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Solomon’s Fall And End
A.—The unfaithfulness towards the Lord and its punishment
1 Kings 11:1-11.11.13
1But king Solomon loved1 many strange [i.e. foreign] women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh,2 women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; 2of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. 3And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 4For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods3: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord [Jehovah] his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5For Solomon went after4 Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord [Jehovah], and went not fully after the Lord [Jehovah], as did David his father. 7Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Amnion. 8And likewise did he for all his strange [i.e. foreign] wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.
9And the Lord [Jehovah] was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, 10and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord [Jehovah] commanded. 11Wherefore the Lord [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 12thy servant. Notwithstanding, in thy days I will not do it for David thy father’s 13sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit, I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe5 to thy son, for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen.
Exegetical and Critical
1 Kings 11:1-11.11.2. But king Solomon loved, &c. With these words a new and very essential part of the history of Solomon begins; they do not break the thread of the story abruptly, but stand in a connection with the preceding, to be well considered. Our writer evidently had in his mind the command given to kings in Deuteronomy 17:0 in which, 1 Kings 11:16-11.11.17, it is said: “but he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses. … neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away; neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.” The great riches in silver and gold were mentioned in the preceding section, 1 Kings 10:14-11.10.29, and also, finally, the number of horses brought out of Egypt; and mention of the many strange wives immediately follows. If there were danger of turning away from the strict and serious religion of Jehovah connected with the enormous riches, the luxury and splendor of the court, this was much more the case with the large harem. Solomon did not withstand this last danger; what was foreseen in the laws for the kings happened: “his heart was turned away.” What we learn from the connection of these two sections is very important: namely, that it was not vulgar, coarse sensuality that gave rise to such a large harem, but the reason was rather, that as Solomon grew in riches, esteem, and power, excelling all other kings in these (1 Kings 10:23), he wished also to surpass them in what, according to Eastern ideas, even in the present day, especially belonged to the court and splendor of a great monarch; that is, the largest possible harem. But this was the occasion of his fall. It is therefore very arbitrary of the Sept. to describe אָהַב 1 Kings 11:1 by ἦν φιλογύναιος καὶ ἔλαβε γυναῖκας , and quite wide of the mark in Thenius, who, explaining this for the original reading, says that Solomon was an “enervated slave to his senses.” Were this the case, traces of it would have been apparent earlier; but we do not hear, respecting Solomon, the slightest intimation of any previous sexual irregularity; he did not succumb to the influence of his many wives until he had become advanced in years (1 Kings 11:4), and had reached the summit of his prosperity and power. For his marriage with the Egyptian, see above on 1 Kings 3:1; she did not rank among the other strange women, i.e., those whom it was forbidden in the law to marry, as 1 Kings 11:2 expressly remarks (cf. Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3-5.7.4; Joshua 23:12). It was only through them that strange worship, the Asiatic, was introduced into the land; but there is not the slightest trace of Egyptian worship. The Moabites dwelt east of the Dead Sea, the Ammonites were north of them, and the Edomites south; but the Zidonians and Hittites lived north of Palestine, where Phœnician worship prevailed. Cf. Deuteronomy 23:4; Ezra 9:12; Nehemiah 13:23.
1 Kings 11:3. And he had seven hundred wives, &c. 1 Kings 11:3. שָרוֹת means princesses, women of the first rank; not those who received rank by entrance into the harem, but those who were of noble families. The great number of these women, with all of whom it was not possible for Solomon (now elderly) to hold sexual intercourse, but especially their high rank, shows the reason they were maintained; seven hundred from the noblest princely houses of foreign nations served to add the greatest splendor to the court. Many think it probable that the majority of these wives, although they all were in subjection to him, served rather as singers and dancers to amuse the old and feeble king (Stollberg, Lisco). The opinion is entirely wrong, that (according to Ecclesiastes 4:8) Solomon was “guided by a theological idea, and intended to furnish a symbolical representation of the kingdom of Christ, and his dominion over all nations” (Evgl. Kirch.-Zeitg. 1862, s. 691). The numbers 700 and 300 may be only “round, i.e., approximate” ones (Keil), but are not therefore necessarily exaggerated or false. Ecclesiastes 6:8 has been quoted in opposition to them: “sixty are the queens, and eighty are the concubines, and innumerable are the virgins,” and in order to reconcile the two passages, the supposition is thrown out, that 60 and 80 were the number in the court at one time, and 700 and 300 the number of all the women at the court during Solomon’s reign (Ewald, Keil). This Thenius, with some reason, declares to be a “subterfuge;” but when he asserts that the statement in the Canticles is “historically founded,” and on the other hand, regards our own statement “as an evidence of the legendary character of the entire section,” we answer that Canticles is not historical but is poetic, and cannot be adduced as testimony against our historical books. Finally, the supposition to which Keil inclines, that there may be errors in the numeral-letters (ש = 300 instead of פ = 80), rests evidently in the consideration that the numbers 700 and 300 appear too large. But this difficulty ceases when we compare our own with other accounts of the harems of Eastern rulers. Curtius relates (III. 1 Kings 3:24) that Darius Codomanus, on his expedition against Alexander, carried 300 pellices with him. Public accounts state that the harem of the present Turkish Sultan contains 1,300 women. The Augsb. Allg. Zeitung of 1862, No. 181, says “that the mother of the Taiping, emperor in Nankin, is the head of her son’s harem, a great establishment containing 3,000 women,” whom the same “lady” has to keep in order. Magelhäus gives the same number, and adds that the emperor had never seen some of them in his life. “The travellers of the seventeenth century reported the number of the wives of the Great Mogul to have been 1,000” (Philippson). In Malcom’s history of Persia it is stated that king Kosros had 5,000 horses, 1,200 elephants, and 12,000 wives; this may be greatly exaggerated, but shows the notions that were entertained about the state which a great ruler should maintain. Cf. also other instances in Rosenmüller, Altes und Neues Morgenland, III. s. 181. The evident intention of the narrator is, not to picture these rulers as brutal sensualists, but, on the contrary, to add to their fame. An immense harem is held in the East to be as requisite to a splendid court as a large stud.
1 Kings 11:4. For it came to pass when Solomon was old, …… after other gods, &c. By old age is not meant the time “when the flesh obtained mastery over the spirit” (Keil)—sensuality never first begins with old age—but the time when, in consequence of luxury and indulgence, the energy of spirit and heart deserted him, and a relaxing took possession of him more and more. Then first it happened that the many foreign, well-conditioned women succeeded in turning away Solomon’s heart, i.e., in reducing his tone, making him indifferent towards the strict and exclusive religion of Jehovah, and milder and more indulgent towards the worship of their gods, yea, so to insnare him that he favored the latter by the building of altars to idols. When the text adds, and his heart was not (any longer) perfect (שָׁלֵם = complete) with the Lord his God, it says thereby as clearly, as positively, that he did not completely fall away from Jehovah’s service, but that he permitted the idolatrous worship of his wives besides. The formula, he did evil in the sight of the Lord, is used in speaking of every one who broke the commandment in Exodus 20:3-2.20.4, because this is the first and supremest will of God. To avoid any misunderstanding, 1 Kings 11:6 repeats, he went not fully (מִלֵּאsc.לָלֶכֶת, as in Numbers 14:24; Numbers 32:11-4.32.12; Deuteronomy 1:36) after the Lord (Jehovah). It is therefore difficult to conceive why it is so often asserted that Solomon formally departed from Jehovah, and became an idolater (Thenius, Duncker, Menzel, and others). All the kings of Judah or of Israel who were idolatrous are said to have served (עָבַד) strange gods (cf. 16:31; 22:54; 2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 21:2-12.21.6; 2 Kings 21:20-12.21.22), but this expression is never applied to Solomon either here or elsewhere. Chronicles is never silent in respect of the kings in Judah, when any one of them served idols (2 Chronicles 28:2-14.28.3; 2 Chronicles 32:2 sq.; 2 Chronicles 33:22; 2 Chronicles 36:8), yet it says nothing of Solomon in this respect; but this is inconceivable, were it true that he had wholly forsaken Jehovah, and turned to idolatry. Jesus Sirach complains indeed (Sir 47:12-23) that the great Solomon succumbed to the influence of his wives, but does not say a word of his idolatry. All the Jewish traditions, the Talmud, and the Rabbins (Ghemara Schabb. Leviticus 2:0) know nothing of the idolatry of Solomon. Had he himself, as well as his wives, formally worshipped idols, he would have fallen far deeper than Jeroboam, who only made images to represent Jehovah; and his sin would have been far greater than “the sin of Jeroboam,” which is so often alluded to in these books, while there is no mention of the idolatry Solomon is accused of. The statement of the unreliable Josephus (Antiq.viii. 7, 5) about Solomon’s idol-worship is just as much to be credited as his statement that he was ninety-four years of age, and that he broke the law of Moses in placing twelve oxen around the molten sea, and the twelve lions near the throne. We cannot even admit that Solomon held idolatrous worship along with Jehovah’s worship (Winer), nor that his fall “consisted in a syncretistic mixture of Jehovah-worship and idol-worship” (Keil), for in so doing he would have placed Jehovah on a level with idols, whereas the very nature of Jehovah’s service is the sole and exclusive worship of Him. The לא … שָׁלֵם and לֹא מִלֵּא 1 Kings 11:4; 1 Kings 11:6 does not say: he served Jehovah and the idols both, but: he was no longer wholly and completely with Jehovah; and this is made clear in that he allowed his strange wives to observe idolatrous service in the city which the Lord had chosen to put His name there, and even went so far as to favor it by the building of “high-places” (1 Kings 11:36; 1Ki 8:16; 1 Kings 14:21; 2 Chronicles 6:6). So Hess (Gesch. Salomo’s, s. 436), and recently Vilmar (Pastoral-theol. Blütter, 1861, s. 179); Ewald also (Gesch. Isr. III. s. 378 sq.) says: “there is no evidence from ancient documents that Solomon ever left the religion of Jahve, even in his extreme old age, or sacrificed with his own hands to heathen deities; but, on the contrary, all historical evidences of his times are against the idea. Besides, we find it is expressly mentioned that he sacrificed upon the altar of Jahve, built by him, three times a year (according to the order of the three great festivals) with the greatest solemnity, as befitted a king such as he was” (1 Kings 9:25). Cf. below on 1 Kings 11:9 sq.
