Solomon's attachment to strange women, and consequent idolatry, 1,2. Number of his wives and concubines, 3. In his old age they turn away his heart from God, 4. He builds temples to idols, burns incense and sacrifices to them, 5-8. The Lord is angry with him, and threatens to deprive him of the kingdom, but will leave one tribe for David's sake, 9-13. The Lord stirs up Hadad, the Edomite, to be his enemy; the history of this man, 14-22. He stirs another adversary against him, Rezon the son of Eliadah. He and Hadad plague Israel, 23-25. Jeroboam also becomes his enemy, and the reason why, 26-28. Ahijah the prophet meets Jeroboam, and promises, in the name of the Lord, that God will rend Israel from the family of Solomon, and give him ten tribes, 29-39. Solomon, hearing of this, seeks to put Jeroboam to death, who escapes to Egypt, where he continues till the death of Solomon, 40. Solomon dies, after having reigned over Israel forty years; and his son Rehoboam reigns in his stead, 41-43.
Notes on Chapter 11
Many strange women
That is, idolaters; together with the daughter of Pharaoh: she was also one of those strange women and an idolater. But many think she became a proselyte to the Jewish religion; of this there is no evidence.
He had seven hundred wives, princesses
How he could get so many of the blood royal from the different surrounding nations, is astonishing; but probably the daughters of noblemen, generals,
And three hundred concubines
These were wives of the second rank, who were taken according to the usages of those times; but their offspring could not inherit. Sarah was to Abraham what these seven hundred princesses were to Solomon; and the three hundred concubines stood in the same relation to the Israelitish king as Hagar and Keturah did to the patriarch.
Here then are one thousand wives to form this great bad man's harem! Was it possible that such a person could have any piety to God, who was absorbed by such a number of women? We scarcely allow a man to have the fear of God who has a second wife or mistress; in what state then must the man be who has one thousand of them? We may endeavour to excuse all this by saying, "It was a custom in the East to have a multitude of women, and that there were many of those whom Solomon probably never saw," might not have seen? Was it for reasons of state, or merely court splendour, that he had so many? How then is it said that he loved many strange women?-that he clave to them in love? And did he not give them the utmost proofs of his attachment when he not only tolerated their iniquitous worship in the land, but built temples to their idols, and more, burnt incense to them himself? As we should not condemn what God justifies, so we should not justify what God condemns. He went after Ashtaroth, the impure Venus of the Sidonians; after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites; after Chemosh, the abomination of the Moabites; and after the murderous Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. He seems to have gone as far in iniquity as it was possible.
The hill that is before Jerusalem
This was the Mount of Olives.
The Lord was angry with Solomon
Had not this man's delinquency been strongly marked by the Divine disapprobation, it would have had a fatal effect on the morals of mankind. Vice is vice, no matter who commits it. And God is as much displeased with sin in Solomon as he can be with it in the most profligate, uneducated wretch. And although God sees the same sin in precisely the same degree of moral turpitude as to the act itself, yet there may be circumstances which greatly aggravate the offense, and subject the offender to greater punishment. Solomon was wise; he knew better; his understanding showed him the vanity as well as the wickedness of idolatry. God had appeared unto him twice, and thus given him the most direct proof of his being and of his providence. The promises of God had been fulfilled to him in the most remarkable manner, and in such a way as to prove that they came by a Divine counsel, and not by any kind of casualty. All these were aggravations of Solomon's crimes, as to their demerit; for the same crime has, in every case, the same degree of moral turpitude in the sight of God; but circumstances may so aggravate, as to require the offender to be more grievously punished; so the punishment may be legally increased where the crime is the same. Solomon deserved more punishment for his worship of Ashtaroth than any of the Sidonians did, though they performed precisely the same acts. The Sidonians had never known the true God; Solomon had been fully acquainted with him.
Forasmuch as this is done of thee
Was not this another warning from the Lord? And might not Solomon have yet recovered himself? Was there not mercy in this message which he might have sought and found?
Will give one tribe-for David my servant's sake
The line of the Messiah must be preserved. The prevailing lion must come out of the tribe of Judah: not only the tribe must be preserved, but the regal line and the regal right. All this must be done for the true David's sake: and this was undoubtedly what God had in view by thus miraculously preserving the tribe of Judah and the royal line, in the midst of so general a defection.
And for Jerusalem's sake
As David was a type of the Messiah, so was Jerusalem a type of the true Church: therefore the OLD Jerusalem must be preserved in the hands of the tribe of Judah, till the true David should establish the NEW Jerusalem in the same land, and in the same city. And what a series of providences did it require to do all these things!
