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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 11

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

In noticing successively Solomon’s excessive accumulation of silver and gold 1 Kings 10:14-25, his multiplication of horses 1 Kings 10:26-29, and his multiplication of wives, the writer has in mind the warning of Moses against these three forms of princely ostentation, all alike forbidden to an Israelite monarch (marginal reference).

Zidonians - i. e., Phoenician women. A tradition states that Solomon married a daughter of Hiram, king of Tyre.

Verse 2

Ye shall not go in unto them ... - These words are not a quotation from the Pentateuch. They merely give the general meaning of the two passages prohibiting intermarriage with neighboring idolators (marginal references). Strictly speaking, the prohibition in the Law of intermarriage was confined to the Canaanite nations. But the principle of the prohibition applied equally to the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites who all bordered on the holy land; and was so applied by Ezra Ezra 9:1 and Nehemiah Nehemiah 13:23.

Verse 3

These numbers seem excessive to many critics, and it must be admitted that history furnishes no parallel to them. In Song of Solomon 6:8 the number of Solomon’s legitimate wives is said to be sixty, and that of his concubines eighty. It is, perhaps probable, that the text has in this place suffered corruption. For “700” we should perhaps read “70.”

Verse 4

Old - About fifty or fifty-five. From his age at his accession (1 Kings 2:2 note) he could not have been more than about sixty at his death.

The true nature of Solomon’s idolatry was neither complete apostasy - an apostasy from which there could be no recovery; nor a mere toleration, rather praise-worthy than blameable. Solomon did not ever openly or wholly apostatize. He continued his attendance on the worship of Yahweh, and punctually made his offerings three times a year in the temple 1 Kings 9:25; but his heart was not “perfect” with God. The religious earnestness of his younger days was weakened by wealth, luxury, sensualism, an increasing worldliness leading him to worldly policy and latitudinarianism arising from contact with all the manifold forms of human opinion. His lapse into deadly sin was no doubt gradual. Partly from ostentation, partly from that sensualism which is the most common failing of Oriental monarchs, he established a harem on a grand and extraordinary scale. To gratify “strange women,” i. e., foreigners, admitted either from worldly policy, or for variety’s sake, he built magnificent temples to their false gods, right over against Jerusalem, as manifest rivals to “the temple.” He thus became the author of a syncretism, which sought to blend together the worship of Yahweh and the worship of idols - a syncretism which possessed fatal attractions for the Jewish nation. Finally, he appears himself to have frequented the idol temples 1 Kings 11:5, 1 Kings 11:10, and to have taken part in those fearful impurities which constituted the worst horror of the idolatrous systems, thus practically apostatising, though theoretically he never ceased to hold that Yahweh was the true God.

Verse 5

Went after - This expression is common in the Pentateuch, and always signifies actual idolatry (see Deuteronomy 11:28; Deuteronomy 13:2; Deuteronomy 28:14, etc.).

For Ashtoreth, or Astarte, the goddess of the Zidonians, see Exodus 34:13, note; Deuteronomy 16:21, note. On the tomb of a Phoenician king, discovered in 1855, on the site of Sidon, mention is made of a temple of Astarte there, which the monarch built or restored; and his mother is said to have been a priestess of the goddess.

Milcom or Molech 1 Kings 11:7 are variants of the term ordinarily used for “king” among the Semitic races of Western Asia, which appears in melkarth (Phoenic.), Abimelech (Hebrew), Andrammelek (Assyrian), Abd-ul-malik (Arabic), etc. On the character and worship of Molech, see Leviticus 20:2-5 note.

Verse 7

Chemosh (Numbers 21:29 note), seems to have been widely worshipped in Western Asia. His name occurs frequently on the “Moabite-Stone.” Car-Chemish, “the fort of Chemosh,” a great city of the northern Hittites, must have been under his protection. In Babylon he seems to have been known as Chomus-belus, or Chemosh-Bel.

The hill - Olivet. At present the most southern summit only (the “Mons Offensionis”) is pointed out as having been desecrated by the idol sanctuaries: but the early Eastern travelers tell us that in their time the most northern suburb was believed to have been the site of the high p ace of Chemosh, the southern one that of Moloch only.

Verse 13

One tribe - i. e., (marginal reference) the tribe of Judah. Benjamin was looked upon as absorbed in Judah, so as not to be really a tribe in the same sense as the others. Still, in memory of the fact that the existing tribe of Judah was a double one 1 Kings 12:2 l, the prophet Ahijah tore his garment into twelve parts, and kept back two from Jeroboam 1 Kings 11:30-31.

Verse 14

The writer has reserved for this place the various troubles of Solomon’s reign, not allowing them to interrupt his previous narrative. He has, consequently, not followed chronological order. Hadad’s 1 Kings 11:23 and Rezon’s opposition belong to the early years of Solomon’s reign.

Hadad was a royal title (perhaps, the Syriac name for “the Sun”) both in Syria and in Idumaea (compare Genesis 36:35; 1 Chronicles 1:51).

Verse 15

The verse gives certain additional particulars of David’s conquest of Edom (marginal references). Joab was left, or sent, to complete the subjugation of the country, with orders to exterminate all the grown male inhabitants. It was not very often that David acted with any extreme severity in his wars; but he may have considered himself justified by policy, as he certainly was by the letter of the Law Deuteronomy 20:13, in adopting this fierce course against Edom.

Was in Edom - Or, according to another reading, “smote” Edom.

The slain - Probably the Israelites who had fallen in the strnggle. Translate, “when ... Joab was gone up to bury the slain, and had smitten every male,” etc.

