Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament1 KINGS 11
THE APOSTASY, THE REJECTION, AND THE DEATH OF SOLOMON -- HIS APOSTASY
Now king Solomon loved many foreign women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites; of the nations concerning which Jehovah said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go among them, neither shall they come among you; for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with Jehovah 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. And Solomon did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and went not fully after Jehovah, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, in the mount that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the children of Ammon. And so did he for all his foreign wives, who burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.
The wholesale wickedness of Solomon is presented in this paragraph with all the tenderness and reluctance that filled the heart of the narrator. It should be noted that Solomon's age, "when he was old," is mentioned here, apparently as somewhat of an amelioration of his guilt. And the statement that "he went not fully after Jehovah," while true as it stands, obscures the fact of his total apostasy. Scholars are reluctant to face what is written here.
Keil wrote that "Solomon continued to offer the sacrifices to Jehovah three times in the year (as in 1 Kings 9:25), and that certainly to the day of his death";F1 and Hammond spoke of some who stress the fact that the text does not say that Solomon "served the false gods."F2 These efforts to soften the fact of Solomon's apostasy are futile. The passage in 1 Kings 9:25 refers to a habit in Solomon's early reign, not to the day of his death, and building temples to the name and glory of heathen gods is emphatically the same thing as "serving them." Furthermore, the statement that "when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart," although true enough, cannot obscure the multitude of his sinful violations of God's law throughout his whole career.
The most impressive symbol of Christ in the Tabernacle was the veil, and Solomon left it out of his Temple, into which he also brought the pagan pillars of Jachin and Boaz. His polygamy, his multiplication of horses and chariots, his heaping unto himself vast riches of silver and gold, his probable usurpation of priestly functions (1 Kings 9:25), and his making images contrary to the Second Commandment are only a few of his departures from God's Word. These were not sins of "old age."
Daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites
(1 Kings 11:1). The crime of these marriages was due to Solomon's union with nationals, with whom intermarriage was forbidden (Exo. 34:16 and Deut. 7:3-4).F3 The simple truth is that Solomon had no respect whatever for God's law in matters where the Divine command contradicted his personal desire.
Seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines
(1 Kings 11:3). There is no need to doubt the accuracy of these numbers.F4 The N.Y. Times, Sept. 11, 1939, carried the story of Ibn Saud, king of Arabia, who had 250 wives and 51 children.F5 Chosroes II had between 3,000 and 12,000 concubines; and the Sultan Mulay Ismail is reported to have had 2,000 wives, and 800 concubines!F6
Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians
(1 Kings 11:5). This goddess, the same as Astarte, was called Ishtar in Mesopotamia; in Syria she was the female consort of Baal, and a model for the Greek Aphrodite. She was the goddess of fertility and of erotic love.F7 The Canaanites worshipped her with unbelievable licentiousness. It is not difficult to see why a man like Solomon went after that kind of a goddess.
Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites
(1 Kings 11:5). No one knows any difference between this abomination and Molech, the terrible fire-god to whom infant children were sacrificed. There is no record of Solomon's ever offering such a sacrifice, but even if he had done such a thing, no Jewish writer would ever have mentioned it. He certainly built a temple to Molech, and the fact of Rehoboam being the only son of Solomon mentioned in the Bible raises some question regarding the reason why. The worship of Molech was terribly common in Jerusalem, with its accompanying sacrifices of children.F8
Chemosh the abomination of Moab in the mount that is before Jerusalem
(1 Kings 11:5). This was a sun-god, worshipped by the Moabites as their king and as a god of war. He is also called a god of the Ammonites in Judg. 11:24).F9 The mount in front of Jerusalem is the mount of Olives east of the city. (Practically all commentators agree that in front of is the equivalent of east of.)F10 Due to those high places which Solomon built there, it was called, The Mount of Offense, The Mount of Corruption, and the Mount of Scandal.F11 Chemosh was the twin brother of Molech of the Ammonites, equally cruel, licentious, and vulgar in his demands.F12
THE JUDGMENT OF GOD UPON SOLOMON
And Jehovah was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from Jehovah, the God of Israel, who had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which Jehovah commanded. Wherefore Jehovah said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it, for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to thy son, for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen.
There can be no wonder at God's being angry with Solomon, the only marvel being that it was not evident much sooner. "Not yet, would the kingdom be taken away; because a remnant of it would remain in Jerusalem and Judah only."F13 However, it was only a matter of time until God would utterly dissolve and destroy the "sinful kingdom" (Amos 9:8). Neither the sinful monarchy nor the Temple was, in the ultimate sense, in harmony with God's will, in spite of the fact that God surely used both of them (1 Sam. 8 and 2 Sam. 7).
GOD RAISED UP HADAD AS SOLOMON'S ADVERSARY
And Jehovah raised up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite: he was of the king's seed in Edom. For it came to pass, when David was in Edom, and Joab the captain of the host was gone up to bury the slain, and had smitten every male in Edom (for Joab and all Israel remained there six months, until he had cut off every male in Edom); that Hadad fled, he and certain Edomites of his father's servants with him, to go into Egypt, Hadad being yet a little child. And they arose out of Midian, and came to Paran; and they took men with them out of Paran, and they came to Egypt, unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house, and appointed him victuals, and gave him land. And Hadad found great favor in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him to wife the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen. And the sister of Tahpenes bare him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh's house; and Genubath was in Pharaoh's house among the sons of Pharaoh. And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, Let me depart, that I may go to mine own country. Then Pharaoh said unto him, But what hast thou lacked with me, that, behold, thou seekest to go to thine own country? And he answered, Nothing: howbeit only let me depart.
