1 Kings 11


Solomon’s Decline (11:1-43)

Solomon’s Many Wives

      • Now King Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to Pharaoh’s daughter- including Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women. Women from nations that Yahweh had told the Israelites: “You are not to intermarry with them because they will incline your hearts toward their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “In spite of his God-given wisdom, Solomon blatantly violated the law of Moses with his excessive wealth and many wives (see Exod 34:12-17; Deut 7:3-4; 17:17). Taking wives to form foreign alliances compromised Solomon’s spiritual commitment, as predicted, and turned his heart away from the Lord. The spiritual and political consequences for his people were disastrous (see 1 Kgs 11:4-13; 12:4, 16; 2 Kgs 17:5-23; 25:1-23).”

      • Solomon had 700 wives (who were princesses) and 300 concubines. When Solomon got old, his wives turned his heart toward other gods, and his heart wasn’t fully true to Yahweh his God as his father David’s heart had been. Solomon followed the Sidonian goddess Astarte and the abhorrent Ammonite god, Milcom. He did what Yahweh considers evil and didn’t remain completely loyal to Yahweh like his father David had. Furthermore, on the hill across from Jerusalem, he built a high place for the detestable Moabite god Chemosh and for the detestable Ammonite god Milcom. He also did the same for all his foreign wives so they could burn incense and make sacrifices to their gods.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Although David had committed grievous sin, he genuinely repented when rebuked by God’s prophet (2 Sam 11:1-12:23; Ps 51:1-4). However, Solomon failed to heed God’s warnings…or to learn from Israel’s past; instead, he reproduced their sins.”

        • ESV Study Bible notes, “Solomon loved (Hb ‘ahab, 3:3) the Lord, but he also loved (Hb ‘ahab) the daughter of Pharaoh and many other women, and he clung (Hb dabaq) to them (11:2). Both verbs appear in Deutermonomy (Deut 6:5; 10:12, 20; 11:1, 22; 13:4; 30:20), where they speak of unswerving human loyalty to God. Solomon’s heart, however, was divided (1 Kgs 11:4); and in spite of his pious hope that God would always turn Israelite hearts to himself (8:58), the king’s wives, in his old age, turned away his heart in the opposite direction, after other gods…Individual kings are characteristically assessed in 1-2 Kings in terms of whether on the whole they ‘did what was right’ or what was evil in the eyes of the Lord (e.g., 1 Kgs 15:11, 26, 34); Judean kings are additionally said to be like David or not (e.g., 15:3, 11).”

        • On Ashtoreth, ESV Archaeology Study Bible explains, “This Phoenician deity, also knows as Astarte, was goddess of fertility and wife of the god Baal. Her name is attested in many Iron Age texts, and she is likely the nude goddess depicted on the so-called Astarte plaques from Late Bronze and Early Iron Age Canaan. The Hebrew spelling is a deliberate distortion of the original Semitic name. The biblical writer has removed the original vowels in ‘Astarte’ and replaced them with the vowels from the Hebrew word for ‘shame,’ boshet…”

        • On Milcom, or as many translations render- Molech, the same source writes, “Milcom, probably identified with Molech/Malik/Milku, was the Canaanite equivalent of the Canaanite god Baal. He is mentioned by name in a ninth-century BC building inscription found in the ancient city of Rammoth-ammon, modern Amman, Jordan. He may be associated with child sacrifice rituals documented in Carthage, but the relevant term in those descriptions, mlk, may refer instead to a type of sacrifice, specifically an offering by fire…”

      • On Chemosh, the same source says, “Chemosh was the chief god of the Moabites. He is mentioned eight times in the OT and over a dozen times in the Mesha Stela, a Moabite inscription from the late ninth century BC…

      • On Solomon’s numerous wives and concubines, NET Bible elaborates, “Concubines were slave women in ancient Near Eastern societies who were the legal property of their master, but who could have legitimate sexual relations with their master. A concubine’s status was more elevated than a mere servant, but she was not free and did not have the legal rights of a free wife. The children of a concubine could, in some instances, become equal heirs with the children of the free wife. The usage in the present passage suggests that after the period of the Judges concubines may have become more of a royal prerogative (cf. also 2 Sam 21:10-14).”

        • NET Bible also mentions, “The hill east of Jerusalem refers to the Mount of Olives.”

      • Yahweh was angry with Solomon because he had turned his heart away from Yahweh, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him two times and commanded him concerning this very thing- that he should not follow other gods. But Solomon did not obey what Yahweh commanded. So Yahweh said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept My covenant and My decrees which I commanded you, I will tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. However, for your father David’s sake, I won’t do it during your lifetime; I will tear it from your son’s hand instead. I won’t tear the entire kingdom away from him. I’ll leave your son one tribe for My servant David’s sake and for Jerusalem’s sake, which I have chosen.”

