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1 Kings 11:1. Together with the daughter of Pharaoh— Pharaoh's daughter, as we have before remarked, is generally supposed to have been a proselyte to the Jewish religion, and therefore Solomon incurred no fault in marrying her. But in marrying so many women besides, and these of a different religion, he committed two sins against the law; one in multiplying wives, and another in marrying those of strange nations, who still retained their idolatry. And therefore the wise son of Sirach, amidst all the encomiums which he heaps upon Solomon, could not forget this great flaw in his character. See the note on 1 Kings 11:42.
1 Kings 11:3. Seven hundred wives, &c.— Without knowing the customs of the princes of the East, their pomp, and sumptuousness of living, one might be tempted to wonder of what possible use was this multitude of wives and concubines. But, as Solomon was between forty and fifty years old before he ran into this excess, we cannot but suppose that he kept this multitude of women partly for state. Darius Codomanus was wont to carry along with him in his camp no less than three hundred and fifty concubines in time of war; nor was his queen offended at it; for the women used to reverence and adore her, as if she had been a goddess. Father Le Compte, in his history of China, tells us, that the emperor has a vast number of wives chosen out of the prime beauties of the country, many of whom he never so much as saw in his whole life: and, therefore, it is not improbable that Solomon, as he found his riches increase, might enlarge his expences, and endeavour to surpass all the princes of his time in this, as well as in all other kinds of pomp and magnificence.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Lord, what is man! Is this Solomon the wise? Is this Jedediah, the beloved of the Lord? Is this the man of prayer, the builder of God's temple? How art thou fallen, Son of the Morning!
1. The cause of Solomon's sad departure from God is here mentioned. The love of women stole away his heart; insatiate lust led him to multiply his wives and concubines; and when the women of Israel no longer pleased his vitiated taste, or piously refused to minister to his guilty pleasures, he sought for others, less scrupulous, from the forbidden nations around him. On these his heart doated; and as he grew old, he grew fonder still, and could refuse them nothing. Note; (1.) No passion so dangerous to the soul as the criminal love of women. (2.) Every indulgence given to lewd desire, only makes those desires more insatiate.
2. The sad effects produced by his inordinate affections. His heart was drawn aside to idolatry, to which David in his most lamented days never inclined. His wives, taking advantage of his fondness and age, first seduced him to grant them the worship of their own gods, and then engaged him to join with them in the abominable service. To such a pitch of impiety it grew at last, that the high place of Chemosh confronted the very temple of God. Note; (1.) They who give way to one wilful sin, never know when or where they shall stop. (2.) The indulgence of fleshly lusts makes the heart brutish, and stupifies the conscience. (3.) Outward prosperity is a dangerous state: they who fare sumptuously every day, often find their table a snare, and pampered appetite their ruin. (4.) The greatest attainments, without continued watchfulness and jealousy, may be quickly lost; and, like Solomon, the highest in profession of godliness, become the foulest in their falls. (5.) Solomon's sin should be our warning: a busy devil, and a body of flesh, will never cease tempting. Let us never turn into an argument to embolden us, what is left on record as an admonition to deter us from the like sins.
2nd, Justly provoked at such base ingratitude and wilful disobedience, after such repeated instances of his kindness, God sends a terrible message to awaken him from his shameful backsliding. Since he had revolted from God, the kingdom shall revolt from him, that is, from his posterity in the next reign; and though, for the sake of the promise made to David, he would leave him one tribe, that is Judah, with which Benjamin, as adjacent, was reckoned: the other ten tribes should be given to his servant. In mercy God deferred the execution of his sentence till his son's reign, but left him to lament the approaching desolations, when all the glory that he hoped to transmit to his posterity would be so eclipsed. God had given him fair warning before; he has now only his own wickedness to blame. What effect this message had we are not told; but we hope it was, like Nathan's, the means of bringing him to repentance; and that the book of Ecclesiastes contains his repentance, and acknowledgment of his sin and folly.
1 Kings 11:14. Hadad the Edomite— Hadad was a young prince of the royal family of Idumea, who fled into Egypt when David conquered that country: for David, having obtained a signal victory under the conduct of Abishai, who, at that time commanded in chief, sent Joab afterwards with an order to kill all the males who should be found in the land. But Hadad had escaped into Egypt, where, finding favour with the king, he married his wife's sister, and there settled.
1 Kings 11:23. Rezon, the son of Eliadah— When David made war against Hadadezer, Rezon, one of his generals, escaped from the field of battle with the troops under his command; and, having lived for a little while by plunder and robbery, at length seized on Damascus, and reigned there. But his reign was not long, for David took Damascus as well as the other parts of Syria, and left it in subjection to his son Solomon; till God was pleased to suffer this Rezon to recover Damascus, and there re-establish himself; whence, uniting in league with Hadad, he greatly disturbed the latter part of Solomon's reign. Houbigant translates the 25th verse, he therefore, while Solomon lived, was perpetually an adversary to Israel; while in the mean time Hadad vexed and laid Israel waste, for he reigned in Edom.
REFLECTIONS.—Peace and plenty had for a time, with uninterrupted streams, flowed in upon the pious Solomon: but when he exchanged his wisdom for folly, and his piety for profaneness, then the current of his mercies was stayed, and God began to afflict him. Sin and suffering usually go linked together.
God stirred up adversaries against him, foreign and domestic, to avenge his quarrel, and to be a scourge for his sins. Note; The instruments that God uses, often mean only their own ambition, but he directs them to fulfil his purposes, and makes them subservient to his glory.
1. Hadad, the Edomite. At the beginning of Solomon's reign, he longed to return to his native country, which Pharaoh, though with great reluctance, granted; there he seems to have continued in secret, engaging the people in his favour, till now Solomon's sin gave him an opportunity to declare himself, and, though the mischief he did is not mentioned, he became, it is plain, a very troublesome neighbour. Note; (1.) The weakest instruments in God's hands can soon grow strong enough to be our bitter scourge. (2.) Like Hadad, the believer, though enjoying every thing on earth that his heart can wish, yet sighs for home, and saith, O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away to my eternal rest, in the bosom of Jesus!
2. Rezon was another enemy. Now towards the end of Solomon's reign, when his wickedness made him weak, seizing Damascus, he fixed there the seat of his kingdom. The remembrance of his former sufferings sharpened his resentment: he abhorred Solomon and Israel, and, in concert with Hadad, continued to harass and disturb them. Note; When God resolves to chastise, he will not want a rod.
1 Kings 11:26. And Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, &c.— As the expence and trouble of building and repairing Millo were very great, Jeroboam, who was placed over this work, took an opportunity from thence to infuse a spirit of sedition into his brethren of the tribe of Ephraim, to complain heavily of the hard labour to which they were forced to submit, and the taxes that they were obliged to pay; and to represent the whole thing as a work of vanity, merely to gratify a proud foreign woman, and a silly, doating king; for Solomon filled up a part of the valley of Millo to build a palace for Pharaoh's daughter. By these insinuations Jeroboam wrought in the people a disaffection to Solomon and his government. See Calmet.
1 Kings 11:29. The prophet Ahijah— Ahijah was a native of Shiloh, and one of those who wrote the annals of king Solomon's reign, 2Ch 9:29 and he is thought to have been the person who spake twice to Solomon from God; once while he was building the temple, chap. 1Ki 6:12 and again when he fell into his irregularities, 1 Kings 11:11. His prediction to Solomon, that he would one day be perverted by women; and to Jeroboam, that heifers (meaning the two golden calves) would alienate him from the service of God, are both taken notice of by Epiphanius de Vita et Morte Prophet. See Calmet.