David and Joab had wrought terrible and near-complete destruction upon the Edomites, but the little child Hadad escaped to Egypt and retained in his heart a bitterness against Israel that would never terminate.
Every male in Edom
(1 Kings 11:16). This, of course, is hyperbole. They destroyed all the men they could find. As Hadad and his company did (1 Kings 11:17), others escaped in various directions. Edom was not destroyed on that occasion.F14
Hadad found great favor in the sight of Pharaoh
(1 Kings 11:19). This man who hated Israel and ruled in Edom would prove to be a powerful enemy of Israel. It was only the providence of God that prompted Pharaoh to grant such wonderful favors to this potential enemy of Solomon. It would appear that the Pharaoh whose daughter was married to Solomon had, at this time, been succeeded by another.
GOD RAISED UP REZON ANOTHER ADVERSARY TO SOLOMON
And God raised up [another] adversary unto him, Rezon the son of Eliada, who had fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah. And he gathered men unto him, and became captain over a troop, when David slew them [of Zobah]: and they went to Damascus, and dwelt therein, and reigned in Damascus. And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, besides the mischief that Hadad [did]: and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.
The two adversaries of Solomon mentioned in these two paragraphs were external enemies; but the fact of God's "raising them up," means that God would aid them in their designs against the kingdom of Israel. Not only did God raise up and strengthen powerful external enemies, he also raised up and blessed internal enemies also. In God's anger against Solomon, that monarch should have been able to discern that his glory days had vanished.
Ahijah was the prophet who informed Solomon of God's anger and of his intention of rending the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon's son, and the next section explains how that word came to Jeroboam.
JEROBOAM RECEIVES AHIJAH'S MESSAGE; HE FLEES TO EGYPT
And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow, he also lifted up his hand against the king. And this was the reason why he lifted up his hand against the king: Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breach of the city of David his father. And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valor; and Solomon saw the young man that he was industrious, and he gave him charge over all the labor of the house of Joseph. And it came to pass at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; now [Ahijah] had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field. And Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces; for thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee (but he shall have one tribe, for my servant David's sake and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel); because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon; and they have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and [to keep] my statutes and mine ordinances, as did David his father. Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand; but I will make him prince all the days of his life, for David my servant's sake whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes; but I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes. And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a lamp alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there. And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel. And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that which is right in mine eyes, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and will build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee. And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever. Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam; but Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, unto Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.
Jeroboam's flight into Egypt was possibly due to the news of Ahijah's announcement to Jeroboam having been spread over Jerusalem like wildfire. Nothing is here stated about that, but by some means or other, Solomon identified the man to whom God would give the greater part of his dominion. And, evil man that he was, he made every effort to thwart God's purpose by murdering Jeroboam.
Another possible reason for Jeroboam's flight to Egypt is also suggested. He was over all the forced labor of the tribe of Ephraim, and it is possible that the injustice of that situation could have provoked Jeroboam into some rebellious act against the king; and when Solomon sought to kill him, he fled to Egypt.
We shall hear of Shishak again in the reign of Rehoboam over Judah. "Shishak is the first Pharaoh to be mentioned by name in the Bible; we shall meet him again in 1 Kings 14:25."F15
Ahijah's exalted thoughts about what kind of a king Jeroboam would be proved to be the essence of vanity. Jeroboam proved to be a very wicked king.
THE DEATH OF SOLOMON
The final obituary for Solomon is this simple paragraph, but over it there flies the tragic banner of God's anger and displeasure.
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? And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.
The Holy Bible has devoted a great deal of space to this particular ruler, no doubt because of his building the Temple which was so dear to the hearts of the people. Much less space will be allocated to the subsequent kings of the divided kingdom, every one of them being judged by the author of Kings as one who either did or did not do the will of God. On that standard of evaluation, we must assign Solomon to the category of those who did not obey God. It is pitiful that one so talented and so worldly-wise should have failed, in the last analysis, to understand and appreciate Jehovah as the true and only God of heaven and earth.
Dentan has this summary of Solomon's inadequacy in his religious behavior:
"For Solomon, as for many other ordinary Israelites, both in his times and later, Yahweh was not the sole God of heaven and earth, the majestic Creator of the cosmos and the giver of the moral law, but merely the God of Israel, a national deity like the gods of other peoples."F16
In Solomon's dedicatory prayer and in the Psalms ascribed to: him, he rose to a very high theological plane, but his religious behavior failed to measure up to the lofty standard of his words. Like many another person, he preached a much better life than he lived! His sensual and materialistic life and his construction of pagan shrines and high places in Jerusalem itself had the practical effect of demoting (at least in the popular mind) the true and only God Jehovah to a parity with the pagan gods and goddesses of his harem. That was the popular religion of Solomon's day, and there is no evidence that he was able, actually, to rise above it. It was for that that God was angry with him.
Footnotes for 1 Kings 11
1: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 3a, p. 166.
2: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 5a, p. 221
3: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 3, p, 101.
4: Ibid., p. 102.
5: International Critical Commentary, Kings, p. 235.
6: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 335.
7: The Interpreter's Bible, op. cit., p. 103.
8: Arthur S. Peake's Commentary, p. 299.
9: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, op. cit., p.170.
10: John Skinner, International Critical Commentary, Genesis, (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1910). p. 51.
11: Ibid., p. 171.
12: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 322.
14: Albert Barnes, Kings, p. 179.
15: The Layman's Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 46.
16: Ibid., p. 44.