Solomon accomplished what he was assigned to do and then, seemingly, spent the rest of his life attending to himself. I don't get the feeling this is going to end well for him.
Verses 1 and 2 summarize the issue. Solomon loved foreign women, particularly those the Lord had warned would turn Israel's heart to other gods. But "Solomon held fast to these in love."
I think this proves that love, in and of itself, isn't from God. God is love (agape); but some of the love humans experience (eros) isn't godly. So for those who push the "love always wins" and "God is love so He doesn't care who I love", Solomon has a tough lesson for us all.
He had 700 wifes, 300 concubines, and his wives turned his heart away.
Can you imagine that? You have spoken personally with God and yet you get conned while in bed with all the woman you brought home in trade deals. For those of us who "just want to hear from God", this is why He doesn't bother. It doesn't sustain us the way we think it will.
The Ryrie Study Bible footnote claims that Solomon was obliged to let his wives worship their own gods. I don't understand that. I get many of these wives are the outflow of diplomatic and trade agreement; but you are in a covenant with the God of the Universe. Maybe you make a caveat in your trade agreement that the women you marry must convert or, at a minimum not bother the king with their idolatry?
In verse 4 it says that in his old age his heart was not wholly devoted to God, as David was. It's interesting to me that we so consistently hear him compared to David. People in the Bible are often consistently referred to as "son of", but rarely repeatedly compared. I imagine that happened in his lifetime quite a bit and galled him. He probably knew of his father's humble roots and shepherding upbringing. He probably disliked his father's hillbilly background. And yet, was constantly found wanting in the comparison.
My "evidence" for this assertion is in how he spent his money. Why wasn't there a single cup in the house made of anything but gold? At some point, enough was enough, but not for Solomon. He had something to prove or some reason why he needed everything in his life to be conspicuous consumption. It seems like he just couldn't show off enough.
Avoid the High Places
In verses 5-8 he turns some of his wealth into building projects for worshipping his wives' gods. Building high places and following after detestable gods of the people God had told His people to utterly destroy.
That had to so hurt the heart of God. To watch this man, who had been given everything, blatantly disrespect Him in lieu of evil.
This is open rebellion against the God of the Universe. And I'm sure I have a million parallel examples in my own life. How much evil have I pursued while He patiently waited for me to return to my First Love? How we break His heart. His faithfulness is something incomprehensible to me.
It's so hard to watch someone else do it. It just looks so awful. And I want God to give Solomon what he deserves and then I remember my own rebellion and pray for mercy, which I most certainly do NOT deserve.
Verse 9 confirms that God was angry, particularly as He had appeared to Solomon twice. Not to mention Deuteronomy and the words Solomon probably knew by heart. What effort it must have been for Solomon to turn away considering the great wisdom he was carrying with him. Verse 10 goes on to explain God's anger because He had explicitly warned Solomon of this specific sin.
Verse 11 tells us that the Lord spoke to Solomon again. It's not clear here if that was through a prophet or other person or directly, as He had before. This time God proclaims the consequence. He's going to tear down Solomon's kingdom and give it to Solomon's servant. He goes on to explain that it won't happen during Solomon's reign out of respect for David; but it will be taken from Solomon's son. (v.12)
In verse 13 he specifies that Solomon's son will keep one tribe in the kingdom for the sake of David and Jerusalem. (Judah)
Solomon had been given many of his gifts and privileges, not because he deserved them but because they were necessary as part of God's plan. For example, he had been given peace so that he could focus on building God's Temple. However, he took everything for granted and felt it was safe to build structures of worship for other gods. Now that God's will had been accomplished, Solomon no longer enjoyed the luxuries that been provided.
It would be good for all of us to remember that. Jesus was correct. Everything we have is His. We owe Him everything. He is life and the life that went into every single thing we own or love. If any part of it is to be used as part of God's plan, that's going to happen regardless of us. However, we didn't earn it and don't deserve it and it can be taken from us at any time.
Now that the Temple was complete and Solomon decided to rebel against God, he lost the complete protection he had been taking for granted. Now God allowed adversaries to arise.
In II Samuel 8 tells of when David expanded his kingdom, collecting riches for the Temple and cleaning out God's enemies. One of the enemies were the Edomites (II Samuel 8:14). David was victorious over them, put in a garrison, and turned them into servants.