1 Kings 11:5-11.11.8. Solomon went after Ashtoreth, &c. The וַיֵּלֶךְ, &c., 1 Kings 11:5, means that he served these gods, personally, no more than יִבְנֶה in 1 Kings 11:7 which follows, means that he built, with his own hands, high-places for the heathen gods; but he allowed it, permitted it to be done. 1 Kings 11:8 adds expressly, “and likewise did he (i.e., he built high-places, 1 Kings 11:7) for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.” This plainly shows that he did not build the heights for himself and his people, and that he did not burn incense, nor sacrifice on them, but that his strange wives did. He allowed public worship to all, whatsoever divinities they might adore, but did not himself renounce Jehovah-worship. Diestel (in Herzog’s Real-Encyklop. XIII. s. 337) grants that Solomon did not wholly go over into idolatry, but thinks that there is as little question that there was more than mere tolerance. The religious consciousness of the Israelite could not (he thinks) get rid of the idea that certain peculiar powers ruled other nations, dependent indeed upon Jehovah, and a limited service devoted to these foreign inferior gods did not consequently annul the service of the all-ruling Jehovah. This artificial view, in which Niemeyer joins, is contradicted decisively by the fact that the so-called “inferior gods” are mentioned as שִׁקֻּץ, abomination (1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:7), תּוֹעַבָה abomination (2 Kings 23:13), הֲבָלִים vanity (Jeremiah 2:5) and גִּלּוּלִים stercora (Deuteronomy 29:17), which would not have been possible had “the greatest sympathies” existed “in Israel” for these gods as really “superior beings.” We need not stop to refute the frivolous assertion of Menzel (Staat- und Rel.-Geschichte der Königreiche Israel und Juda, s. 142), that our author, who was devoted to Jehovah’s service, preferred to place the king in an unfavorable light rather than to let it be known how long the strange worship had existed among the people, and in which they took part. For the divinities named in 1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:7, cf. Movers, Relig. der Phönizier, s. 560–584, 602–608; Keil, bibl. Archäologie I. s. 442 sq.; Winer, R.- W.-B. under the appropriate names. Ashtoreth is the highest of the Phoenician (Sidonian) and Syrian female deities, and a personification of the feminine principle in nature. Her form is differently represented, sometimes with a bull’s or woman’s head with horns (crescents), sometimes as a fish (symbol of the watery element). She was specially adored by women; her worship, which is not exactly known, was most probably associated with indecency. Cf. especially Cassel, in the Bibelwerk, on Judges 2:13. Milcom is said to be the chief god of the Ammonites, in 1 Kings 11:33, and 2 Kings 23:13; 2 Samuel 12:30; Jeremiah 49:1; Jeremiah 49:3; there is no accurate description of his nature or worship. As Moloch is immediately after (1 Kings 11:7) said to be the god of the Ammonites, and the two names (מלבם and מלך) are closely related to each other, it is very reasonable to suppose they were different names for the same divinity. The translations also confuse them; the Sept., 1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:7, gives Μελχὼμ, the Vulg. gives Moloch twice; but in 2 Kings 23:13 the former renders Milchom by Μόλοχ, and the latter by Melchom. Thenius therefore reads ומלכם in 1 Kings 11:7 instead of ומלך, but there is no reason for doing so. Keil and Ewald agree with Movers in holding Milchom and Moloch to be different deities, partly because of the different names, and partly because 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Kings 23:13 mention that they had different places of sacrifice, and that Moloch was always named in connection with sacrifices of children. Winer, however, justly remarks that each, though not essentially different, had different attributes, and had therefore various altar-places in one and the same town. As for the rest, Molech or Moloch was the divinity which was known and adored throughout Anterior Asia, whose image, according to the Rabbins, was made of brass, with the head of an ox and human arms, in which the children offered were laid. Movers thinks he was the same in part as Saturn or Chronos, and in part the same as Baal the sun-god (cf. s. 322 sq.). There were certainly no child-sacrifices at Jerusalem in Solomon’s time; they were first offered under Ahaz (2 Kings 16:3). Chemosh or Chamosh was the war-and-fire-god, according to Movers; Numbers 21:9, Jeremiah 48:46 call the Moabites the people of Chemosh. That this was the divinity to whom the Moabite king offered his son, 2 Kings 3:27, is only a matter of conjecture. At any rate, the character of the latter deity seems very similar to that of Milchom or Molech of the Ammonites, as it (the former) appears, in Judges 11:24, to be the god of the Ammonites; cf. Cassel on this passage. We have no exact accounts of them. For the “heights,” see above on 1 Kings 3:4; for the places where they were built, see on 2 Kings 23:13.
1 Kings 11:9-11.11.13. And the Lord was angry. Solomon, by his conduct, excited the extremest divine displeasure, and deserved punishment the more, as he had been so richly blessed in every respect by Jehovah, and had even been earnestly and emphatically warned in a peculiar vision against leaning towards other gods (1 Kings 3:5 sq.;1 Kings 9:1 sq.). The announcement of the subsequent chastisement did not follow in another direct revelation, but was no doubt conveyed by a prophet, who, as Nathan was no longer living, must have been Ahijah the Shilonite (1 Kings 11:29). It is well worthy of notice that, in this announcement, the oppression of the people by compulsory labor, and taxes, or despotism, is not given as the reason of the dividing of the kingdom by Jehovah, and of limiting Solomon’s dynasty to dominion over one tribe; but only the sin against Jehovah, the “going after other gods.” It was just the same in Ahijah’s address to Jeroboam, 1 Kings 11:29-11.11.39. For one tribe (1 Kings 11:13) see on 1 Kings 11:31-11.11.32. For David’s sake,i.e., on account of the promise given, for his unchanging fidelity to Jehovah (2 Samuel 17:12 sq.). Cf. that on 1 Kings 8:15 sq. We are not told what impression the prophecy made on Solomon, but we may just for this reason conclude that it was not such as Nathan’s discourse made on David (2 Samuel 12:13).
Historical and Ethical
1. The turn which, with the events described in the section before us, the reign of Solomon takes, is of the weightiest moment, because it exercised the most wide-spread and lasting influence upon the whole history of Israel: for its immediate result was the rending of the kingdom, which was the beginning of the end. “The happiness to be the most favored people on the earth under a wise king—this happiness which Israel could, as it were, be shown from afar for a brief space, was itself the source of its wretchedness. Wisdom as well as wealth and power were intrusted to a sinful man, who could not keep himself erect upon this dizzy height. Hence this kingdom of peace and of prosperity should be, even in its fall, both a warning example and also a type of the kingdom which, through another, was to bring the blessings of salvation to men which Solomon’s reign signified in earthly symbols” (Von Gerlach). “Just in the period of the highest perfection of the worldly kingdom, the insufficiency thereof to satisfy the higher expectations and hopes, the complete faultiness cleaving to it, and the incapacity to meet the deepest needs of the spirit by sensuous splendor and earthly exhibition of power, must, for the first time, have dawned upon the consciousness” (Eisenlohr, das Volk Isr. II. s. 119).
2. The change which overtook Solomon in his extreme old age would be an insoluble psychological riddle if it consisted in his abandonment of the service of Jehovah, and his yielding to the idolworship practised by his wives. It is impossible that a man who had been brought up in the fear of Jehovah, and had declared this to be the beginning of all wisdom, who up to the fulness of his age had an unclouded and undisturbed knowledge of the one living God, as is shown in the discourse and prayer at the dedication of the temple (chap. 8), that a man who shone forth upon all sides as light amid the darkness, and throughout the whole Orient was regarded as a living symbol of wisdom (1 Kings 4:30; 1 Kings 9:24), should in his still riper age have fallen into a most gross superstition, and abandoned himself to the crudest, most senseless, and immoral of all forms of worship, namely, that of the Canaanites and the peoples of anterior Asia. We look in vain through all Scripture for an example in the remotest degree like it. Recognizing this, those critics of late, who think that idolatry is actually charged upon Solomon in our text, have adopted the notion, either that the accounts respecting his wisdom and his knowledge of God are false, that in fact he had always before this been given over to idolatry (Gramberg, Vatke, and others)—a view striking all history in the face, and hence needing no refutation—or inversely, that our account about Solomon’s idolatry is inaccurate, and rests first upon the later “deuteronomistic elaborators of the history” who misunderstood and represented the facts falsely (Ewald, Eisenlohr, and others), an assumption which is violent and arbitrary, but which, to be sure, is the most convenient way of solving the problem. By the correct interpretation of the text, according to which Solomon did not himself practise idolatry, but allowed his wives the exercise of public idol-worship, indeed favored it, the difficulty disappears. It is not indeed an unusual psychological phenomenon that a man highly gifted, standing upon a lofty eminence of knowledge and wisdom, decided in his moral and religious principles, should lose, in his old age, in consequence of various influences and relations, and of some especial fortunes of his life, the energy of his spirit and will, or, without abandoning precisely his past convictions, should resign them in respect of decisiveness and exclusiveness, so that towards what he had once regarded as error and had zealously combated it as such, he becomes tolerant and, as it were, indifferent, especially when he hopes thereby to attain ends otherwise pursued by him, as this was the case with Solomon, as we shall see, who therefore furnishes a warning and instructive example in history.
3. The formal allowance and patronage of different idolatries, especially in the place where the central Jehovah-sanctuary of the whole people stood, was, upon the part of the king, an actual equalization of the same with the Jehovah-worship; an official declaration of the equal authorization of idol-worship with the service of the one, true, living God who is the God of Israel. But thereby the first and supreme command of the Israelitish law, i.e., of the Covenant (Exodus 20:2), was directly transgressed, and indeed set aside. The people Israel were chosen by God to be the upholders of the knowledge of the one God, and thereby to act for the healing of all nations. To this end it was necessary that as a people they should “be separated” from all peoples (Leviticus 20:24; 1 Kings 8:53): participation in the election and in the covenant was made continual through obedience upon the part of the people, and also through race-derivation. Jehovah’s kingdom and the people’s hence coincide, the religion with the nation, and they stand and fall together. Permission, reception, and introduction of any heathen religion or of different idolatrous worships was not merely an assault upon the religious conviction of individuals, but was also an undermining of the national being inseparably connected therewith. The exclusiveness of the Jehovah-cultus was for the people, in their peculiar life, an absolute necessity. To set aside or remove it was to threaten the existence of this peculiar estate, and to deny its world-historical distinction. If Solomon himself neither offered incense nor sacrificed unto idols, he did yet nothing less than attack the foundations of the kingdom; he brought into the unity of the Israelitish public life the germ of dissolution, and threatened to destroy the covenant and God’s plan of salvation. To this extent his conduct and undertaking must be characterized as a real falling away.
