Uncompromising Conviction

1 And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make offerings. And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’” And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the Lord has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.’” And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign that the man of God had given by the word of the Lord. And the king said to the man of God, “Entreat now the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” And the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him and became as it was before. And the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me, and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” And the man of God said to the king, “If you give me half your house, I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, for so was it commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.’” 10 So he went another way and did not return by the way that he came to Bethel. 1 Kings 13:1-10 ESV

In an effort to preserve the kingdom given to him by God, Jeroboam had made a boneheaded decision that ended up offending God. He knew that the Israelites were a religious people and feared that they would continue to travel to Judah to offer sacrifices at the temple Solomon had built in Jerusalem. This continued spiritual connection to the holy city might influence them to restore their relationship with Rehoboam and the people of Judah. So, to prevent this from happening, Jeroboam had made the fateful decision to create an alternate religion for the ten tribes of Israel, complete with priests and golden idols made to look like calves, which he had placed in the cities of Dan and Bethel. Then he convinced the people to turn their backs on Yahweh by offering their sacrifices to the two golden calves.

“It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!”

He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan—at either end of his kingdom. But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there. – 1 Kings 12:28-30 NLT

In following Jeroboam’s lead, the people no longer sought forgiveness, cleansing, and blessing from God Almighty, but placed their hopes in lifeless statues made by human hands. Years later, the prophet Isaiah would describe the futility of worshiping false gods.

How foolish are those who manufacture idols.
    These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don’t know this,
    so they are all put to shame.
Who but a fool would make his own god—
    an idol that cannot help him one bit?
All who worship idols will be disgraced
    along with all these craftsmen—mere humans—
    who claim they can make a god.
They may all stand together,
    but they will stand in terror and shame. – Isaiah 44:9-11 NLT

But to Jeroboam, his decision made all the sense in the world. He was a pragmatist who was more interested in preserving his newfound status as king than in promoting the ongoing worship of the one who had made him king. And his decision, while initially successful, was about to prove seriously flawed.

Jeroboam had traveled to Bethel in order to offer sacrifices to one of his false gods. But while there, he received a visit from a prophet of the one true God. This unnamed man had come from Judah with a message from the Almighty. So, as Jeroboam was about to offer sacrifices to his visible, but lifeless god, he was given a word from the invisible, yet all-powerful God of Israel. And the prophet, seemingly ignoring Jeroboam, directed his message at the altar the king had constructed. In a sense, this was one god speaking to another. Yahweh was challenging the false god of Jeroboam by delivering a prophecy concerning its coming destruction.

O altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense, and human bones will be burned on you.” – 1 Kings 13:2 NLT

Jeroboam’s god was going to meet an untimely end. When faced with the power of God Almighty, Jeroboam’s false god proved incapable of defending itself. It remained speechless because it was lifeless. And the warning delivered by the prophet of God carried long-term ramifications. It would be 290 years later before God fulfilled His word, and all during that time, the nation of Israel would continue to worship their false gods. But eventually, God would raise up a king over Judah whose name was Josiah, and he would institute a series of religious reforms in both Judah and Israel. And, in doing so, he would fulfill God’s prophecy against the altar of Jeroboam’s false god.

The king also tore down the altar at Bethel—the pagan shrine that Jeroboam son of Nebat had made when he caused Israel to sin. He burned down the shrine and ground it to dust, and he burned the Asherah pole. Then Josiah turned around and noticed several tombs in the side of the hill. He ordered that the bones be brought out, and he burned them on the altar at Bethel to desecrate it. (This happened just as the Lord had promised through the man of God when Jeroboam stood beside the altar at the festival.) – 2 Kings 23:15-16 NLT

The very fact that this altar was still in existence and in use nearly 300 years later reveals the level of apostasy in Israel. Jeroboam’s decision to replace Yahweh with false gods was going to have long-lasting consequences. In an effort to preserve his kingdom Jeroboam was willing to sacrifice the spiritual well-being of his own people.

And to demonstrate that the words he had spoken were true, “the man of God gave a sign to prove his message” (1 Kings 13:3 NLT).

He said, “The Lord has promised to give this sign: This altar will split apart, and its ashes will be poured out on the ground.” – 1 Kings 13:3 NLT

God was going to validate His word with a powerful sign. There would be an immediate judgment on Jeroboam’s apostasy. His shrine and the golden calf it contained would be destroyed. But, once again, Jeroboam attempted to preserve his kingdom by rejecting the will of God. After the prophet had spoken his word of warning, Jeroboam commanded that he be arrested. He wrongly assumed that he could thwart the will of God by binding the messenger of God. And, in doing so, Jeroboam would establish a precedent that would carry over for generations. His successors to the throne of Israel would continue to reject the will of God by resisting and refusing the messengers of God. Rather than repent and return in humble submission to Yahweh, they would each cling stubbornly to their false gods, dooming their people to the judgment of God.

But Jeroboam’s attempt to stop God’s prophet proved ineffective and injurious. He still ended up with a shattered altar and a paralyzed hand. Suddenly convinced of the prophet’s position as God’s spokesman, Jeroboam begged him to intercede with Yahweh on his behalf.

“Entreat now the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” – 1 Kings 13:6 ESV

The prophet prayed and God responded, restoring full mobility to Jeroboam’s paralyzed hand. But Jeroboam’s response to this miracle is revealing. Having just witnessed the miraculous destruction of the altar to his false god and having had his hand paralyzed by God, you would think that Jeroboam would have begged for forgiveness. But instead, he tries to win over the favor of the prophet by inviting him to dinner and offering him a reward. Perhaps Jeroboam feared that the prophet might turn his attention to Dan and destroy the altar there. So, in another attempt to preserve his kingdom, he tried to bribe the prophet of God.

But God, knowing the true nature of Jeroboam’s heart, had warned the prophet not to accept any invitation from this conniving and calculating king.

“Even if you gave me half of everything you own, I would not go with you. I would not eat or drink anything in this place. For the Lord gave me this command: ‘You must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.’” – 1 Kings 13:8-9 NLT

Jeroboam was a man who, for the sake of his kingdom, had been willing to compromise his faith in God. And he assumed that this unnamed prophet would be just as willing to make concessions in exchange for monetary gain. But he was wrong. This young prophet was unwilling to sell out his God for personal reward. Even when faced with Jeroboam’s offer of a reward, this faithful servant of God remained uncompromising in his commitment to the will of God. He recognized Yahweh as the one true God and would not allow Jeroboam or anyone else to cause him to compromise his convictions. And his actions reflect his firm and unwavering belief in his God.

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer and Creator:
“I am the Lord, who made all things.
    I alone stretched out the heavens.
Who was with me
    when I made the earth?
I expose the false prophets as liars
    and make fools of fortune-tellers.
I cause the wise to give bad advice,
    thus proving them to be fools.
But I carry out the predictions of my prophets!” – Isaiah 44:24-26 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Behold Your Gods!

25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. 26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. 27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. 31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. 32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. 33 He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings. 1 Kings 12:25-33 ESV

Because of Solomon’s unfaithfulness, God had divided his vast kingdom in half, placing ten of the 12 tribes under the rule of Jeroboam. This left Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, with only the tribe over which to reign, that of Judah. The sprawling domain he had inherited from his father had been greatly diminished, virtually overnight. This judgment against Solomon created two kingdoms out of one. In the north, the ten tribes would become the nation of Israel. In the south, the tribe of Judah, which was later joined by the tribe of Benjamin, would become known as the nation of Judah.

The 12 tribes of Israel were the descendants of the 12 sons of Jacob, whose name God later changed to Israel. These 12 tribes had been set apart by God and bestowed with a great privilege. They were to be His chosen people.

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” – Deuteronomy 7:6 ESV

“And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.” – Deuteronomy 26:18-19 ESV

God had miraculously rescued them out of their slavery in Egypt and had led them to the land of Canaan, which He had promised to give them as their inheritance. On their way to this promised land, God had graciously provided them with His law, which provided them with detailed instructions regarding their behavior as His chosen people. They were His treasured possession and, as such, they were to reflect their unique status by conducting their lives according to His commands. This would ensure that they remained holy or set apart, living distinctively different lives than all the other nations of the world. And because God knew they would fail to keep all His laws, He provided them with the sacrificial system so that they could receive cleansing from and forgiveness for their sins. But the one thing God required from them was faithfulness. The very first law He had given them to obey concerned their unwavering allegiance to Him.

