1 Kings 11
1 Kings 11 Kingcomments Bible Studies

The Unfaithfulness of Solomon

In this chapter we see the failure of Solomon. The development described here and the related events lack in 2 Chronicles.

Solomon violates the royal law (Deu 17:14-20) in a multiple manner. Here it is mainly about the influence of women on Solomon. When the female element dominates the male, we see what happens here. Nehemiah seriously accuses the returned remnant because of their unholy connections and refers to the great disobedience of the great king Solomon, who thereby caused Israel to sin (Neh 13:26). He took a thousand wives, but he has not found a good one among them (Ecc 7:28; cf. Song 6:8-9).

His father David did not give him a good example (1Sam 25:42-44; 2Sam 11:26-27) and Solomon goes much further in this deviation from the LORD. At least David had wives from the people of God, but Solomon takes them from the surrounding pagan nations. He does this against God’s express commandment that His people should not engage with these women (Deu 7:3-4; Exo 34:16). With all his wisdom he is not able to control his lusts. If this happened to Solomon, it must make us small and it will be our wisdom to take the warning to heart: “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands, look out that he does not fall” (1Cor 10:12).

With his many wives, Solomon also takes their gods into his house. David never did that either. David has always, with all his failures, remained faithful to the LORD. The idolaters all have their own gods, but Solomon takes them all into his house. Someone who knows God’s Word and deviated from it often makes it worse than someone who has never been in touch with God. The corruption of the best is the worst corruption.

This all happens “when Solomon was old”. The flesh in the believer does not get better with the climbing of the years. It will even assert itself when we have grown old and we may think that the dangers of life no longer threaten us and we are no longer vigilant. Then it will still do its devastating work with us.

The man who so humbly prayed to the LORD at the dedication of the temple becomes an admirer of the Ashtoreth, Milcom, and other heathen abominations. He who built a temple for the LORD sinks so low, that he “built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, … and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon” and for the detestable idols of all his strange wives. The one for Chemosh he builds “on the mountain that lies before Jerusalem” (1Kgs 11:7), as it were before the face of Zion, beloved by the LORD.

In our time one would call Solomon an open-minded man. He respects everyone’s dignity and participates in all religions. He is no longer a man for whom there is only one God, he is not a ‘fundamentalist’. All gods have become equal to him. He even attaches himself “in love” to them (1Kgs 11:2). Then you are king of all people, aren’t you? But you are no longer one after God’s heart! He does “what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (1Kgs 11:6). It’s not about how people judge the things we do, but how God judges them.

In the history of the kings of Israel we have a picture of the history of professing Christianity. In the middle of the history of Israel we find Ahab and Jezebel. Jezebel is also found in the prophetic description of church history in Revelation 2-3. In the middle of that description we see the church in Thyatira. The Lord Jesus sees something in that church about which He must exhort that church and that is that they tolerate the woman Jezebel (Rev 2:19-24). After Ahab and Jezebel comes Jehu, whom we see in the picture in the church in Sardis (Rev 3:1-3). Before Ahab and Jezebel we first have Jeroboam. He is a picture of the church in Pergamum (Rev 2:13-16).

However, the deviations begin with the church in Ephesus, with leaving the first love (Rev 2:4). We have a picture of this in Solomon, because his heart turn away through his wives to the idols of those wives. His heart is no longer undivided for the LORD. That is why the lampstand will over time be removed.

After the giving up of the first love by the church in Ephesus, a tribulation comes in the church in Smyrna as discipline from the Lord (Rev 2:9-10). We see this in the picture in the adversaries the LORD has raised up against Solomon later in this chapter (1Kgs 11:14; 23).

The LORD Is Angry With Solomon

The LORD appeared to him twice, first at Gibeon, at the beginning of his reign (1Kgs 3:5) and later again, in Jerusalem, on the occasion of the dedication of the temple (1Kgs 9:2). God already saw the deviations in his heart and has warned him of them. We do not read of a concrete warning against idolatry, but God may have told him so when He appeared to him. But we read several times that the LORD warns him to walk in His commandments and statutes (1Kgs 3:14; 1Kgs 6:12; 1Kgs 9:4). This also means that there can be no place for idolatry.

God also reminds us of the times when He came to us and spoke clearly to us, and that we did nothing with what He said to us then. Now that Solomon makes clear that he does not listen to what God has said to him, God becomes angry with him (Psa 18:26-27) and tells him the judgment. Only for the sake of his father David He does not execute it during his life (cf. 2Kgs 20:19). In the same way God also deals with us in grace for the sake of the Lord Jesus.

The LORD also leaves a remnant for the house of David. So today there is also a remnant that the Lord keeps for Himself in faithfulness to Him.

The Adversary Hadad

As long as Solomon remains close to the LORD and to his duty, “there is neither adversary nor misfortune” (1Kgs 5:4). But as a result of his deviation from the LORD and his turning to the idols, it is over with the peace of his kingdom. Three adversaries are coming forward, two from abroad and one from Israel, from within. Adversaries are a rod of discipline in God’s hand to make His people return to Him again, so that they do not perish (1Cor 11:32; Isa 10:5-7; Heb 12:11-13).

The first foreigner is Hadad, an important man in whom the evil characteristics of the Edomites and the Egyptians unite. This man would never have had any chance to stand up against Solomon if the LORD had not strengthened him. The hatred in the heart of this man is great (1Kgs 11:25b).

As a young boy he escaped the judgment David brought upon Edom (2Sam 8:13-14). He fled to Egypt, to Pharaoh, who gave him a house, bread, a piece of land and a wife. When he has grown up, he sees his chance, after David’s death, to give room to his hatred. He doesn’t like it anymore in Egypt and returns to Israel, which he calls “my country” (1Kgs 11:21). Hadad has lived for the day that he could take revenge.