4. The text gives only, as the immediate occasion of this falling away of Solomon, his love for his many foreign wives. We have already remarked, in respect of these high-bred dames from all the neighboring countries, that reference was had to the splendor of the court rather than to the gratification of a common, ungovernable lust. From their youth accustomed to their sensuous, more or less unchaste worship, they were more reluctant to abandon it as the earnest and severe Jehovah-cultus could not please them. What was more natural than the effort to induce the king, advancing in years, that he would permit them to observe their own native religious rites, and would make the regulations necessary therefor, by means of which his kingdom might become a sort of assembly-place for all religions, and acquire additional splendor and glory? This indeed they succeeded in, but not in the way of gross sensuality.—Niemeyer remarks with great pertinence (Charakteristik der Bib. IV. s. 487): “We do not find that Solomon gave the strength of his youth to women, and went the way which destroys kings (Proverbs 31:3). But even because he did not indulge so much in sensual enjoyment, the more refined voluptuousness became for him the more dangerous: that adhesion of the spirit, that secret enravishment of heart which, unobserved, breaks up the entire independence of the man, and, before he is aware of it, makes him the helpless slave of the woman. It begins far more innocently than that which we call crime, properly speaking, but it leaves behind it usually more melancholy ruins in the soul than the other. In like manner also, Vilmar observes (s. 180), it is not so much coarse sensuality as rather ‘psychical bondage to the female sex’ which wrought the fall of Solomon.” Psychical polygamy dissipates, pulls to pieces, and wastes irresistibly the core of the human soul. … At a certain stage of “culture,” in the intercourse between a man and woman, coarse sensuality by no means prevails, but the psychical pleasure in the woman, and the psychical abandonment to the woman, the desire of the eye, and the desire of the eye for the sex as such, and not for an individual woman.” The surroundings or relations were singularly fitted to awaken that kind of spiritual condition and to impart nourishment to it. The long peace, broken neither by war nor other calamity, the great wealth, the extensive trade, the abundance, by these means, of all objects of luxury possible, the voluptuous court-life in consequence, everything conspired to bring about a relaxation; and this was the soil upon which the numerous strange women could carry out their nature without hindrance. It is very probable that Solomon allowed himself to be governed by the political considerations “to give to the strangers flocking to Jerusalem an opportunity for the exercise of their own worship, and make his residence the desirable centre for the commercial peoples of Anterior Asia” (Bertheau, Zur Gesch. der Israel., s. 323). Like the crowded, brilliant harem itself, so the secured freedom of worship must needs increase the authority and glory of the great king. But always his polygamy is and must remain the first and chief cause of his downfall; this, as Ewald remarks (Gesch. Isr. III. s. 215) strikingly, concerning David’s adultery, is the “inexhaustible source of evils without number. … Here is concealed an inextricable coil of the direst evils, of which scarcely is one put out of the way, when two, three others start up, and each is enough to destroy the peace of an entire kingdom.” So long as this evil, “which the whole ancient world did not sufficiently regard as an evil,” remained, “the kingdom in Israel was therewith exposed to the same convulsions to which all polygamous kingdoms are to this day exposed: and consequently, in his earliest bloom we see arise in Israel the germ of its destruction, which sooner or later can combine with other causes of dissolution. The evils in the house of David introduced by Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah … all hang together with the fundamental evil once brought out; many evils also amongst his successors are fastened to the same thread.” Although Mosaism even in the history of creation represents Monogamy as the original relation ordained by God Himself, nevertheless polygamy was so deeply rooted in the habits of all peoples, that the strict law-giver was not able to uproot it, but sought, by various limitations, to make it difficult (Deuteronomy 21:15 sq.; Exodus 21:9 sq. Cf. Winer, R.- W.-B. II. s. 662). It was expressly forbidden to a king to have many wives (Deuteronomy 17:17), because the dangers which inhered in polygamy were doubly great, and could become dangerous for the whole realm, as Solomon’s example conspicuously shows. The temptation was especially great with kings, because a large harem, according to the custom then prevalent, belonged to a royal state. It is, nevertheless, and remains a shadow resting upon the Old Covenant, and under it the sanctity of marriage was not properly understood and secured. Christendom was the first to make holy the band of matrimony. Without taking away the subordination of the woman, which is grounded in nature (Leviticus 3:16), it has given to her her rightful place (Galatians 3:28), and thereby, in that it represents the relation of Christ to His Church as the examplar of marriage, it sets forth, as a principle, monogamy as the only form and order of the sexual relation (Ephesians 5:22-49.5.33).
5. What now, in recent times, has been set forth as the proximate and co-operating cause or as the chief cause of the fall of Solomon, appears, upon closer examination, untenable. They who are of the opinion that Solomon indeed did not abandon the worship of Jehovah, but worshipped, besides Jehovah, heathen deities also, suppose that he reached this syncretism in the way of comparative reflection. Thus Niemeyer remarks (s. 493): “He knew well enough that these wooden and brazen images are nothing, but in them he paid honor to the spirits to whom the Highest, the Unattainable, the Unknowable had intrusted the rulership of the world. The more assuredly that this idea is derived from an oriental source, the more probable is it that Solomon believed that he could find therein the solution of his doubt whether the Creator of the world occupied Himself with what was insignificant, and with the destiny of each particular people.” The love for his foreign wives brought him to the pass of “denying his convictions, which had been becoming enfeebled.” Von Gerlach expresses himself to the same effect: “It is worthy of note that in respect of Solomon’s wisdom, his knowledge of nature is expressly celebrated, and that this wisdom is compared with and placed above that of the Orient and of Egypt (1 Kings 4:30 sq.). … It is easy to perceive that he made an attempt to blend the traditional world-knowledge of the East with the knowledge of the revealed God; that he allowed a certain independence to the powers of creation which he had represented in the figures of the Cherubim in the temple standing far below Jehovah, as His servants, and first tolerated the worship of them, and then in a certain degree himself took part therein.” This whole conception rests upon the erroneous presupposition that Solomon had actually burnt incense and had sacrificed to idols (besides to Jehovah), and it disappears with it. The historical text knows nothing at all of Solomon’s being misled to idolatry by his own reflection and by the blending of his wisdom with that of the East: it knows no other reason for his toleration of idolatry than that his strange wives “turned away his heart.” Lastly, neither in the historical books nor in the writings attributed to Solomon is there the slightest trace of the thought that idols were real living creative-powers, and subordinate deities serving Jehovah. It is a question whether such a view of the relation of Jehovah to gods of the heathen ever obtained in Israel. Certainly this was not the case in Solomon’s time, and the later prophets had no occasion to resist this opinion.—Ewald has set forth another view (as above, s. xiii. 368, 379 sq.). He finds the reason in the direction begun in Solomon’s kingdom, and so full of results to the whole history of Israel in the “violence” which cleaved to the kingdom naturally, by virtue of which he sought to make everything depend upon himself, and to extend his power to every phase of life—in fact, in political absolutism. The kingdom of Israel, under Solomon, felt the strongest tendency to become a thorough kingdom of the world; but in such a kingdom the toleration of different religions is inevitable. But as this toleration was as yet strange, “so the sheer royal authority introduced the innovation,” which to many of strict sentiments was abhorrent. This view has less even in its favor than the preceding. It rests upon an entirely false modern political view of monarchy in general, and of the Israelitish in particular. That which the only historical source in our possession gives as the chief occasion of Solomon’s turning is set wholly aside, and in its place something is advanced, of which not a word is said. Neither the announcement of the punishment (1 Kings 11:9-11.11.12), nor the prophecy of Ahijah to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:31 sq.), gives in the remotest degree, as the ground of the division of the kingdom, “violence,” i.e., excess of the royal authority, but only Solomon’s want of fidelity to Jehovah occasioned through his wives. A world-kingdom, to convert Israel into which, Solomon is supposed to have had the tendency, is established only by means of military conquests, as the history of the world shows. Thus the great Roman power began, yet it ceased with the freedom of all (kinds of) worship. Solomon was “a man of rest” and of peace (1 Chronicles 22:9), who did not extend the limits of the kingdom, but sought to keep and hold those only as they were under David. He meditated no world-power, and least of all to bring it to pass by the toleration of all religions.
6. The announcement of the divine punishment gives, what is well to notice, as the ground there of, not any sinful passion or any immoral act, not even the possession of many wives or unbridled lust, but only that Solomon had permitted and favored idolatrous worship, and in this had not observed the covenant and the commands of Jehovah. David sinned grievously in the matter of Bathsheba, but his procedure was still simply the immoral act of an individual in relation with an individual. Solomon’s deed, on the other hand, concerned the foundations of the theocracy. It was the setting aside and the destruction of the divine law upon which the whole kingdom, the existence of Israel as a people distinct from all heathen peoples, its world-historical destiny, rested. For a king of Israel, whose calling consisted, especially in this, to be a servant of Jehovah, the true king of Israel, and as such before all things to maintain thoroughly the Covenant, there could be no heavier announcement. In the case of Solomon, moreover, Jehovah had vouchsafed to him special revelations, had answered all his prayers, and had made him the most favored, the richest, and most fortunate king of that time. From the theocratic point of view, the punishment itself, the division of the kingdom and the limitation of the dynasty of Solomon to the tribes Judah and Benjamin, appears even-merciful, for in reality Solomon had rendered himself completely unworthy of the theocratic kingdom. For the rest, the punishment corresponded with the offence in so far as it brought to fruit and maturity the germ of the destruction of the kingdom which Solomon by his conduct had planted and tended. And it is true here also that what a man soweth that shall he reap. Solomon, befooled by his wives, believed that he could become still greater by transgression of the Covenant, and that he would make his kingdom more conspicuous and glorious; but this same transgression laid the foundation of irreparable breach and final ruin. From the modern liberalistic point of view Solomon’s act has been judged differently. So Ewald says (s. 380): “In that he allowed his wives to sacrifice to their deities was the best evidence of a general toleration of religion in his kingdom that he could furnish. In fact the act, a legal toleration of different religions in that early age of the wise Solomon was attempted—a toleration which the true religion must allow as soon as it recognizes its own being, and against which in our land to-day, this side the Niemen, the Jesuits alone are condemned to work. Certainly at that time the religion of Jahve was something too weak to stand alone by itself without any outward protection.… If only Solomon’s rule had not become gradually distasteful to the popular feeling for other causes, who knows what might have been established in this age for the continuance of the new wisdom!” After his usual fashion, Eisenlohr has adopted this view (s. 115). With Solomon, says he, “we see in place of the purely hostile posture towards heathenism a friendly approximation, in many respects even a formal blending, and indeed this took shape in a very natural way. In a great kingdom consisting of diverse nationalities, room must be allowed for the most diverse forms of religion.… Every genuine, sound type of religion (religiosität), in so far as its element is freedom, the right of individual contemplation and elevation above stiff outward forms in the region of the spirit, carries within itself the germ for the scattering of every exclusive kind.” That this way of viewing the subject is in direct contradiction with the biblical, scarcely needs mention. Were general religious toleration a work of wisdom, and the furtherance of true religion as soon as it recognizes its own being, Solomon, by his tolerance of the wild, immodest, and shameful Astarte-and-Moloch cultus, instead of the “wrath” of Jehovah and the punishment of the limitation of his kingdom to one tribe only, would have merited praise only, and the broader extension of his kingdom; and all the great prophets, an Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Hosea, &c., who opposed the toleration of every idolatrous cultus, and were zealous for the exclusiveness of the Jehovah-cultus, should be considered as the “Jesuits” of the old world, who did not know the nature of true religion. Solomon would have then erred only in investing the religion of Israel with too much power, and in his zeal for progress, in anticipating general religious freedom. With incomparably more right, Vilmar has rendered an opposite judgment (s. 179 sq.). “We have here before us a type of the authorization of all forms of religion within a definite, limited divine sphere of life.… Solomon’s ideal here is to let each man be saved à sa facon … the beginning of the (unlimited) “authorization of individuality”—this proposition is thoroughly subversive, belonging, in this form, to the last decades, in virtue of which church-bodies, States, peoples come to an end.”