The Lord stirred up an adversary
A satan,. When he sent to Hiram to assist him in building the temple of the Lord, he could say, There was no satan, see 1 Kings 5:4; and all his kingdom was in peace and security,-every than dwelt under his vine, and under his fig tree, 1 Kings 4:25: but now that he had turned away from God, three satans rise up against him at once, Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam.
Was gone up to bury the slain
The slain Edomites; for Joab had in the course of six months exterminated all the males, except Hadad and his servants, who escaped to Egypt. Instead of bury the slain, the Targum has to take the spoils of the slain.
Hadad being yet a little child.
naar katan, a little boy; one who was apprehensive of his danger, and could, with his father's servants, make his escape: not an infant.
These arose out of Midian
They at first retired to Midian, which lay to the southwest of the Dead Sea. Not supposing themselves in safety there, they went afterwards to Paran in the south of Idumea, and getting a number of persons to join them in Paran, they went straight to Egypt, where we find Hadad became a favourite with Pharaoh, who gave him his sister-in-law to wife; and incorporated him and his family with his own.
Let me go in any wise.
It does not appear that he avowed his real intention to Pharaoh; for at this time there must have been peace between Israel and Egypt, Solomon having married the daughter of Pharaoh.
Rezon the son of Eliadah
Thus God fulfilled his threatening by the prophet Nathan: If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; 2 Samuel 7:14.
And reigned in Damascus.
Rezon was one of the captains of Hadadezer, whom David defeated. It seems that at this time Rezon escaped with his men; and; having lived, as is supposed, some time by plunder, he seized on Damascus, and reigned there till David took Damascus, when he subdued Syria, and drove out Rezon. But after Solomon's defection from God, Rezon, finding that God had departed from Israel, recovered Damascus; and joining with Hadad, harassed Solomon during the remaining part of his reign. But some think that Hadad and Rezon were the same person.
Jeroboam the son of Nebat
From the context we learn that Jeroboam while a young man was employed by Solomon to superintend the improvements and buildings at Millo, and had so distinguished himself there by his industry and good conduct as to attract general notice, and to induce Solomon to set him over all the labourers employed in that work, belonging to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, called here the house of Joseph. At first it appears that Solomon employed none of the Israelites in any drudgery; but it is likely that, as he grew profane, he grew tyrannical and oppressive: and at the works of Millo he changed his conduct; and there, in all probability, were the seeds of disaffection sown. And Jeroboam, being a clever and enterprising man, knew well how to avail himself of the general discontent.
When Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem
On what errand he was going out of Jerusalem, we know not.
Ahijah the Shilonite
He was one of those who wrote the history of the reign of Solomon, as we find from 2 Chronicles 9:29, and it is supposed that it was by him God spake twice to Solomon; and particularly delivered the message which we find in this chapter, 1 Kings 11:11-13.
Take thee ten pieces
The garment was the symbol of the kingdom of Israel; the twelve pieces the symbol of the twelve tribes; the ten pieces given to Jeroboam, of the ten tribes which should be given to him, and afterwards form the kingdom of Israel, ruling in Samaria, to distinguish it from the kingdom of Judah, ruling in Jerusalem.
That David my servant may have a light alway
That his posterity may never fail, and the regal line never become extinct. This, as we have already seen, was in reference to the Messiah. He was not only David's light, but he was a light to enlighten the Gentiles.
According to all that thy soul desireth
It appears from this that Jeroboam had affected the kingdom, and was seeking for an opportunity to seize on the government. God now tells him, by his prophet, what he shall have, and what he shall not have, in order to prevent him from attempting to seize on the whole kingdom, to the prejudice of the spiritual seed of David.
And build thee a sure house
He would have continued his posterity on the throne of Israel, had he not by his wickedness forfeited the promises of God, and thrown himself out of the protection of the Most High.
But not for ever.
They shall be in affliction and distress till the Messiah come, who shall sit on the throne of David to order it and establish it in judgment and justice for ever. Jarchi says, on this verse, "When the Messiah comes, the kingdom shall be restored to the house of David."
Sought-to kill Jeroboam.
He thought by this means to prevent the punishment due to his crimes.
Unto Shishak king of Egypt
This is the first time we meet with the proper name of an Egyptian king, Pharaoh being the common name for all the sovereigns of that country. Some suppose that this Shishak was the Sesostris so renowned for his wars and his conquests. But it is likely that this king lived long before Solomon's time.
The book of the acts of Solomon?
These acts were written by Nathan the prophet, Ahijah the Shilonite, and Iddo the seer; as we learn from 2 Chronicles 9:29. Probably from these were the Books of Kings and Chronicles composed; but the original documents are long since lost.