        • Guzik comments, “This is a tragic example of the power of the lust of the flesh. Because of lust, Solomon found himself in a place where he never thought he would find himself. He found himself burning incense at the altars of depraved pagan gods. He found himself at the altar of child sacrifice unto the god Molech. This is the power of lust – it can capture us in a spell, in a fog of spiritual confusion until we do things we never thought we would do…The reader should carefully consider: If this was the case with the wisest man who ever lived, then what hope do you have apart from constant dependence upon Jesus Christ? Let the example of Solomon drive you to greater dependence upon and abiding with Jesus.”

        • God announced the kingdom would be divided, although Solomon’s descendants would retain part of it…” (NLT Illustrated Study Bible)

Solomon’s Enemies

      • Then Yahweh raised up an enemy against Solomon- Hadad the Edomite- a descendant of the Edomite king. Earlier, when David was in Edom, Joab, the commander of the army, had gone to bury the dead and had killed all the men in Edom. Joab and the entire Israelite army had stayed there for 6 months until he had killed every male in Edom. Hadad, who was a little boy at the time, escaped with some of his father’s servants and headed for Egypt. They left from Midian and went to Paran. They took some men from Paran with them and went to Egypt. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave Hadad a house, land, and provided him with food. Pharaoh liked Hadad so much that he gave him his sister-in-law (Queen Tahpenes’ sister) for a wife. Tahpenes’ sister gave birth to Hadad’s son, named Genubath. Tahpenes herself weaned him in Pharaoh’s house and Genubath lived there among Pharaoh’s sons. While in Egypt, Hadad heard that David and the commander of his army, Joab, had both died. So Hadad said to Pharaoh, “Let me leave and return to my own country.” Pharaoh asked him, “What do you lack here with me that makes you want to return to your own country?” Hadad replied, “Nothing, but please allow me to go.”

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “In 5:4, Solomon told Hiram, in the midst of God’s blessing, that he had peace on every side (no adversary). Now the blessing has departed and the peace is fractured. Two men who had hitherto not caused Solomon significant problems are now raised up by God to oppose the apostate king in his old age.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “Egypt had a long tradition of harboring foreigners during times of famine or strife in the Levant, but in this instance Egypt’s motive was to cultivate allies for a return to military and economic exploitation of its northern neighbors. They would be housed, tied to their patron by marriage, and then sent back to cause as much trouble as they could, draining enemy resources and perhaps opening opportunity for conquest…it is not known whether his patron [Hadad’s] was Pharoah Shishak of the Biblical record or a prior king such as Siamun…If his patron is the same Siamun who has a treaty with Solomon, releasing Hadad to cause havoc puts the pharaoh in a very awkward position, which might explain why he encourages Hadad to stay (vv. 19-22).”

      • God also brought another enemy up against Solomon- Eliada’s son Rezon. Rezon had run away from his master, King Hadadezer of Zobah, gathered himself some men, and had become the leader of a band of raiders. After David’s slaughter, they went to Damascus, where they settled and took control of the city. Rezon was Israel’s enemy throughout Solomon’s life and, like Hadad, caused trouble. He hated Israel and reigned over Syria.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible explains, “Solomon’s second adversary was Rezon, an Aramean who had served under King Hadadezer of Aram-zobah. When David had defeated Hadadezer (2 Sam 8:3-7), Rezon escaped, gained a group of followers, and went to Damascus. He maintained himself there when Solomon campaigned in Hamath-zobah (2 Chr 8:3-4) and eventually became king of Damascus. Like Hadad, Rezon remained a bitter enemy of Israel and was troublesome to Solomon.”

      • Also, Solomon’s servant, Nebat’s son Jeroboam rebelled against the king. He was an Ephraimite from Zeredah whose mother was a widow named Zeruah. He rebelled against the king for the following reason: Solomon had built a terrace and closed up a breach in the wall of the city of his father David. Jeroboam was a very able man, and when Solomon noticed how industrious he was, he appointed him leader over the entire forced labor of the tribe of Joseph.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible points out, “Information about Solomon’s third adversary, Jeroboam son of Nebat, provides background for the division of the kingdom of Israel (chs 12-14)…Solomon noted the work ethic of Jeroboam during the repair of the city’s structures and put him in charge. Jeroboam’s status among the laborers may have made him aware of brewing discontent in northern sections of Solomon’s kingdom…”

        • Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers mentions the debate we have previously mentioned regarding whether or not Solomon imposed forced labor on Israelites, and sees support here for the view that he did, “…the taskwork assigned to the levy from the tribe of Ephraim (and possibly Manasseh with it). It is clear from this that the levy for the Temple—perhaps originally exceptional—had served as a precedent for future burdens, not on the subject races only, as at first (1Kings 9:21-22), but on the Israelites also.

      • One day, as Jeroboam was leaving Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah who was from Shiloh, met him on the road. The two of them were alone in the open country. Ahijah was wearing a brand new robe, and he grabbed it, and tore it into 12 pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam:

        • Take 10 pieces for yourself, because this is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, says: ‘Look, I am about to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand. I will give you 10 tribes, but one tribe will remain his for My servant David’s sake and for Jerusalem’s sake- the city I chose out of all the tribes of Israel. I am doing this because he has abandoned Me and worshiped the Sidonian goddess Astarte, the Moabite god Chemosh, and the Ammonite god Milcom. He has not walked in My ways, doing what I consider right and obeying My decrees and laws as his father David did. I will not take the entire kingdom from his hand, because I made him ruler for all of his life for My servant David’s sake, whom I chose and who kept My commandments and statutes. I will take the kingdom from his son’s hand. I will give you 10 tribes and I’ll give his son 1 tribe, so that My servant David will always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem- the city where I have chosen to put My name. I will select you, and you will reign over all your heart desires, and you will be king over Israel. If you will listen to all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what I consider right by obeying My statutes and My commandments as My servant David did, then I will be with you, and I will establish an enduring dynasty for you, as I did for David. And I will give you Israel. I will punish David’s descendants because of this- but not forever.’

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “The meeting between Jeroboam and the prophet Ahijah set in motion God’s judgment on the dynasty of Solomon…Ahijah’s symbolic tearing of his cloak into twelve pieces and giving ten of these pieces to Jeroboam symbolized God’s plans for Jeroboam and Israel following Solomon’s death…Ten of the tribes would defect; one tribe (Judah) would remain with Solomon’s heir. The twelfth tribe was probably Benjamin (see 1 Kgs 12:21). Benjamin consistently acted in tandem with Judah (see 2 Chr 11:3, 23; 14:8; 15:2-9; 17:17). Simeon, the other southern tribe, seems to have allied with the north (2 Chr 15:9; 34:6). Ahijah further described the coming division of the kingdom and delivered God’s offer of blessing and perpetuity to Jeroboam, who was required to obey the Lord in order to receive the offer. Although Solomon violated the terms of God’s covenant, God remained faithful in not revoking his promises to David (see also Ps 89:28-37). David’s successors were to be living representatives of God’s covenant with David, and they were to shine as lights of God’s grace (15:4; 2 Kgs 8:19; 2 Chr 21:7). They pointed to Jesus, the descendant of David, who is the light of the world (John 1:4-5) and who fulfills God’s promises to David (Ezek 34:23-31). Jeroboam had a great opportunity. God promised that if he was faithful and obedient to the Lord, his kingdom would be strong and long-lasting. However, he departed from God (12:25-33; 14:10-18) and set Israel on a destructive path (2 Kgs 17:21-23).”

      • Therefore Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but he escaped to Egypt, to King Shishak of Egypt, and remained their until Solomon died.

        • Guzik says, “This is another startling evidence of Solomon’s decline. God specifically said this would happen after the death of Solomon, and in judgment of Solomon’s apostasy. Solomon didn’t want to hear it, so he sought to kill Jeroboam. Solomon thought he could defeat God’s will in this, but he was unsuccessful. God’s word through Ahijah proved true.”

Solomon’s Death

      • As for the other events of Solomon’s reign- all of his accomplishments and his wisdom- they are written in The Book of the Acts of Solomon. Solomon ruled over all of Israel from Jerusalem for 40 years. Then Solomon rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of his father David. His son Rehoboam succeeded him as king.

        • The Book of the Acts of Solomon was likely kept in a prophetic center or in palace and Temple archives. It served as a source of information for the author of Kings but is now lost (cp 14:19, 29).”

        • Guzik writes, “The last look at the life of Solomon in 1 Kings leads us to believe that he died in apostasy. There is no hopeful or cheerful end to the story in this account.” Guzik then cites Poole, “If he did repent, yet the silence of the Scriptures about it in this history was not without wise reasons; as, among others, that his eternal condition being thus far left doubtful, his example might have the greater influence for the terror and caution of future offenders.” Guzik then continues, “However, it may be that Solomon was shown special mercy for the sake of David his father (as in 2 Samuel 7:14-15, if that promise also applies to Solomon as well as the Messiah). Some also believe that Solomon wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes at the very end of his life as a renunciation of his fall into vanity.”

Click here to go to chapter 12