For the rest we need not look for New-Testament views in the Old Testament, nor for Old Testament views in the New. They are distinct economies. Christianity is not like the Mosaic, conditioned by bodily descent and bound up in a given race, and does not impose the obligation forcibly to suppress any other religion within its jurisdiction. It knows no other instrument of its continuance and of its spread than that of the Word, and of the conviction thereby wrought. But if no people can be without religion, and if this have the most decisive, profound influence upon the spiritual and moral formation of the people, then the political power cannot be indifferent in respect of all religions, and cannot simply consider them of equal authority in any relation. Of the Solomonic prototype there remains thus much for all times and peoples, that the introduction and authorization of all, even the most diverse religions and forms of worship within a nation, does not make the same strong, but weak, and carries with it the danger of its national and political division and destruction; for religious indifferentism is the death of all true patriotism, and is more destructive of a people than religious fanaticism.
Homiletical and Practical
1 Kings 11:1-11.11.13. Solomon’s fall. The beginning, 1 Kings 11:1-11.11.4; the progress, 1 Kings 11:5-11.11.8; the end, 1 Kings 11:9-11.11.13.—M. Fr. Roos: Here we see plainly how a godly man may gradually fall into sin. He first allows himself too much liberty. He ventures into danger, and then perishes therein.… He who scorns danger, who by marriage and by a wilful intrusion upon certain positions exposes himself to it, or who even ventures in his daily course too much into the world, under the pretext of liberty; he who indulges in the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life instead of enjoying with gratitude and moderation the gifts of God, such an one becomes the slave of sin, and falls under the wrath of God. The heart is first inclined, then wanders upon evil paths, and at last does openly what is displeasing to the Lord. At first we permit in others, through complaisance, sin, which we could and should have checked, and thus we actually assist ourselves to sin. Still we preserve our appearance of wisdom and godliness, and will not have it supposed that we have entirely deserted the Lord. But he whose heart is not wholly with the Lord his God, follows him not at all; he who follows him not wholly, follows him not at all; for “a man cannot serve two Masters.” 1 Kings 11:1-11.11.8. The example given by the Bible in the case of Song of Solomon 1:0. What it teaches. (a) That for the sinful human heart, a constant outward prosperity is allied to spiritual dangers; for what profiteth, &c., Matthew 16:26. Thus it is that trial and sorrow are often blessings for time and eternity, Hebrews 12:6-58.12.12. (b) That the most abundant knowledge, the highest education and wisdom are no protection against moral and religious short-comings. Wine and women make foolish the wise man (Sir 19:2). No wise man commits a little folly, says an old proverb. Therefore, trust in the Lord, &c. (Proverbs 3:5-20.3.7). How it warns us. (a) Watch. If a Solomon can fall, a Solomon brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and walking in the ways of God in old age, a Solomon, the wisest man of his time! how necessary is it for us all to watch. Without watching, the greatest wisdom may become foolishness, and the highest spiritual condition may end in the wrath and judgments of God. (b) Pray. In the great prosperity and delight of this life, Solomon forgot prayer, as he had so well practised it in earlier years (chaps. 3. and 8.). His wives did not elevate his heart, they debased it. Prayer alone holds watch, and is therefore most necessary in prosperity and success (Psalms 76:2; Psalms 139:23 sq.).—”Let him who stands take heed,” &c. (1 Corinthians 10:12). (a) Solomon did stand in the living knowledge of God, in faith, and in humility (1 Kings 3:6; 1 Kings 8:23), but (b) he looked not well to himself, he did not observe that the thorns of wealth and the pride of life were choking the good seeds in his heart, therefore he fell, broke his covenant with God, and was under the just judgment of God. 1 Kings 11:1-11.11.4. Christian marriage in contradistinction to pre-Christian marriage (see Hist. and Ethic. 4) vs. Denial of the existence of marriage as a divine ordinance (Mark 10:6-41.10.9) is the source of the greatest and weightiest evils. Solomon sinned in this wise: That, contrary to the Law, he not only took to himself many wives, but foreign, i. e., heathen wives.—Osiander: Not without danger is it that a man takes a wife who is not of his own religion (1 Corinthians 7:16).—Lust of the eyes and the pride of life drowse the soul and cripple the will, gradually and imperceptibly influence the heart, so that it loses all sense of holy and earnest things, and all pleasure therein, and becomes stupid and indifferent to everything divine and noble.—A prince who allows himself to be advised and led by women in the affairs of his government, instead of guiding himself by the unchangeable law of God, destroys the prosperity of himself and his kingdom. Confidential intercourse and intimacy with those who know nothing of the living God, and of his word, but rather resist Him—those who well know how to flatter—this is a most perilous position for a God-fearing heart (Ecclesiastes 7:27).
1 Kings 11:4. Even as in youth exuberance of life and strength opens the door to temptation, so likewise does the weakness of old age. But an old gray-haired sinner is much more abominable in the sight of the Lord than a youth. Therefore, pray ever: Forsake me not in my old age, &c. (Psalms 71:9; Psalms 71:18).—There is no object worthier of compassion than the man who, having served the Lord, and kept the faith from his youth up, when old age has brought him near to his everlasting rest, turns his back upon it, and thus renders useless all his earlier struggles with sin and the world.—Vilmar: The sole condition under which, amid his natural weakness, an old man can maintain his spiritual strength, and guard his honor, is this: that “his heart is purely fixed upon God;” this condition failing, let a man’s whole life be influenced by the opinions of others; influenced by such opinions without sharing them, yet still without combating them, then complete wantonness will take possession of his old age.
1 Kings 11:5-11.11.8. Although Solomon did not himself practise idolatry, he permitted and encouraged it in others; but the receiver is as bad as the thief. That is the curse resting upon sin, that the very means by which men seek to raise themselves in the world’s estimation become the very means for their destruction. By perverted compliance and long toleration, Solomon brought ruin and destruction upon himself and his people for centuries to come. All indulgence which is grounded upon indifference to truth, or founded upon lukewarmness, is not virtue but a heavy sin before God, how much soever it may resemble freedom and enlightenment. In a well-ordered Church and State establishment neither bigotry nor superstition should have equal rights with faith and truth. Where the gate is opened to them, or where they are patronized instead of being resisted, then both people and kingdom are going to meet their ruin (see Ethical 6). 1 Kings 11:9-11.11.13. The punishment that fell upon Solomon shows us (a) the holiness and righteousness of God (Psalms 145:17; Psalms 5:5; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 12:47). (b) His faithfulness and mercy (1 Kings 11:12-11.11.13). He knows how to punish, so that His gracious promises remain firm (2 Timothy 2:13; Romans 3:3).—God makes known to us His judgments through His Word, so that we may have time to repent and to turn unto Him (Ezekiel 33:2).—If judgment fell especially upon Solomon, notwithstanding the fact that the Lord appeared to him twice in a dream, and he was honored with distinguished grace, what judgment must we expect, to whom He has appeared tenderly in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, &c. (1 Corinthians 1:30; Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 10:29).—God knows how, in the proper time, to belittle him who abandons and forsakes the Lord and His cause, in order to become great and distinguished in the eyes of the world (Daniel 4:34).
1 Kings 11:1; 1 Kings 11:1.—[The Sept. renders here ἦν φιλογύνης, which is not borne out by the character of Solomon, as is pointed out in the Exeg. Com. Immediately after this the Vat. Sept. introduces 1 Kings 11:3, transposed from its place, but omits its last clause altogether.
1 Kings 11:1; 1 Kings 11:1.—[All the ancient versions class Pharaoh’s daughter among the “strange wives,” which sense our author, as also Keil rejects. See Exeg. Com.
1 Kings 11:4; 1 Kings 11:4.—[The Vat. Sept. omits the middle clause of 1 Kings 11:4, and mixes together 1 Kings 11:6-11.11.8, omitting much of them.
1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:5.—[Notwithstanding the arguments in the Exeg. Com. against the personal idolatry of Solomon, it is to be remembered that the phrase הָלַךְ אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים, to go after other gods (1 Kings 11:4-11.11.5; 1 Kings 11:10) is one already established as far back as the Pentateuch as an expression of idolatry.
1 Kings 11:13; 1 Kings 11:13.—[For one tribe the Sept. have σκῆπτρον ἕν, which is, however, probably to be understood in the same sense.—F. G.]
Solomon’s Adversaries and Death
B.— 1 Kings 11:14-11.11.43
14And the Lord [Jehovah] stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad6 the Edomite: he was of the king’s seed in Edom. 15For it came to pass, when David was7 in [with, i. e., at war with] Edam, and Joab the captain of the host was gone up to bury the slain, after he had smitten every male in Edom; 16(for six months did Joab remain there with all Israel [i. e., the host], until he had cut off every male in Edom:) 17that Hadad fled, he and certain8 Edomites of his father’s servants with him, to go into Egypt: Hadad being yet a little child. 18And 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; which gave him a house, and appointed him victuals, and gave him land. 19And 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. 20And the sister of Tahpenes bare him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh’s house: and Genubath was in Pharaoh’s household among the sons of Pharaoh. 21And 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. 22Then 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, let me go in any wise.
23And God stirred him up another adversary, Rezon the son of Eliadah, which fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah: 24and he gathered men unto him, and became captain over a band, when David slew them of Zobah: and they went to Damascus, and dwelt therein, and reigned in Damascus. 25And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon,9 beside the mischief that Hadad did: and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.
26And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite of Zereda, Solomon’s servant, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow woman, even he lifted up his hand 27against the king. And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king: Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breaches of the city of David his father. 28And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valor: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph. 29And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field10: 30and Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces: 31and he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the Lord [Jehovah], the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: 32(but he shall have one11 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:) 33because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians,12 Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom13 the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes 34and my judgments, 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, because he kept my commandments and my statutes: 35but I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes. 36And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there. 37And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel. 38And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build 39thee a sure house, as I built for David,14 and will give Israel unto thee. And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not fore1 Kings 1 Kings 11:40 Solomon sought therefore15 to kill Jeroboam. And Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, unto Shi-shak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Song of Solomon 4:0; Song of Solomon 4:01And 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? 42And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. 43And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.
Exegetical and Critical
1 Kings 11:14. And the Lord stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, &c. It is clear and beyond dispute that the whole section, from 1 Kings 11:14-11.11.40, which treats of the different adversaries that God raised up against Solomon, is intimately connected with the immediately preceding account of his fall, and of the impending and threatened division of the kingdom. The latter was not to occur till after Solomon’s death; but the presages of it were already appearing. The peace of the kingdom hitherto undisturbed was endangered from that time on, both by internal and by external adversaries. The two external ones, Hadad and Rezon, had, indeed, always been foes to Israel and Solomon, but they had never ventured to show their animosity in open deed, inasmuch as the kingdom had become powerful and respected under Solomon. But Solomon, in permitting the idolatrous worship, gave great dissatisfaction to all the faithful servants of Jehovah, and with his own hands he shook the foundations of the kingdom. Other measures also, more or less connected with the former, caused him to lose, more and more, the esteem and confidence of his subjects; and then the long pent-up hatred of his old foes began to show itself more; their courage grew, and though they did not proceed to formal attack or to open rebellion (of which our narrative says nothing) Solomon had occasion to fear them more than ever before; the tranquillity and peace of his kingdom was endangered, and the time of prosperity past. Every one will admit that this is what the author meant to convey. But recent criticism reckons him a “later worker-up of Deuteronomy,” and accuses him of a shifting of the historical facts. According to Ewald (Gesch. Isr. III. s. 274–281), uproar and rebellion did not first break out towards the end of Solomon’s reign, but immediately after the death of David and of his formidable army-chief, Joab, in the beginning of the reign of the young and inexperienced king, both in the south (Edom) and in the north (Syria), as depicted by Solomon himself in the second Psalm With the divine courage and the admonition supported by prophetic assurance, which this Psalm expresses, together with wonderful firmness of spirit, Solomon met the storm of rebellion, and deprived his foes of their chief weapon of attack by his alliance with Egypt. Against the northern insurgents he himself marched, and stormed Hamath. Thus were the ragings of the people stilled, and in a brief space he became master of the situation. This view has been reiterated in several books (cf. for instance Eisenlohr, das Volk Isr. II. s. 47 and 57; Duncker, Gesch. des Alt. I. s. 387), and has been accepted as a matter of course; although there are the strongest reasons for rejecting it. (a) Our historical book says repeatedly how, and that the kingdom of Solomon became established (1 Kings 2:12; 1 Kings 2:46), without making the remotest allusion to rebellion having broken out in the lands David had conquered, and being put down by Solomon; yet this would especially have tended to establish his throne and increase the esteem in which he was held. Even in the chapter we are considering, no mention is made of actual rebellion, but only of adversaries; therefore to say there were certainly such, is not writing history, but making history. (b) The rebellion of whole nations which, like Edom, lived far off, could have been put down only by force of arms, and not by “reproof” or “strength of mind;” but the history says nothing of Solomon’s marching into Edom. He went indeed to Hamath, but not to conquer it, only to “fortify” it (חזק cf. 2 Chronicles 11:11-14.11.12; 2 Chronicles 26:9), as the short notice stands in 2 Chronicles 8:3, in the middle of the details of the different city-buildings. In fact we do not hear of a single warlike enterprise of Solomon’s; he was, as his name denotes, the king of peace, the “man of rest,” in distinction from David, the man of war (1 Chronicles 22:9); and his reign was distinguished by works of peace (building, commerce, intellectual culture), above that of all other kings. (c) The 2d Psalm does not contain a history, and our narrative cannot be completed, much less contradicted or corrected by it. It is a mere unproven hypothesis that this psalm was composed by Solomon, and that the rebellion alluded to in it took place during his reign, not in the last years of it, but in the first. What is here said of Hadad and Rezon certainly occurred at an earlier period, but is repeated, “because its influence only began to be felt in the latter part of Solomon’s reign, and should have guarded him from over-security from the beginning” (Keil).
1 Kings 11:14-11.11.22. Hadad, the Edomite. He is called Ahad [the English version does not distinguish] in 1 Kings 11:17. A Hadad is mentioned among the Edomite kings as early as Genesis 36:35; who evidently belonged to an earlier period. It is quite uncertain whether our Hadad was the grandson of the last king of Edom, whom 1 Chronicles 1:50 wrongly calls Hadad instead of Hadar (Genesis 36:39) (Ewald, Thenius). Details of his former fortunes are no doubt designed to show how firmly he clung to his native land, and therefore how much more he was to be dreaded. For David’s war with the Edomites cf.Sam. 1 Kings 8:13 sq. “The slain, whom Joab came out to bury, cannot be the Israelites who fell in the battle of the valley of salt, but those killed on the invasion of the country by the Edomites, and who lay yet unburied. After performing this act Joab defeated the Edomites in the valley of salt, and dwelt six months in Edom, till he had extirpated all the males (i. e., all those capable of bearing arms that fell into his hands, and especially those of royal blood”) (Keil). Midian, 1 Kings 11:18, cannot certainly be the town Madian mentioned by Arabian geographers, but a district; it is not very well defined, but it must have been between Edom and the desert, south-west of Palestine, Paran (Numbers 13:3; Numbers 13:27; Numbers 10:12); the road from Egypt still leads across the latter, through Aila to Mecca. The people whom the followers of Hadad took from Paran with them, were to lead the way across the desert. The Pharaoh who entertained the fugitives with such friendliness, and not only supported Hadad himself, but gave land to those with him, could scarcely be Solomon’s father-in-law, but his predecessor. His consort is here named הגְּבִירָה, the Queen-mother’s usual appellation (1 Kings 15:13; 2 Chronicles 15:16); but it does not always necessarily mean that; and consequently we are not obliged to accept Hitzig’s and Thenius’ reading of הַגְּדוֹלָה, i. e., the elder. The weaning of a child (1 Kings 11:20) usually took place the second or third year (2Ma 7:27), and was observed as a family feast (Genesis 21:8). Genubath was thus adopted among the royal children, and brought up with them (Winer, R.-W.-B., I. s. 657). Hadad’s petition (1 Kings 11:21) was not so much because he had now no longer any fear for his life, but because he, as a royal prince, hoped to ascend the throne, and free his land from the Israelitish yoke; this was the only reason why he is named an adversary. Pharaoh’s question, 1 Kings 11:22, contains the counsel to remain where he was, where he was well off, rather than undertake a dangerous and uncertain enterprise. This advice of his near relative was well meant, and did not spring from the policy of seeking to acquire or keep Solomon’s friendship. Hadad, however, remained firm in his resolve; we are not told of his actual departure, but it is to be understood; so that the Sept. addition, καὶ ‛Αδερ εἰς τὴν γῆν αὐτοῦ, considered as original by Thenius, is unnecessary. It appears from 1 Kings 9:26 sq.;1 Kings 10:11, that Hadad was not able to carry out his plans at once, but, the fire smouldered under the ashes, and threatened to break out as soon as Solomon began to be less respected. Ewald continues Hadad’s history further. He says the Egyptian king received him in so friendly a manner, “evidently intending to make use of him in the future against the growing power of Israel.” Genubath must have “acted an important part in Asia, later, or he would otherwise not have been named at all.” When the feeling of the Egyptian court changed towards Israel’s kings, “an evasive answer” was returned to the Idumæan prince; he would “not be detained, however, but fled secretly to his ancestral mountains, was there acknowledged by many of his people as king, and caused Solomon much perplexity, though he was never completely victorious.” Every one who can read may see that there is not a single word of all this in the text, and yet Eisenlohr has blindly followed the writer l. c., s. 58). Cf. also on 1 Kings 22:48.
1 Kings 11:23-11.11.25. And God stirred him up.… Rezon … the son of Eliadah, &c. 1 Kings 11:23. 2 Samuel 8:3 sq. mentions that David smote Hadadezer, king of Zobah, in Syria, whereupon Rezon forsook his master, gathered together an army from the remains of the Syrian host, and proceeded later to Damascus, settled there, and usurped the chief power. This may have occurred in David’s time, or in the beginning of Solomon’s reign. It is nowhere said that he rebelled on Solomon’s accession, and was conquered by him, and there is nothing to show “that he was at least twenty or thirty years older than Solomon” (Ewald). It is not impossible that he survived Solomon, for had he died sooner it could not be, as in 1 Kings 11:25, that “he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon.” He did not undertake any enterprise against the powerful king, but is he had always entertained hostile feelings to him, he now became a more dangerous and open enemy, as the power and fame of Solomon were declining. The words וְאֶת־הָרָעָה אֲשֶׂר הֲדָד are difficult, but can be translated only as many old translators give them, and among the recent ones, De Wette, Gesenius, Keil, Philippson; and “beside the mischief that Hadad (did).” וְאֶת is as in 1 Kings 11:1 and Exodus 1:14. We are not told what the mischief that Hadad did really was; the writer only means that Rezon’s enmity was added to that of Hadad. This view, which suits the context, relieves the following sentence of all difficulty: “and he (Rezon) abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.” Whilst Hadad agitated the south, Rezon rebelled from Solomon in the north, and took the supreme power. The Sept. translates as if it read זֹאת instead of ואת and אֱדֹם instead of ארם: Αὕτη ἡκακία ἥν ἐποίησεν ’Αὁάρ. καὶ . . . ἐβασίλευσε ἑν γῇ ’Εδώμ, i. e., this is the mischief which Hadad did; he abhorred Israel and was king in Edom. Thenius asserts that this was the original text. But in this case the whole sentence could not be here, where the question is about the second adversary, Rezon, but should have followed 1 Kings 11:22. It is incomparably less probable that it was there passed over by the oversight of a copyist (Thenius), and inserted here, than that the Sept. misunderstood the ואת, &c., and translated wrongly as it so often does, and was then obliged to change ארם to אדם because it did not suit Hadad. The Sept. has arbitrarily mixed the two accounts of the adversaries together (it puts 1 Kings 11:23-11.11.24 into 1 Kings 11:14), so that we should be very foolish to follow it in this case. Ewald translates, “as for the mischief which Hadad did, he was hostile to Israel and reigned over Edom;” but then the sentence should be back of 1 Kings 11:22 and not here. It is not right to change ארם into אדם, because the two foregoing verses absolutely require that Rezon should be considered as subject to וַיָּקָץ. Cf. Keil on the place.
1 Kings 11:26-11.11.27. Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Hadad and Rezon were dangerous “adversaries” to Solomon, but Jeroboam, though a subject and servant of Solomon, lifted up his hand against the king, i. e., he actually rebelled. His personal circumstances are given more at length because of his vastly greater importance. Zereda is not Zarthan, as Keil thinks (1 Kings 7:46); the latter is not in Ephraim; but Zereda is Zerira in the mountains of Ephraim (cf. Thenius on 1 Kings 12:2). The second half of 1 Kings 11:27 says, like 1 Kings 9:15 : “to build Millo and the walls of Jerusalem;” there is, therefore, no question here of stopping “a gap in the city of David” (Luther), but of the closing up of a ravine (Vulgate, vorago) in the city, which was done by walls. By פֶּרֶץ is meant the once very deep ravine of what was subsequently the Tyropœon, which separated Zion from Moriah and Ophel. This ravine became part of the interior of the city through these walls, and was made inaccessible to enemies (Thenius). The words, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph, are not in contradiction with 1 Kings 9:22; for slave-levy is not spoken of here (מַס־עֹבֵד), but that of the Israelites (מַם מִכָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵל) 1 Kings 5:13, who worked alternately. It is not, therefore, necessary to suppose that the “house of Joseph,” i. e., the Ephraimites (Joshua 17:17) were obliged to work at Millo, as a punishment for their rebellion under Sheba (2 Samuel 20:0). But the Ephraimites, who had an old and irrepressible jealousy of Judah, submitted very reluctantly to labor in the king’s citadel and the royal city of Judah; their compulsory work increased their dislike to hatred, so that it was easy to fan the flame of insurrection among them.