Verse 16

Every male in Edom - i. e., every male whom he could find. As did Hadad and his company 1 Kings 11:17, so others would escape in various directions. The Edomite nation was not destroyed on the occasion.

Verse 18

Midian - A town in the south of Judah. Paran is the desert tract immediately to the south of Judaea, the modern desert of et-Tih.

Pharaoh - King of the twenty-first (Tanite) dynasty; probably he was Psusennes I, Manetho’s second king. It appears to have been the policy of the Pharaohs about this time to make friends and contract alliances with their eastern neighbors.

Verse 21

That Hadad should wait for the death of Joab before requesting leave to return to Idumaea shows how terrible an impression had been made by the severe measures which that commander had carried out twenty-five or thirty years previously 1 Kings 11:16. The inability of refugees to depart from an Oriental court without the king’s leave, and his unwillingness ordinarily to grant leave, are illustrated by many passages in the history of Persia.

Verse 23

Rezon - Possibly the same as the Hezion of 1 Kings 15:18; but probably one who interrupted the royal line of the Damascene Hadads, which was restored after his death. We may arrange the Damascus-kings of this period as follows:


Hadadezer (or Hadad I), about 1040 B.C. (conquered by David).

Rezon (usurper) was contemporary with Solomon.

Hezion (Hadad II) was contemporary with Rehoboam.

Tabrimon (Hadad III) was contemporary with Abijam.

Ben-hadad (Hadad IV) was contemporary with Asa.

Verse 24

And (they) reigned - A very slight emendation gives the sense, “they made him king at Damascus.”

Verse 26

Zereda - See Judges 7:22.

Lifted up his hand against the king - i. e., “he rebelled.” Compare marginal reference.

Verse 27

Millo was probably fortified in Solomon’s twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth year.

Verse 28

A mighty man of valor - Here “a man of strength and activity.” It is a vague term of commendation, the exact force of which must be fixed by the context. See Ruth 2:1; 1 Samuel 9:1, etc.

Solomon made Jeroboam superintendent of all the forced labor (“the charge”) exacted from his tribe - the tribe of Ephraim - during the time that he was building Millo and fortifying the city of Jerusalem 1 Kings 9:15.

Verse 29

At that time - Probably after Jeroboam’s return from Egypt (see 1 Kings 11:40).

The Shilonite - An inhabitant of Shiloh in Mount Ephraim, the earliest and most sacred of the Hebrew sanctuaries (Joshua 18:10; Jdg 18:31; 1 Samuel 4:3, etc.)

Verse 30

The first instance of the “acted parable.” Generally this mode was adopted upon express divine command (see Jeremiah 13:1-11; Ezekiel 3:1-3). A connection may be traced between the type selected and the words of the announcement to Solomon (1 Kings 11:11-13. Compare 1 Samuel 15:26-28).

Verse 34

Translate - “Howbeit I will not take ought of the kingdom out of his hand.” The context requires this sense.

Verse 36

That David may have a light - Compare the marginal references. The exact meaning of the expression is doubtful. Perhaps the best explanation is, that “light” here is taken as the essential feature of a continuing “home.”

Verse 38

See the marginal references. To “build a sure house,” or “give a house,” is to give a continuity of offspring, and so secure the perpetuity of a family. The promise, it will be observed, is conditional; and as the condition was not complied with, it did not take effect (see 1 Kings 14:8-14). The entire house of Jeroboam was destroyed by Baasha 1 Kings 15:29.

Verse 39

But not forever - David had been distinctly promised that God should never fail his seed, whatever their shortcomings Psalms 89:28-37. The fulfillment of these promises was seen, partly in the Providence which maintained David’s family in a royal position until Zerubbabel, but mainly in the preservation of his seed to the time fixed for the coming of Christ, and in the birth of Christ - the Eternal King - from one of David’s descendants.

Verse 40

Compare 1 Kings 11:26. The announcement of Ahijah was followed within a little while by rebellion on the part of Jeroboam. As Solomon’s luster faded, as his oppression became greater and its objects more selfish, and as a prospect of deliverance arose from the personal qualities of Jeroboam 1 Kings 11:28, the tribe of Ephraim to which he belonged, again aspired after its old position (see Joshua 17:14 note). Jeroboam, active, energetic, and ambitious, placed himself at their head. The step proved premature. The power of Solomon was too firmly fixed to be shaken; and the hopes of the Ephraimites had to be deferred until a fitter season.

The “exact” date of Jeroboam’s flight into Egypt cannot be fixed. It was certainly not earlier than Solomon’s twenty-fourth year, since it was after the building of Millo 1 Kings 11:27. But it may have been several years later.

Shishak - This king is the first Pharaoh mentioned in Scripture who can be certainly identified with any known Egyptian monarch. He is the Sheshonk (Sheshonk I) of the monuments, and the Sesonchosis of Manetho. The Egyptian date for his accession is 980 or 983 B.C., which synchronizes, according to the ordinary Hebrew reckoning, with Solomon’s 32nd or 35th year. Sheshonk I has left a record of his expedition against Judah, which accords well with what is related of Shishak 1 Kings 14:25-26; 2 Chronicles 12:2-4.

Verse 41

The book of the acts of Solomon - See the marginal reference and Introduction.

Verse 42

Josephus gave Solomon a reign of 80 years, either because he wished to increase the glory of his country’s greatest king, or through his having a false reading in his copy of the Septuagint Version. It is, no doubt, remarkable that the three successive kings, Saul, David, and Solomon, should have each reigned forty years Act 13:21; 2 Samuel 5:4-5; but such numerical coincidences occur from time to time in exact history.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 11". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/1-kings-11.html. 1870.
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