1 Kings 9-11
(Solomon in all his Splendor)
April 10th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon (fame due to[e] the name of the Lord), she came to test him with hard questions.

- 1 Kings 10:1 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

We read in earlier chapters that Solomon had become the third king of ancient Israel, following Saul and David. He achieved great success and built a magnificent temple in which he and the people could worship the one true God. He also built a spectacular palace for himself as well as other buildings, including one that was called the Forest of Lebanon, because the interior simulated a large forest.

Today's reading in chapters 9-11 provides an account of the peak of Solomon’s success and then summarizes the causes and consequences of his descent. Chapter 9 begins with the LORD speaking directly to Solomon, telling him that if he remains faithful that he and his successors will rule over Israel, but if not, then there would be severe consequences:

    And the Lord said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.

    And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments:

    Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.

    But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them:

    Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people:

    And at this house, which is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the Lord done thus unto this land, and to this house?

    And they shall answer, Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have taken hold upon other gods, and have worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath the Lord brought upon them all this evil.

    - 1 Kings 9:3-9 (KJV)

In chapter 10, it is the Queen of Sheba who comes to speak directly to Solomon. She could not believe the stories of the heights of his wisdom and wealth, but became a believer when she saw him and gave praise to “ ‘the LORD your God’ (1 Kings 10:9 - NIV).” They exchanged extravagant gifts of precious materials and other riches. The second part of this chapter describes the extent of Solomon’s wealth – he collected 25 tons of gold per year from his subjects (recorded in some translations as 666 talents of gold). With this wealth, Solomon built an immense throne for himself, and, according to this account, he was “greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth (1 Kings 10:23 - NIV).”

Chapter 11 provides a summary of the 700 wives of Solomon and describes how they led him astray into the world of pagan worship, just as the LORD had warned. Despite the warning from the LORD, Solomon did not remain faithful, and therefore the LORD prepared to take action against Solomon's kingdom, just as he had declared.

    God said to Solomon, “Since this is the way it is with you, that you have no intention of keeping faith with me and doing what I have commanded, I’m going to rip the kingdom from you and hand it over to someone else. But out of respect for your father David I won’t do it in your lifetime. It’s your son who will pay—I’ll rip it right out of his grasp. Even then I won’t take it all; I’ll leave him one tribe in honor of my servant David and out of respect for my chosen city Jerusalem.”

    - 1 Kings 11:11-13 (MSG)

The LORD lined up several adversaries against Solomon, and instructed the prophet Ahijah to tell Jeroboam, a servant of Solomon, that God would give him authority over ten of the tribes of Israel after Solomon’s death. Solomon passed away after 40 years on the throne. His son Rehoboam succeeded him.

Reflection and Application

It’s not enough to receive good advice and wisdom, but we must recognize it and follow it. Solomon was the world’s wisest man, but he disobeyed God by taking wives from other nations. In addition, his focus had moved from serving justice and his nation to building up his own wealth and reputation. A careful reading of chapters 9 and 10 in comparison to chapters 4 and 5 reveals the author's intent to highlight a shift in Solomon's motivations. The Christian author Philip Yancey wrote an analysis of the problem with Solomon (1):

    Solomon got whatever he wanted, especially when it came to symbols of power and status. Gradually, he depended less on God and more on the props around him: the world’s largest harem, a house twice the size of the temple, an army well-stocked with chariots, a strong economy. Success may have eliminated any crisis of disappointment with God, but it also seemed to eliminate Solomon’s desire for God at all. The more he enjoyed the world’s good gifts, the less he thought about the Giver.

    - Philip Yancey, Christian Author (1949 – Current)

Yancey has written an excellent series of books exploring many of the questions of contemporary Christians. Readers’ favorites include The Jesus I Never Knew and What’s So Amazing About Grace.

Maybe as you read today's passages you had one or both of the following thoughts: Was God serious? Would he really abandon Israel or was he just trying to put the "fear of God" into Solomon's heart? What about Solomon? What kind of fool was he? He had the opportunity to hear from God directly, he built God's temple, he was blessed beyond imagination. What thread of rationalized lies could he possibly have told to himself prior to building the worship areas for false idols? People who were brought up as pagans didn't know any better, but Solomon knew better than anyone else. How is this possible?

A tenet of conventional wisdom is that “there are no atheists in foxholes,” meaning that humans flock to God when in danger and when they fear the nearness of death. A contemporary corollary could be “success breeds atheism.” Solomon is a good example of this corollary as he appeared to abandon everything he knew about God when he became successful. If we have had any success in our lives, we may be able to see how easy it is to fall into this trap. If we recognize God's word in the Bible, then we have the instructions on how to navigate past these traps. Near the end of his life Solomon realized the traps that he had fallen into and subsequently recorded this wisdom in the book of Ecclesiasts:

    I made great works; I built houses and planted vineyards for myself; I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house; I also had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and of the provinces; I got singers, both men and women, and delights of the flesh, and many concubines.

    So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me. Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them; I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had spent in doing it, and again, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.

    - Ecclesiastes 2:5-9 (NRSV)

Solomon realized that he had been chasing the wind instead of following God. Would the next generation learn from this and return to God? Stay tuned and see what happens in the remainder of 1 and 2 Kings as transgressions eventually compound on top of other transgressions.

Here is a spoiler alert: God doesn't bluff. In Chapter 9, verse 8 God had warned Solomon that he would reduce the temple to a heap of rubble if the people turned from him and served other gods. This promise would be fulfilled in God's time, after several centuries of patience. The second book of Kings, chapter 25, describes the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, about 350 years after the completion of the temple. The building itself was obliterated and all of the carefully crafted items were destroyed or stolen.

    On the seventh day of the fifth month (this was in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan, captain of the bodyguard, came to Jerusalem as the agent of the king of Babylon. He burned the house of the LORD, the house of the king, and all the houses of Jerusalem (every noble house); he destroyed them by fire.

    The Chaldean troops who were with the captain of the guard tore down the walls that surrounded Jerusalem, and Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, led into exile the last of the army remaining in the city, and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon, and the last of the commoners. But some of the country’s poor the captain of the guard left behind as vinedressers and farmers.

    The bronze columns that belonged to the house of the LORD, and the stands and the bronze sea in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans broke into pieces; they carried away the bronze to Babylon. They took also the pots, the shovels, the snuffers, the cups and all the bronze articles used for service.

    The fire pans and the bowls that were of solid gold or silver the captain of the guard also carried off. The two columns, the one bronze sea, and the stands, which Solomon had made for the house of the LORD—the weight in bronze of all these articles was never calculated.

    - 2 Kings 25:8-16 (NAB)

The song in the video below provides a melodious reminder of what is truly valuable for us:

"LORD You Are More Precious than Silver," from the Beautiful Worship album

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What was the favorite gift that you ever received?
    2. What are some of the traps we have to watch out for in our culture?
    3. How can we balance material success and a desire to follow God?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, you are the one true God. All powerfull and all seeing. We confess that we have fallen into some of the traps of this world. Please help us to keep our eyes upon you.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns


    (1) Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993, p. 342

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: 1 Kings 12-14 (The Division Begins)

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