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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
1 Kings 11

 

 

Verses 1-8

THE DECLINE OF THE HEBREW EMPIRE

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . But King Solomon loved many strange women—If importations of foreign luxuries and indulgences into his court (see previous chapter) were occasions of peril to Solomon, tending to corrupt his heart from simple fidelity to Jehovah, far more so this creation of a foreign harem. Among the ancient Hebrews polygamy was permitted; and the number of a man's wives was a standard of his wealth and dignity. Solomon emulated this dangerous and degrading custom; and, being unrivalled in the lavishment of wealth, he seems to have resolved upon excelling in this department of Oriental indulgence, thereby to assert his state magnificence. Together with the daughter of Pharaoh—It is not implied that his marriage with Pharaoh's daughter was wrong, but his adding others. Contrary to the law of the Lord (Deu 17:17) he took, "together with the daughter of Pharaoh, many strange wives."

1Ki . Seven hundred wives, princesses—So great a number from noblest princely houses of foreign nations suggests the splendour of his court. It was a vanity, and fraught with greatest snares.

1Ki . Solomon's old age—He was probably not over fifty.

1Ki . Went after Ashtoreth—Lange thinks he did not himself become an idolater, but allowed every form of idolatry his wives desired; yet, though he offered no sacrifice on the altars he reared, to rear them was equivalent to sacrificing, equally offensive to Jehovah. Ashtoreth, Astarte, the highest feminine deity of the Sidonians; Milcom, Molech; Chemosh (1Ki 11:7), the war and fire-god of the Moabites.

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

THE FALL OF SOLOMON, AND ITS LESSONS

Everything about Solomon was on a scale of unparalleled greatness. He was great in his descent—the offspring of the renowned David. He was great as a sovereign, raising the kingdom of the Hebrews, which was inaugurated by Saul, and enlarged and consolidated by David, to the highest pitch of imperial greatness and external magnificence it ever attained. He was great in intellectual endowment—"He was wiser than all men, and his fame was in all nations round about." He was great in Divine benedictions—"For the Lord magnified Solomon exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed on him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him" (1Ch ). And his greatness was not less conspicuous in his sad and terrible fall. The whole career of Solomon is a succession of surprises and mysteries. As soon as he took up the reins of government he gave evidence of the greatness of his powers. The nation felt itself in the grasp of a master, and became pliant and obedient in his hand. And yet, with all the outward show of his consummate abilities and gigantic enterprizes, we have but few details of his personal life. His works impress and delight us: his personality is vague, and only mystifies us. As you have seen on occasions of public rejoicing, among other illuminations, some gigantic figure lit up and sparkling in brilliant outline, while the interspaces of the figure are dark, vacant, and unintelligible: so was it with Solomon. His imposing and majestic figure occupied a large space in the history of the Jewish Kingdom and in the history of the world, and shed the lustre of its imperial glory over all nations and through all succeeding ages; but the minute personal features of that stately form fade away into the darkness—are, in fact, for the most part invisible. The splendour of Solomon's reign was like a glare of sunshine resting on the fertile plains, teeming with life and efflorescent with beauty. While the light remains, the scene is gay, brilliant, captivating; but, all unseen and unsuspected, the poisonous miasma is loading the air, and by-and-by will spread sorrow and disaster in its course. Consider—

I. The causes which contributed to the downfall of the great Hebrew monarch. 1. The intoxication of intellectual pride. We have seen how he was gifted with a keen and comprehensive intellect, and was addicted from his earliest youth to the most profound studies. His proverbs were the condensation of the choicest maxims of moral and political science, and have enriched the literature of the world; his songs bear evidence of a lofty, poetic genius; and his discourses and treatises on natural history embraced the most important and most minute facts of the science. It is appalling to think of the powerful ascendency these high qualities must have given him over the minds of others. No wonder the nations crowded around such a prodigy of wisdom (chap. 1Ki ); and who could inhale the incense of adulation that daily filled his court without being intoxicated with vain thoughts? It cannot, therefore, surprise us that, puffed up with the flattery of courtiers and the applauses of the multitude, Solomon began to think too highly of himself, and to say: "By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I am prudent" (Isa 10:13). His wisdom having thus become his idol, he persuades himself that it will enable him to solve all mysteries, and to rectify all disorders, and thus to render him the master both of his own destiny and of the destinies of the people—nay, of the whole world. We can imagine how such a notion would captivate a generous, great, and aspiring mind. He sees in the state of society, and in the condition of individual men, evils which he would fain remove, and wrongs which he would fain redress. Many are suffering from disease, many are pining in poverty, many groaning beneath the iron yoke of injustice and oppression. Good men are often treated with neglect, or covered with obloquy, while wicked men are as often high in place and power. Why is all this? What is the source and explanation of these painful anomalies? Cannot I, who have searched out so many deep things, fathom this secret too? Shall it not be the privilege and the prerogative of Solomon the Wise to inaugurate a new and better condition of things?"—R. Buchanan. He thus sought to arrogate to himself a power which no created intelligence is privileged to possess. His condition of mind is the explanation of many sad and painful backslidings that followed.

