This is now the second time the Lord has appeared to Solomon. The first time was to ask him what he wanted the Lord to give him and now the Lord acknowledges He has heard Solomon’s prayer of dedication. The Lord reminded Solomon He had taken up residence in the Temple and if Solomon followed all His laws and commands his royal throne would be established forever. But…and there is always a but…if Solomon failed to keep following the Lord as his father David had, disastrous things would happen. Perhaps the starkest thing the Lord said was this. “And though this temple is imposing now, all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple? People will answer because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping, and serving them. That is why the Lord brought disaster on them.” Over the next few days, we will see this come to fruition.
The presence of God’s glory in the temple and the coming of fire from heaven to consume the sacrifices assured Solomon that his prayer had been heard and was accepted by the Lord. But there would not always be that same splendor and glory in the temple and fire would not fall from heaven to consume every sacrifice. Now, God’s name was on the house, God’s eyes were watching, and His ears were listening. God was willing to forgive the sins of His people when they sinned if they would humble themselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from their sins. God spoke personally with Solomon, referring to the covenant He had made with Solomon’s father David. Solomon could not expect God’s blessings just because his father was David. Solomon had to be a man like his father David and have a heart for the Lord, be obedient and be a man of integrity. God had given the people His Word, and He expected all of them to obey it. The king had to lead by example by practicing the law and worshiping the Lord. For a while, Solomon did follow after his father David, but the more wives Solomon acquired, the more the temptation to worship their gods grew until his wives managed to pull Solomon away from the Lord.
Solomon may have been a faithful man, and he was also a wealthy man. But it appears that while he had enough money to build the temple for the Lord, he needed a loan to build his palace. He borrowed money from his friend Hiram of Tyre and as collateral gave Hiram 20 cities on the border of Israel and Phoenicia. But when Hiram went to look at the cities, he deemed them good for nothing. However, it seems that after the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon, he had enough money to pay Hiram back and refurbish the cities for the Israelites who lived there. There are big differenced between David and Solomon. David was a mighty general and warrior who feared no enemy. Solomon was a shrewd diplomat and politician who missed no opportunity to increase his wealth and power.
Sheba was a wealthy and highly civilized nation located where present-day Yemen is, on the Arabian Peninsula. When the queen came to visit, she brought with her expensive gifts that also served as samples of what her country had to offer. What she heard and saw left her breathless. She had heard many thingsabout Solomon, but they paled in comparison to what she saw and heard. In her visit we get a brief glimpse into the palace of Solomon. She was not only impressed with the palace itself, but she was also impressed with the meals, the livery and conduct of the servants, the seating of the officers and guests, and the incredible wealth that was on display on and around the tables. Not only did the Queen of Sheba bring Solomon expensive gifts, but Solomon gave her gifts in return. She could hardly contain herself, proclaiming that Solomon and his servants had to be the happiest people on earth. But it was Solomon who later wrote, “Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity.” No doubt the Queen was there to negotiate a trade agreement with Solomon. It would be in their best interests to do so. We read that Solomon had several sources of income: taxes, tolls, customs and duty fees, trade, tribute from vassal rulers, and gifts. He also benefited from conscripted labor. After his death, the people asked his son to lighten the load they were bearing for Solomon. We will deal with that tomorrow.
As time went on not only did Solomon’s wives pull him away from the Lord, but in his daily living Solomon managed to break many of the laws and commands of the Lord. If we return to Deuteronomy 17:14-20 we will find the Lord warning rulers not to return to Egypt to get horses and they were not to multiply wives or gold. Solomon not only acquired thousands of horses, but he also became a horse dealer himself. We know he accumulated much gold and at the end of his life he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. An old roman proverb says this: “Riches are like salt water…the more you drink, the more you thirst.”
Chapter eleven brings the end of Solomon’s life. He started his life living in privilege and he ended his life a wealthy man. He began as a faithful man of the Lord and died a man who was led astray by his many wives to worship false gods and idols.Solomon’s fall from grace was a gradual thing. First, he permitted his foreign wives to worship their idols and then he tolerated their idolatry and even built shrines for them to worship in. Eventually he began to participate in pagan practices with his wives. And his sensual love for his many wives grew to be more than his spiritual love for the Lord. How could Israel be a light to the gentiles when their king was openly worshiping and supporting the idols of those same nations? The Lord was angry with Solomon but for the sake of his father David God did not punish him. It would be the next generation that God would punish. God warned Solomon that after his death the kingdom would be divided, and his son would reign over only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The other ten tribes would become the northern kingdom of Israel. To make matters worse, this division would not be the peaceful work of a diplomat but the painful work of the Lord. There are consequences.
What follows is a vicious cycle…not unlike the cycle we saw with the judges…where one king after another in the Northern kingdom sins spectacularly against the Lord. In all the years of the Northern kingdom, there is not one good king. And good kings are few and far between in the Southern kingdom as well. We have attached a handout showing the kings of the northern kingdom, Israel and the southern kingdom, Judah so you can keep track. All of the names begin to get confusing after a while! Solomon’s many wives had been his guarantees of peace with the neighboring rulers, but they had led him astray and towards the end of his life the Lord raised up adversaries against him and used them to discipline the rebellious king. That God would discipline David’s disobedient heirs was a part of the covenant and was reaffirmed to Solomon when God spoke to him at Gibeon.
We see attacks from the north, Rezon of Damascus and from the south, Hadad the Edomite. These was bad enough, but Jeroboam was one of Solomon’s own leaders who threatened the king from within the official ranks. He was an Ephraimite. By this point in Solomon’s reign the people had tired of his building projects and the way he conscripted Jews to do the work. Solomon had put Jeroboam over the northern tribes, and this was a perfect opportunity to establish himself with them. One day the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh stopped Jeroboam and told him he would become the king of ten of the twelve tribes. It was only a matter of time. Prophets had not played much of a role in Solomon’s lifetime, but they will be very important from now on until the end of the end of the kingdom of Judah. Ahijah warned Jeroboam that his kingship was purely an act of God’s grace and he should take this calling seriously and follow the laws and commands of the Lord. But because the Lord made a covenant with David there would still be a descendant of David on the throne of Judah.
Solomon was a bit like king Saul. He was given a great opportunity to make the Lord’s name known. People came to him from all over the world to seek his wisdom. What a great time to talk about the Lord. But Solomon squandered those opportunities. He was like his father David in that he enjoyed women but when Solomon sinned, he did not have the same heart as David and did not seek forgiveness. And even worse, when Solomon began to follow pagan gods, he took the people with him. The fortunes of the Lord’s people had begun a long slow slide into depravity and idol worship.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W