1 Kings 11:5
For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
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(5) Ashtoreth (or, Astarte).—The goddess of the Zidonians, and possibly the Hittites, corresponding to Baal, the great Tyrian god, and representing the receptive and productive, as Baal the active and originative, power in Nature. As usual in all phases of Natureworship, Ashtoreth is variously represented, sometimes by the moon, sometimes by the planet Venus (like the Assyrian Ishtar, which seems a form of the same name)—in either case regarded as “the queen of heaven.” (See Jeremiah 44:17; Jeremiah 44:25). There seems, indeed, some reason to believe that the name itself is derived from a root which is found both in Syriac and Persian, and which became aster in the Greek and astrum in Latin, and has thence passed into modern European languages, signifying a “star,” or luminary of heaven. With this agrees the ancient name, Ashterôth-Karnaîm (or, “the horned Ashteroth”)of a city in Bashan (Genesis 14:5; Deuteronomy 1:4; Joshua 13:12). This place is the first in which the name Ashtoreth is used in the singular number, and expressly limited to the “goddess of the Ziaonians.” In the earlier history we hear not unfrequently of the worship of the “Ashtaroth,” that is, of the “Ashtoreths,” found with the like plural Baalim, as prevalent in Canaan, and adopted by Israel in evil times (see Judges 2:13; Judges 10:6; 1Samuel 7:3; 1Samuel 12:10; 1Samuel 31:10); and the worship of the Asherah (rendered “groves” in the Authorised version), may perhaps refer to emblems of Astarte. In these cases, however, it seems not unlikely that the phrase, “Baalim and Ashtaroth,” may be used generally of the gods and goddesses of various kinds of idolatry. The worship of the Tyrian Ashtoreth, as might be supposed from the idea which she was supposed to represent, was one of chartered license and impurity.

Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites.—The name Milcom (like the Malcham of Jeremiah 49:1; Jeremiah 49:3) is probably only a variety of the well-known Molech, which is actually used for it in 1Kings 11:7. The name “Molech” (though here connected expressly with the Ammonite idolatry) is a general title, signifying only “king” (as Baal signifies “lord”), and might be applied to the supreme god of any idolatrous system. Thus the worship of “Molech,” with its horrible sacrifice of children “passing through the fire,” is forbidden in Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:2, evidently as prevailing among the Canaanite races (comp. Psalm 106:37-38). Again, we know historically that similar sacrifice of children, by the same horrible rite, was practised by the Carthaginians in times of great national calamity—the god being in that case identified with Saturn, the star of malign influence. By comparison of Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5-6, it is very evident that this human sacrifice to Molech is also called “a burnt-offering to Baal;” and if Molech was the “fire-god,” and Baal the “sun-god,” the two deities might easily be regarded as cognate, if not identical. It is notable that, in this place, while Ashtoreth is mentioned, there is no reference to any worship of the Phœnician Baal as such; possibly the Ammonite Molech-worship may have occupied its place. In any case, as the worship of Ashtoreth was stained with impurity, so the Molech-worship was marked by the other foul pollution of the sacrifice of human blood.

Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites.—The name Chemosh probably means “the Conqueror,” or “Subjugator,” and indicates a god of battles. He is again and again described as the god of the Moabites who are called “the people of Chemosh” (see Numbers 21:29; Jeremiah 48:7; Jeremiah 48:13; Jeremiah 48:46); and the Moabite Stone speaks of the slain in war as an offering to Chemosh, and even refers to a deity, “Ashtar-Chemosh,” which looks like a conjunction of Chemosh, like Baal, with Ashtoreth. In Judges 11:24, Jephthah refers to Chemosh as the god of the Ammonite king, an expression which may indicate a temporary supremacy of Moab over Ammon at that time, through which the name “Chemosh” superseded the name “Milcom” as descriptive of the Supreme Power. In the history, moreover, of the Moabite war against Jehoram (2Kings 3:26-27) it seems that to Chemosh, as to Molech, human sacrifice was offered.

Probably, in actual practice the various worships of the Tyrians and Canaanites, the Ammonites and the Moabites might run into each other. Unlike the awful and exclusive reverence to the Lord Jehovah, the devotion of polytheistic systems readily welcomes strange gods into its Pantheon. Polytheism is also apt to pass into what has been called “Henotheism,” in which, of many gods each is for the moment worshipped, as if he stood alone, and concentrated in himself the whole attributes of deity. The generality and similarity of meaning in the names, Baal (“lord”), Molech (“king”), and Chemosh (“conqueror”), seem to point in this direction. Still, these worships are described as taking, in Jerusalem, distinct forms and habitations, which continued till the days of Josiah (2Kings 23:13), no doubt disused and condemned in days of religious faithfulness, such as those of Jehoshapliat and Hezekiah, but revived, and associated with newer idolatries, in days of apostasy.

1 Kings 11:5-7. Solomon went after Ashtoreth — Called also Astarte. See on Jdg 2:13. And after Milcom — The same, it is thought, with Molech, who is here called an abomination, because highly detested by God. Solomon built a high place for Chemosh — That is, an altar upon a high place, as the manner of the heathen was. Concerning Chemosh, see Numbers 21:29. In the hill that is before Jerusalem — In the mount of Olives, which was nigh to Jerusalem, as if to confront the temple. From this act this hill was called the mount of corruption, 2 Kings 23:13. O sad effects of riches and prosperity on mankind! How insolent do they make them, and how forgetful of God! Wisely did Agar pray, Give me not riches, lest I be full and say, Who is the Lord?

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.Went after - This expression is common in the Pentateuch, and always signifies actual idolatry (see Deuteronomy 11:28; Deuteronomy 13:2; Deuteronomy 28:14, etc.).

For Ashtoreth, or Astarte, the goddess of the Zidonians, see Exodus 34:13, note; Deuteronomy 16:21, note. On the tomb of a Phoenician king, discovered in 1855, on the site of Sidon, mention is made of a temple of Astarte there, which the monarch built or restored; and his mother is said to have been a priestess of the goddess.

Milcom or Molech 1 Kings 11:7 are variants of the term ordinarily used for "king" among the Semitic races of Western Asia, which appears in melkarth (Phoenic.), Abimelech (Hebrew), Andrammelek (Assyrian), Abd-ul-malik (Arabic), etc. On the character and worship of Molech, see Leviticus 20:2-5 note.

5-7. Ashtoreth—Astarte,


and Chemosh—He built altars for these three; but, although he is described (1Ki 11:8) as doing the same for "all his strange wives," there is no evidence that they had idols distinct from these; and there is no trace whatever of Egyptian idolatry.

Solomon went after Ashtoreth, in manner explained in the former verse. Milcom, called also Molech; of which see Leviticus 18:21 2 Kings 23:10.

And Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians,.... Enticed by the Zidonian women, or woman, he had, 1 Kings 11:1. According to the Phoenician histories (i), Solomon married a daughter of Hiram, king of Tyre and Zidon; so Clemens of Alexandria says (k), that Hiram gave his daughter to Solomon; Ashtoreth is Astarte, the same with the Venus of the Greeks, so Suidas (l); and Lucian (m) expressly says, the Sidonians had a temple, said by them to belong to Astarte, which he takes to be the moon; and both Venus and Juno signify the same planet; See Gill on Judges 2:13.

and after Milcom the abomination of the Amnonites; the same with Molech, 1 Kings 11:7. See Gill on Leviticus 18:21. See Gill on Amos 1:13. After this he was drawn by his Ammonitish wife, or wives, 1 Kings 11:1, though the Jewish writers think he did not worship these idols, but suffered his wives to do it, and connived at it, which was his sin; so Ben Gersom and Abarbinel.

(i) Apud Tatian. contr. Graecos, p. 171. (k) Stromat. l. 1. p. 325. (l) In voce (m) De Dea Syria.

For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after {d} Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.

(d) Who was also called Molech in 1Ki 11:7. See also 2Ki 23:10.

5. Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians] Ashtoreth was the chief female divinity of the Phœnicians, as Baal was their chief male deity. As Baal has been identified with the sun, so Ashtoreth has by some been thought to be the moon. Recent investigations have however connected the name of Ashtoreth with the planet Venus, and by some it is thought that the name was applied in some parts of the Phœnician settlements to Venus, in others to the moon. Ashtoreth is identified with the Greek Ἀστάρτη, and the name of an ancient city (Genesis 14:5) Ashteroth-Karnaim, i.e. Ashteroth of the two horns, seems to point to the crescent moon. This is accepted by Milton (Par. L. I. 438).

‘Ashtoreth, whom the Phœnicians called

Astartè, queen of heaven, with crescent horns

To whose bright image, nightly by the moon

Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs.’

The worship of Ashtoreth was very widespread, as might be expected from the wide commercial relations, and distant colonies, of the Phœnicians. Why Ashtoreth is here named ‘goddess’ while the other deities are called ‘abominations’ may be due to the greater intercourse between Sidon and the Holy Land than existed with other countries. The Phœnician workmen at the Temple had perhaps caused the Israelites to become more accustomed to the name and worship of Ashtoreth.

Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites] This is the same divinity who is called below (1 Kings 11:7) Molech, and in Zephaniah 1:5 Malcham. Molech was a fire god, and was worshipped with human sacrifices. The root of the word is the same as that of the Hebrew word for ‘king.’ Hence some think ‘their king’ in 2 Samuel 12:30 means Molech, the god of the Ammonites. There are numerous allusions in the Old Test. to the worship of this god, the phrase most common being ‘to make their children to pass through the fire to Molech.’ See 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Kings 23:13. Some have explained this not as actual burning of the children to death, but as a passing of them between two fires for an ordeal of purification. But in 2 Chronicles 28:3 it is said of Ahaz, ‘He burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the nations whom Jehovah had driven out.’ And the actual burning of the children thus offered is alluded to very plainly in Jeremiah 7:31, ‘They have built the high places of Tophet, … to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire.’ The tradition is that the statue of Molech was of brass and the hands so arranged that the victim slipped from them into a fire which burnt underneath. It may be because there were no such sacrifices offered to Ashtoreth, that she is not spoken of as ‘an abomination.’