1 Kings 11:30. Ahijah caught the new garment,—and rent it— Language, it appears from the nature of the thing, from the records of history, and from the remains of the most ancient languages still subsisting, was at first extremely rude, narrow, and equivocal; so that men would be perpetually at a loss, on any new conception or uncommon incident, to explain themselves intelligibly to one another. This would necessarily set them upon supplying the deficiencies of speech, by apt and significant signs. Accordingly, in the first ages of the world, mutual converse was upheld by a mixed discourse of words and actions (hence came the eastern phrase, Exo 4:8 of the voice of the sign); and use and custom, as in most other affairs of life, improving what had arisen out of necessity into ornament, this practice subsisted long after the necessity was over; especially among the eastern people, whose natural temperament inclined them to a mode of conversation which so well exercised their vivacity by motion, and so much gratified it by a perpetual representation of material images. Of this we have innumerable instances in Scripture, as well as in this passage. By these actions the prophets instructed the people in the will of God, and conversed with them in signs: and, as it likewise appears that the information by action was at this time and place a very familiar mode of conversation, this will lead us to a reasonable and true defence of the prophetic writings, and enable us to clear them from the charge of absurdity and fanaticism. The absurdity of an action consists in its being extravagant, and insignificative; but use and a fixed application made these in question both sober and pertinent. The fanaticism of an action consists in a fondness for unusual actions and foreign modes of speech; but these in question were idiomatic and familiar. Divine Legation, vol. 3: p. 99.
1 Kings 11:40. Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam— How Solomon came to know what was transacted between Ahijah and Jeroboam alone, is a question of no great difficulty; for, perhaps, the prophet made no scruple to report what he had delivered in the name of the Lord; perhaps Jeroboam himself, being puffed up with this assurance, could not contain, but told it to some of his confidents, who spread it abroad; or perhaps his servants, though they heard not the words of the prophet, yet, seeing him rend the garment into twelve parts, and give ten to him, might speak of this strange and unaccountable action, which Solomon, as soon as he came to hear of it, might easily understand; because the same prophet, very likely, had told him but just before, that the kingdom should be rent from him, and given to his servant; 1 Kings 14:8.
Shishak king of Egypt— All the kings of Egypt, from the time of Abraham, are in the sacred history called by the name of Pharaoh, except Rameses (mentioned Genesis 47:11.) be the name of a king, and not a country; so that this is the first we meet with, called by his proper name, different from the rest of the Pharaohs. Who this Egyptian prince was, the learned are not agreed. The opinion is pretty general, that it was the famous Sesostris, mentioned in Herodotus; but his life could hardly be extended to this period. Our great Usher sets him a vast way backward, even to the time of the Israelites' peregrination, and some chronologers carry it further. But, be that as it may, it is very probable, that the prince had taken some offence at Solomon, otherwise he would hardly have harboured such seditious refugees as Jeroboam was.
1 Kings 11:42. Forty years— Josephus, Antiq. lib. 8: cap. 3 tells us, that Solomon lived to a great age, that he reigned eighty years, and died at ninety-four; but this is a manifest error in that historian; and our saying that the Scriptures give us an account of Solomon only while he continued in a state of piety, but that Josephus's computation takes in the whole of his life, is a poor and forced way of reconciling it. The authority of Josephus must never be put in balance with that of the Holy Scriptures, from which it may be learned that Solomon lived to the age of fifty-eight, or thereabout. Indeed, we may well presume, that his immoderate pursuit of sensual pleasures both shortened his life, and left an eternal stain upon his memory; otherwise the character which the author of Ecclesiasticus gives of this prince is very beautiful. "Solomon reigned in a peaceable time, and was honoured; for God made all quiet round about him, that he might build an house in his name, and prepare his sanctuary for ever. How wise wast thou in thy youth, and as a flood filled with understanding! Thy soul covered the whole earth, and thou filledst it with dark parables. Thy name went far unto the islands, and for thy peace thou wast beloved. The countries marvelled at thee for thy songs, and proverbs, and parables, and interpretations. By the name of the Lord, who is called the Lord God of Israel, thou didst gather gold as tin, and didst multiply silver as lead.—But thou didst bow thy loins unto women," &c. Sir 47:13, &c.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Kings 11". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany