1 Kings 11 – Solomon’s Decline and Death
A. Solomon’s apostasy.
1. (1-3) Solomon’s unlawful marriages.
But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites—from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.
a. Solomon loved many foreign women: There are two obvious problems here. First, that he loved foreign women who worshipped other gods and brought pagan influences to Israel. Second, that he loved many women, rejecting God’s plan from the beginning for one man and one woman to become one flesh in marriage (Matthew 19:4-6, Genesis 2:23-24).
b. Nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them”: God gave a general warning to all Israel to not intermarry with these nations, because surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods. For all Solomon’s great wisdom, he did not have the wisdom to apply this simple command to his own life.
i. Solomon probably did what many of us do. He somehow thought that he would be the exception, that he would escape the consequences of this sin, despite seeing how it affected others. Solomon learned – or should have learned – that he was not the exception to this rule.
c. Solomon clung to these in love: At this point, Solomon wanted romance and sensual fulfillment more than he wanted the LORD. For all his wisdom, he was snared by the power of romantic and sensual love. He did not seriously consider that it is possible to be romantically and sensually attracted to people we have no moral or righteous reason to be attracted to. Once under the power of this attraction, he clung to these in love instead of giving them up to the LORD.
d. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: This is an almost unbelievable number of marriage partners. His wives were considered princesses, but his concubines were legal partners without the same standing as wives. All said, Solomon had far more marriage partners than any man could possibly give attention to – sexual attention or other attention.
i. In this sense a concubine was a legal mistress. Many prominent men in the Old Testament had concubines. Examples include Abraham (Genesis 25:6), Jacob (Genesis 35:22), Caleb (1 Chronicles 2:46), Saul (2 Samuel 3:7), David (2 Samuel 5:13), and Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:21). Significantly, the Bible never shows this kind of family life blessed by God.
ii. We can say that Solomon had so many marriage partners because he followed the bad example of his father David, who had many wives and concubines himself (2 Samuel 5:13-16).
iii. We can say that Solomon had so many marriage partners because of his own sexual lust. This is a profound and sobering example of the principle that if one wife is not enough to satisfy a man, then 1,000 wives will not be enough. When a man is unsatisfied with the woman God gave to him, the problem is with him, not with his wife. 1,000 women cannot satisfy the lust of a man. Solomon should have listened to Proverbs 27:20: Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
iv. We can say that Solomon had so many marriage partners because of his lust for power and prestige. In those days a large harem was a status symbol. It said to the world, “Look how many wives and children I can support. Look how many women I have authority over.” Solomon’s desire for worldly prestige led him to these ungodly marriages.
v. “Partly for his lust, which being indulged, becomes infinite and unsatiable; and partly from his pride, accounting this a point of honour and magnificence.” (Poole)
d. And his wives turned away his heart: Of course they did. Based upon the Song of Solomon, we can say that at the first Solomon seemed to know what true love was with one woman. Yet his subsequent history shows us that it is possible to be in that place and depart from it. It is not true to say that “love will keep us together.” Solomon shows us that we can know true love and depart from it. It is better said that the blessing and power of God upon our obedience will keep us together.
i. We don’t know when Solomon added his second wife. When he did, it was easy for him to rationalize it – after all, the greatest King of Israel, his father David, had several wives and concubines. Yet once he followed his father David into this departure from God’s plan from the beginning (Matthew 19:4-6 and Genesis 2:23-24), it was easy to keep adding wives.
ii. As he added wives, he broke the specific commandment God gave to the future kings of Israel in Deuteronomy 17:17: Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away. Solomon did multiply wives for himself (by any account 1,000 marriage partners is multiplication), and it did turn away his heart.
iii. “It would have been useless to argue with Solomon for the claims of idols. He could at once, by his wisdom, have annihilated all infidel arguments, and have established the existence and unity of God. But, step by step, he was led by silken cords, a captive, to the worship of other gods.” (Meyer)
iv. “The whole story of King Solomon is full of the most solemn value. His was a life full of promise, but it ended in failure and gloom, because his heart turned from loyalty to God, in response to the seductions of his sensual nature.” (Morgan)
2. (4-8) Solomon’s wives turn him away from God.
For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
a. When Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods: Age did not make Solomon wiser. He seemed to be wiser in his youth, and old age hardened the sinful tendencies that were present in his younger days. Age and experience should make us more godly and wise, but they do not automatically do so.
b. His heart was not loyal to the LORD his God: Solomon is a contrast to those who did fully follow the LORD. This phrase is used in a positive sense of three men in the Old Testament: Joshua and Caleb (Numbers 32:11-12, Deuteronomy 1:36, Joshua 14:8-9, 14), and here of David. Solomon was conspicuous as someone who did not wholly follow the LORD.
c. As was the heart of his father David: Solomon had more than one wife and David had more than one wife (fifteen, according to 1 Chronicles 3:1-9). David spiritually survived this failing and Solomon did not survive it.
i. From what we know of the world beyond from the story of Jesus in Luke 16:19-31, we can say that David was not yet in heaven, but in a place of blessing and comfort known as Abraham’s bosom. If it were possible for someone in Abraham’s bosom to see life on the earth and be sorry, David was very sorry when he saw Solomon and his sin. David no doubt hoped that his children would be better than he, and find more victory in the areas of life that troubled him. Sadly, David’s sons found less victory in controlling the lust of the flesh, and especially sexual lust.
ii. Yet David’s sin did not turn his heart away from the LORD. It is possible for a particular sin in one person to be a hindrance that they would do better without, while in another person that sin is the cause of ruin. David’s lack of romantic and sexual restraint hindered him; it destroyed Solomon. This is one reason why we must be so careful with the sin of stumbling another brother or sister (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8).
d. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians… after Milcom… Solomon built a high place for Chemosh… and for Molech: This seems almost unbelievable. We might not accept it unless the Scriptures clearly stated it. This man of great heritage, wisdom, and blessing turns to the most depraved gods of the pagan nations.
i. Probably Solomon did not see this as a denial of the Lord God of Israel. In his mind, he probably thought that he still honored the LORD, he simply added the honor of these other gods to his honor of the LORD. But this is never acceptable to God. He demands to be the only God in our life.
ii. 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.
iii. 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.
iv. “‘Ashtoreth’ is a deliberate distortion of Ashtart, the Canaanite fertility goddess. The revocalization is based on the word for ‘shame’.” (Patteson and Austel)
3. (9-13) God announces His judgment.
So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD had commanded. Therefore the LORD said 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. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”
a. So the LORD became angry with Solomon: God had special reason to be displeased with Solomon – He had appeared to him twice, and Solomon still went after other gods. Solomon’s sin was base ingratitude and a waste of great spiritual privilege.
i. We sometimes think that great spiritual experiences will keep us from sin and will keep us faithful to God. This was not the case with the wisest man who ever lived, and it will not be the case with us also.
b. I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant: God promised the entire kingdom of Israel to the descendants of David forever, if they only remained obedient. David reminded Solomon of this promise shortly before his death (1 Kings 2:4). Yet they could not remain faithful even one generation.
i. Solomon’s kingdom was an outstanding example of wealth, military power, and prestige. Yet the true security of Israel did not rest in any of those things. It rested in the blessing of God and in the obedience and faithfulness of their king.
c. I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son: For the sake of David, God delayed this judgment until after Solomon’s generation. But the disobedience that brought the judgment came in the first generation.
d. However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David: Even in this great judgment, God must mingle undeserved mercy with deserved judgment. God announces that the kingdom will be divided, and part of it will be loyal to the descendants of David and part of it will be under a different dynasty.
i. Many other passages in the Old Testament (such as 2 Chronicles 11:12) tell us that the southern kingdom was made up of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin. Several times in this chapter the southern kingdom is referred to as one tribe. This is because either Benjamin is swallowed up in Judah, or the idea was one tribe in addition to Judah.
B. Two foreign adversaries of Solomon.
1. (14-22) Hadad the Edomite.
Now the LORD raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was a descendant of the king in Edom. For it happened, when David was in Edom, and Joab the commander of the army had gone up to bury the slain, after he had killed every male in Edom (because for six months Joab remained there with all Israel, until he had cut down every male in Edom), that Hadad fled to go to Egypt, he and certain Edomites of his father’s servants with him. Hadad was still a little child. Then they arose from Midian and came to Paran; and they took men with them from Paran and came to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house, apportioned food for him, and gave him land. And Hadad found great favor in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him as wife the sister of his own wife, that is, the sister of Queen Tahpenes. Then the sister of Tahpenes bore him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh’s house. And Genubath was in Pharaoh’s household among the sons of Pharaoh. So when Hadad heard in Egypt that David rested with his fathers, and that Joab the commander of the army was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, “Let me depart, that I may go to my own country.” Then Pharaoh said to him, “But what have you lacked with me, that suddenly you seek to go to your own country?” So he answered, “Nothing, but do let me go anyway.”
a. Now the LORD raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite: Solomon’s reign was glorious, but God did not allow it to be completely without problems. He raised up adversaries like Hadad against Solomon.
i. “When he sent to Hiram to assist him in the building of the temple of the Lord, he could say, There was no Satan [1 Kings 5:4]… but now that he had turned away from God three satans rise up against him at once, Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam.” (Clarke)
b. He was a descendant of the king in Edom: Hadad sought to avenge his conquered people. He found refuge and support in Egypt.
c. Let me depart, that I may go to my own country: We are not told specifically how Hadad troubled or was an adversary to Solomon, only that he returned to bother Solomon with the permission of Pharaoh.
2. (23-25) Rezon, from the north country.
And God raised up another adversary against him, Rezon the son of Eliadah, who had fled from his lord, Hadadezer king of Zobah. So he gathered men to him and became captain over a band of raiders, when David killed those of Zobah. And they went to Damascus and dwelt there, and reigned in Damascus. He was an adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon (besides the trouble that Hadad caused); and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.
a. God raised up another adversary against him: As a reigning king, Solomon was remarkably successful but he was not a superman. As God allowed an adversary from the south (Hadad, 1 Kings 11:14-22), so God also raised up another adversary against Solomon. God knew that Solomon needed some kind of adversary, and He knew how many adversaries Solomon needed.
b. Rezon the son of Eliadah: This adversary came from the north. God allowed adversaries to come against Solomon from both north and south. In some ways, men and women are shaped by their adversaries, and especially by their response to those adversaries.