The story is continued in this I Kings chapter. Starting in verse 14 it is explained that under Joab, David's army commander, David's army stayed six months and cut down every male in Edom. A man named Hadad was of the royal line of Edom and as a young boy when this was taking place had been whisked off to Egypt along with servants of his fathers.
Verse 18 tells of his route to Egypt and then his arrival and provision and protection by the Pharaoh. Pharaoh had great favor for Hadad and had him marry the Pharaoh's sister-in-law (the queen's sister). Hadad's son, Genubath, was raised in the Pharaoh's house as if he were one of Pharaoh's sons.
When David and Joab died, Hadad wanted to go home. Pharoah wanted to know why he would want that. It's not explicitly stated to me, but it sounds like Hadad came back to Edom and started taking bake control over the land within Solomon's kingdom. (south)
At the same time there was a second adversary, Rezon, who was a marauder. He reigned in Damascus, so Solomon had lost control of another part of his kingdom. (north)
The third adversary is described starting in verse 26 is named Jeroboam. It gives his parentage and then explains that he rebelled against Solomon. Solomon saw this as a sign of industriousness and put him in charge of the forced labor in the district of Joseph. He is described as a valiant warrior. What a strange, strange choice, if that's the correct interpretation.
So Jeroboam is alone in a field and a prophet named Ahijah approached him while wearing a new cloak. Ahijah tears the cloak into twelve pieces. He then tells Jeroboam that the Lord is going to rip the kingdom from Solomon and give away ten tribes. Ahijah goes on to explain, specifically, what Solomon did to deserve this, listing the specific gods and the lack of obedience.
Additionally, Ahijah explains that He won't take it all from Solomon during Solomon's life out of respect to David and David's heart for the Lord, but will take them from Solomon's son.
The prophet goes on to say that the Lord tells Jeroboam that will give ten tribes to Jeroboam.
In verse 38 the Lord goes on to offer a similar covenant to Jeroboam as He had with Solomon- listen, do what is right, observe my statutes and commandments and the Lord with build an enduring house for Jeroboam.
Thus I will afflict the descendants of David for this, but not always.I Kings 11:39
Solomon sought to put Jeroboam to death; but Jeroboam fled to Egypt and stayed there under the protection of their leader until Solomon died.
That's interesting because, despite clear and repeated warnings from the Lord, Solomon had put much trust and effort into his relationship with Egypt. He looked to them for help via chariots and horses- instead of the Lord. And now, at the end of his life, Egypt stabs him the back and protects his mortal enemy.
Some commentaries point out that Egypt was in a decline at the time of David and Solomon, and this was one reason Israel was able to gain such power and prominence. Egypt is no back on the rise and has put Israel in her sights.
Speaking of Solomon's mortal enemy...Solomon is supposed to be wise. He knew (almost firsthand) what happened to those who tried to do an end-run around God's stated plan for the leadership of Israel, including not only Saul, but more than one of his own brothers.
Verses 41-43 match a very similar, truncated end of Solomon's life that we read at the end of II Chronicles Chapter 9 (9:29-31). In summary: the rest of Solomon's story is recorded elsewhere, he reigned 40 years, he died, was buried with David, and his son took over.
A sidebar in my NIV Chronological Bible points out that the more Solomon appeared the same at the other ruler of the ancient world, the further he was removed from the covenant relationship that the Lord had established with Israel. He married (many) foreign wives, he used forced labor, he gambled with property that was not his to give away.
The Times They Are A Changin'
The death of Solomon is the end of an era. The end of an Epoch, actually, according to my chronological bible. Right in the middle of these two books the whole world changes. The people wanted a King apart from the Lord- they got Saul and then David and then Solomon. Each with strengths and each deeply flawed.
I watched a presidential debate last night and this reflection on these men, combined with the sad state of affairs in our upcoming election leads me to the same conclusion. Each has strengths and each is deeply flawed.
I'm starting to see that the human condition plagues us all. In our own lives and again by the effects of those who lead us. From the men who are given leadership in a single home, to those who are given responsibilities for caring for the public, to decision makers at each level of government- all with strengths and all deeply flawed.
My only hope is in remembering that, those of us who place our hope in the eternal salvation of Jesus Christ, and not the accomplishments of these men, are strangers in a strange land. Foreigners. If we can keep our eyes on Jesus and Who He is...the waves will not overtake us. Amen.