“You shall have no other gods before me.” – Exodus 20:3 ESV

And because He knew the natural proclivity of man’s heart, God elaborated on His command by adding the following restrictions:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…” – Exodus 20:4-5 ESV

The book of Exodus goes on to record that the very day Moses came down from the top of Mount Sinai with the commandments of God in hand, he discovered the people of Israel had already violated the first command. While he had been on the mountaintop, the people had begun to have second thoughts about his leadership and the God he claimed to represent.

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” – Exodus 32:1 ESV

Aaron, the brother of Moses, obliged the people and ordered the construction of a golden calf, which the people promptly began to worship. And Moses descended from Mount Sinai to find the people dancing and singing before their new god.

And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire… – Exodus 32:19-20 ESV

This proclivity for unfaithfulness did not stop in the wilderness of Sinai. Even after God graciously led them to the land of Canaan and had assisted them in conquering and occupying the land He had promised to give them, the people continued their pattern of disobedience, which led to further spiritual adultery. Idolatry became a habit for the people of God. And it was his own penchant for false gods that led to the division of Solomon’s kingdom.

…when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord… – 1 Kings 11:4-6 ESV

But the infidelity of the people of Israel didn’t end with God’s judgment. As this chapter reveals, they seemed to have an endless capacity for unfaithfulness. As soon as Jeroboam had been crowned king over the ten northern tribes, he made an executive decision that he hoped would guarantee his reign for years to come. Fearing that the people would feel obligated to worship God in Jerusalem where Solomon’s temple was located, Jeroboam came up with a plan to erect his own holy cities with his own gods. This would eliminate the need for any Israelite from having to journey to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. So, buoyed by the advice of his counselors, Jeroboam built these shrines in the cities of Dan and Bethel. And just like Aaron and Solomon, Jeroboam became personally responsible for leading the people into rebellion against God.

This caused Israel to sin; the people went to Bethel and Dan to worship the calves. – 1 Kings 12:20 ESV

And Jeroboam didn’t stop with the construction of these shrines to his man-made gods. He created his own religious system, complete with priests and a sacrificial system. He attempted to replicate all the details of the system established by God and, in doing so, provide the people with an alternative means of cleansing and forgiveness. But everything he did was in direct violation of God’s law.

It’s important to remember that God had given Jeroboam his kingdom and his kingship. He had done nothing to earn his new position or to establish his domain. It had all been handed to him by the sovereign will of God. And yet, fearing that he might lose what he had been given, Jeroboam chose to violate the will of God in order to protect and preserve his newfound power and prestige. Relying on faulty human reasoning, he determined that the best way to maintain the peoples’ allegiance was to provide them with their own gods to worship. And like docile sheep, the people willingly followed the lead of their new shepherd.

On the fifteenth day of the eighth month (a date he had arbitrarily chosen) Jeroboam offered sacrifices on the altar he had made in Bethel. He inaugurated a festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to offer sacrifices. – 1 Kings 12: 33 NLT

The many shrines that Solomon had built to honor Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and Chemosh the god of Moab, were still in the land of Judah. The spirit of idolatry had not ended with the split of the kingdom. And now, Jeroboam had just ensured that the ten northern had their own false gods to worship in place of the one true God. And the rest of the Book of Kings will chronicle the sad story of how the divided nation of Israel failed to give God their undivided allegiance.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

This Thing Is From Me

16 And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents. 17 But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah. 18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehoboam hurried to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 20 And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only.

21 When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 “Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 ‘Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.’” So they listened to the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord. 1 Kings 12:16-24 ESV

Reigning over the 12 tribes of Israel had never been an easy task. Even the great King David had found it difficult to win over the allegiance of all the tribes when he first ascended to the throne. After the death of King Saul, David’s own tribe of Judah immediately crowned him as their king. But the rest of the tribes anointed Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth as their king. This included Gilead, the Ashurites, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and all Israel (2 Samuel 2:9). For seven-and-a-half years, David would reign over the tribe of Judah, while the rest of the tribes gave their allegiance to Ish-bosheth. But eventually, these two factions ended up doing battle with one another.

There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker. – 2 Samuel 3:1 ESV

After a long and protracted struggle, Ish-bosheth was assassinated by two of his own soldiers, leaving the 11 tribes of Israel in a state of disarray. Eventually, they settled their dispute with Judah and agreed to accept David as their king.

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. – 2 Samuel 5:3-5 ESV

Each of these tribes was characterized by a strong independent streak and a natural desire for autonomy. While they had all demanded that Samuel the prophet appoint a king over them, they would have each preferred that he choose a man from their own particular tribe. And this strong tribal allegiance made it difficult for any of Israel’s kings to rule without experiencing some form of unrest or dissatisfaction from the various clans. Ruling over this confederation of 12 tribes required diplomacy and humility. No king could expect to manage this diverse conglomeration of autonomous people groups through intimidation or brute force.

And yet, here was Rehoboam, the new king of Israel, attempting to do just that. Having heard the request of his people that he rescind some of his father’s more abusive policies, Rehoboam ignored their plea and threatened them with even worse conditions.

“My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!” – 1 Kings 12:14 NLT

Emboldened by the foolish counsel of his inexperienced peers, Rehoboam had decided that intimidation was better than negotiation. He stubbornly refused to make any concessions and, in doing so, he ended up alienating ten of the 12 tribes of Israel. In just a matter of minutes, Rehoboam managed to destroy the kingdom his father and grandfather had spent 80 years building.

When all Israel realized that the king had refused to listen to them, they responded,

“Down with the dynasty of David!
    We have no interest in the son of Jesse.
Back to your homes, O Israel!
    Look out for your own house, O David!”

So the people of Israel returned home. – 1 Kings 12:16 NLT

Centuries later, Jesus would make a statement that powerfully illustrates the folly of Rehoboam’s decision: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand” (Matthew 12:25 ESV). In a single act, fueled by youthful pride and arrogance, Rehoboam had managed to destroy one of the greatest nations on the face of the earth.

The people of Judah and Israel were as innumerable as the sand on the seashore; they had plenty to eat and drink and were happy. Solomon ruled all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These kingdoms paid tribute as Solomon’s subjects throughout his lifetime. – 1 Kings 4:20-21 NLT

Rehoboam had inherited his father’s wealth, crown, and vast domain, but it seems that his father’s wisdom had been non-transferable. He was operating in ignorance and determined to do things his own way. And he would learn the painful lesson from one of the many proverbs his father had collected.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. – Proverbs 14:12 ESV

This stubborn young man refused to believe that his kingdom was lost. In a futile effort to quell what he saw as an insurrection, “Rehoboam sent Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, to restore order, but the people of Israel stoned him to death” (1 Kings 12:18 NLT). Rehoboam quickly discovered that he was a king without a kingdom. He had lost control over the entire northern region of the nation and was left with nothing but the land belonging to the tribe of Judah as his domain. And the author of 1 Kings makes sure that his audience understands the gravity of the situation.

And to this day the northern tribes of Israel have refused to be ruled by a descendant of David. – 1 Kings 12:19 NLT

This was not a temporary setback, but a permanent realignment of the political, civil, and religious fortunes of the nation of Israel. What happened that day would have long-term implications for all 12 tribes. And, as the author points out, this entire scenario had been according to the sovereign will of God. It had all been His doing. Yes, Rehoboam had played his part, alienating his fellow Israelites by refusing to listen to their calls for justice. But God had already warned that this was going to happen. It was His judgment against Solomon for his sin and rebellion.

The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command. So now the Lord said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants.” – 1 Kings 11:9-11 NLT

This was God’s will. And yet, Rehoboam continued to stubbornly refuse to accept his fate. In a last-ditch effort to restore his kingdom, he assembled an army of 180,000 men from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin with the intent to fight a civil war against his own people. But God graciously intervened.

“Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.’” – 1 Kings 12:23-24 NLT

Rehoboam would not be able to thwart the will of God. The die had been cast. The outcome was set in stone. The nation had been divided and no one would be able to restore it to its former glory. And the rest of the book of 1 Kings will chronicle the somewhat sordid history of the divided nation of Israel. Virtually overnight, what had once been a rich and powerful kingdom had been reduced to a shadow of its former glory. The ten tribes in the north became the nation of Israel, while Judah eventually joined forces with the tribe of Benjamin to form the nation of Judah. And these two nations would not only find themselves constantly at odds with one another but also with God. The unfaithfulness displayed by Solomon would continue on both sides of the border between these two nations. For generations to come, the people whom God had chosen would choose to disobey and dishonor Him. And yet, throughout it all, He would continue to display His love and grace, sending His prophets to call His people to repent and return. Despite their unfaithfulness, He would remain faithful.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Pride Goes Before Destruction

41 Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon? 42 And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. 43 And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.

1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt. And they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Go away for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away.

Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put on us’?” 10 And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,’ thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. 11 And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”

12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” 13 And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, 14 he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 1 Kings 11:41-12:15 ESV

As God had promised, Solomon was allowed to complete his reign with his kingdom still intact. But upon Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam, who succeeded him to the throne, would find himself facing a God-ordained crisis that would leave his kingdom divided and greatly diminished. It would be easy to sympathize with poor Rehoboam because he is completely unaware of what is about to happen. The day of his coronation should have been one of the most joyous occasions of his life. He was inheriting the vast kingdom his father had established but all the wealth and riches that Solomon had accumulated over the last four decades. He was a lucky young man. But the reader has a distinct advantage over Rehoboam. He knows something of which the new king is most likely unaware. Speaking through the prophet Ahijah, God had promised to divide the kingdom of Israel, awarding ten of the tribes to Jeroboam and leaving Rehoboam with only one.

For the sake of my servant David, the one whom I chose and who obeyed my commands and decrees, I will keep Solomon as leader for the rest of his life. But I will take the kingdom away from his son and give ten of the tribes to you. His son will have one tribe so that the descendants of David my servant will continue to reign, shining like a lamp in Jerusalem, the city I have chosen to be the place for my name.” – 1 Kings 11:34-36 NLT

But any sorrow one might feel for Rehoboam is quickly dispelled when his true nature becomes apparent as he attempts to handle his first official crisis as king. For some undisclosed reason, Rehoboam had decided to hold his coronation ceremony in the city of Shechem, located in the land that belonged to the tribe of Ephraim. His decision to hold this important ceremony outside the city of Jerusalem may indicate that he was aware of the potential problem with Jeroboam. It is likely that Solomon had warned Rehoboam about the potential threat from the Ephraimites. Prior to his death, Solomon had become aware of the prediction concerning Jeroboam, made by Ahijah the prophet, and he had attempted to have Jeroboam murdered. Jeroboam, who was an Ephraimite, had been assigned the task of supervising the conscripted labor force from among his own people. And in performing his duties, he had become aware of the heavy burden Solomon had placed upon the Ephraimites and other northern tribes.

So, Rehoboam may have moved his coronation to Shechem in an attempt to placate and win over the disgruntled Ephraimites. But this ploy would prove unsuccessful.

From his place of exile in Egypt, Jeroboam heard the news that Solomon had died, and he returned to Israel, where he was promptly appointed the official spokesperson for the tribes of Israel. When Rehoboam arrived in Shechem for his coronation, he was met by a large contingent of the people who made an appeal through their appointed leader, Jeroboam.

“Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.” – 1 Kings 12:4 NLT

Notice that Jeroboam did not restate the words of the prophet. He did boast about the promise God had made, declaring that he was going to be the next king over ten of the tribes of Israel. There were no threats of insurrection or insurgency. He simply expressed the grievances of the people and their desire to have the heavy burdens of labor and taxation reduced.

This was a defining moment for Rehoboam. He could have seen this as an opportunity to unify the nation by demonstrating his intentions to be a fair and just king. Even though he was the son of Solomon, Rehoboam was going to have win the favor and trust of the people. And he was being given the opportunity to rectify some of his father’s less-than-stellar policies.

Having heard their complaints, Rehoboam sent the people away, assuring them that he would take everything into consideration and return with a decision. As the son of Solomon, the man who compiled and edited an entire book of proverbial sayings, Rehoboam would have grown up hearing all the sage advice his father had gathered.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. – Proverbs 11:14 ESV

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. – Proverbs 15:22 ESV

Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war. – Proverbs 20:18 ESV

Only with sound guidance should you wage war, and victory lies in a multitude of counselors. – Proverbs 24:6 BSB

So, it should come as no surprise that Rehoboam sought counsel. He first “discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father” (1 Kings 12:6 NLT). These men advised Rehoboam that he could win over the hearts of the people if he would respond favorably to their request. He could forestall any potential unrest by demonstrating that he was, first and foremost, the servant of all the people. While Rehoboam was from the tribe of Judah, he was expected to serve as God’s shepherd over all the tribes of Israel. By making this concession, Rehoboam could avoid a rebellion and establish himself as a compassionate and caring king.

But Rehoboam didn’t like what he heard. The author flatly states, “Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers” (1 Kings 12:8 NLT). And in doing so, Rehoboam lived out the truth revealed in the proverbs his father had so painstakingly collected.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. – Proverbs 12:15 ESV

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. – Proverbs 19:20 ESV

Listen to instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. – Proverbs 8:33 BSB

Unlike his father, Rehoboam had not been given the gift of wisdom from God. He was young and inexperienced and in desperate need of wise counsel. But when he received it, he rejected it, choosing instead to seek out those who would tell him what he wanted to hear. Disliking the counsel of the older and wiser men, Rehoboam turned to his peers for advice. And they were more than eager to give it.

The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’” – 1 Kings 12:10-11 NLT

These brash young men appealed to Rehoboam’s ego. They advised him to law down the law and establish his reputation as a no-holds-barred disciplinarian who ruled with an iron fist. These young men knew Rehoboam well and their advice was meant to appeal to his over-inflated ego and his desperate desire to escape the shadow of his father’s reputation. And in a demonstration of his inherent foolishness and pride, Rehoboam heeded the counsel of his peers and handed down his decision to the people. And in doing so, he fulfilled the words of the proverb.

Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe. – Proverbs 28:26 NLT

Rather than humbly heed the pleas of his people, Rehoboam listened to his own heart. But the author reveals that this was all part of the sovereign will of God.

…it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word. – 1 Kings 12:15 ESV

God didn’t force Rehoboam to do what he did. This stubborn and prideful young man simply acted according to his own sinful nature. But in doing so, he was fulfilling the will of God. Rehoboam’s decision would fuel the fire that would end up burning down his kingdom. In his foolish attempt to establish himself as a great king, Rehoboam was unwittingly destroying his own kingdom. And, once again, he was living out the wisdom of the proverbs.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Even Our Disobedience Can’t Disrupt God’s Plans

26 Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow, also lifted up his hand against the king. 27 And this was the reason why he lifted up his hand against the king. Solomon built the Millo, and closed up the breach of the city of David his father. 28 The man Jeroboam was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph. 29 And at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had dressed himself in a new garment, and the two of them were alone in the open country. 30 Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes 32 (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), 33 because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and they have not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my rules, as David his father did. 34 Nevertheless, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes. 35 But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand and will give it to you, ten tribes. 36 Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. 37 And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel. 38 And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. 39 And I will afflict the offspring of David because of this, but not forever.’” 40 Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam. But Jeroboam arose and fled into Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon. 1 Kings 11:26-40 ESV

Despite all his wisdom, Solomon had made some serious errors in judgment. Not the least of which was his decision to violate a number of God’s commands. He had chosen to disobey God by amassing for himself stables full of thousands of horses and a harem filled with a thousand wives and concubines. On top of that, he had filled his treasury with vast quantities of amounts of gold and silver – all in direct violation of God’s commands (Deuteronomy 17:16-17).

And Solomon had also managed to fulfill all the dire predictions the prophet Samuel had conveyed to the people of Israel when they had demanded “a king to judge us like all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5 NLT). Long before David or Solomon reigned over Israel, God had been their sovereign King. But the day had come when the people grew tired of being governed by the judges and prophets whom God had placed over them. They preferred to have a leader that looked and acted like the kings of their enemies. And in demanding the human king, they were actually rejecting the righteous rule of God over their lives. So, God gave them their wish but warned them of the consequences.

These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakersHe will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. – 1 Samuel 8:11-13, 16 ESV

Solomon was guilty of all of the above. He had conscripted large numbers of his own people to serve as laborers on his many building projects. Solomon had used his power as king to force the people of Israel to do his bidding. And there’s little doubt that the common people grew resentful of the involuntary nature of their role in building Solomon’s kingdom and fame. So, in verse 26, we are introduced to a man named Jeroboam, from the tribe of Ephraim, one the largest of the northern tribes. It just so happened that Jeroboam was the son of one of Solomon’s former officials. At some point, Solomon took note of this young man, whose father had recently died. Recognizing a certain degree of leadership ability in Jeroboam, Solomon decided to put him on his payroll.

Jeroboam was a very capable young man, and when Solomon saw how industrious he was, he put him in charge of the labor force from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the descendants of Joseph. – 1 Kings 11:28 NLT

But notice that Solomon expected Jeroboam to supervise the laborers who had been conscripted from his own tribe. This unique responsibility gave Jeroboam a first-hand exposure to the less-than-ideal conditions under which his fellow tribesmen were forced to serve King Solomon. It would not be surprising if Jeroboam began to build up resentment for what he observed day after day. And this scenario is strangely similar to one involving the famous Hebrew patriarch, Moses. The great deliverer of Israel had been born in Egypt during a time when the people of Israel were suffering great persecution under the hand of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

…the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy. They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands. – Exodus 1:11, 13-14 NLT

But even under these harsh conditions, the people of Israel continued to increase in number, causing Pharaoh to develop a plan for greatly reducing their number.

Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” – Exodus 1:15-16 NLT

He instituted a policy of ethnic cleansing that was meant to diminish any future possibility of the Israelites staging a revolt. But in the midst of this horrible circumstance, God raised up Israel’s future deliverer. Moses, who was an infant at the time and a target of Pharoah’s edict, was miraculously spared and ended up being raised in the household of the Pharaoh himself. He would be raised as an Egyptian, living in the royal palace and enjoying all the benefits of his position as the adopted grandson of Pharaoh. But one day, as an adult, Moses would be given an up-close and personal exposure to the plight of his own people.

Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand. – Exodus 2: 11-12 NLT

Despite his high standing in Pharoah’s household, Moses’ rash action brought down the full wrath of his grandfather. He became a wanted man and was forced to run for his life, eventually ending up living as an exile in the land of Midian. It would be while living in the wilderness of Midian that Moses would have a personal encounter with God and receive his commission as Israel’s future deliverer.

Moses had seen the mistreatment of his people and taken matters into his own hands. But God was going to use Moses’ misapplied empathy and compassion in a far more effective way – all so that His divine will might be fulfilled.

In the case of Jeroboam, he was given a similar commission from God. But rather than a visit from God in the form of a burning bush, Jeroboam was confronted by a prophet of God.

One day as Jeroboam was leaving Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh met him along the way. Ahijah was wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone in a field, and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten of these pieces, for this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and I will give ten of the tribes to you!’” – 1 Kings 11:29-31 NLT

Like Moses, Jeroboam was given a commission directly from God. In a sense, he too would become a deliverer of his people. God was going to use Jeroboam to deliver the tribe of Ephraim, along with nine other northern tribes, from their subjugation under Solomon’s rule. And as Moses was used by God to punish the wicked Egyptians, Jeroboam would become God’s chosen instrument for delivering judgment upon Solomon for his many acts of unfaithfulness and disobedience.

Much to his shock and surprise, Jeroboam is informed that God is going to divide Solomon’s vast kingdom in half and install him as the new king over ten of the tribes. And God is painfully clear when delineating His reasons for this dramatic shift in the nation’s fortunes.

“For Solomon has abandoned me and worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians; Chemosh, the god of Moab; and Molech, the god of the Ammonites. He has not followed my ways and done what is pleasing in my sight. He has not obeyed my decrees and regulations as David his father did.” – 1 Kings 11:33 NLT

Yet, God also reveals His intentions to allow Solomon to complete his reign over an undivided kingdom. But at Solomon’s death, his son would inherit a kingdom that consisted of a single tribe, that of Judah.

“His son will have one tribe so that the descendants of David my servant will continue to reign, shining like a lamp in Jerusalem, the city I have chosen to be the place for my name.” – 1 Kings 11:36 NLT

Despite Solomon’s unfaithfulness, God would remain faithful, vowing to keep the covenant He had made with David. He would preserve a remnant of Solomon’s kingdom so that one day He might fulfill the promise concerning the future king who would reign on David’s throne for perpetuity.

“And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:16 ESV

God had future plans in store for the rebellious nation of Israel. But for now, He was determined to punish Solomon for his repeated acts of unfaithfulness. And He provided Jeroboam with the same arrangements He had made with Solomon. If Jeroboam would remain committed to the word and the will of God, he would enjoy the blessings of God.

“I will place you on the throne of Israel, and you will rule over all that your heart desires. If you listen to what I tell you and follow my ways and do whatever I consider to be right, and if you obey my decrees and commands, as my servant David did, then I will always be with you. I will establish an enduring dynasty for you as I did for David, and I will give Israel to you. – 1 Kings 11:37-38 NLT

And because 1 Kings is a book of history, it will just be a matter of time before we know whether Jeroboam lived up to God’s expectations. Yet, regardless of what Solomon had done or whatever Jeroboam will end up doing, God’s will would be done. All His promises would be kept and His plan would be fulfilled in its entirety.

But when Solomon heard about the message spoken by the prophet, he set out to eliminate any threat by having Jeroboam murdered. But Jeroboam escaped to Egypt, where he remained in exile until the death of Solomon. It’s interesting to note that Moses had fled from Egypt to escape the wrath of Pharaoh. Now, Jeroboam was fleeing to Egypt in an attempt to escape the wrath of Solomon.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Wise But Disobedient

And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.”

14 And the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite. He was of the royal house in Edom. 15 For when David was in Edom, and Joab the commander of the army went up to bury the slain, he struck down every male in Edom 16 (for Joab and all Israel remained there six months, until he had cut off every male in Edom). 17 But Hadad fled to Egypt, together with certain Edomites of his father’s servants, Hadad still being a little child. 18 They set out from Midian and came to Paran and took men with them from Paran and came to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house and assigned him an allowance of food and gave him land. 19 And Hadad found great favor in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him in marriage the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen. 20 And the sister of Tahpenes bore him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh’s house. And Genubath was in Pharaoh’s house among the sons of Pharaoh. 21 But when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept 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.” 22 But Pharaoh said to him, “What have you lacked with me that you are now seeking to go to your own country?” And he said to him, “Only let me depart.”

23 God also raised up as an adversary to him, Rezon the son of Eliada, who had fled from his master Hadadezer king of Zobah. 24 And he gathered men about him and became leader of a marauding band, after the killing by David. And they went to Damascus and lived there and made him king in Damascus. 25 He was an adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon, doing harm as Hadad did. And he loathed Israel and reigned over Syria. 1 Kings 11:9-25 ESV

Solomon’s name is derived from the Hebrew word, shalowm, which means “peace.” And Solomon had lived up to his name, delivering to his people an unprecedented time of peace and tranquility.

Solomon’s dominion extended over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River, from Tiphsah to Gaza. And there was peace on all his borders. During the lifetime of Solomon, all of Judah and Israel lived in peace and safety. – 1 Kings 4:24-25 NLT

While Solomon used his great wealth to purchase thousands of horses and chariots to equip his army, his investment proved unwise and unnecessary because there were no enemies to fight. He had managed to secure the peace through carefully negotiated treaties with the surrounding nations and through marital alliances with princesses from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites.

But those very same women ended up turning Solomon’s heart away from the Lord. By choosing to align himself with these women from pagan nations, Solomon had exposed himself to their false gods. And driven by his own lust for sensual pleasure, Solomon had compromised his convictions, disobeying the command of God.

“You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” – 1 Kings 11:2 ESV

To say that Solomon was obsessed with women is not an exaggeration. He had managed to accumulate for himself 700 wives of royal birth, in direct violation of God’s word. And the text reveals that Solomon “clung to these in love” (1 Kings 11:2 ESV). The image conveyed in the Hebrew is that Solomon was clinging to these women, like a child with a toy he refuses to give up. And the Hebrew word for “love” in this passage is ‘ahab, and in the context of this passage, it carries a somewhat negative connotation.  The author seems to be portraying Solomon as driven by lustful, sensual motives that blind him to the dangers of his actions. This man had the financial resources and the power to deny himself nothing his heart desired. He was like an addict with full access to his drug of choice. Solomon loved women and he had more than 700 of them to satisfy his seemingly insatiable sexual desires.

In an attempt to please his many wives, Solomon had constructed altars and shrines to their various gods. To do so would have cost Solomon a great deal of money. Just as he had invested his financial resources to build a temple to the one true God, now he was pouring money and human resources into the construction of worship sites dedicated to the false gods of his many wives. And the presence of these shrines became a source of temptation to the people of Israel, causing them to turn their backs on Yahweh.

God had promised to give Solomon wealth and fame. But now Solomon was using the financial blessings of God to promote the worship of false gods. And his actions would cost him dearly. God delivered a stinging rebuke to Solomon, informing him that his disobedience would have dire consequences.

“Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants.” – 1 Kings 11:11 NLT

God had chosen Solomon to be the next king of Israel, following in the footsteps of his father David. But Solomon had “refused to follow the Lord completely, as his father, David, had done” (1 Kings 11:6 NLT). Unlike David, Solomon had failed to remain faithful to God. He had a divided allegiance, allowing his love for God to become diluted by his love of the world and his lust for sensual pleasures. So, God was going to bring judgment upon Solomon by dividing his kingdom in half. The vast empire that Solomon had spent so much time, energy, and money building, would be reduced to a fraction of its former glory. And, not only that, the peace that Israel had enjoyed would be disrupted by the arrival of “adversaries” – enemies sent by God to punish His disobedient king and people.

Out of His respect for David, God graciously allowed Solomon to complete his reign with his kingdom intact. It would be Solomon’s son who would have to suffer the consequences of his father’s sin. But, in the meantime, Solomon would have to endure the unpleasant prospect of war. The text clearly states that “the Lord raised up Hadad the Edomite, a member of Edom’s royal family, to be Solomon’s adversary” (1 Kings 11:14 NLT). This was a sovereign act of God. Hadad had been chosen by God to be an instrument of His judgment against Solomon.

Hadad was a member of the Edomite royal family, who had been living in exile in Egypt ever since David’s forces had conquered and occupied their land.

So David became even more famous when he returned from destroying 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. He placed army garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became David’s subjects. In fact, the Lord made David victorious wherever he went. – 2 Samuel 8:13-14 NLT

In an attempt to explain Hadad’s animosity toward Solomon, the author reveals that “Hadad and a few of his father’s royal officials escaped and headed for Egypt” (1 Kings 11:17 NLT). Joab, the general over David’s armies, had remained in Edom with a contingent of troops, orchestrating a clean-up operation. They had spent six months methodically and systematically eradicating every last male among the Edomites.

Having fled to Egypt for refuge, Hadad found himself welcomed by Pharaoh with open arms. He was even allowed to marry the sister of the queen. This very brief history of Hadad’s time in Egypt mirrors that of Moses. The one who would become the eventual deliverer of Israel had been born in Egypt, during a perilous time when Pharaoh had ordered the deaths of all the male children of the Hebrews. But Moses had been miraculously delivered, ending up a member of Pharoah’s household. And this young man would eventually be used by God to rescue His people from their enslavement in Egypt. Yet, in Hadad’s case, he was an Edomite who had fled to Egypt for refuge and would be used by God, not to deliver the people of Israel, but to punish them. He would return to the land of promise to bring judgment, not blessing. He would deliver the punishment of God, not peace.

But he would not be alone in his role as God’s agent of judgment. God would also raise up Rezon son of Eliada. While Hadad represented the Edomites in the south, Rezon would rally the northern enemies of Israel. Essentially, God was creating a pincer movement designed to envelop the Israelites from two sides. Solomon was going to find himself surrounded by adversaries. And these two men would use their intense hatred for David and the people of Israel to fuel their ongoing and unrelenting harassment of Solomon.

Rezon was Israel’s bitter adversary for the rest of Solomon’s reign, and he made trouble, just as Hadad did. Rezon hated Israel intensely and continued to reign in Aram. – 1 Kings 11:25 NLT

Solomon’s “love” for his many wives had led him to disobey God. His unbridled lust had led him to make unwise decisions that resulted in ungodly behavior. And now, he was going to pay the consequences.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Love of the World

1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. 1 Kings 11:1-8 ESV

 

In this chapter, the author pulls back the curtain on Solomon’s life, revealing the poorly veiled secret that would prove to be his ultimate downfall. Solomon loved women. And he used his position and power as king to more than satisfy his insatiable desire for the opposite sex. The text reveals the staggering fact that Solomon had amassed a harem of 1,000 wives and concubines. And it had all started with his marriage to the daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh (1 Kings 3:1). This had probably been a marriage of convenience, allowing Solomon to form a close alliance with another powerful nation. He certainly made the most of this marital union by purchasing thousands of horses and chariots from the Egyptians to equip his army (1 Kings 10:28-29).

But Solomon’s infatuation with women didn’t stop with Pharaoh’s daughter. He went on to add other foreign women to his growing harem, including “Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women” (1 Kings 11:1 ESV). And the author points out the underlying problem with Solomon’s actions. Solomon had chosen to love foreign women “from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods’” (1 Kings 11:2 ESV).

Solomon was in direct violation of the command of God, given to the people of Israel during their journey from Egypt to Canaan. God had warned the Israelites that they were not to intermarry with the pagans who currently occupied the land He was giving them as their inheritance. Moses conveyed this command in no uncertain terms.

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are about to enter and occupy, he will clear away many nations ahead of you: the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These seven nations are greater and more numerous than you. When the Lord your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy. You must not intermarry with them. Do not let your daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters, for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the Lord will burn against you, and he will quickly destroy you.” – Deuteronomy 7:1-4 NLT

And God had also prohibited the Israelites from having anything to do with the Ammonites and Moabites.

These nations did not welcome you with food and water when you came out of Egypt. Instead, they hired Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in distant Aram-naharaim to curse you. But the Lord your God refused to listen to Balaam. He turned the intended curse into a blessing because the Lord your God loves you. As long as you live, you must never promote the welfare and prosperity of the Ammonites or Moabites. – Deuteronomy 23:4-6 NLT

But Solomon was a collector. He had a passion for fine things and filled his palace with treasures of all kinds, including women from all over the known world. He treated them like prized possessions, living symbols of his unsurpassed wealth and proof of his obsession with fulfilling his heart’s every desire. Years later, Solomon would confess his narcissistic propensities.

“I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!

So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. – Ecclesiastes 2:8-9 NLT

Despite the warnings of God, Solomon “clung to these in love” (1 Kings 11:2 ESV). Even though Solomon had been gifted with wisdom beyond compare, his obsessive-compulsive tendencies led him to make decisions that were clearly foolish and, ultimately, destructive. God had made His will perfectly and plainly clear.

“The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord.” – Deuteronomy 17:17 NLT

But Solomon, emboldened by his wisdom and empowered by his position as king, decided that he knew what was best. Fulfilling his physical desires and passions took precedence over his obedience to God. And he would suffer the consequences for his unfaithfulness.

Whenever a child of God places his will above that of God, he will find himself making constant compromises and concessions in order to justify his actions. He will rationalize his decisions in an attempt to convince himself that he is doing the right thing. In doing so, he allows himself to be driven by his desires, rather than guided by the loving hand of God Almighty. And this pattern of behavior can be clearly seen in the life of Solomon. Back in chapter 3, the author declared Solomon’s love for and commitment to God.

Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father – 1 Kings 3:3 ESV

But by chapter 11, things had begun to change.

King Solomon loved many foreign women – 1 Kings 11:1 ESV

Solomon never stopped loving God, but he soon found himself with divided affections and a diminished devotion. His love, or better yet, lust for his many wives made it impossible for Solomon to love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. His capacity to love God had been severely diluted. He had allowed himself to become distracted by the things of this world. And, as the apostle John makes clear, this love affair with material possessions and physical passions always leads to diminished devotion for God.

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.  – 1 John 2:15-17 NLT

Chapter 11 provides the sad and sobering turning point in the life of Solomon. Everything had started out so well. He had been appointed by God to replace his father as king of Israel. He had been gifted with great wisdom and rewarded with wealth and fame. His kingdom was marked by peace and prosperity. And he had been given the privilege and honor of building a temple for God. But the honeymoon was over.

Solomon had failed to heed his father’s warning.

“Take courage and be a man. Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go.” – 1 Kings 2:2-3 NLT

God had made a covenant commitment to David.

“Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:11-13 NLT

But David had understood that this promise came with conditions. He knew that the covenant blessings would be forfeited if his son refused to remain faithful to God. And David had shared this important caveat with his son while lying on his deathbed.

“If your descendants live as they should and follow me faithfully with all their heart and soul, one of them will always sit on the throne of Israel.” – 1 Kings 2:4 NLT

Yet here we find the son of David committing the unpardonable sin. He had not only disobeyed God by marrying foreign women, but he had begun to worship their false gods.

Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. – 1 Kings 11:5-6 NLT

His love for the world and all the tempting pleasures it offered had turned his heart from the Lord. His life had become a living example of something Jesus later warned about.

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” – Matthew 6:24 NLT

It is fascinating to note that Solomon’s love of women eventually produced in him a devotion for their pagan gods. And his affection for these false gods would prompt him to erect shrines or places of worship in their honor. The man who had built the house for Yahweh, the one true God, found himself building altars to Chemosh and Molech, the gods of the Moabites and Ammonites. But notice where he built them – “on the mountain east of Jerusalem” (1 Kings 11:7 ESV). This was the Mount of Olives, the very same place where, hundreds of years later, another son of David would pray the following prayer: “Father… not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 ESV). On the same location where Solomon had erected altars to false gods, Jesus would declare His commitment to faithfully fulfill the will of God.

It was on the Mount of Olives that Solomon and his many wives offered up their sacrifices to  Molech and  Chemosh. But in the very same place, Jesus, the Son of David and the Savior of the world would humbly and obediently sacrifice His own will for that of His Heavenly Father.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

When the Blessings Become a Curse

14 Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold, 15 besides that which came from the explorers and from the business of the merchants, and from all the kings of the west and from the governors of the land. 16 King Solomon made 200 large shields of beaten gold; 600 shekels of gold went into each shield. 17 And he made 300 shields of beaten gold; three minas of gold went into each shield. And the king put them in the House of the Forest of Lebanon. 18 The king also made a great ivory throne and overlaid it with the finest gold. 19 The throne had six steps, and the throne had a round top, and on each side of the seat were armrests and two lions standing beside the armrests, 20 while twelve lions stood there, one on each end of a step on the six steps. The like of it was never made in any kingdom. 21 All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were of pure gold. None were of silver; silver was not considered as anything in the days of Solomon. 22 For the king had a fleet of ships of Tarshish at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the fleet of ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.

23 Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. 24 And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. 25 Every one of them brought his present, articles of silver and gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.

26 And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. 27 And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. 28 And Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king’s traders received them from Kue at a price. 29 A chariot could be imported from Egypt for 600 shekels of silver and a horse for 150, and so through the king’s traders they were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria. 1 Kings 10:14-29 ESV

Up to this point in his narrative of Solomon’s reign, the author of 1 Kings seems to have spent far more time describing Solomon’s vast wealth than providing evidence of his great wisdom. He has only provided one concrete example where Solomon utilized his God-given gift of wisdom to settle a dispute between two prostitutes who were fighting over legal custody of a newborn baby (1 Kings 3:16-28). There have been several allusions to Solomon’s wisdom, such as the statement made by the Queen of Sheba.

“Everything I heard in my country about your achievements and wisdom is true! I didn’t believe what was said until I arrived here and saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I had not heard the half of it! Your wisdom and prosperity are far beyond what I was told. – 1 Kings 10:6-7 NLT

But it would appear that the author has purposefully placed more emphasis on Solomon’s rapidly expanding financial portfolio. God had promised to bless Solomon with riches and honor (1 Kings 3:13), and it is quite evident that God had kept that promise. In just a single year, nearly 25 tons of gold was added to Solomon’s treasury. That’s a staggering figure. But it represents only a fraction of the revenue that flowed into the kingdom each year. Income for his many business ventures, tributes paid by vassal states, and gifts from various kings and dignitaries further enhanced his annual revenue. His proverbial cup was running over.

People from every nation came to consult him and to hear the wisdom God had given him. Year after year everyone who visited brought him gifts of silver and gold, clothing, weapons, spices, horses, and mules. – 1 Kings 10:24-25 NLT

As a result, “King Solomon became richer and wiser than any other king on earth” (1 Kings 10:23 NLT). It seems that his wisdom and wealth shared a symbiotic relationship. Both were gifts that had been made possible by God. And yet, like all gifts given by God to men, the real test lies in how they are put to use. Both wisdom and wealth can be misused and abused. Any God-given gift can be exploited for ungodly purposes. And it would appear that Solomon had allowed his wisdom and wealth to become a distraction. Somewhere along the way, Solomon had lost sight of the divine purpose for his gifts – that he might govern the people of Israel with justice (1 Kings 3:11). He began to repurpose his wisdom and riches in a vain search for meaning in life. He would later write of his

I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. – Ecclesiastes 2:9-11 NLT

Notice how many times Solomon uses the personal pronoun, “I.” He had become totally self-consumed, focusing all his attention on what he could gain from what he had been given. Even his God-given wisdom became little more than a tool for trying to decipher the mysteries of life. And while he understood wisdom’s inherent value, it wasn’t long before he came to despise this valuable gift from God.

Yet I saw that the wise and the foolish share the same fate. Both will die. So I said to myself, “Since I will end up the same as the fool, what’s the value of all my wisdom? This is all so meaningless!” For the wise and the foolish both die. The wise will not be remembered any longer than the fool. In the days to come, both will be forgotten.

So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind. – Ecclesiastes 3:14-17 NLT

Twenty years after ascending to the throne of his father David, Solomon was experiencing unparalleled success. He had the Midas touch. It seems that everything he touched turned to literal gold. In fact, gold was so prevalent in his kingdom that “silver was considered worthless in Solomon’s day” (1 Kings 10:21 NLT).

Solomon had built his own fleet of ships that returned every three years with their holds full of additional treasures of “gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks” (1 Kings 10:22 NLT). He had amassed “a huge force of chariots and horses. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses” ( 1 Kings 10:26 NLT). And many of those horses had been imported from as far away as Egypt.

All of these descriptions of Solomon’s incredible wealth must be placed within the context of the commands God had given concerning all those who would serve as kings over His people.

“The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.” – Deuteronomy 17:16-17 NLT

God had blessed Solomon with unparalleled resources, but Solomon was using them in ways that were contradictory to God’s will. His use of God’s gracious gift was in clear violation of God’s command. Solomon’s wealth had never been intended to feed his ego or fulfill his wildest dreams. It was meant to enable him to provide the people of Israel with proper care and protection. And while accumulating chariots and horses may have sounded like a good strategy for ensuring Israel’s national security, it was against the will of God. Solomon’s own father had written about the futility of placing one’s hope in such things.