C. Jeroboam – A special adversary.
1. (26-28) Jeroboam, the servant of Solomon.
Then Solomon’s servant, Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite from Zereda, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow, also rebelled against the king. And this is what caused him to rebel against the king: Solomon had built the Millo and repaired the damages to the City of David his father. The man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valor; and Solomon, seeing that the young man was industrious, made him the officer over all the labor force of the house of Joseph.
a. Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite: Jeroboam was different from the two previously mentioned adversaries of Solomon, because he was a fellow Israelite.
b. This is what caused him to rebel against the king: Solomon had built the Millo and repaired the damages to the City of David: It is not immediately apparent why these construction projects caused him to rebel against Solomon. Jewish traditions say he opposed the oppressive use of forced labor in these building projects. Since he was the officer over all the labor force, this tradition makes some sense.
i. According to Dilday, the name Jeroboam means, “may the people be great.” He perhaps was a populist leader.
ii. “Though only presenting the people’s petition, it is nevertheless probable that Jeroboam was not idle, but like an artful politician, busy behind the scenes, till the coveted crown became his.” (Knapp)
c. Jeroboam was a mighty man of valor: This made him a more dangerous adversary of Solomon.
2. (29-36) The prophet Ahijah speaks to Jeroboam.
Now it happened at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met him on the way; and he had clothed himself with a new garment, and the two were alone in the field. Then Ahijah took hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you (but he shall have one tribe for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), because they have forsaken Me, and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the people of Ammon, and have not walked in My ways to do what is right in My eyes and keep My statutes and My judgments, as did his father David. However I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, because I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of My servant David, whom I chose because he kept My commandments and My statutes. But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand and give it to you; ten tribes. And to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for Myself, to put My name there.
a. Take for yourself ten pieces: In this acted-out prophecy, Ahijah showed Jeroboam that he would lead ten tribes of a divided Israel after the death of Solomon.
i. “It was indeed a shock for Rehoboam and the tribe of Judah to be reduced overnight from the most powerful tribe in an illustrious and world-renowned kingdom to a small state that was soon stripped of what wealth it had left.” (Patterson and Austel)
b. Because they have forsaken Me: God promised to divide Israel and put ten of the twelve tribes under Jeroboam as judgment for the sin and idolatry of Solomon. God would still keep one tribe under the house of David, in faithfulness to His promise to David.
i. This is the first we hear of the divided kingdom, which became Israel’s history for hundreds of years after the death of Solomon. At this first description we would expect that the ten tribes under Jeroboam would be larger, greater, and more enduring than the one tribe left unto the House of David. As it worked out, just the opposite happened because the ten tribes forsook the LORD, while the one tribe was more obedient.
3. (37-40) Jeroboam’s great opportunity.
So I will take you, and you shall reign over all your heart desires, and you shall be king over Israel. Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you. And I will afflict the descendants of David because of this, but not forever.’” Solomon therefore sought to kill Jeroboam. But Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.
a. I will take you, and you shall reign over all your heart desires, and you shall be king over Israel: God ordained the division of Israel and the reign of Jeroboam. He did this as a judgment – a great judgment – upon Solomon for his embrace of idolatry.
b. Then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house: This was an amazing offer. God promised to make a lasting dynasty for Jeroboam, if he would do what is right in the sight of the LORD. An obedient Jeroboam had the opportunity to establish a parallel dynasty to the House of David.
i. Both Jeroboam and David were appointed by God to follow after disobedient kings. David waited upon the LORD to make the throne clear, and God blessed his reign. Jeroboam did not wait on the LORD but made his own way to the throne, and God did not bless his reign.
c. Solomon therefore sought to kill Jeroboam: 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.
4. (41-43) Solomon’s death.
Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon? And the period that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. Then Solomon rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.
a. The period that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years: Many commentators believe that Solomon began his reign when he was about 20 years old. This means that Solomon did not live a particularly long life. This means that the promise made in 1 Kings 3:14 was not fulfilled to Solomon, because of his disobedience.
i. So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days. (1 Kings 3:14)
ii. “When we consider the excess in which he lived, and the criminal passions which he must have indulged among his thousand wives, and their idolatrous and impure worship, this life was as long as could be reasonably expected.” (Clarke)
b. Then Solomon rested with his fathers: This does not necessarily mean that Solomon died a saved man. It is a familiar phrase used in 1 and 2 Kings (used 25 times) and was used of such wicked kings as Ahab (1 Kings 22:40). It simply means that Solomon passed to the world beyond. We cannot say with certainty that he is in heaven.
i. 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. “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” (Poole).
ii. 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.
iii. “And surely it had been better for Solomon to have been buried alive, than thus to have miscarried in his old age, and to the great dishonour of God, and offence of his people Israel.” (Trapp)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission