I Kings 9–11:13. Solomon in Glory and Decay.
Key Notes: Two more messages from God. Ships from east and west brought wealth. The Queen of Sheba. Six mistakes. The man who loved women.The aging male. An epitaph for Solomon from his own hand.
The story of Solomon in splendor describes the ultimate in human attainment: wisdom, riches, power, and beauty. The story of Solomon's decay is one of the most miserable in Scripture. He was a man who loved God and ended up worshipping idols. He was the wisest of men and his folly is all the more dreadful. He set the stage for Israel's division and eventual ruin.
IK.9:1–9 After the completion of the Temple, God appeared again to Solomon directly, as he had in his early life. (IK.3:3–15). God acknowledged Solomon's prayer of dedication and promised to bless him if he obeyed, and to destroy Israel if he did not. It was a serious warning and a grave responsibility.
IK.9:19–14 Solomon annexed 20 cities of Galilee to Hiram of Tyre presumably in payment of a debt, 120 talents of gold. Hiram thought these cities worthless. The reputation of Galilee was evidently poor 900 years before Christ.
Comment: The relationship between Hiram of Tyre and Solomon is a puzzle. Could Solomon give up land which God said was His? "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me." (Lev.25:23). Perhaps the importance of the passage is not the tension between two states, but Solomon's evident lack of knowledge or regard for the Law of Moses.
IK.9:15–23 Solomon put the Canaanites still living in the land to work as slaves. However he did not enslave his fellow Israelites, as the Law says. "And if your brother becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave; he is to be treated as a hired servant...." (Lev.25:39)
Solomon fortified key cities around the country. Hazor is in the far north above the sea of Galilee. Megiddo was adjacent to the plain of Jezreel near Mt. Carmel; Jezreel is a famous battle-ground. Gezer is on the road between Jerusalem and Joppa, the seaport; it crosses the main north-south trade route. Beth-horon was also on the road to Jerusalem. Tamar is on the route south from the Dead Sea. Solomon also fortified the wall of Jerusalem.
IK.9:24 Pharaoh's daughter, Solomon's queen, was moved out of the the city of David, perhaps because it was considered sacred ground.
IK.9:25 Solomon observed the three yearly festivals.
IK.9:26 He built a fleet of ships in the harbor at the Red Sea, open to Arabia, India, and China. Hiram provided skilled seamen. Israel was not oriented toward the sea. The ships brought back gold. (10:11). He imported red sandalwood for furniture and musical instruments. Solomon also had access to the Mediterranean through Hiram's fleet, going as far as Spain ?. (IK.10:22). They brought back ivory, apes and peacocks as well as precious metals. He had a two-ocean merchant marine.
IK.10:1–13 The Queen of Sheba / Sabea / Yemen heard of Solomon in connection with the Name of the Lord and came with a huge caravan and much wealth. She asked him many hard questions, which we wish we had listed. We can guess that they were the universal questions.
•Does God exist? Is God good? What is God like? Is the God of Israel for Israel alone?
•What is good? What is wisdom? What is truth?
•What of the earth? Where did it come from? How will it end?
•What is the nature of human beings? Where did they come from ? What is their destiny? What is the right relationship between men and women? How are we to raise children?
•Why is there evil in the world? What can we do about it? How should we punish evil?
•What does God require of us? Of the ignorant? Of the rebellious?
•What is the way to God?
When she had reviewed all that Solomon showed her--his wisdom, his palace, table, retinue and livery, his sacrificial liturgy--she was overwhelmed with delight and amazement. She saw happiness and blessing everywhere. When she returned to home, what did she take with her? Legends of the Ethiopians claim that she brought the faith of Israel to their country. A community of Ethiopians who consider themselves Jews continues to this day.
This is an image of the Millennial Kingdom: unspeakable glory, beauty, wisdom and joy.
IK.10:14–20 Solomon had so much gold that he could afford to use it in ceremonial shields. He had an ivory throne overlaid with gold, decorated with lions on the six steps. He drank from gold vessels. When people came to consult with Solomon, they brought more wealth year after year. Solomon had 1400 chariots and 12000 horsemen. He bought horses and chariots from Egypt and sold them to Hittites and Syrians.
[The culture of horses and chariots in ancient times including Solomon's is beautifully described by an accomplished horsewoman in The Horsemen of Israel. D.O.Cantrell; Winona Lk., Ind. 2011.]
IK.11:1 Finally, Solomon loved many foreign women.
We can now make a summary of the things Solomon did wrong.
•Solomon traded away a part of Israel's land, contrary to the Law. Lev.25:23
•He married foreign women although Moses forbade it because they would turn their hearts away from the Lord. Deut.7:1–4
•The king was not to have many wives. Deut.17:17
A man cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh. Gen.2:24.
The king is no exception, even if harems were the custom in the Middle East; and even if Solomon's father David had fifteen wives. IChron.3:1–9
•The king was not accumulate gold and silver. (Deut.17:17). It made his country a target.
•He was not to buy horses from Egypt. Deut.17:16
Israel was not to have relationships with Egypt. ("Don't go there").
Solomon shot his great-grandsons in the foot by selling chariots and horses to the Syrians, Israel's future enemies.
*Moses wrote that the king should make his own personal copy of the Law, to be with him, and to read all his life, so that he would fear the Lord and keep the Law and not be lifted up in pride above his fellows. Deut.17:18–20
IK.11:1–8 Solomon loved women, princesses from all the exotic countries around. As he aged, his resistance was worn down, and he gave in to their pagan deities. He built worship centers for Chemosh and Molech for them on the Mount of Olives. He eventually worshipped these gods. IK.11:33
IK.11:9–13 Now God addressed him again--for the fourth time. He had betrayed his trust and would lose all the ten northern tribes to his rival (yet unnamed). His family would retain Judah for the sake of David and Jerusalem.
•God had spoken to him directly early in his career: "Ask what I shall give you." (IK.3:5). A loving relationship was expressed. IK.3:3,10
•The covenant was restated, probably by a prophet. IK.6:12
•After the Temple was completed, God again spoke to him directly, affirming the covenant, and with a serious warning. IK.9:1–9
•Now that Solomon had broken with God, God spoke probably through a prophet, expressing His anger and the doom of Solomon's empire. IK.11:9-
Where did he go wrong?
Did he not know? He communed with God at night. He gave Israel a great prayer. He counseled Israel to follow the Lord. He did not continue.
Was he greedy for money and power? Apparently not, although these are addictive.
Was he proud? Not that we can tell, although he had every reason to be.
Was he lonely? Did the Egyptian queen not please him? Was she barren? Did she speak only Egyptian? Was she depressed?
Was he not wise? Hardly. He wrote the Proverbs and perhaps Ecclesiastes. He knew that the fear of God was the beginning of wisdom.
Was he overcome with lust? Unlikely. He was not a brute. He just loved women.
He was a sensuous man. We believe that he wrote the Song of Songs in his youth. He loved women--all kinds--hundreds of them--with their exotic dress and dance, their different faces and contours. He could not get enough of them. They were his delight and his constant companions. He gave them whatever they wanted. He loved them so much that he forgot about loving God. As he aged, and required more exotic interactions, he became more dependent and therefore more easily swayed. Eventually he died spiritually. Perhaps he wrote Ecclesiastes in a mood of despair. "All is vanity and vexation of spirit".
It is a common male problem. "The Seven Year Itch", "the Mid-life Crisis, the "Male Menopause". Men dread losing their virility. As their virility fades, they think that alcohol may help. It does, for a while. They divorce their wives, now saggy and distracted by children, and run off with some spritely young thing who makes them feel young again--for three months. They buy a boy-toy, some foreign sports-car, and feel great--for six weeks.
It even happens in young men as Josh McDowell can testify. In the evening, after the Christian workers conference adjourned, the youth pastors went to their rooms and a third of them opened HBO and were titillated by erotic, fleshy movies. The hotel kept records for billing purposes. They put God aside for the night.
In the Proverbs Solomon wrote what might well be his own epitaph.
"Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed
and rejoice with the wife of your youth,
A lovely hind, a graceful doe.
Let her affection fill you at all times with delight,
Be infatuated always with her love.
Why should you be infatuated, my son, with a loose woman
And embrace the bosom of an adventuress?
For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
and he watches all his paths.
The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is caught in the toils of his sin.
He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is lost."
Our sexual energy comes from God. The Psalmist said "All my springs are in you." (Psa.87:7). We must trust Him for it, as we do all other aspects of our health and well-being. We must discipline it in His strength.