The spiritual lesson is obvious. A small sin that is not judged grows up and becomes stronger. Sin asserts itself in hatred of all that is of God and is not content with the pleasure of the world. Sin seeks the harm of the people of God. Therefore we must nip every sin in the bud by judging the smallest deviation from God’s will.

The Adversary Rezon

The second foreign adversary is Rezon, a servant of Hadadezer, the king of Zobah, who has been completely defeated by David (2Sam 8:3-8). He is a powerful enemy who is only powerful because Solomon became weak because of his sins, so God can no longer be with him.

Both foreign enemies are hostile to Solomon because of what David did to them.

The Adversary Jeroboam

First Solomon appreciates Jeroboam and rewards him for his work. Jeroboam makes career. This is the man God has appointed for the ten tribes. Unlike both opponents from outside the land, Jeroboam does not act out of hatred. Solomon or David have done him nothing that could give rise to hatred. He is a servant of Solomon and rebels against him. Why this is the case is subsequently stated. It comes down to the fact that he revolted against Solomon because of a prophecy.

Jeroboam is appointed by God through the prophet Ahijah as the new king over the torn off part of Israel. This is done by means of a symbolic act with a “new cloak”. A few times it is mentioned that it is a new cloak. The new cloak represents the new, undivided realm. This comes to an end, which is symbolically represented in the tearing of the new cloak. The symbolic action makes the prophecy an event that has already taken place. Just as the cloak is torn and lies on the ground before Jeroboam’s eyes, so in God’s counsel the division of the kingdom is already a fact.

Ahijah shows through the tearing of the cloak that God takes away ten tribes from Solomon and leaves only one tribe to David’s house. The ten tribes are often called ‘Ephraim’, after the descent of the first king from this largest tribe.

Jeroboam is told that he will be king and also why. Ahijah explains in detail what went wrong with Solomon. It must be a clear warning for Jeroboam not to fall into the same evil, because the consequences will be no different for him. He does not get the kingship over the ten tribes because he would be better than Solomon (cf. Deu 9:4).

When Ahijah tells him that he will rule over everything he desires, it may be an allusion to the hidden desire of his heart, known by God, to become king (1Kgs 11:37; cf. 1Sam 9:20). However, there is one condition and that is that he has to wait until Solomon has died. Waiting for the time of God is of the utmost importance, also for us. He is promised that God will be with him if he listens to God and obeys Him, as David did.

When Jeroboam sins, he consciously goes against God’s warnings. He can’t wait. He sees the power before him and wants to seize it prematurely (1Kgs 11:26) because he himself is seized by the power. What he has done, we don’t read, but from the reaction of Solomon, who wants to kill him, we see that Jeroboam has tried to ascend the throne during the life of Solomon.

Among all the kings of the ten tribes that succeeded Jeroboam, we have no king who has remained faithful to God. It starts with Jeroboam, after which the servant follows the servant. In a few cases, a king is succeeded by his son, but otherwise, each succession takes place by seizing power and killing the reigning king. In this Jeroboam did not succeed.

From Solomon’s reaction we also see that he does not bow under the discipline of God, but turns against God’s rod of discipline. He wants to smash away God’s hand, as it were. With his own hands he tries to eliminate the means God has used. This doesn’t justify Jeroboam’s wrong behavior, but it also reveals the mind of Solomon’s heart. Solomon did not succeed in killing the God-appointed successor, just as Saul did not succeed in killing his successor David.

Yet there is hope that Solomon humbled himself before God and repented and converted. Solomon fell, but was not rejected. There are some indications for this. One of these clues we have in his book of Ecclesiastes. In covered terms, he talks about the bitter experiences he had. Among all the wives he had, not one gave him the happiness he was looking for. It is the designation of a broken heart because of sin, of a heart that has turned away from sin, just as we found it in David’s penitential palms, although these are of a different nature. God’s grace works in different ways in the hearts of those who belong to His people.

Another indication we see in what God has said about him to David: “I will correct him with the rod of men …, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took [it] away from Saul, whom I removed from before you” (2Sam 7:14-15). God can allow those He loves to fall into sin, but He will not allow them to remain in it. Another indication is that his reign, together with David’s, is set as an example of good reign (2Chr 11:17).

Although the reasons mentioned are reason to suppose that he has repented and converted, the Holy Spirit thought it right not to mention this explicitly. We are left in the dark about it. This means the warning that we should not think we can sin, because at the end it will be all right again. Whoever deceives himself in this way will reap the bitter fruits.

The Death of Solomon

Finally, Solomon dies. The man who started so well, died so sadly. Yet here we are reminded of his wisdom. He ruled for forty years, from 971-931 BC. He is not old when he dies, not yet sixty. He did not have a long life because of his unfaithfulness. What a contrast with for example the life and the end of Jacob. It is about the end. Blessed is he, who runs well and does so until the end. Paul can say this (2Tim 4:7).

The man who was most able to lead a successful life has lost it. Success in life does not originate, according to God’s judgment, through the possession of wisdom, but through its application in life. Spiritual success depends not only on wisdom, but also on certain decisions and choices a person makes.

The death of Solomon is described in a single word, while the death of his father David is described in detail. From David’s deathbed resounds literally and spiritually a blessing (2Sam 23:1-7). From Solomon’s deathbed doesn’t resound a last word, but a serious warning. It is possible that something is written about it in other writings (2Chr 9:29), but in God’s Word at least there is no room for it.

His son Rehoboam becomes king in his place. With him begins another history, that of responsibility.

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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