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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible

1 Kings 11

 

 

Verses 1-43

MANY MARRIAGES LEADING TO IDOLATRY

(vs.1-13)

Solomon also disobeyed Deuteronomy 17:17 in making many marriages with foreign women, from the Moabites, Alnmonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites (v.1). But not only was Deuteronomy disobeyed, which specially forbad a king to make such marriages. All the children of Israel were warned against intermarrying with these ungodly nations (Exodus 34:12-16). Did Solomon think that his superior wisdom would keep him from being badly affected by evil associations? Actually,: his wisdom ought to have warned him to keep far from the temptation, but this is a lesson for us that it requires more than wisdom to preserve us from evil. It requires the grace of God learned only in communion with Him.

Solomon had 700 wives who: were princesses and 300 concubines. What could he expect but that his wives would turn away his heart from the Lord? In contrast to this the Thessalonians "turned to God from idols" (1 Thessalonians 1:9). Solomon turned from God to idols!

Verse 3 says "his wives turned away his heart," and verse 4, "when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods." His heart was first turned away from the Lord, so that when he became old he succumbed to the seduction of idols. Our hearts are not vacuums: if we displace the Lord from our hearts, they will soon embrace some false substitute, and these wives had many substitutes that they could persuade Solomon were attractive. Sadly, history is full of cases of intellectual men who have made shipwreck. Why? No doubt because they trusted their own wisdom rather than simply trusting God.

Thus the solemn verdict is given in verse 6, "Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David." When David sinned against the Lord he was deeply repentant when the Lord reproved him, but though Solomon was reproved by God there is no indication that he repented.

He went as far as to build high places for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites. Very likely he took the attitude of liberal minded people of today, thinking it right to be tolerant of every religion and even to patronize evil religions because of the preference of his wives. But how shameful a contradiction to Solomon's faith in building the temple was his unbelief in building these high places! In building the temple he emphasized the supreme authority of the living God, but in building the high places he was guilty of challenging God's authority! Thus in this his wisdom failed him tragically.

He built other high places also for all of his foreign wives who sacrificed to their false gods (v.8). He went so far in this kind of evil that he rendered himself impervious to correction. How could he correct the fact of having 700 foreign wives? - let alone correcting their false worship?

The Lord's anger burned against this illustrious king who turned against God in spite of the Lord appearing to him twice, commanding him specifically not to follow other gods. It seems unthinkable that a believer would sink to such a level as Solomon did, but wealth and ease can be a terrible snare even to one who is born of God. It is little wonder that Agur, whose words appear in a book written by Solomon, writes, "Give me neither poverty nor riches" (Proverbs 30:8). He realized he could not trust himself with such riches.

The Lord spoke directly to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant" (v.11). Yet the Lord would not do this while Solomon was living because the Lord respected Solomon's father David. But Solomon's son would suffer the humiliation of a broken kingdom (v.12), though God would leave one tribe to that son, also for the sake of David, not for Solomon's sake. Judah was that tribe, though Benjamin, very small and weak, was included with Judah. Also, this concession was for Jerusalem's sake, for God's choice of that city remained in spite of the failure and disobedience of all Israel.

TWO OUTSIDE ADVERSARIES

(vs.14-25)

The Lord did not allow Solomon to have everything go his way. To speak to Solomon's conscience the Lord raised up adversaries against him. They could not dethrone Solomon, but were thorns in his side to cause unrest among the people. Hadad was an Edomite who had fled to Egypt when Joab under David had reduced the Edomites to almost nothing (vs.14-16). Hadad gained favor with Pharaoh king of Egypt even to the point of being given Pharaoh's wife's sister as his wife (v.19). Edom pictures the flesh while Egypt symbolizes the world. The world will always be friendly with the flesh, and Hadad was well off in Egypt.

Yet when he heard that David was no longer living, Hadad wanted to return to his own country (v.21). Alter returning, nothing more is said about him here, but being an adversary of Solomon, it is implied that he took up the cause of Edom in resisting the reign of Solomon. Though Solomon had married an Edomite wife, this did not lessen Hadad's enmity.

