Donald Wiseman: Gezer (Tel Jezer, south-east of Ramleh) guarded the south-west approaches from Philistia. There is no need to read ‘Gerar’ here. Verses 16–17 are added to show how the Israelites had taken over the city from the Canaanite vassals of the Philistines (cf. vv. 20–21; Josh. 10:33; Judg. 1:29).
Iain Provan: Pharaoh … captured Gezer: It is interesting that the same passage that tells us (v. 21) of Israelite inability to exterminate the Canaanites also tells us that their enemy of old, the Egyptian Pharaoh, has recently captured Gezer and killed all its Canaanite inhabitants—a city that had hitherto provided forced labor, according to Josh. 16:10. Why are we told of these Joshua-like exploits just at this point? Perhaps for this reason: that it helps us to see clearly just how easily Solomon, in all his glory and power, could have dealt with the Canaanites in the way deuteronomic law had commanded—if he had wished to. It points to the conclusion, in other words, that he continued to use them as labor out of choice, rather than out of necessity, because of his enthusiasm for building—and so willingly put himself at risk of their baneful influence. It should not pass unnoticed, either, that some of the building is of a highly questionable sort (v. 19).
b. (:17-19) Development of Cities in Conjunction with Solomon’s Multiplication of Chariots and Horsemen
“So Solomon rebuilt Gezer and the lower Beth-horon 18 and Baalath and Tamar in the wilderness, in the land of Judah, 19 and all the storage cities which Solomon had, even the cities for his chariots and the cities for his horsemen, and all that it pleased Solomon to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land under his rule.”
Donald Wiseman: Lower Beth Horon, eighteen kilometres north-west of Jerusalem (modern Beit ‘Ur et-Taḥta), commands the road through the Ayalon Valley to the west. Baalath, south-west of Beth-Horon in Dan (Josh. 19:44). Tadmor (mt Qĕre) is read as Tamar (lxx, rsv, Kĕtîb) and identified with ‘Ain Husb, south of the Dead Sea. This is in the desert (‘wilderness’, neb) but the change might be unnecessary if there was a Tadmor in the south, as distinct from the famous caravan city (= Palmyra, 240 kilometres north-east of Damascus).
3. (:20-23) Explanation of Distinction between Foreign Forced Labor and Israelite Roles
a. (:20-21) Foreign Forced Labor
“As for all the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, who were not of the sons of Israel, 21 their descendants who were left after them in the land whom the sons of Israel were unable to destroy utterly, from them Solomon levied forced laborers, even to this day.”
b. (:22-23) Israelite Roles
“But Solomon did not make slaves of the sons of Israel; for they were men of war, his servants, his princes, his captains, his chariot commanders, and his horsemen. 23 These were the chief officers who were over Solomon’s work, five hundred and fifty, who ruled over the people doing the work.”
Constable: Solomon put the defeated native Canaanites to work on government projects (cf. Gen. 9:25-26). Nevertheless this plan proved to be a source of major dissatisfaction in Israel (cf. 12:4). There was a distinction in Solomon’s day between Israelites whom the king conscripted for temporary service and non-Israelites who were permanent slave laborers. The former served as military supervisors over civil forced labor gangs, for example. The latter were the native Canaanites who enjoyed no rights as free persons.
4. (:24) Egyptian Influence
“As soon as Pharaoh’s daughter came up from the city of David to her house which Solomon had built for her, then he built the Millo.”
Peter Pett: Adding to his disapproval the prophet points out that much of this work had been carried out in order to make provision for Pharaoh’s daughter. (You can almost hear himself saying, ‘that woman’). Now that the palace complex had been completed, and the Ark had been removed from the Sacred tent in David’s house, the Egyptian princess, with her false deities, could be allowed to live there.
C. (:25) Dedication to Annual Sacrifices
“Now three times in a year Solomon offered burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar which he built to the LORD, burning incense with them on the altar which was before the LORD. So he finished the house.”
Outwardly, it seems that Solomon is on track in terms of supporting the sacrificial system as administered by the priests. But his heart attitude is starting to deviate from full obedience to the covenant requirements.
Peter Pett: The Temple having been built it was used as the Central Sanctuary to which the men of Israel gathered for the three great feasts, Passover, Sevens (Weeks) and Tabernacles. And during those feasts Solomon arranged for the offering of the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings as required by Law, and as required for the subsequent feasting. The burnt- offering was a dedicatory offering, and was wholly consumed. The peace or wellbeing offerings were also atoning, but parts of the animal could be eaten by the worshippers. These would be offered on the bronze altar. The incense would be burned by the priests ‘before YHWH’ on the incense altar in the Holy Place before the veil. The reference of the original word to incense is however secondary, and the word may simply refer to ‘fire-offerings’. (There is no requirement that we see Solomon as doing this himself. It was the responsibility of the priests. Indeed if Solomon had offered all the offerings himself he would have been a very busy man).
D. (:26-28) Development of International Maritime Trade Increases Kingdom Wealth
1. (:26) Maritime Fleet Built
“King Solomon also built a fleet of ships in Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom.”
2. (:27) Maritime Skill Acquired
“And Hiram sent his servants with the fleet, sailors who knew the sea, along with the servants of Solomon.”
R. D. Patterson: A completely new approach to international trade began here as far as Israel was concerned. Phoenicia was the major shipping power in the Mediterranean, while Israel controlled the major inland trade routes in the Levant. With Israel newly exercising control of the Negev as far as the Gulf of Aqaba, new possibilities opened up. Solomon made a treaty with Hiram of Tyre that was apparently mutually attractive. Both kings would be able to conduct extensive trade throughout the Red Sea area. In this venture Hiram supplied the seamen and shipping and ship-building skills, and Solomon gave Tyre access to the Red Sea and probably undertook a major share of the financing.
3. (:28) Maritime Trade Developed
“And they went to Ophir, and took four hundred and twenty talents of gold from there, and brought it to King Solomon.”
Peter Pett: The sad thing about Solomon is that such a wise man, to whom God had given so much, should have been so foolish as to destroy his kingdom because of his vanity, pride and lust. He was fulfilling all the prophetic warnings of what happened when men were given supreme kingship (1 Samuel 8:11-18; Deuteronomy 17:16-17).