1 Kings 11:29. And it came to pass at that time,i. e., not at the time Jeroboam made the insurrection, but—taken with 1 Kings 11:28—the time when he entered upon the office of superintendent over all the Ephraimite levy; therefore, before he lifted his hand against the king, and proceeded to acts, but still he was brooding over insurrection. The notion that 1 Kings 11:29-11.11.39 is a section taken from another source and inserted here (Thenius) is, to say the least, unnecessary; it contains an explanatory and needful account, which is closely connected with 1 Kings 11:28. Jeroboam’s banishment from Jerusalem was probably the occasion for preparations of rebellion. The prophet Ahijah was of the same tribe as Jeroboam, for Shiloh was in the tribe of Ephraim, north of Bethel, south of Lebonah (Judges 21:19), and was the seat of the tabernacle from Joshua to Eli (Joshua 18:1; 1 Samuel 21:3). They no doubt knew each other well. The Sept. adds to the words in the way (for explanation): καὶ .
1 Kings 11:30-11.11.39. Ahijah caught the new garment.שַׂלְמָה (for שִׂמְלָה) is “probably similar to the Arabian burnou; a large square piece of cloth, thrown over the shoulders and almost covering the whole person in the daytime, and used at night for a coverlet” (Keil). Hess wrongly imagines it to have been a “new mantle which Jeroboam had on;” and Ewald thinks it was his “new and splendid official uniform.” It was the prophet’s own cloak, as 1 Kings 11:30 plainly says. The prophet himself explains the meaning of this symbolic act. Le Clerc says that the repetition of the word new shows that the prophet did what he did, non temere. Thenius thinks the new garment denoted the young and powerful kingdom; but both these explanations are strained. A new garment is one that is whole and complete, integer, without a rent or hole; the kingdom was hitherto without split or division, but was now to be torn and divided. קָרַע is usually applied to tearing the garments in sign of mourning (Genesis 37:29; Genesis 44:13; 2 Samuel 13:21; 2 Kings 18:37), i. e., of inward rending. Now when the prophet tore the cloak into twelve pieces, and gave Jeroboam only ten pieces instead of eleven, we must of course infer that neither Benjamin nor Judah alone was meant here, or in 1 Kings 11:13, by “one tribe,” but both together (cf. 1 Kings 12:20-11.12.21; 2 Chronicles 11:3; 12:23). Little Benjamin, over against Judah, came scarcely into consideration; and as, besides, the capital of the kingdom (Jerusalem) lay on the borders of both tribes, they might very well be reckoned as one. If, as Keil says, the number ten represents the total sum here, in distinction to the one part (all Israel fell away from the house of David, only a single portion remained to it), the prophet would have torn off only one small piece. For 1 Kings 11:32 see above on 1 Kings 11:12-11.11.13; and for 1 Kings 11:33 see on 1 Kings 11:5-11.11.8. The plural in 1 Kings 11:33 is remarkable (all translations, except the Chaldee, have the singular, which we expect here); perhaps it only means our vague word “one;” it is plain, however, that Israelites had already abandoned themselves to the licensed heathen worship. In the words in 1 Kings 11:36, that David may have a light always before me, “light” is not a symbol of prosperity (Keil), and ניר certainly does not mean breaking forth afresh (Hitzig), but it means simply the continuance of his race, as in 1 Kings 15:4; 2Ki 8:19; 2 Chronicles 21:7. As a house (dwelling) is dark (uninhabitable) without a light, so also is a house (family, race) without posterity; this is why we speak of the dying out of a race, at the present day, as its extinction. The same expression, 1 Kings 11:37 : and thou shalt reign according to all, &c., is used in 2 Samuel 3:21, about David; it does not mean pro lubitu tuo imperabis Israelitis (Dathe), but, thou shalt have the dominion thou now strivest for, &c., &c. 1 Kings 11:38. Jeroboam’s dominion then was connected with the condition upon which all dominion in Israel was based.
1 Kings 11:40-11.11.42. Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam. The immediate connection of these words with Ahijah’s address can scarcely mean otherwise than this: that Solomon heard of it, and sought to get Jeroboam out of the way by some means. Jeroboam could but know of this, and he lifted up his hand against the king, i. e., he proceeded to actual rebellion (1 Kings 11:26-11.11.27). But not succeeding, he fled to Egypt. The king then reigning was not, of course, Solomon’s father-in-law, nor Sesostris, as older commentators think, but was probably Seconchis or Sesonchusis, the first king of the twenty-second dynasty (cf. Winer, R.-W.-B. s. v. Sishak). The reception he gave Jeroboam shows his feeling towards Solomon. 1 Kings 14:21 sq. speaks of his open hostility to the kingdom of Judah.
1 Kings 11:43. Solomon slept with his fathers, at about sixty years of age, as he very early succeeded to the throne (1 Kings 3:7). Josephus thinks he was eighty or even ninety-four years old, but this is quite wrong, and was caused, probably, by confusion of the ciphers. All copies and translations give forty. Our author gives, in a general way, the “book of the acts of Solomon,” as the original source of his history; but 2 Chronicles 9:29 names, with more exactness, the “book (דִּבְרֵי) of Nathan the prophet, the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and the visions of Iddo the seer against Jeroboam.” But it does not follow that these three writings are only extracts from one historical one (Bertheau), but it certainly does appear that each one wrote down his own experience. When Solomon fell away, and Ahijah appeared, Nathan must have been dead. Cf. the Introduction, § 2. Rehoboam was not a son of the first and real consort of Solomon, the Egyptian princess (1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 9:24; 1 Kings 7:8), but the son of the Naamah the Ammonitess (1 Kings 14:21; 1 Kings 14:31). He appears to have been the only living son, as no children, especially sons, of Solomon are named (though he had so many wives), except the two daughters mentioned, 1 Kings 4:11; 1 Kings 4:15; and no brothers disputed the succession of Rehoboam, which was the case with Solomon. For his age at his accession see on 1 Kings 14:21.
Historical and Ethical
1. The appearance of the various adversaries of Solomon seems to have been a special act of divine retributive justice; God is named as the direct agent. He is said not only to have permitted them, but to have “stirred them up,” called them to it. The word הֵקִים means, as here, the stirring up of enemies and rebels, also of deliverers, helpers, prophets (Judges 2:18; Deuteronomy 18:15; Deu 18:18; 1 Samuel 2:35; Ezekiel 34:23; Jeremiah 29:15), where there is no allusion to mere permission. It is not indeed the absolutely Holy One who excites hatred, enmity, and revenge in one man towards another, for he tempts no man to evil (James 1:13); but the Almighty Ruler of the world can use the hatred that He sees in the hearts of sinful men, to fulfil, without their knowledge or wish, the purposes of His retributive justice and the chastisements of His love; and in so far, the stirring up is no passive permission, but the act of God. Thus Nathan announces to David, after his grievous sin, this word of the Lord, “behold I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house” (2 Samuel 12:11), and David himself says of Shimei who was cursing him, “so let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him” (2 Samuel 16:10-10.16.11). The Assyrian is, without knowing it, the rod of His anger in the hand of Jehovah (Isaiah 10:1; Isaiah 10:5), and Solomon’s adversaries also served for instruments of divine justice. This expression of stirring up shows clearly that the appearance of the adversaries did not take place, as recent commentators say, in the beginning of Solomon’s reign, for up to that time Solomon had given no occasion for any act of retribution or discipline. Though he did not lose his throne through them, during his life-time; yet it was very humiliating to him, whose power and splendor had been a spectacle to the world, and whose wisdom people of all nations had come to hear (1 Kings 4:14; 1 Kings 10:24), to be obliged to fear these men, who were far inferior to him, and whom he had once despised.
2. While Hadad and Rezon did not affect materially the destiny of Israel, the third opponent of Solomon was of vastly greater significance. Jeroboam does not disappear, like them, without leaving a trace in the history of the kingdom. His entrance on the scene was felt profoundly for centuries; the breach and partition of the kingdom take place with and through him; a partition which was no temporary one, but lasted about three hundred years, and ended with the dissolution of the kingdom. In this respect he is one of the most important of the characters in the history of Israel. Witsius, in reference to his whole career says (Decaphylon, p. 307): vir sagax, inquietus et dominandi avidus atque ab ineunte œtate iis eruditus artibus, quibus ingenia ad magnœ fortunœ cultum incitantur. Here where he is first mentioned the question properly arises, how it came to pass that he lifted up his hand against the King. The text certainly says nothing explicit about it, but gives some distinct clues. It says, first of all, he was an Ephraimite, thus being a member of the largest, most powerful, and warlike tribe, that had always vied with Judah for pre-eminence; and that, even when David had subdued them, never renounced their deeply rooted jealousy and love of independence and dominion over the other tribes (2 Samuel 2:9; 2 Samuel 20:21). After the division of the kingdom, Ephraim stood at the head of the ten tribes, so that the kingdom of the ten was called Ephraim (Hosea 4:17; Hosea 5:9; Hosea 12:1 sq.; Isaiah 7:2). Dislike of the supremacy of Judah was in the very blood of so young and powerful a man as Jeroboam, and it needed not much to excite thoughts of rebellion and independence in him. The fact that Solomon employed the Ephraimites not so much in the matter of levy-works as in building Millo, and in stopping up the ravine which served to fortify the city of David and to secure the supremacy of Judah, was calculated to increase the ancient jealousy and dislike to Judah, and to excite discontent and disgust. Recognizing the distinguished ability of young Jeroboam, Solomon made him overseer of his own people; thus feeding the ambition of this man who was born to rule. He now first became conscious of his powers, and soon acquired the confidence of his already discontented tribe by his prudence and energy, so that he could hope to succeed in placing himself at their head, and lifting his hand against the Judah-King. Perhaps he also perceived that the splendor of Solomon had lost its ground through the influence of his wives, the open introduction of idol-worship side by side with that of Jehovah, and the luxurious court life, and that his rule gave great dissatisfaction to the most worthy of the people. When we consider all this we readily conceive that a man like the Ephraimite, Jeroboam, should, without being especially influenced by any one, think of breaking loose from Solomon’s rule. The later critics have therefore no grounds for asserting that “the prophet Ahijah, who appeared at the head of a (discontented) faction,” induced Jeroboam to rebel against the king (Winer, R.-W.-B. I. s. 544). Thenius is quite right when he says, “Ahijah did not incite Jeroboam, but he knew the thoughts he cherished, and when Ahijah addressed him he was about taking steps to realize these thoughts, as 1 Kings 11:37 says: the prophet then appeared, for he saw that the deed would infallibly follow the resolve in this case, and recognized in Jeroboam a capable man, knowing also the promise of success under condition of continuance in a God-fearing mind. This relation is quite in the spirit of prophecy, and is totally different from an intentional and forcible introduction.” The text says distinctly that Ahijah met Jeroboam when the latter “went out of Jerusalem” (1 Kings 11:29) to lift up his hand against the king.
3. The prophet Ahijah stands in a relation to Solomon and Jeroboam analogous with that of Samuel to Saul and David (1 Samuel 15:16). “As Saul’s sentence of rejection was accompanied by the calling of David, so the prophetical announcement to Solomon was accompanied by the prophecy to Jeroboam” (v. Gerlach). Ahijah opened to him the same divine decision which he had first made known to Solomon (cf. 1 Kings 11:11-11.11.13). In doing so he emphasizes two things particularly, and these are worthy of notice; the first is, that Solomon was to remain king of all Israel to the end of his life, and the division of the kingdom was to take place under his son (1 Kings 11:31 sq.); the second, that Jeroboam only received dominion over the ten tribes, on the presupposition and condition that he would walk in all the commandments of Jehovah, as David did, and not sin like Solomon (1 Kings 11:37 sq.). It is added also that David’s seed was to be humbled, but not forever (1 Kings 11:39). We should not overlook the circumstance that the prophet met Jeroboam on the way as he came out of Jerusalem, and was proceeding to carry put his intentions, and that the prophet took him aside (as the Sept. at least has it) so that they “two were alone in the field” (1 Kings 11:29). Ahijah’s communication was, therefore, not intended for the public, but was confidential, thus intimating to Jeroboam that he ought not to proceed to rebellion at once, but keep quiet, and wait till it might please the Lord to bring about circumstances to fulfil the purpose He had announced. The prophet, so far from counselling him to rebellion, warned him rather, and recommended patience as long as Solomon lived. But when Jeroboam, nevertheless, lifted up his hand against the king, he committed an inexcusable, sinful deed on his own responsibility, and anticipated divine providence. His conduct was just the opposite of David’s, who, though anointed to be king, and persecuted by Saul, endured every wrong, never revenged himself on the king, though the latter was often in his power, even mourned his death, and had the Amalekite who killed him executed as a traitor (2 Samuel 1:11-10.1.16). He believed that the Lord knew the right hour to fulfil his promise. It cannot, therefore, be accounted a crime in Solomon to strive to kill a man whom he had raised from nothing, and who then rebelled against him. From all this it appears that it is quite erroneous to account for Jeroboam’s appearance by saying that “the ancient prophetical estate wished, by the forcible introduction of a new royal house, to stand directly under the Lord and above the human monarchy;” so that the kingdom of the ten tribes was “the birth of this prophet-power,” and the latter “a retarded error” (Ewald). And it is equally untrue that the rebellion of the ten tribes was “an enterprise which the prophet had encouraged, to bring back the old national constitution, and restore the consideration in which his class was held in Samuel’s time, when he, their founder and representative, deposed a king who disobeyed him, and raised up another in his place” (Menzel, l. c. s. 152). When will men cease to compare the old prophets with modern demagogues and ambitious priests!
4. The symbolic procedure of the rending the garment into twelve pieces preceded the prophecy delivered by the prophet. It could not, therefore, have been intended to make that prophecy clear, but rather inversely, the prophecy explained the transaction. This was the case not only here, but the prophets generally performed a preliminary symbolic action which represented the substance of the meaning of the solemn prophecy which followed; and they performed this act on the impulse of the divine spirit, just as they proclaimed the word following in their divine commission. Cf. Isaiah 20:2 sq.; Jeremiah 13:1 sq.; Jeremiah 29:1 sq.; Jeremiah 35:2 sq.; Jeremiah 43:9 sq.; Ezekiel 4:1 sq.; Ezekiel 5:1 sq.; Ezekiel 12:3 sq.; Ezekiel 24:2 sq.; Ezekiel 37:15 sq.; Ezekiel 13:15 sq. From these passages we see that the performance of such actions was as much a part of the prophetic calling and office as the proclamation of the word. All revelation of God is in the way of act as well as of word: God’s deeds as well as His words are signs that testify of Him. His acts are also, as it were, speech, i. e., a revealing of Himself. The speaking of God is a sign-language, and therefore a symbol-language. The entire cultus has, hence, symbolic form as the real expression of the divine-human relation. When the prophets, therefore, appeared as such, i. e., as “men of God,” as mediators and instruments of divine revelation, they did not communicate it in words only, but in solemn acts, which were signs; and thus they proved themselves the servants of God, speaking in His language. Their prophetic acts, as well as their prophetic words, were announcements and revelations of the divine purpose. When they anticipate their words by an act commanded by God, this act is not to be viewed as a mere image, according to their own pleasure, but it represents the future which they had to reveal as a fact, as it were, a present deed of God, and therefore as something which would assuredly happen. The action, then, was an assurance and pledge of the fulfilment of the prophecy; and it was entirely natural that it should precede the word explaining and interpreting it. Besides, every thought which is embodied in a deed produces a much greater and more lasting impression than if only expressed in words. Of Christ, in whom all that is prophetic culminates, the disciple says (Luke 24:19): “which was a prophet mighty in deed and word,” thus proving that not words only, but actions also belong to the essence of the calling of the prophet. The people concluded from his deeds that “a great prophet is risen up among us” (Luke 7:16). His prophetic deeds were “signs” (John 6:26; John 20:20), not mere evidences of power, but of divine authority; and they spoke of divine things as loudly and, if possible, more loudly than His words. He himself says, “Though ye believe not me, believe the works” (John 10:38); “the works that I do in my Father’s name they bear witness of me” (John 10:25).
5. The rending of the ten tribes appears, in the prophet’s prediction here as in 1 Kings 11:11-11.11.13, to be a punishment ordained and determined by Jehovah for Solomon’s falling away, not, therefore, as an event merely permitted by God but designed; and therefore announced beforehand. The question arises, in what relation did this partition, determined on by Jehovah, stand to His plans regarding Israel considered as one people composed of twelve tribes? The whole nation was His inheritance, for He had called them from among all nations to be a divine kingdom (Exodus 19:5-2.19.6), i. e., a theocracy. The one God, Jehovah, was, as the true King and Lord of that people, so also the root and principle of their unity—the bond binding together all the tribes into one whole. The human monarchy afterwards established by the desire of the people did not destroy the theocracy but served rather to sustain and preserve it (see above). But it was not now absolutely necessary that all the tribes should have one head; in fact they might each have had a head, had they only acknowledged Jehovah as the one true king of all Israel, and held fast to the covenant, i. e., the law of God. “It was not contrary to the Mosaic constitution for Jehovah to weaken—not destroy—a royal house that had turned to idolatry; to rend away some tribes from it, and to place them under the government of another king. It was rather the fittest thing to be done; for otherwise the principles that lay in the very nature of the constitution—namely, that disaster should follow idolatry, and prosperity the fear of God, would have been violated. One of these two things must (according to these principles) have come upon David’s house after a lapse into idolatry, viz. either expulsion from the throne (which could not be on account of the promise of perpetual succession), or weakening such as was foretold by Jehovah,.… a falling away of some tribes” (Hess, Von dem Reiche Gottes, I. s. 301). As Jehovah had heretofore governed his people by one king (David and Solomon) he could also do it by two without destroying the theocratic principle. The new kingdom is offered to Jeroboam and continuance is promised to his dynasty on the express condition that he should, “like David,” faithfully adhere to the law; with the explanation, nevertheless (1 Kings 11:39), that the humiliation of the house of David would be but temporary. Thus it is indicated that the promise of the everlasting kingdom would not be realized in Jeroboam’s race, “but in that of David” (Oehler). The prediction of Ahijah does not imply a partition of the theocracy or of Israel, but only of the human monarchy under two kings. The double nature of the kingdom was not the cause of the permanence of the division, nor of the commencement of the destruction of the kingdom; these were the results of the continued falling away from the supreme commandment of the theocratic law on the part of the ten tribes.
6. There are no accounts of Solomon’s end, nor of his life and acts from the time of his lapse till his death; all is reduced to the notice that he sought to kill Jeroboam, and that he died and was buried. This is the more remarkable as the life and acts of this king are more minutely narrated than those of any succeeding one, and that the last days and end of David in particular are recorded with such evident care both in our books and in the Chronicles. Had Solomon ended his life like David, who with joyous heart blessed the Lord to the last (1 Chronicles 29:10 sq.), and charged his son and successor most emphatically to remain faithful to Jehovah (1 Kings 2:1 sq.), and been anxious that the prosperity of the kingdom should endure on the basis of the covenant with Jehovah (2 Samuel 23:1 sq.), such a circumstance would not have been passed over. We must therefore conclude, from the entire silence of the history, that Solomon did not die as David died, that he remained in the state of mind into which he had fallen in his later age. The question whether Solomon was finally converted and saved was formerly discussed extensively (Buddeus, Hist. Eccl., II. p. 237 sq.), but we see no occasion to introduce it here. Both Hess and Niemeyer have endeavored to ascertain from Ecclesiastes what Solomon’s state of mind was in his last days; but apart from the mistaken presupposition that this treatise was composed by Solomon, no one could prove his conversion from it; and Niemeyer concludes his character-sketch with these words: “the cheerful peace of his soul was gone. Gloomy was his retrospect of life, and gloomy was his view of the near and of the distant future.” It is worthy of remark, that while Solomon (Suleiman) is held in high honor in the East at the present day, his memory is far less revered among the Jews than that of David, which could not have been the case had his reign ended as gloriously as it began. Bertheau justly remarks that Solomon “did more towards undermining the distinctive peculiarity of his people than any other king.” We are not, however, to seek the cause of this simply in his making a people who were adapted to agriculture, commercial, and in his splendid buildings, his harem, and his court, all hitherto unknown in Israel, but the real specific reason was that by the introduction and the toleration of foreign idolatrous forms of worship he undermined the religion of his people, forth from which religion flowed all the characteristics which distinguished them over against all other peoples; that was the worm at the root of the kingdom and the national life.
