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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 11

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-8

Solomon’s foreign wives 11:1-8

The writer’s condemnation of Solomon in 1 Kings 11:1-2 rests on Deuteronomy 23:3-9 as well as Deuteronomy 7:3-4. The phraseology goes back to Deuteronomy 23:3-9 and the motive to Deuteronomy 7:3-4 (cf. Exodus 23:31-33; Exodus 34:15-16; Ezra 9:1; Nehemiah 13:26). Solomon’s foreign wives were of two categories: Canaanites prohibited in Deuteronomy 7, and women from other nations prohibited in Deuteronomy 23. [Note: See Shaye Cohen, "Solomon and the Daughter of Pharaoh: Intermarriage, Conversion, and the Impurity of Women," Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society 16-17 (1984-85):23-27.] Furthermore, God specifically forbade the multiplying of wives by Israel’s kings (Deuteronomy 17:17). Solomon violated both the letter and the spirit of the Law. Some writers argued that because God gave legislation in the Mosaic Law governing the conduct of polygamous Israelite men (Exodus 21:10; Deuteronomy 21:15), He therefore approved of polygamy. Yet God had made His will concerning monogamy clear from the beginning of human history (Genesis 2:24). Both Jesus (Matthew 19:5; Mark 10:7-8) and Paul (1 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 5:31) reaffirmed monogamy. The legislation cited in Deuteronomy is only one example of many laws that regulated the conduct of disobedient Israelites.

Solomon’s harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines (secondary wives, not mistresses in the modern sense, 1 Kings 11:3) was the largest of any Israelite king. Concubines were slaves who could have sexual relations with their masters, according to custom. Their children sometimes became equal heirs with the children of free wives. The next largest harem belonged to Solomon’s son Rehoboam who had 18 wives and 60 concubines (2 Chronicles 11:21). David had 15 wives (2 Samuel 3:2-5; 2 Samuel 5:13-16; 2 Samuel 11:27; 1 Chronicles 3:1-9) and several concubines (2 Samuel 15:16). Apparently only one of David’s wives was a foreigner (2 Samuel 3:3; 1 Chronicles 3:2).

"The large number resulted from political alliances, sealed by marriage, with neigbouring [sic] states: Moab, Ammon and Edom to the east; Sidon, through the treaty with Hiram (1 Kings 5:1), and Syria (’Hittites’ and Arameans, 1 Kings 10:22) to the north. . . . These are cited as examples . . ." [Note: Wiseman, p. 134.]

Solomon did not abandon Yahweh, but he worshipped the gods of the nations along with Him (syncretism; 1 Kings 11:4; 1 Kings 11:6). His sin was that his heart (affections) went after false gods (1 Kings 11:4). He did not follow Yahweh fully (exclusively, 1 Kings 11:6; cf. Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Solomon was noteworthy for his love for God when he began reigning (1 Kings 3:3), but at the end of his reign, love for women characterized him (1 Kings 11:1).

Ashtoreth was the Canaanite fertility goddess whose worship involved licentious rites and the worship of the stars. Molech worship included human sacrifice, even the sacrifice of children (cf. Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:1-5). Chemosh worship was equally cruel. [Note: See any good Bible Dictionary for more information about these pagan deities.] Solomon at least tolerated idolatrous worship if he did not actively promote it. The mountain east of (lit. before) Jerusalem, to which 1 Kings 11:7 refers, was traditionally south of the Mount of Olives and is elsewhere called "the mount of destruction" (2 Kings 23:13). Since the Mount of Olives is a two-mile-long ridge, it seems best to view the mount of destruction as the southern part of the Mount of Olives. Another name for "the mount of destruction" is "the hill of evil council." Ironically, today a United Nations building stands atop this hill. Evidently Solomon felt compelled to support the pagan worship of his foreign wives whom he had married to secure political alliances. One sin led to others, as often happens.

"In the ancient world polytheists tended to worship the gods of nations who had conquered their armies or at least the gods of countries more powerful than their own. Ironically, Solomon worships the gods of people he has conquered and already controls. What could he possibly gain from such activity? The whole episode makes no sense, just as idolatry itself makes no sense." [Note: House, p. 167.]

Verses 1-43

4. Solomon’s apostasy ch. 11

The writer brought Solomon’s weaknesses and sins, to which he only hinted previously, into the light in this chapter. Solomon had sown some seeds of departure from God and His Word early in his reign. They bore bitter fruit as he grew older.

Verses 9-13

Solomon’s sentence from God 11:9-13

Solomon’s sin in going after other gods was the quintessence of covenant infidelity. David had sinned against God deliberately on occasion when tempted (2 Samuel 11), but his heart remained devoted to Yahweh. His sin was not as serious as Solomon’s was (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5).

"One of the most puzzling aspects of the life of Solomon was the fact that he, the wisest of all men, could be so foolish, particularly in the last years of his reign. What must be understood is that the very basis, in fact, the essence of biblical wisdom is to fear God (Proverbs 1:7). It was precisely when Solomon neglected this principle that he began the slippery slope to folly (1 Kings 11:9)." [Note: Eugene H. Merrill, "1 Kings," in The Old Testament Explorer, p. 257.]

The one tribe Solomon’s heir would retain was Judah. Judah had absorbed the tribe of Simeon almost entirely by this time, though some Israelites from Simeon had moved north (2 Chronicles 15:9; 2 Chronicles 34:6).

Verses 14-25

Solomon’s external adversaries 11:14-25

Hadad hated Solomon because of Joab’s severe treatment of the Edomites. He may have been a relation of Solomon’s by marriage. Pharaoh Siamun, of dynasty 21, apparently gave his daughter to Solomon in marriage and his sister-in-law to Hadad (1 Kings 11:19).

"The result of Hadad’s opposition was not only that it lost Solomon the full control of a satellite neighbor, but it cut off his southern route for trade. If he maintained his shipping out of Ezion-geber at all, it was probably on a greatly reduced scale, and it is even possible that it stopped entirely before his death." [Note: Wood, p. 336.]

Rezon also had reason to oppose Solomon (1 Kings 11:23-25). The Lord raised up both these men to bring judgment on Solomon (1 Kings 11:14).

"The result of Rezon’s opposition was that it cut off all contact with the satellite countries of the north. Damascus was the key to control over Zobah, Hamath, and the fortified city of Tadmor. With full control gone in Damascus, there was no possibility of maintaining supervision in these other areas." [Note: Ibid.]

Kings of Aram in 1 Kings
Rezon (Hezion)ca. 940-915 B.C.1 Kings 11:23; 1 Kings 11:25; 1 Kings 15:18
Tabrimmonca. 915-900 B.C.1 Kings 15:18
Ben-Hadad Ica. 900-860 B.C.1 Kings 15:18; 1 Kings 15:20
Ben-Hadad IIca. 860-841 B.C.1 Kings 20; 2 Kings 6:24; 2 Kings 8:7; 2 Kings 8:9; 2 Kings 8:14

Verses 26-40

Solomon’s internal adversary 11:26-40

Jeroboam, who would become the first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, was from Ephraim, the most prominent tribe in the North (1 Kings 11:26).

Part of Benjamin affiliated voluntarily with Judah eventually (1 Kings 11:32; cf. 1 Kings 12:21; 2 Chronicles 11:1; 2 Chronicles 11:10; 2 Chronicles 15:2; 2 Chronicles 15:9; Ezra 4:1). Really parts of two tribes joined the kingdom of Judah: Simeon and Benjamin. The reference to 10 northern tribes evidently included the nine remaining tribes plus either Benjamin or Simeon, whichever provided the majority of its tribe to support the Northern Kingdom. This appears to have been Simeon (cf. 2 Chronicles 15:9; 2 Chronicles 34:6). Levi did not figure in either group.

"Ten as the number of completeness and totality is placed in contrast with one, to indicate that all Israel was to be torn away from the house of David, as is stated in ch. xii. 20 . . ." [Note: Keil, p. 179.]

David’s lamp (1 Kings 11:36) refers to his descendant on the throne (cf. 2 Samuel 21:17). [Note: Ibid., p. 181; Gray, p. 297.] God’s conditional promise to Jeroboam was similar to His promises to Saul (1 Samuel 13:13), to David (2 Samuel 7:11; 2 Samuel 7:27), and to Solomon (1 Kings 9:4-7). God would afflict the descendants of David (1 Kings 11:39) until He raised up Messiah, when all Israel would come under His authority, as it had been under David and Solomon’s authority. [Note: For a good literary analysis of the chiastic structure of the Jeroboam narrative (11:26-14:20), see Robert L. Cohn, "Literary Techniques in the Jeroboam Narrative," Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 97 (1985):23-35.] The reference to Shishak king of Egypt (1 Kings 11:40) is the first to identify a Pharaoh by name in the Bible. Shishak later invaded Jerusalem during Rehoboam’s reign (1 Kings 14:25-26).