Solomon reigned-forty years.
Josephus says fourscore years, which is sufficiently absurd. Calmet supposes him to have been eighteen years old when he came to the throne, and that he died A.M. 3029, aged fifty-eight years; and, when we consider the excess in which he lived, and the criminal passions which he must have indulged among his thousand wives, and their idolatrous and impure worship, this life was as long as could be reasonably expected.
Solomon slept with his fathers
He died in almost the flower of his age, and, it appears unregretted. His government was no blessing to Israel; and laid, by its exactions and oppressions, the foundation of that schism which was so fatal to the unhappy people of Israel and Judah, and was the most powerful procuring cause of the miseries which have fallen upon the Jewish people from that time until now.
I. IT may now be necessary to give a more distinct outline of the character of this king.
1. In his infancy and youth he had the high honour of being peculiarly loved by the Lord; and he had a name given him by the express authority of God himself, which to himself and others must ever call to remembrance this peculiar favour of the Most High.
There is little doubt that he was a most amiable youth, and his whole conduct appeared to justify the high expectations that were formed of him.
2. He ascended the Israelitish throne at a time the most favourable for the cultivation of those arts so necessary to the comfort and improvement of life. Among all the surrounding nations Israel had not one open enemy; there was neither adversary, nor evil occurrent, 1 Kings 5:4. He had rest on every side, and from the universal and profound peace which he enjoyed, the very important name Jedidiah, "beloved of the Lord" which was given him by Divine authority was changed to that of Solomon, the Peaceable, 2 Samuel 12:24,25, which at once indicated the state of the country, and the character of his own mild, pacific mind.
3. To the dying charge of his pious father relative to the building a temple for the Lord, he paid the most punctual attention. He was fond of architecture, as we may learn from the account that is given of his numerous buildings and improvements; and yet it does not appear that he at all excelled in architectural knowledge. Hiram, the amiable king of Tyre, and his excellent workmen, were the grand directors and executors of the whole. By his public buildings he doubtless rendered Jerusalem highly respectable; but his passion for such works was not on the whole an advantage to his subjects, as it obliged him to have recourse to a burdensome system of taxation, which at first oppressed and exasperated his people, and ultimately led to the fatal separation of Israel and Judah.
4. That he improved the trade and commerce of his country is sufficiently evident: by his public buildings vast multitudes were employed; and knowledge in the most beneficial arts must have been greatly increased, and the spirit of industry highly cultivated.
Commerce does not appear to have been much regarded, if even known, in Israel, previously to the days of Solomon. The most celebrated maritime power then in the world was that of the Tyrians. With great address and prudence he availed himself of their experience and commercial knowledge, sent his ships in company with theirs to make long and dangerous but lucrative voyages, and, by getting their sailors aboard of his own vessels, gained possession of their nautical skill, and also a knowledge of those safe ports in which they harboured, and of the rich countries with which they traded. His friendly alliance with the king of Tyre was a source of advantage to Israel, and might have been much more so had it been prudently managed. But after the time of Solomon we find it scarcely mentioned, and therefore it does not appear that the Jews continued to follow a track which had been so successfully opened to them; their endless contentions, and the ruinous wars of the two kingdoms, paralyzed all their commercial exertions: till at length all the maritime skill which they had acquired from the expert and industrious Tyrians, dwindled down to the puny art of managing a few boats on the internal lakes of their own country. Had it not been for the destructive feuds that reigned between the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah, that country might have become one of the best and richest maritime powers of either Asia or Europe. Their situation was grand and commanding, but their execrable jealousies deprived them of its advantages, exposed them to the aggressions of their enemies, and finally brought them to ruin.
5. I have intimated that Solomon was truly pious in his youth; of this there can be no doubt; it was on this account that the Lord loved him, and his zeal in the cause of true religion, and high respect for the honour of God, are strong indications of such a frame of mind. Had we no other proof of this than his prayer for wisdom, and his prayer at the dedication of the temple, it would put the matter for ever beyond dispute, independently of the direct testimonies we have from God himself on the subject. He loved the worship and ordinances of God, and was a pattern to his subjects of the strictest attention to religious duties. He even exceeded the requisitions of the law in the multitude of his sacrifices, and was a careful observer of those annual festivals so necessary to preserve the memory of the principal facts of the Israelitish history, and those miraculous interventions of God in the behalf of that people.