[7. It is extremely difficult to give a portraiture of Solomon which can harmonize at once both the demand for historic truth and the general estimation which tradition assigns to him. The story is extraordinary. David the father of the wise king founded and consolidated the kingdom. His life was stormy and checkered. His character was romantic and chivalric and generous. He showed himself capable both of great self-sacrifice and of revolting criminality and treachery. He was tender and he was brave. His soul rested upon the covenant-keeping Jehovah, yet he dared to violate all the duties of the decalogue which concern man’s dealings with his brother man. Solomon did not inherit the personal traits of his father. He was not warlike; he was a man of peace. He sought wisdom, and he sought it from Jehovah. He desired to administer his government according to the law and will of God. He had fine talent for observation. He was a naturalist of rare attainments. He knew much of the earth; he knew much of men. He was a man of understanding, expressing his thoughts and observations in proverbs. He was splendid in his tastes. He sought wealth by commerce and by trade with heathen nations. He made Israel a kingdom of this world; at the same time, he built the temple, lavishing upon it untold sums of money, and aiming to make it, according to Eastern conceptions, splendid in all respects. Certainly at its dedication he is one of the most imposing and majestic figures in all history. But by degrees, enervated by luxury, by pleasure, by plenty, he lost the strength of his convictions. He became wise in this world. The law of Jehovah lost its hold upon his conscience. He began to justify idolatry. “He that built a temple to the living God for himself and Israel, in Sion, built a temple to Chemosh in the Mount of Scandal for his mistresses of Moab, in the very face of God’s house. No hill about Jerusalem was free from a chapel of devils: each of his dames had their puppets, their altars, their incense; because Solomon feeds them in their superstition, he draws the sin home to himself, and is branded for what he should have forbidden.”—Bp. Hall. And by degrees the splendor passed away, and darkness and weariness, and hopelessness, and an ignoble old age came on. He forsook the noble path of his youth, and his glory was lost. See Stanley, Jewish Church, second series, Lect. 28., and F. D. Maurice, The Prophets and Kings of the Old Testament, Sermon on the Wise King. The sun of his life rose in all splendor, and shone brilliantly, to go down at last amid the heavy darkness of impending storm and night. The people lost their sense of the exclusive sovereignty of Jehovah; their burdens were heavy—and the brief glory of Israel as a kingdom of this world passed away forever.—E. H.]
Homiletical and Practical
1 Kings 11:14-11.11.40. Solomon’s enemies. 1. They are roused against him by God, so that he may know and confess what heart-suffering it brings to forsake the fear of the Lord his God (Jeremiah 2:19). Cramer: So marvellously does God bring it about, that he who will not fear him, must needs fear his fellow-men. Once the man of rest, and the Prince of Peace (1 Kings 5:4), now he is pressed sore by enemies from the north, from the south, and from his midst; they are the scourges with which the Lord chastises him. When foes and opponents rise against thee, and cause thee care and anguish, then think: The Lord has summoned them on account of thy sins, and unfaithfulness. The hostility of men is a sermon of repentance from thy God to thee. 2. They were in God’s hand, and could do no more than he permits; they rebelled, but they were powerless to take from Solomon the throne and kingdom during his lifetime. The Lord commands our foes: So far shalt thou go, and no further.—J. Heermann: If thou speakest the word, they soon become friends: they must needs lay down arms and defences, and stir no finger.—P. Gerhardt: If I am beloved of God, and have the Head for my friend, what can troops of foes and opposers do to me? For he can humble the proud (Daniel 4:35). Formerly all kings did homage to Solomon, and brought him gifts, and journeyed from all countries to see and to hear him; his power was as great as his kingdom. But now his power and might are abased before those who hitherto ranked far below him, whom he had regarded as the least of his slaves and vassals. Humiliation coming through weak and inferior means is much more bitter than the same humiliation through strong and powerful means; the latter we can ascribe to men, but in the former we must recognize the will and power of God.
1 Kings 11:14-11.11.22. The fate of Hadad is recounted to us not so much on his account as on our own, in order that we may learn to regard the ways of God with man, and order our own ways by Him, who is ever mercy and wisdom (Psalms 25:10). If God brought back the heathen Hadad by mysterious ways to his native land, how much more will he lead those who keep his covenant and testimony to the true native land, and to the eternal rest, how dark and inscrutable soever may be the ways by which he leads them. 1 Kings 11:21. Let me go into mine own country. The power of love of country. Not ubi bene, ibi patria, but ubi patria, ibi bene. Yet must we not in the earthly country forget the heavenly “Fatherland.” 1 Kings 11:23-11.11.25. Though vanquished and cast down, tyranny and ambition do not forget; they think perpetually of vengeance, and seek to satisfy it, now by rough means now by subtle ones, whenever an opportunity offers. Therefore, warns the apostle so earnestly (Romans 12:19) against those secret and mighty motives in the natural heart of man.
1 Kings 11:26-11.11.28. God is wont to chastise the rebellion of princes against his will, by means of the rebellion of their own subjects; as Solomon raised his hand against Jehovah, so did his servant Jeroboam against him. Destruction from above unites with ruin from below. Whatever Solomon undertook after his fall, was deprived of God’s blessing. By the building of Millo he intended still further to strengthen his dominion over all his enemies, and to render impregnable his dwelling-place, but this very building was the cause why his throne began to totter, and why he lost the greater part of his kingdom. Here applies Psalms 127:1. It was by divine decree that Solomon himself, without his own will or knowledge, should raise from the dust to high places the very man appointed by God to abase him, and to dismember his kingdom. Conspiracies and rebellions are chiefly led by those who have to complain least of injustice or oppression, but have been pampered and favored until ambition incites them to suppress every feeling of gratitude (John 13:18).
1 Kings 11:29-11.11.39. cf. above 1 Kings 11:9-11.11.13. The prediction of the prophet Ahijah announces 1. the division of the kingdom as a consequence of the going astray to the worship of strange gods (1 Kings 11:31-11.11.33); 2. the preservation of the kingdom of Judah on account of the promise given to David (1Ki 11:34; 1 Kings 11:36; 1 Kings 11:39); 3. the choice made of Jeroboam, on condition of inflexible fidelity to Jehovah and to his law (1 Kings 11:37-11.11.38). 1 Kings 11:31. All the world must confess, upon beholding the abasement of the house of David and the elevation of Jeroboam, that the Most High has power over the kingdoms of men, and bestows them upon whom he will (Dan 4:29; 1 Samuel 2:7-9.2.8; Luke 1:52). 1 Kings 11:36. Even in the midst of his just anger the Lord is merciful, and the inconstancy of man can never shake His fidelity. The fulfilment of 2 Samuel 7:14-10.7.15, is seen in Solomon’s history. The house of David remained a light “forever,” until that Son of David came who is the light of the world, which lighteth all men who come into the world (John 1:9; Romans 15:12).
1 Kings 11:40-11.11.43. These three truths are nowhere more powerfully exemplified than in the life of Solomon: What availeth it a man, &c., (Matthew 16:26); Vanity of vanities, &c. (Ecclesiastes 1:2), and The world passeth away, &c. (1 John 2:17; cf. 1 Peter 1:24). 1 Kings 11:40. Roos: Sin obscures the soul. He who turns aside from God departs from wisdom; and let those who, instead of bowing and submitting with resignation to the chastisements of God, haughtily strive against them, contemplate the fate of Jeroboam, who, doubtless, stirred up the plot against Solomon, since he afterwards eagerly abetted the desertion of the ten Tribes. Even as Solomon, when he sought to slay Jeroboam, must have felt that in vain he resisted the divine decrees, and was powerless to hinder them, so likewise Jeroboam, compelled to fly to Egypt, must have become conscious that in vain he strove rashly and insolently to anticipate the execution of the divine decrees. We must even make bitter expiation when we haughtily resist and oppose the Lord, or when we strive to hasten his designs, or to appoint time and place for their fulfilment. The life of Solomon closes with the words: Therefore Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam. Instead of seeking forgiveness from Him who forgiveth much, and himself granting forgiveness, he is thinking of murder and vengeance. How great and noble the contrast between this and the Figure of Him who in the face of death upon the cross cried: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Let us strive to become like unto his image, and that our last thought in life may be of love and reconciliation, and not of revenge and hatred. Solomon possessed the fairest and noblest crown that mortal can wear, yet it was perishable, not enduring beyond death and the grave. The Lord promises an immortal crown to those who love and follow Him. Be faithful unto death, then He will give thee the crown of life; blessed is he who endureth unto the end.
1 Kings 11:14; 1 Kings 11:14.—[This name is variously written in the printed Heb. text הֲדַד and אֲדַד; in some MSS. and in the Syr. it is uniformly written הדר. The Sept. has Ἄδερ, and the Vulg. Hadad. The Chald. follows the variations of the Hebrew. After the mention of his name the Vat. Sept. subjoins a summary of 1 Kings 11:23-11.11.25, omitted in their place.
1 Kings 11:15; 1 Kings 11:15.— Instead of בִּהְיוֹת the Sept ., Syr., and Arab. read בְּהַכּוֹת (when David had slain the Edomites), which Maurer and Thenius consider right. But according to 1 Chronicles 20:5; Genesis 14:9 [add Numbers 20:13], the reading of the text is not to be peremptorily rejected.
1 Kings 11:17; 1 Kings 11:17.—[The Sept., in curious contradiction to 1 Kings 11:15-11.11.16, has here “all the Edomites,” &c.
1 Kings 11:25; 1 Kings 11:25.—[The Vat. Sept. here resumes the course of the Heb. narrative, but gives quite a different sense: “this is the evil which Hadad did: he abhorred Israel and reigned in Edom.” On the true rendering of the verse see Exeg. Com. In regard to the last word, three MSS., followed by the Sept., Syr., and Arab., have אדם for ארם: but, as pointed out in the Exeg. Com., the true reading must necessarily be that of the text. Our author in his translation, in opposition to his own exegesis, follows the Sept.
1 Kings 11:29; 1 Kings 11:29.—[The Sept. renders or replaces the last clause by “and he took him aside from the way.”
1 Kings 11:32; 1 Kings 11:32.—[The Sept. has δύο σκῆπτρα—two tribes. So also 1 Kings 11:36.
1 Kings 11:33; 1 Kings 11:33.—[Instead of the peculiar form צִדֹנִין many MSS. read צִדוֹנִים.
1 Kings 11:33; 1 Kings 11:33.—[The Sept. has evidently understood in מִלְכֹּם the final ם as a pronominal suffix, and so translate “their king, the stumbling-block of the children of Ammon.” Throughout this verse the Sept. puts the verbs in the singular as having Solomon for their nominative.
1 Kings 11:38; 1 Kings 11:38.—[The Vat. Sept. omits the clause “and will give Israel unto thee.”
1 Kings 11:40; 1 Kings 11:40.—[וַיְבַקֵּשׁ שְׁלֹמֹה = but Solomon sought. The word “therefore” of the ancient version is not necessary, and connects the attempt of Solomon quite too distinctly with the communication of Ahijah, which may have been known to him (see Exeg. Com.) or may not. The true connection of 1 Kings 11:40 is with 1 Kings 11:26, 1 Kings 11:27-11.11.39 being parenthetical.—F. G.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 11". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany