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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

1 Kings 11

Verses 1-13

First Kings - Chapter 11

Solomon’s Apostasy, Verses 1-13

The accumulation of riches was not the greatest failing of King Solomon. It was his love for women. It is hard to harmonize Solomon’s wisdom with his utter failure in this matter. Besides taking the noted daughter of Pharaoh of Egypt he also took seven hundred other princesses from the surrounding nations to his bed in love. These were Moabites, southeast of the Dead Sea; Ammonites, east of the trans­Jordanic tribes; Edomites, south of the Dead Sea; Zidonians, from the seacoast of Phoenicia; Hittites, of the north and northwest. All of these were paganistic nations, and the Lord had strictly warned Israel, first, and Solomon, that there should be no intermarriage with these. Other than these hundreds o1 princesses, Solomon also took three hundred others, secondary wives, or concubines, and of a lower social caste than the "wives".

Why did Solomon desire all these women? Was he so lustful? Partially so, surely, and thereby he proved the truth of the New Testament warning that lust bringeth forth sin, and sin when finished bringeth death (James 1:15) When it is seen that Solomon was greatly admired for his wisdom, and that all the kings far and near paid him allegiance, it is probable that the fathers wanted to marry their daughters to Solomon that they might have children of wisdom like him. Of course this does not always transpire, as is proved by Solomon’s own son, Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:13 ff), and as is acknowledged by Solomon himself (Proverbs 10:1).

Early in his life Solomon adhered to faithful worship of the Lord, until the completion of the temple, at least. this occupied the first twenty years of his reign, with all the additional work and organization which went along with it. When this was done it seems Solomon relaxed and revelled in fleshly license (cf. Ecclesiastes ch. 2). In so doing he relented to his wives to build them shrines for their false gods, even on the hill overlooking Jerusalem and the valley of Ben-hinnom (south of the city). While he may have continued the formality of joining in the temple worship he also accompanied his wives in their false worship. Thus he set a wicked precedent often followed by his descendants who sat on the throne of David, perhaps with far more sincerity of worship than had been true of Solomon.

These pagan deities included Ashtoreth, of the Zidonians, Hebrew name for the goddess Astarte. She is identified also with the Roman Venus, the goddess of sexual love, maternity, and fertility. Sensual practices were carried out in her temples. Milcom was the god of the Ammonites, the protector of their country, and in Solomon’s worship of this god he showed allegiance to that pagan country. Solomon constructed a high place for Chemosh, the Moabite god. A chief factor in his worship was the sacrifice of little children who were laid in his fiery arms to die. Molech was still another god of the Ammonites, and of several other people of the times. He is the same deity, to whom children were sacrificed in later times at Tophet, in the valley of Hinnom (See Jeremiah 7:29-34; Ezekiel 16:20-22, etc.). Israel had been strictly forbidden to worship this god on penalty of execution (Leviticus 20:1-5).

When it is said that the heart of Solomon was not perfect with the Lord, as had been the heart of David, ’It is not meant that David always did the right thing before God. It does mean that David, when he made a mistake, confessed his sin and turned back to the Lord, which Solomon neglected to do. Yet the Lord had appeared twice to Solomon in dreams warning him of this very thing, and he had refused to heed (1 Kings 3:5; 1 Kings 9:2). Therefore God was angry with Solomon and sent a message to him (possibly by the prophet Ahijah, who comes into the picture in later verses of this chapter). This message announced to Solomon that his kingdom would be rent due to his failure to heed the Lord’s commands and to follow His statutes. It would be given to his servant, but for David’s sake it would not be done in the lifetime of Solomon. It would be in his son who would succeed him. Neither would the whole kingdom be rent from his son because of the covenant of the Lord with David. It was a bad end to a most glorious time in Israel’s history.

Verses 14-25

Troubles for Solomon, Verses 14-25

Because of his apostasy from the Lord, God allowed Solomon to have troubles from adversaries. Both of the most outstanding went back to events in the reign of David, when God allowed David to conquer the Edomites and Syrians, as well as other surrounding nations. Perhaps David was acting cruelly and like the world in the merciless slaughter of the Edomites and others. This aroused rightful animosity against Israel on the part of those so treated. Now God allowed this feeling to express itself in a kind of guerrilla uprising against Solomon, to chastise him.

A number of verses are used to recount the affair and subsequent life of the young Edomite prince who escaped, Hadad. It stemmed from the wars of David and Joab against the Edomites recounted in 1 Chronicles 18:12-13. Joab had remained there for six months killing all the males he lay hands on. This cruel practice was often followed in ancient times in order to destroy the potential of a troublesome nation to make war. At that time Hadad was a little boy. Some of the king’s servants had rescued him and carried him to Midian. From there it appears they had left to join with other Edomite escapees in the wilderness of Paran in the Sinai peninsula. From here they eventually came to Egypt where Pharaoh took him in and seems to have trained him. Pharaoh gave him the sister of the queen, Tahpenes, to be his wife. The princeling born of this marriage was Genubath, who was brought up in the Egyptian palace.

Hadad had reached adulthood at the time of David’s death and the execution of Joab. With his enemies now dead Hadad desired to return to his own country to try to restore it. Reluctantly Pharaoh gave his permission. It appears that Hadad gathered to him men who harassed the kingdom of Solomon throughout his reign.

God allowed another adversary for Solomon to arise from the northern area of the Syrians. This man’s name was Rezon, and he had been a servant of the king of Zobah, who was defeated in David’s wars against the Syrians. Rezon found a secure place from which to strike the Israelites in the city of Damascus. It is unclear why Solomon did not have Damascus under his subjection to such an extent as to prevent such depredations against him. He must have allowed freedom of the city to Damascus, though under tribute to him. Rezon seems to have risen to the rank of king in Damascus, and was a constant source of trouble to Solomon during his reign.

Verses 26-40

Jeroboam Revealed, Verses 26-40

The Lord had announced to Solomon that he would rend the kingdom and give the major portion to his servant. Now that servant comes into view. His name was Jeroboam, seemingly a formerly insignificant young man, the son of a widow of the tribe of Ephraim. Jeroboam possessed the proud characteristics of his tribe, which he demonstrated just as soon as opportunity availed itself. His town was Zereda, or Zarethan, on the banks of the Jordan near the site where Hiram, the artisan of the temple, had his smelters. Jeroboam may first have come into Solomon’s service in this work.

Jeroboam found his way to Jerusalem where he was employed in the work of building the Millo and repairing the city walls. Jeroboam was an industrious and ambitious young man. He soon came to the attention of King Solomon who appointed him over all the work detail of the tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh). The Scriptures say this is the reason why Jeroboam lifted himself up against Solomon, which simply means that he loved power and was not satisfied with being head foreman over two of the largest and most prominent tribes of Israel. That he had concealed notions of making himself king before the prophet Ahijah came to him is apparent from the words the prophet said to him in verse 37.

Ahijah came to young Jeroboam when he was away from his job, in the field, the Scripture records. Ahijah was from Shiloh, the first location of the old tabernacle when Israel possessed the land of Canaan, and also one of the chief cities of Ephraim. The prophet and the young man may have been personally acquainted. Ahijah came wearing a new coat to illustrate to Jeroboam what the Lord would do. He took it off and rent it into twelve pieces, showing what was soon to happen to the kingdom.

Jeroboam was told to take ten of the pieces to himself, for they represented ten tribes of Israel which would allow Jeroboam to rule as king, but one tribe was to be reserved for David’s sake and for the sake of Jerusalem, which the Lord had taken as His city.

Jeroboam was told that the Lord would do this because of the pagan apostasy of Solomon and his turning aside from following the ways of the Lord. He was further told that this would not occur in the lifetime of Solomon, but in that of his son and successor. Solomon’s son was to retain one tribe ( in the end two tribes remained with Solomon’s son, in keeping with the two remaining pieces of the torn coat; the one tribe was Judah, large and powerful, for which reason it is .emphasized). When that occurred Jeroboam would be able to realize all his ambitions to be king of Israel.

The Lord extended to Jeroboam the same gracious promise which had been given to David, and later to Solomon. 1f Jeroboam would heed the Lord’s commandments, walk in His ways, do what is right in God’s sight, and keep His law like David did, the Lord would give him a sure and lasting house, or dynasty to rule over Israel. Of course, Jeroboam miserably failed in this. Yet the Lord would afflict the house of David for the sin of Solomon.

The news of Jeroboam’s message from the prophet reached the ears of Solomon by some unknown means. Possibly the proud Jero­boam could not contain it himself, or he may have attempted to move the Lord’s timetable forward and seize the throne sooner. So Solomon found out who the servant was who was set to take over a large portion of the kingdom and moved to kill him. Jeroboam fled into Egypt and found shelter with Shishak the Pharaoh. Here he remained to the death of Solomon. If this is the Pharaoh whose daughter was married to Solomon it appears that his affinity with the king was short-lived.

Verses 41-43

Death of Solomon

Commentary on 1 Kings 11:41-43 AND 2 Chronicles 9:29-31

The Scriptures are detailed concerning Solomon’s years of faithfulness to the Lord, during which time he was in his building programs and acquiring his fame. However, the account of his lifetime comes to an abrupt end after telling of his apostasy and its results. It seems probable that he repented before his death, evidenced in his Book of Ecclesiastes, with its conclusions.

Solomon’s deeds and acts were recorded by three prophets. These were Nathan, who helped get him anointed and crowned; Ahijah, who foretold the fall of his kingdom and its passing to Jeroboam; Iddo, who is said to have uttered prophecies against Jeroboam. While all these were men of God who spoke God’s message it is unlikely that their accounts are the inspired ones of Scriptures. The Lord may well have used their accounts in inspiring those who did record Kings and Chronicles by His Holy Spirit.

Solomon’s reign matched those of Saul and David, extending to forty years, although Solomon must have died a considerably younger man than had his father. Since he was very young at his accession to the throne, probably no more than twenty, it would then follow that he died at the age of sixty. No doubt his life was cut short by his abuse through his many extravaganzas and by his apostasy in idolatry. He was buried in Jerusalem, and his son, Rehoboam, was anointed to succeed him. He had not honored his father, David, to follow his godly example (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Some lessons: 1) fleshly lust involves one in grosser sins and loss of God’s blessings; 2) by becoming a slave to lust one will be tempted to turn entirely away from God and right living; 3) trouble will come as chastisement on the disobedient; 4) someone in the world is always ready to take advantage of those out of the will of God; 5) promiscuous sin will shorten the life of God’s children.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Kings 11". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-kings-11.html. 1985.