Verses 41-43

Solomon’s death 11:41-43

The writer of Kings referred to other ancient records (1 Kings 11:41; cf. 1 Kings 14:19; cf. 1 Kings 14:29). The Acts of Solomon was the first of these. [Note: J. Liver, "The Book of the Acts of Solomon," Biblica 48:1 (1967):75-101.] It is no longer extant. Solomon’s long reign of 40 years (971-931 B.C.) ended with the king in decline both spiritually and politically. [Note: See Rodger C. Young, "When Did Solomon Die?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 46:4 (December 2003):589-603.]

"What is the image of Solomon which emerges from the narrative? He was the divinely chosen descendent (1 Kings 8:20) of a divinely chosen ruler (1 Kings 8:16), reigning in a divinely chosen city (1 Kings 8:44; 1 Kings 8:48). He was a righteous judge (chap. 3) and an efficient administrator (chap. 4). He ruled extensive territory and promoted the peace of his realm and the prosperity of his people (1 Kings 4:20 to 1 Kings 5:8 [1 Kings 4:20-28]). His building projects were on a grand scale, encompassing sanctuary and palace (chap. 6), fortress and store-city (1 Kings 9:15-19). He pursued an active commercial policy and indulged in a conspicuous display of wealth (chap. 10). The key to his success was his divinely endowed wisdom. He was wiser than all men and all came to see and behold and leave their tribute (1 Kings 5:9-14 [1 Kings 4:29-34], chap. 10)." [Note: Porten, pp. 113-114.]

"Few figures are more difficult to evaluate than Solomon, and that not merely because the records concerning him are neither so full as could be wished nor in chronological order. He was obviously a man of great astuteness who was able to realize to the fullest the economic potentialities of the empire created by David. At the same time, he exhibited in other areas a blindness, not to say a stupidity, that hastened that empire toward disintegration." [Note: Bright, p. 190.]

Solomon, Saul, and David each reigned 40 years. Saul was God’s anointed only because the people demanded a king. David and Solomon were God’s anointed because the Lord elected them as His sons. Saul never really appreciated his role as Yahweh’s servant. David and Solomon both appreciated their servant roles, but Solomon acted as though he appreciated his less than David did his. David had a heart for God that he maintained throughout his lifetime. Solomon also had a heart for God, but he failed to maintain it. Saul’s reign was a tragedy, David’s was a triumph, and Solomon’s was both.

"If he [Solomon] partly escapes Saul’s condemnation, he quite fails of David’s commendation." [Note: Baxter, 2:87.]

In the lives of all three men, the writers of Scripture have carefully pointed out how their responses to God’s grace and His Law determined their destinies. Because they were the leaders of the nation, what befell them also affected their kingdoms.

The man best qualified to live life successfully, Solomon, chose not to do so. Success in life from God’s viewpoint does not come automatically with the gift of wisdom, but when one applies wisdom to one’s life. Spiritual success depends on choices as well as understanding.

II. THE DIVIDED KINGDOM 1 Kings 12 -2 Kings 17

The second major part of the Book of Kings records the histories of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. [Note: See the chart "Kings of Judah and Israel and the Preexilic Prophets" in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 513. See also the map "The Divided Monarchy" in Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 317, for the locations of many places referred to in the text.] During this era of 209 years (931-722 B.C.) the two kingdoms experienced differing relations with one another. For 57 years (931-874 B.C.) they were antagonistic (1 Kings 12:1 to 1 Kings 16:28). Then for the next 33 years (874-841 B.C.) they were allies (1 Kings 16:29 -2 Kings 9:29). Then renewed antagonism erupted and continued for the final 119 years (841-722 B.C.; 2 Kings 9:30 to 2 Kings 17:41).

Throughout this history the writer’s purpose continued to be what it had been: to demonstrate that failure to honor the Mosaic Covenant brings ruin and destruction, but obedience brings blessing. This is clear from the material he chose to record. While he gave a basic historical record of the period, he departed often from official matters to record events that have theological and practical significance. He also gave more information about the Northern Kingdom of Israel than he did about the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The reverse emphasis appears in 1 and 2 Chronicles.

"In the books of Kings in general there are some forty instances where a prophet or prophetess plays a part in the narrative or delivers a message from Yahweh." [Note: N. H. Wallace, "The Oracles Against the Israelite Dynasties in 1 and 2 Kings," Biblica 67:1 (1986):21.]

It is interesting that there were also 40 kings in both kingdoms.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Kings 11". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/1-kings-11.html. 2012.
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