|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:1-8 There is not a more melancholy and astonishing instance of human depravity in the sacred Scriptures, than that here recorded. Solomon became a public worshipper of abominable idols! Probably he by degrees gave way to pride and luxury, and thus lost his relish for true wisdom. Nothing forms in itself a security against the deceitfulness and depravity of the human heart. Nor will old age cure the heart of any evil propensity. If our sinful passions are not crucified and mortified by the grace of God, they never will die of themselves, but will last even when opportunities to gratify them are taken away. Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. We see how weak we are of ourselves, without the grace of God; let us therefore live in constant dependence on that grace. Let us watch and be sober: ours is a dangerous warfare, and in an enemy's country, while our worst foes are the traitors in our own hearts.
Verse 4. - For it came to pass, when Solomon was old [As he was but sixty at the time of his death, "old" is here a relative term, and must mean "toward the close of his life," i.e., when he was about 50 or 55], that his wives turned away his heart after other gods [The text does not limit Solomon's polygamy to the time of old age, but his idolatrous leanings. I say leanings, for it is doubtful to what extent Solomon himself took part in actual idolatry. Both Bahr and Keil - the latter in opposition to the views he held in 1846 - not to speak of others, deny that he shared the idolatries of his wives, and the former labours hard, and on the whole, it seems to me, successfully, to prove that he was only guilty of sanctioning idolatrous worship in the vicinity of Jerusalem. His arguments, briefly stated, are these:
(1) It is nowhere said that he "served" (עָבַד) other gods - the expression constantly used of the idolatrous kings; cf. 16:31; 22:53; 2 Kings 16:3, etc.
(2) Neither the son of Sirach nor the Talmud nor the Rabbins know anything of his personal idolatry.
(3) Had he formally worshipped idols, his sin would have been greater than that of Jeroboam as to which, however, see on 1 Kings 12:29 sqq. (The "sin of Jeroboam" lay in "making Israel to sin," i.e., in forcing his people into schismatic and unauthorized worship, rather than in any practices of his own.)
(4) The expressions "his heart was not perfect," below, and "he went not fully" (ver. 6) are inconsistent with the idea of idolatry. Similarly Ewald says, "There is no evidence from ancient authorities that Solomon, even in advanced life, ever left the religion of Jahveh, and with his own hand sacrificed to heathen gods. All traces of contemporary history extant testify to the contrary" (vol. 3. p. 297). See, however, on ver. 5]: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God [It is instructive to compare with this the words of 1 Kings 8:61, "Let your heart be perfect," etc. Wordsworth remarks that "the defection even of Solomon from God through the influence of his strange wives is one of the best justifications" of the commands of Exodus 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:2-4, etc.], as was the heart of David his father.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And it came to pass, when Solomon was old,.... Toward the latter end of his reign, when he might be near sixty years of age; for Rehoboam his son and successor was forty one when he began to reign, 1 Kings 14:21 which is observed either as an aggravation of the sin of Solomon, that in his old age, when by long experience he might have been thought to be still wiser, and less lustful: and yet
that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; or as pointing at the advantage his wives took of his age:
and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father; who, though guilty of many sins, never inclined to idolatry; his heart was always right in that point, and sincere in his worship, see Psalm 18:20.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. when Solomon was old—He could not have been more than fifty.
his wives turned away his heart after other gods—Some, considering the lapse of Solomon into idolatry as a thing incredible, regard him as merely humoring his wives in the practice of their superstition; and, in countenancing their respective rites by his presence, as giving only an outward homage—a sensible worship, in which neither his understanding nor his heart was engaged. The apology only makes matters worse, as it implies an adding of hypocrisy and contempt of God to an open breach of His law. There seems no possibility of explaining the language of the sacred historian, but as intimating that Solomon became an actual and open idolater, worshipping images of wood or stone in sight of the very temple which, in early life, he had erected to the true God. Hence that part of Olivet was called the high place of Tophet (Jer 7:30-34), and the hill is still known as the Mount of Offense, of the Mount of Corruption (2Ki 23:13).
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