Another adversary that God raised up against Solomon was Rezon the son of Eliadah. He was the servant of Hadadezer king of Zobah whom David had decisively defeated (2 Samuel 8:3-8). Rezon "abhorred Israel" (v.25), and gathered followers, so that he became a captain of a band of raiders (v.24). He and his followers went to Damascus, where he became king of Syria, and all the days of Solomon he was an adversary of Israel. Thus these two enemies, Hadad and Rezon, considered themselves right in their enmity because David had caused their nations suffering.

AN ADVERSARY WITHIN

(vs.26-40)

The third enemy of Solomon was the most dangerous, for he was a servant of Solomon, a capable man whom Solomon had entrusted with a responsible position (v.28). Jereboam rebelled against the king because of a message God sent to him by the prophet Ahijah. Thus, it is plainly God who raised up such an adversary. Jereboam was from Ephraim and was set over all the labor force of the house of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh). He would be fully conversant with the administration of the affairs of Solomon's kingdom.

Ahijali met Jereboam outside of Jerusalem with no other observers present (v.29). Ahijah was clothed with a new garment, and took this garment, tearing it into twelve pieces, telling Jereboam to take ten pieces. The garment was the kingdom of Solomon, newly established. Ahijah gave Jereboam the message from God, "I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to you" (v.31). "But he (Solomon through his son Rehoboam) shall have one tribe for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel."

But God's reason for breaking up the kingdom is most clearly stated. Israel had forsaken the Lord and had sunk down to the level of worshiping various idolatrous gods and goddesses, ignoring God's statutes and judgments (v.33). God's plain abhorrence of such guilt on Israel's part, of which Solomon was the leader, ought to have deeply impressed the conscience of Jereboam to make sure he would not follow such abhorrent practices, but it was not long after being exalted as king of the ten tribes that he fell into the same evil ways (ch.12:29-33).

"However," God said, "I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand" (v.34). He would allow Solomon's son to keep the tribe of Judah (which included Benjamin) for David's sake, not for Solomon's sake. God made it plain to Jereboam that He had chosen Jerusalem to put His name there (v.36). Telling Jereboam this did not preserve Jereboam from the folly of setting up two different centers - one in Bethel and the other in Dan (ch.12:28-29).

The Lord also gave Jereboam the conditional promise that if he would heed all that God commanded, would walk in His ways, doing what is right, keeping God's statutes and commandments, as David did, then God would build Jereboam an enduring house, as He did for David, and would give Israel to Jereboam (v.38). Certainly God knew perfectly well that Jereboam would not fulfill these conditions, but that he would be an object lesson for Israel as regards the folly of choosing their own way rather than submitting to the authority of the Lord.

As regards the descendants of David, God told Jereboam that He would afflict them because of their evil, but not forever (v.39). Thus the government of God is maintained, but His grace shines out beautifully in the end.

Solomon knew that God had told Jereboam he would be king over Israel, but instead of being chastened and repentant because he himself was to blame, Solomon wanted to kill Jereboam. Thus, he was not willing to submit to God's Word in this matter. His disobedience to God led him farther and farther astray. Jereboam fled from Israel to Egypt, remaining with the king of Egypt until Solomon died.

THE DEATH OF SOLOMON

Solomon reigned the same length of time as did his father David - 40 years. However, in spite of his great wisdom and the splendor of his kingdom, he did not leave to his son a legacy nearly as profitable as David had left to him. David had left to Solomon a true regard for the living God and Solomon did not follow the path of his father in obedience to God. What kind of an example was this to Rehoboam? Why did Solomon not wisely consider that his days were numbered, just as David's had been? He wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:1-14 of the brevity of life and concluded by saying, "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (vs.13-14). Why did he not accept for himself the advice he gave to others?

At his death he was buried in Jerusalem, and Rehoboam took the throne (v.43). But how solemn a lesson for us is the fact that the wisest man who ever lived made shipwreck of his personal life! May God preserve us from the pride of knowledge!

 


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Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 1 Kings 11:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/1-kings-11.html. 1897-1910.

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