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1 Kings 11:1 . Solomon loved many strange women, of gentile nations, and was connected with them. To this day thousands of women in India are married to great men merely as a mark of honour, and they die at home without ever seeing their unlawful husbands.
1 Kings 11:3 . Seven hundred wives. In the Canticle or Song of Solomon, he says that he had sixty queens, eighty concubines, and virgins without number, who were employed as maids and servants in his various palaces. Hence we ought candidly to allow, though he had a thousand women in his palaces, he had not intercourse with more than the law of custom accounted his wives. What is far worse, those indulgences rendered his salvation doubtful, and proved calamitous to his posterity. It is true, Ahasuerus and most of the eastern kings did the same. Esther 2:3. But from Solomon a better example might have been expected; for the divine law forbade the kings of Israel to imitate the tyrants of the gentiles in multiplying wives. Happy, had he obeyed his own proverb: Delight thyself in the wife of thy youth, and let her breasts satisfy thee at all times.
1 Kings 11:4 . When Solomon was old. This should have been a ripening time for heaven; but alas, these foreign queens, having all along secreted their idols, now took advantage of the king’s weakness to get little altars and chapels erected for them. What good results from foreign alliances by marriage! The quarrels, the wars, and the mischiefs are often far more than the advantages.
1 Kings 11:5 . Ashtoreth. See Joshua 23:7. Judges 10:6.
1 Kings 11:7 . Chemosh, the god of drunkenness, Priapus.
1 Kings 11:27 . Solomon built Millo, the fortress which commanded the temple, on an elevation adjoining the wall of the temple.
1 Kings 11:40 . Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam, a brave but misguided man. This shows that when the glory of divine defence departed from Solomon, he lost his allies abroad, and all his friends at home. It is said that while Solomon almost destroyed the lower city to build the fortress of Millo, and make a grand ascent to the temple, and lay heavy imposts on the people, that Jeroboam opposed Solomon, and thereby incurred his high displeasure.
After tracing this prince and sun of Israel to his high meridian lustre, we see the evening of life beclouded with the thickest darkness, and excessive shame. While engaged for more than twenty years in augmenting the happiness of his people, in the most splendid architecture, and in fortifying his empire, he was the pride and glory of Israel; but now, falling so grossly by one unregulated passion, who would not despise him as the meanest of men. After spending his youth in the love of wisdom, he degraded his old age by the doting folly of uxorious weakness. After building the temple and altar of the Lord, he built an altar on mount Olivet to idols. Thus the glory of his youth, and all his active years, was less than the shame of his declining life.
The effects which his habits produced on his body are very instructive. He was a feeble worn-out man, when but fifty years of age: and the operations of the strongest intellects are always enfeebled by the weakness of the brain. Sardanapalus, the last of the Assyrian monarchs, assumed a woman’s habit, and shut himself up with his wives, till he became more effeminate than a woman. When Arbactus, his lieutenant over the Medes, had gained access to him, though not without the greatest difficulty, he found him spinning purple, and assigning tasks to the ladies, which provoked him so that he immediately revolted, and ultimately compelled the lascivious sovereign to burn himself in his palace. Justin, lib. 1. cap. 3. So the great Nebuchadnezzar, after all his conquests, and after rebuilding Babylon, was driven from the society of men, by an imbecility probably super-induced by the same cause. And how many other aged men, distinguished in youth by a multitude of virtues, have degraded old age by the predominancy of some lurking passion, not sufficiently mortified in the vigour of life.
Solomon, now made weak and loaded with folly, was hurried into sin in his old age, to which through the whole of life he had never discovered the smallest propensity. The blame of his fall therefore very much attaches to the apostate and faithless people who surrounded his person. His courtiers flattered his passion, the merchants converted it into gain by the introduction of idolatrous women. Thus when a man is deeply corrupted, without a miracle of grace, he usually runs with greater and greater impetuosity, till he plunges himself into utter destruction. The women, as might naturally be expected, availing themselves of his weakness, would allure him to their feasts, familiarise his ears with incantations to their household gods, and then induce him to bend the knee. And having secretly corrupted his heart, they prevailed upon him to build them altars on the hills, and opposite the very temple he had built to the Lord of hosts. What sad monuments of insult to his father’s God: what proofs of his weakness, wickedness, and fall. What a subject of weeping to the truly faithful in the land!
After crimes committed, God sends admonitions; and then, when repentance fails, punishments ensue. Such is the order of providence in every age. But it is really astonishing that among all the fattened priests and levites in the temple, not one of them out of zeal for the Lord resigned his place. Ahijah alone, whose heart was pure, was counted worthy to bear a faithful message from the insulted JEHOVAH to the fallen king. The prophet reproaches him with his sin, and apprizes him that the family covenant, twice renewed by special revelation, was forfeited; and consequently his life and kingdom were likewise forfeited. But he added, the early judgments of God having mercy for their object, that in consideration of David’s piety, he would still leave the tribe of Judah in the hands of his family; and with this tribe Benjamin was now associated. How humbling, yet consoling, is the mention of a faithful father to his faithless son. David erred as well as Solomon; but of David’s repentance we have the fullest proof, while of Solomon’s we have nothing but the dubious repentance in the book of Ecclesiastes. Our Lord mentions his glory, but not his restoration; and St. Paul has enrolled the father, but not the son, among the cloud of witnesses.
The punishments denounced by the prophet, followed in the order of providence. Hadad, prince of Edom, returned to his country when the young men were grown; for Joab had exercised the severest laws of war against the males in all the cities which refused to surrender. Rezon did the same in Damascus. Both those princes threw off the yoke of Israel, and set Solomon at defiance. But the divine call of Jeroboam to the throne of Israel, was the most serious stroke to the house of David, and to the whole nation. And had this brave man been faithful to God, and refrained from setting up the golden calves, the Lord would have made his throne equal to the throne of David. Oh Lord God of Israel, and of all the earth, what is this that we learn from thine awful ways? Were the house of Phinehas, the house of Eli, and the house of Abiathar, successively rejected from the priesthood? Did Samson lose his presidency, Saul his throne, and Solomon the ten tribes by sin? Let the first of saints and the wisest of men tremble, lest even in old age they should forfeit thy favour. So shall thy covenant remain for ever with us and with our children; for this light of David is Messiah the light of the world.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 11". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany