April 16 Reading: I Kings 10-11 Commentary
“But King Solomon loved many foreign women…his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.” (I Kings 11:1, 4).
I Kings 10 – A Special Visitor
So far, we’ve seen that many people sought an audience with Solomon. People knew his wisdom was special (see I Kings 3:16-23) and that it far exceeded other wise men of the time (see I Kings 4:29-32). His fame and that of the kingdom spread far and wide.
The most well-known and prestigious visitor to cross his path is found in I Kings 10 – the queen of Sheba. Sheba, located in southwestern Arabia, was the homeland of the Sabeans. They were known for their commercial enterprises that stretched from Syria, through Africa into India. So it was a wealthy kingdom as a result of trade in gold, precious stones, perfumes and spices.
The queen “came to test him [Solomon] with hard questions” (v. 1), with all “that was in her heart” (v. 2). Solomon withheld nothing from her, “there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her” (v. 3).
When she saw all the wisdom of Solomon and everything he had built, she said:
“It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard…Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” (vv. 6-9).
Before departing, she gave Solomon vast amounts of riches, gold, spices and precious stones. And Solomon reciprocated by giving her whatever she asked (v. 10, 13).
Solomon’s Great Wealth
Did we mention that Solomon and by extension Israel was wealthy? I Kings 10:14-28 gives us the clearest picture of just how wealthy.
For starters, the text says that the weight of gold alone that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents. One talent is equal to 75 pounds (v. 16). That’s almost 800,000 ounces of gold per year (16 oz. times 75 times 666). In today’s prices, Solomon was receiving over 1.5 BILLION dollars in gold per year! No wonder he was able to make so many decorative shields (vv. 16-17), thrones and figures (vv. 18-20) and drinking vessels (v. 21).
The text also says that Solomon made silver “…as common in Jerusalem as stones…” (v. 27). With all this wealth, “Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches” (v. 23).
Additionally, Solomon brought exotic animals to Israel (v. 22), made cedar trees “as abundant as the sycamores” (v. 27), and had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen (v. 26).
Consequences of Wealth
So did the accumulation of Solomon’s wealth have consequences? Probably.
On the positive side, his prosperity most likely contributed to growth in other areas, like architecture, music, the arts and education. With all the earth seeking Solomon’s presence (v. 24), significant mind-power was coming to the region.
A potentially negative consequence could be found in the effect wealth has on people. I Timothy 6:9-10 offers this warning:
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
We don’t know if Solomon’s wealth opened him up to other types of harmful lusts. But anything that might take one’s mind off the Lord can lead to trouble in other areas. It appears that happened to Solomon in I Kings 11.
I Kings 11 – Solomon Turns From the Lord
I Kings 11:1 is the turning point in Solomon’s narrative. Up until this point, everything about Solomon’s life and his favor with the Lord had been positive. But all that is about to change.
The chapter begins with these foreboding words: “But King Solomon loved many foreign women…” – with emphasis in the text on the word “foreign” (v. 1). We’ve already been told he married Pharaoh’s daughter (I Kings 3:1) but he did not stop there. He married women from the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites.
In doing so, Solomon broke God’s command to against marrying foreign women (Ex. 34:12-17; Deut. 7:1-3). He also violated God’s standard for one man-one woman marriage (Gen. 2:24-25), although he’d seen this done by his father David as well. In all, Solomon had 700 official wives and 300 concubines (non-official wives)(v. 3).
This would have been bad enough but his wives influenced him into another error. The text says sadly that,
“…his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods” (vv. 4-8).
God’s Response to Solomon’s Disobedience
The things Solomon did in his later years displeased the Lord. God had appeared to him twice but Solomon “…did not keep what the Lord had commanded” (v. 10). So God told him,
“Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen” (vv. 11-13).
God began to raise up adversaries against Solomon because of his disobedience. Two are listed in the text: Hadad the Edommite (vv. 14-22) and Rezon, the son of Eliada. Specifically, Rezon became king of Damascus and “was an adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon” (v. 25). Additionally, Jeroboam (Solomon’s servant – v. 26) is introduced as the person to receive the fulfillment of God’s prophecy to Solomon.
Solomon had made Jeroboam officer over the labor force of the tribe of Joseph. One day, a prophet named Ahijah appeared to Jeroboam in a field. While there, Ahijah took off his new garment, tore it into twelve pieces and told Jeroboam to take ten pieces for himself. This symbolized God tearing away 10 tribes from Israel and giving them to Jeroboam because of Solomon’s sin (vv 29-35). Only Judah would remain with the house of Solomon, in remembrance of his father so that “David may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem” (v. 36).
God promised Jeroboam that he would flourish and could build an enduring house for himself if he obeyed the Lord (vv. 37-38). Jeroboam won’t take the Lord up on that offer. That is sad because his narrative in history could have been entirely different than what we will see.
Solomon died having reigned in Israel 40 years. And Rehoboam his son became king (vv. 41-43).
Questions to Consider:
Your wealth can have a ripple affect on to others. As you prosper, others can benefit. As long as you keep God first, there is nothing wrong with generating large amounts of wealth. The Bible never condemns it. Is money a driving force in your life? Do you rely on it more than the Lord? What problems has the love of money caused in your life?
“Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.” – I Corinthians 15:33
Solomon had it all – riches, peace, fame. Still, he wanted something more – to marry foreign women. They led him astray, into worshipping false gods. God was displeased and brought judgment on Solomon’s house for this sin. Do you have poor influences in your life leading you down the wrong path?
What other points would you want to know about in our I Kings 10-11 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.