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright. – Psalm 20:6-8 NLT

Solomon seems to have been obsessed with all the outward trappings of royalty. He had built for himself an opulent palace, where exquisite meals were served on golden plates and the finest wine was served in golden goblets. And when it came to the throne upon which he sat, Solomon spared no expense.

Then the king made a huge throne, decorated with ivory and overlaid with fine gold. The throne had six steps and a rounded back. There were armrests on both sides of the seat, and the figure of a lion stood on each side of the throne. There were also twelve other lions, one standing on each end of the six steps. No other throne in all the world could be compared with it! – 1 Kings 10:18-20 NLT

Solomon looked like a king and lived like one. He had all the trappings of success and, from the outsider’s perspective, was living the dream. Yet, the day would come when Solomon finally recognized that he had confused the gift with the Giver.

Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers! – Ecclesiastes 10-11 NLT

The wisdom and wealth given to him by God had never been intended to fulfill his every self-centered desire or provide him with some form of personal satisfaction. Solomon had been anointed and blessed by God so that he might lead the nation of Israel into a period of peace, prosperity, and faithful service to God. Solomon had started out well, even asking God for the capacity to lead the people of Israel with wisdom and discernment.

“Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” – 1 Kings 3:9 NLT

But somewhere along the way, Solomon had let the blessings of God go to his head. He had allowed the gifts to take precedence over the Giver and, in doing so, turned the blessings into a curse.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Turning God’s Blessings Into Burdens

1 Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her.

And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” 10 Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices and precious stones. Never again came such an abundance of spices as these that the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

11 Moreover, the fleet of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought from Ophir a very great amount of almug wood and precious stones. 12 And the king made of the almug wood supports for the house of the Lord and for the king’s house, also lyres and harps for the singers. No such almug wood has come or been seen to this day.

13 And King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all that she desired, whatever she asked besides what was given her by the bounty of King Solomon. So she turned and went back to her own land with her servants. 1 Kings 10:1-13 ESV

In the two decades that Solomon had served as king of Israel, the news of his incomparable wisdom, vast wealth, and rapidly expanding kingdom had begun to spread throughout the known world (1 Kings 4:31). News of his skills as a composer, author, horticulturist, and biologist further enhanced his already mythical reputation as the wisest man who ever lived. Intrigued by what they heard, kings and dignitaries from other nations sent their emissaries to Jerusalem to see if all the rumors about him were true.

…kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon. – 1 Kings 4:34 NLT

And the author of 1 Kings provides an extended example of one such visit. On this occasion, the Queen of Sheba undertook the long and arduous journey to Jerusalem in order to witness the wisdom of Solomon firsthand. The kingdom of Sheba was located 1200 miles away, on the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula, in the region that is now known as Yemen. The queen traveled with a large royal retinue and brought with her a vast amount of spices, gold, and precious stones. And it would seem that the real purpose for her trip was to secure an alliance between her nation and the rapidly expanding kingdom of Solomon. From its location at the confluence of the Sea of Aden and the Red Sea, the kingdom of Sheba had been able to expand its dominance of the spice and incense trade in that region of the world. And a peaceful alliance with a powerful nation like Israel would only further enhance and protect their future prospects.

Upon her arrival, the queen was given a personal appointment with Solomon, where she was able to satisfy her curiosity about his wisdom and wealth. This interrogation was most likely meant to assess the validity of Solomon’s reputation but was also intended to assure the queen whether a treaty with Israel would be beneficial. In the end, she was left breathless by her encounter with Solomon.

…when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her. – 1 Kings 10:4-5 ESV

She was blown away by what she saw and heard. And she confessed that the reality of Solomon’s wisdom and the greatness of his kingdom far exceeded the rumors and her own expectations.

“Everything I heard in my country about your achievements and wisdom is true! I didn’t believe what was said until I arrived here and saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I had not heard the half of it! Your wisdom and prosperity are far beyond what I was told. – 1 Kings 10:6-7 NLT

The inclusion of this personal, third-party assessment of Solomon’s greatness was meant to validate all that the author had written up to this point. Her testimony was intended to prove that all the descriptions concerning Solomon’s wisdom and the wealth of his kingdom were far from rhetorical flourishes or hyperbole. It was all true.

And this pagan queen affirmed the divine nature of Solomon’s reign, deeming the people of Israel as the fortunate recipients of their God’s love because He had chosen to make this just and righteous man their king.

“Praise the Lord your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness.” – 1 Kings 10:9 NLT

In a way, this statement is meant to remind the Hebrew readers of this book that their nation indeed been blessed by God. His sovereign decision to anoint Solomon as  David’s successor had been a divine act of love and mercy. He had given them a wise, just, and righteous king to rule over them. After decades spent conquering the nations of Canaan and fighting ongoing battles with the Philistines, God had blessed the people of Israel with a time of peace and prosperity. Saul’s reign had ended in failure and disappointment. David’s reign had been marked by war and bloodshed. Now Solomon was leading them into a period of unprecedented growth and success. This was meant to be a golden age for the nation of Israel.

And, almost as further proof of God’s blessing on the nation, the author records that the queen of Sheba gifted Solomon with “9,000 pounds of gold, great quantities of spices, and precious jewels” (1 Kings 10:10 NLT). The blessings just kept coming. Solomon’s great wealth continued to grow. And all of this was in keeping with the promise that God had made to Solomon.

“Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies—I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!” – 1 Kings 3:11-13 NLT

But it’s important to remember that God’s promise had come with a condition.

“…if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” – 1 Kings 3:14 NLT

That important caveat must not be overlooked. And its presence constantly lingers behind the scene portrayed in chapter 10. God was faithfully keeping the promise He had made to Solomon, blessing him with riches and fame beyond belief. But the unspoken question that looms over this entire narrative is whether Solomon, in the midst of his growing wealth and notoriety, will manage to remain faithful to God. Or will he allow the blessings of God to become substitutes for God, distracting his attention and diverting his love.

Almost as an aside, the author reveals another example of God’s blessings on Solomon. He notes that Hiram, the king of Tyre, continued to shower Solomon with incredible gifts of great value.

Hiram’s ships brought gold from Ophir, and they also brought rich cargoes of red sandalwood and precious jewels. – 1 Kings 10:11 NLT

Without having to lift a finger, Solomon’s immense wealth was growing by the minute. God was using these pagan potentates to expand Solomon’s already extensive net worth. But would Solomon view these gifts as the gracious provision of God, meant to underwrite the divine initiatives He had in mind for the nation of Israel? Or would Solomon allow his growing wealth to fund a lifestyle of excess and dissipation? The answer to those questions can be found in the writings of Solomon himself.

Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers! – Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 NLT

Solomon would eventually discover that even the blessings of God become disappointing and disillusioning when they are allowed to take His place. He had allowed his fame and riches, graciously given to him by God, to distract him from his worship of and commitment to God.

I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere. – Ecclesiastes 2:9-11 NLT

But at this point in the story, Solomon is enjoying the blessings of God. And having been exposed to the visual evidence of God’s goodness, the queen of Sheba returned to her kingdom, home more convinced than ever of Solomon’s greatness.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

A Man of Divided Allegiance

10 At the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the two houses, the house of the Lord and the king’s house, 11 and Hiram king of Tyre had supplied Solomon with cedar and cypress timber and gold, as much as he desired, King Solomon gave to Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee. 12 But when Hiram came from Tyre to see the cities that Solomon had given him, they did not please him. 13 Therefore he said, “What kind of cities are these that you have given me, my brother?” So they are called the land of Cabul to this day. 14 Hiram had sent to the king 120 talents of gold.

15 And this is the account of the forced labor that King Solomon drafted to build the house of the Lord and his own house and the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem and Hazor and Megiddo and Gezer 16 (Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up and captured Gezer and burned it with fire, and had killed the Canaanites who lived in the city, and had given it as dowry to his daughter, Solomon’s wife; 17 so Solomon rebuilt Gezer) and Lower Beth-horon 18 and Baalath and Tamar in the wilderness, in the land of Judah, 19 and all the store cities that Solomon had, and the cities for his chariots, and the cities for his horsemen, and whatever Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion. 20 All the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of the people of Israel— 21 their descendants who were left after them in the land, whom the people of Israel were unable to devote to destruction—these Solomon drafted to be slaves, and so they are to this day. 22 But of the people of Israel Solomon made no slaves. They were the soldiers, they were his officials, his commanders, his captains, his chariot commanders and his horsemen.

23 These were the chief officers who were over Solomon’s work: 550 who had charge of the people who carried on the work.

24 But Pharaoh’s daughter went up from the city of David to her own house that Solomon had built for her. Then he built the Millo.

25 Three times a year Solomon used to offer up burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar that he built to the Lord, making offerings with it before the Lord. So he finished the house.

26 King Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. 27 And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, seamen who were familiar with the sea, together with the servants of Solomon. 28 And they went to Ophir and brought from there gold, 420 talents, and they brought it to King Solomon. 1 Kings 9:10-28 ESV

Solomon doesn’t realize it, but he is at the midway point of his 40-year reign. He has just completed the construction of the temple, his royal palaces, and all the buildings that will house his administrative offices.

With these projects behind him, Solomon turns his attention to other pressing matters. First, he makes an attempt to compensate King Hiram of Phoenicia for all the material and financial aid he had provided over the years. Early on in his reign, Solomon had made an agreement with Hiram that provided Solomon with all the lumber he needed for his many construction projects, while Hiram received much-needed grain and olive oil in return.

So Hiram supplied as much cedar and cypress timber as Solomon desired. In return, Solomon sent him an annual payment of 100,000 bushels of wheat for his household and 110,000 gallons of pure olive oil. – 1 Kings 5:10-11 NLT

This agreement had lasted for 20 years, and during that time, Solomon had compensated King Hiram for all the lumber and he had paid wages to all the Phoenician wood-workers who had helped with the various construction projects (1 Kings 5:6). But now that all the work was done, Solomon wanted to make a gesture of goodwill to his friend in Phoenicia. So, he gave Hiram 20 cities located in the land of Galilee along the border between Israel and Phoenicia. This appears to be a gracious act of generosity on Solomon’s part, but it quickly becomes apparent that his gift was a bit disingenuous. When Hiram personally inspected the cities Solomon had given him, his response reveals his deep disappointment.

“What kind of towns are these, my brother?” he asked. So Hiram called that area Cabul (which means “worthless”), as it is still known today. – 1 Kings 9:13 NLT

Evidently, these towns were located in a region of Galilee that was not conducive to agricultural production. Since Phoenicia occupied a narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean Sea, they were woefully deficient in arable farmland. That’s why Solomon’s compensation for the lumber had taken the form of grain and olive oil. At first glance, it would appear that Solomon had given them what they had always needed: Land on which to grow crops. But Hiram described Solomon’s gift as “Cabul,” a word that means “bound” or “sterile.” And while these 20 towns expanded the range of Hiram’s kingdom, they were essentially worthless. They provided no practical value. And what makes Solomon’s gift that much more egregious is that, over the years, Hiram had given Solomon 120 talents of gold. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly 5 tons of gold.

One could almost draw the conclusion that Solomon was somewhat of a Scrooge, a financial tightwad who was more than willing to spend money on himself, but was a bit stingy when it came to others. And it’s interesting to note that Solomon had given away land that had been part of the inheritance given by God to the people of Israel.

It’s most likely that the 20 towns were located in territory that had belonged to the tribes of Asher, Naphtali, and Zebulun. In awarding these cities to Hiram, Solomon was guilty of giving away land that belonged to the people of God. His willingness to give it away, coupled with Hiram’s poor assessment of it, reveals that it held no real value to Solomon.

One of the things that can be learned from studying the history of the Israelites is that every decision they made had long-term ramifications. The book of Judges reveals that, at one point, the tribes of Asher, Napthali, and Zebulun had been given the opportunity to conquer and occupy the land allotted to them by God, but they had failed.

The tribe of Zebulun failed to drive out the residents of Kitron and Nahalol, so the Canaanites continued to live among them. But the Canaanites were forced to work as slaves for the people of Zebulun.

The tribe of Asher failed to drive out the residents of Acco, Sidon, Ahlab, Aczib, Helbah, Aphik, and Rehob. Instead, the people of Asher moved in among the Canaanites, who controlled the land, for they failed to drive them out.

Likewise, the tribe of Naphtali failed to drive out the residents of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath. Instead, they moved in among the Canaanites, who controlled the land. Nevertheless, the people of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath were forced to work as slaves for the people of Naphtali. – Judges 1:30-33 NLT

One of the reasons the Phoenicians even existed was because of the failure of these three tribes to do what God had commanded them to do. As a result of their failure to drive out the inhabitants of the land, the Phoenicians occupied territory that was supposed to belong to the people of God. Now, Solomon had just awarded the Phoenicians with even more of Israel’s God-given inheritance.

Solomon’s main focus was the city of Jerusalem. Having willingly forfeited the cities located in the north, Solomon poured his time and energy into expanding his royal capital. To do so, Solomon enslaved thousands of non-Jews to work as laborers on his various rebuilding and enlargement projects. He conscripted Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites who were living in the land of Israel to provide slave labor for his ambitious expansion program. These people were used to extend the walls of Jerusalem, connecting the old City of David with the newer area surrounding the temple complex and the royal palaces and administrative headquarters. They “built towns as supply centers and constructed towns where his chariots and horses could be stationed” (1 Kings 9:19 NLT). Solomon was constructing a virtual theme park dedicated to his greatness; replete with palaces, terraces, stables for his many horses, and barracks for his growing army. 

And it’s important to remember that God had warned that His kings were not to refrain from certain actions.

The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself… – Deuteronomy 17:16 NLT

The king must not take many wives for himself… – Deuteronomy 17:17 NLT

And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself… – Deuteronomy 17:17 NLT

Solomon was in violation of each of these commands. And while at this point, it appears that the daughter of Pharaoh was his only wife, it wouldn’t be long before he expanded his household greatly.

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. The LORD had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the LORD. – 1 Kings 11:1-3 NLT

Whether it was wives and concubines or horses and chariots, Solomon always seemed to be in building mode. Enough was never enough. He even built a fleet of boats and began an aggressive trading venture that netted him 16 tons of gold. For Solomon, bigger was always better. And yet, late in his life, Solomon would make a sad but telling admission.

I increased my possessions:
I built houses for myself;
I planted vineyards for myself.
I designed royal gardens and parks for myself,
and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them.
I constructed pools of water for myself,
to irrigate my grove of flourishing trees.
I purchased male and female slaves,
and I owned slaves who were born in my house;
I also possessed more livestock—both herds and flocks—
than any of my predecessors in Jerusalem.
I also amassed silver and gold for myself,
as well as valuable treasures taken from kingdoms and provinces.
I acquired male singers and female singers for myself,
and what gives a man sensual delight—a harem of beautiful concubines.
So I was far wealthier than all my predecessors in Jerusalem,
yet I maintained my objectivity.
I did not restrain myself from getting whatever I wanted;
I did not deny myself anything that would bring me pleasure.
So all my accomplishments gave me joy;
this was my reward for all my effort.
Yet when I reflected on everything I had accomplished
and on all the effort that I had expended to accomplish it,
I concluded: “All these achievements and possessions are ultimately profitless—
like chasing the wind!
There is nothing gained from them on earth.” – Ecclesiastes 1:4-11 NLT

They say, “hindsight is 20-20,” and that would prove to be true in Solomon’s life. He would one day discover that his obsession with constant expansion, endless pleasure, and rampant materialism would never satisfy. But at the midway point of his reign, he didn’t know any better. So, he continued to try and balance his love for the things of this world with his love for God.  He kept accumulating material goods, while at the same time, offering sacrifices to God. Without even realizing it, he was worshiping two gods. Solomon was living out the very thing Jesus would later warn His disciples about.

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” – Matthew 6:24 NLT

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