6. There can be no doubt that Solomon possessed the knowledge of governing well; of the importance of this knowledge he was duly aware, and this was the wisdom that he so particularly sought from God. "I am," said he, "but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in; and thy servant is in the midst of a great people that cannot be counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, and that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing;" 1 Kings 3:8-10. This wisdom he did receive from God; and he is here a pattern to all kings, who, as they are the vicegerents of the Lord, should earnestly seek that wisdom which is from above, that they may be able to know how to govern the people intrusted to their care; because, in every civil government, there are a multitude of things on which a king may be called to decide, concerning which neither the laws, nor the commonly received political maxims by which, in particular cases, the conduct of a governor is to be regulated, can give any specific direction.
7. But the wisdom of Solomon was not confined to the art of government, he appears to have possessed a universal knowledge. The sages of the East were particularly distinguished by their accurate knowledge of human nature, from which they derived innumerable maxims for the regulation of man in every part of his moral conduct, and in all the relations in which he could possibly be placed. Hence their vast profusion of maxims, proverbs, instructive fables, apologues, enigmas, great collections of which still remain locked up in the languages of Asia, particularly the Sanscrit, Arabic, and Persian; besides those which, by the industry of learned men, have been translated and published in the languages of Europe. Much of this kind appears in the books of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus in the Apocrypha, and in the very excellent collections of D'Herbelot, Visdelou, and Galand, in the Bibliotheque Orientale. That Solomon possessed this wisdom in a very high degree, the book of Proverbs bears ample testimony, leaving Ecclesiastes for the present out of the consideration.
8. As a poet, Solomon stands deservedly high, though of his one thousand and five poems not one, except the book of Canticles, remains. This ode alone, taken in a literary point of view, is sufficient to raise any man to a high degree of poetic fame. It is a most interesting drama, where what Racine terms the genie createur, the creative genius, every where appears; in which the imagery, which is always borrowed from nature, is impressive and sublime; the characters accurately distinguished and defined, the strongest passion, in its purest and most vigorous workings, elegantly portrayed; and in which allusions the most delicate, to transactions of the tenderest complexion, while sufficiently described to make them intelligible, are nevertheless hidden from the eye of the gross vulgar by a tissue as light as a gossamer covering. Such is the nature of this inimitable ode, which, had it not been perverted by weak but well designing men to purposes to which it can never legitimately apply, would have ranked with the highest productions of the Epithalamian kind that ever came from the pen of man. But alas! for this exquisite poem, its true sense has been perverted; it has been forced to speak a language that was never intended, a language far from being honourable to the cause which it was brought to support, and subversive of the unity and simplicity of the ode itself. By a forced mode of interpretation it has been hackneyed to death, and allegorized to destruction. It is now little read, owing to the injudicious manner in which it has been interpreted.
It was scarcely to be expected that the son of such a father should not, independently of inspiration, have caught a portion of the pure poetic fire. Though the spirit of poetry, strictly speaking, is not transmissible by ordinary generation, yet most celebrated poets have had poetical parents; but in many cases the talent has degenerated into that of music, and the spirit of poetry in the sire has become a mere musical instrument in the hands of the son. This however was not the case with the son of David, for though vastly inferior to his father in this gift, he had nevertheless the spirit and powers of a first-rate poet.
9. His knowledge in natural history must have been very extensive; it is said, "He spake of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall. He spake also of beasts, of fowls, of reptiles, and of fishes;" 1 Kings 4:33. All this knowledge has perished; his countrymen, the prophets excepted, were without taste, and took no pains to preserve what they did not relish. A man of such mental power and comprehension under the direction of Divine light must have spoken of things as they are. His doctrine therefore of generation and corruption, of nutrition, vegetation, production, aliments, tribes, classes, families, and habits, relative to the different subjects in botany, zoology, ornithology, entomology, and ichthyology, which are all evidently referred to here, must have been at once correct, instructive, and delightful. I have already lamented the labour it has cost our Rays, Tourneforts, Linnes, Buffons, Willoughbys, Swammerdams, and Bloschs, to regain those sciences which possibly were possessed in their highest degree by the Israelitish king, and which, alas! are all lost, except a few traces in the book of Ecclesiastes, if that work can be traced to so remote an age as that of Solomon.
10. As a moral philosopher the author of the book of Ecclesiastes occupies no mean rank. At present we may consider this work as a production of Solomon, though this is disputed, and the question shall be considered in its proper place. This book contains such a fund of wisdom, applied to the regulation of life, and all referred to the proper end, that it most deservedly occupies a high place in Biblical ethics, and deserves the closest attention of every reader.
11. The proofs of Solomon's vast wisdom, as brought into practical effect, lie in a very small compass, because his history in the Bible is short, his own writings in general lost, and the annals of his reign, as compiled by Nathan the prophet, Ahijah the Shilonite, and Iddo the seer, long since perished. The decision between the two harlots is almost the only instance.