Verse 5. - For Solomon went after [Rawlinson observes that this expression, which is "common in the Pentateuch, always signifies actual idolatry." He cites Deuteronomy 11:28; Deuteronomy 13:2; Deuteronomy 28:14; but it should be considered that in the two passages last cited the words are added, "and served them." And the true explanation would seem to be that, though "it is not stated that Solomon himself offered sacrifice to these idols," yet "even the building of altars for idols was a participation in idolatry, which was irreconcilable with true fidelity to the Lord" (Keil). Bahr contends that the words "went after Ashtoreth," etc., no more involve personal service than the word "built" in ver. 7 involves personal labour; but both expressions show that he regarded these idolatries not only without disfavour, but with positive approval and practical encouragement. "It is not likely he could be so insensate as to adore such deities, but so far was the uxorious king blinded with affection, that he gave not passage only to the idolatry of his heathenish wives, but furtherance" (Bp. Hall). And the distinction, so far as the sin is concerned, between this and actual idolatry is a fine one. It is not implied, however, that Solomon ever discarded the worship of Jehovah. To the end of his reign he would seem to have offered his solemn sacrifices on the great altar thrice a year. But his heart was elsewhere (ver. 9).] Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians [עַשְׁתֹּרֶת , Ἀστάρτη, probably connected with ἀστήρ, stella, and star, by some identified with the planet Venus, by others with the moon, is here mentioned for the first time in the singular (Ashtaroth, plural, is found in Genesis 14:5; Judges 2:13; Judges 10:6; 1 Samuel 7:4; 1 Samuel 12:10, etc.) With Baal, she divided the worship of the Phoenicians, the antiquity of which is evident from Genesis 14:5; Numbers 22:41. It was really an impure cultus of the reproductive powers (see below on 1 Kings 14:23). Interesting proof of the existence of a temple of this goddess at Sidon is supplied by an inscription discovered there in 1855 (see Dict. Bib. 1:123) ], and after Milcom [In Jeremiah 49:13; Amos 1:15, "Malcam," i.e., their king. According to Gesenius, the same as Molech (i.e., the king) in ver. 7, though Ewald, Movers, Keil regard them as different deities. But it seems more probable that it was the same deity, worshipped (2 Kings 23:10, 13) under different attributes. This is "the first direct historical allusion" to his worship in the Old Testament. A warning against it is found Leviticus 20:2-5. He was the fire god, as Baal was the sun god, and the sacrifices offered to him were those of children, who would seem to have not only "passed through the fire," but to have been burnt therein. Psalm 106:37, 38; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5; Ezekiel 23:39, etc. See Dict. Bib. 2:403] the abomination [i.e., the hateful, detestable idol] of the Ammonites. [It has been suggested (Speaker's Commentary on Leviticus 20:2) that the children offered to Molech were children of incest or adultery., and we are reminded that Ammon was the child of incest. It must he remembered, however, that we have no record of Jewish children passing through the fire to Molech before the time of Ahaz (Bahr, Keil).] 1 Kings 11:5He walked after the Ashtaroth, etc. According to 1 Kings 11:7, the idolatry here condemned consisted in the fact that he built altars to the deities of all his foreign wives, upon which they offered incense and sacrifice to their idols. It is not stated that he himself also offered sacrifice to these idols. But even the building of altars for idols was a participation in idolatry which was irreconcilable with true fidelity to the Lord. עשׁתּרת, Astarte, was the chief female deity of all the Canaanitish tribes; her worship was also transplanted from Tyre to Carthage, where it flourished greatly. She was a moon-goddess, whom the Greeks and Romans called sometimes Aphrodite, sometimes Urania, Σεληναίη, Coelestis, and Juno (see the Comm. on Judges 2:13). מלכּם, which is called מלך (without the article) in 1 Kings 11:7, and מלכּם in Jeremiah 49:1, Jeremiah 49:3, and Amos 1:15, the abomination of the Ammonites, must not be confounded with the Molech (המּלך, always with the article) of the early Canaanites, to whom children were offered in sacrifice in the valley of Benhinnom from the time of Ahaz onwards (see the Comm. on Leviticus 18:21), since they had both of them their separate places of worship in Jerusalem (cf. 2 Kings 23:10, 2 Kings 23:13), and nothing is ever said about the offering of children in sacrifice to Milcom; although the want of information prevents us from determining the precise distinction between the two. Milcom was at any rate related to the Chemosh of the Moabites mentioned in 1 Kings 11:7; for Chemosh is also described as a god of the Ammonites in Judges 11:24, whereas everywhere else he is called the god of the Moabites (Numbers 21:29; Amos 1:15, etc.). Chemosh was a sun-god, who was worshipped as king of his people and as a god of war, and as such is depicted upon coins with a sword, lance, and shield in his hands, and with two torches by his side (see at Numbers 21:29). The enumeration of the different idols is incomplete; Chemosh being omitted in 1 Kings 11:5, and Astarte, to whom Solomon also built an altar in Jerusalem, according to 2 Kings 23:13, in 1 Kings 11:7. Still this incompleteness does not warrant our filling up the supposed gaps by emendations of the text. וגו/ .txe הרע ויּעשׂ, as in Judges 2:11; Judges 3:7, etc. יי אהרי מלּא, a pregnant expression for יי אח ללכת מלּא, as in Numbers 14:24; Numbers 32:11-12, etc. - These places of sacrifice (בּמה, see at 1 Kings 3:2) Solomon built upon the mountain in front, i.e., to the east, of Jerusalem, and, according to the more precise account in 2 Kings 23:13, to the right, that is to say, on the southern side, of the Mount of Corruption, - in other words, upon the southern peak of the Mount of Olives; and consequently this peak has been called in church tradition from the time of Brocardus onwards, either Mons Offensionis, after the Vulgate rendering of המּשׁחית הר in 2 Kings 23:13, or Mons Scandali, Mount of Offence (vid., Rob. Pal. i. 565 and 566).
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