Of his interesting interview with the queen of Sheba, and the discussions into which they entered, we have only the fact stated, without the least detail of particulars. Those who have read the Concessus of Harari, or the Heetopadesa, of Veeshnoo Sarma, will regret that the conversations of the wisest of men, with probably the most intelligent of women, should have been lost to the world, which may be reasonably concluded to have been as far superior to the excellent works above referred to, as they are beyond the maxims of Rochefoucault, and the sayings of Madame Maintenon.
12. The wisdom of the East has ever been celebrated; and if we may believe their own best writers, much of what they possess has been derived from Solomon. Encomiums of his wisdom are everywhere to be met with in the Asiatic writers; and his name is famous in every part of the East. Most of the oriental historians, poets, and philosophers, mention Soliman ben Daoud, "Solomon the son of David." They relate that he ascended the throne of Israel at the death of his father, when he was only twelve years of age, and that God subjected to his government, not only men, but good and evil spirits, the fowls of the air, and the winds of heaven. They agree with the sacred writers in stating that he employed seven years in building the temple at Jerusalem.
Solomon's seal, and Solomon's ring, are highly celebrated by them, and to these they attribute a great variety of magical effects. They state that without his ring he had not the science of government; and having once lost it, he did not remount his throne for forty days, as being destitute of that wisdom without which he could not decide according to truth and equity. But these things are probably spoken allegorically by their oldest writers. Of the throne of this prince they speak in terms of the most profound admiration. I have met with the most minute description of its magnificence, its ivory, gold, and jewels, and an estimate of its cost in lacs of rupees! According to those writers it had 12,000 seats of gold on the right hand for patriarchs and prophets, and as many on the left for the doctors of the law, who assisted him in the distribution of justice.
In various parts of the Koran Solomon is spoken of in terms of the highest respect, and is represented as a true believer; though, through the envy of demons, magic and sorcery were attributed to him. Mohammed speaks of this in the second surat of his Koran. The story, in sum, is this: The devils, by God's permission, having tempted Solomon without success, made use of the following stratagem to blast his reputation: they wrote several books of magic, and hid them under his throne; and, after his death, told the chief men that if they wished to know by what means Solomon had obtained absolute dominion over men, genii, and the winds, they should dig under his throne. This they did, and found the aforesaid books full of impious superstitions. The better sort would not learn these incantations; but the common people did, and published them as the genuine works of Solomon. From this imputation the Koran justifies him, by saying, Solomon was not an unbeliever, surat 2. From the wonder-working signet and ring of the Asiatics came the Clavicle of Solomon, so celebrated among the Jewish rabbins, and the Christian occult philosophers; for such things found in Cornelius Agrippa, and such like writers, are not late inventions, but have descended from a very remote antiquity, as the Koran and the various commentators on it sufficiently prove. See Calmet and Sale.
The oriental traditions concerning this prince have been embodied in the Soliman Nameh of Ferdusi, in Persian, and in the Soliman Nameh of Uscobi, in Turkish. D'Herbelot mentions one of these histories in Persian verse, containing 1571 couplets.
Indeed, the traditions concerning the wonderful knowledge of Solomon, which abound so much in the East, are at least an indirect proof that many things relative to this prince have been preserved among them which are not mentioned in our sacred books, but which they have blended so miserably with fables that it is impossible now to distinguish the precious from the vile.
Works attributed to Solomon have existed in different ages, from his time till the present. Eusebius states that Hezekiah, finding the Jews putting too much confidence in the books of Solomon, relative to cures and different occult arts, ordered them to be suppressed. Josephus positively says that Solomon did compose books of charms to cure diseases, and conjurations to expel demons, Antiq., lib. viii., cap. 2. He states farther, that a Jew named Eliezar cured several demoniacs in the presence of Vespasian, by reciting the charms which had been invented by Solomon. R. D. Kimchi speaks of a book of Solomon entitled The Cure of Diseases, which Genebrard supposes to be the same work of which Josephus speaks. And Origen speaks of conjurations which were used by the Jews in his time, and which they professed to derive from the books of Solomon.
There are still extant books of this kind attributed to Solomon, such as The Enchantments, The Clavicle, The Ring, The Hygromantia, The New Moons, and The Shadows of Ideas; but these, as they now stand, are the inventions of quacks and impostors, and entitled to no regard. If there were any books containing the wisdom of Solomon, they are either irrecoverably lost, or exist in mutilated fragments among the Asiatic sages; and are disfigured by being connected with improbable tales, and pretended mantras or charms.