2. The system of polygamy, which he encourage to an unprecedented extent, left its debasing curse on Solomon and on his family for generations (1Ki ). The harem of an Eastern monarch is even at the present day looked upon as a sort of state necessity, and the king's rank and greatness are estimated according to its extent. He multiplies his wives according to his wealth and power, though many of them he never sees at all. Darius Codomannus is said to have taken three hundred and sixty concubines in his camp when he marched against Alexander. So Solomon, wishing to surpass all other kings in the fame of greatness, filled his harem with a thousand women. This was an enormity. In the simplest view, the sexes being nearly equal, it deprived a thousand men of wives that one man might have 999 more than he required. Such a system brought with it the inevitable evils of the oriental seraglio. Licentiousness taints the intellect, loosens the bonds of morality, and debases the whole man.

3. The estrangement of heart from Jehovah (1Ki ). Solomon did not openly or wholly apostatise. He continued his attendance on the worship of Jehovah, and punctually made his offerings three times a year in the temple. But his heart was not perfect with God. Many causes had concurred to weaken the religious earnestness of his younger days—as the corrupting influence of wealth and luxury, the canker of sensualism, an increasing worldliness, leading him to adopt more and more a worldly policy, and, perhaps, a growing latitudinarianism arising from contact with all the manifold forms of human opinion (see Speaker's Comm.). A most significant sign of religious decay was the almost total absence of prophets during Solomon's brilliant career. The history of the prophets is the most remarkable and fascinating of any history in the Scriptures. They enter on their career as if thrust forth by some unseen hand: they utter their message as if impelled by some mysterious and irresistible force. Receiving their commission from neither king nor people, they are perfectly independent of both. No amount of violence or suffering could silence their faithful utterances, or retard the accomplishment of their mission. And when their work was done, and their testimony fearlessly borne, like flaming comets, they vanished into the space from which they seemed at first to emerge. The "conspicuous absence" of these faithful messengers indicated the mournful state of piety amid the external splendours of the empire.

4. The public sanction and practice of idolatry (1Ki ). Heathen temples were built on the southern heights of Olivet in the very sight of the Holy Temple; and from the abominable rites that were practised there, a name of infamy was given to the whole mountain. It was called—and still bears the name of—the Mount of Offence. This flagrant idolatry roused the displeasure of Jehovah; and the consequent disruption of the kingdom was plainly foretold (1Ki 11:9-13). "He thus became the author of a syncretism which sought to blend together the worship of Jehovah and the worship of idols—a syncretism which possessed fatal attractions for the Jewish nation. Finally, he appears himself to have frequented the idol-temples, and to have taken part in those fearful impurities which constituted the worst horror of the idolatrous systems, thus practically apostatising, though theoretically he never ceased to hold that Jehovah was the true God."

5. The despotic character of his government. Commerce, to promote the prosperity of a nation, must be national and not regal. But the commerce of Israel, in Solomon's days, was in all respects a monopoly of the crown. The excessive demands upon the people for sustaining the ever-growing magnificence of the empire became unbearable, and a spirit of discontent spread throughout the nation which ultimately broke out into open and successful rebellion. The structure of the empire was shattered by the weight of its own opulence and greatness.

II. The ultimate fate of Solomon. It was a much contested point among the Fathers of the early Church as to whether Solomon was among the saved or the lost; and both opinions were pretty equally sustained by eminent names in theology. The question was so frequently debated, and seemed so evenly balanced, that in a series of frescoes on the walls of a celebrated church on the Continent, Solomon is represented at the General Resurrection as looking doubtfully to the right and to the left, as if uncertain in which side he would find his destined lot. We incline to the merciful view, and feel supported by two considerations:—

(1). Six hundred years after Solomon had been resting in the grave, and when posterity could pronounce a calm and dispassionate verdict, Nehemiah gave a summary of the character of the great Hebrew king, in which he recognized him as "the beloved of his God" (Neh , compared with 2Sa 7:14).

(2). Add to this the generally-admitted fact that the book of Ecclesiastes contains the utterances of Solomon at the close of his earthly career; and, in the concluding words of that book, do we not detect a wandering, sinning spirit coming to a halt, and an assured resting-place, as he exclaims:—"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments!"

III. The lessons suggested by Solomon's life.

1. That worldly greatness has its peculiar perils. Solomon began well. He loved God, and strove to walk in all the ways of David his father; but as he advanced in wealth, and his mind expanded into the vast fields of intellectual research, the simplicity of his trust in God was destroyed, his spiritual fervour was chilled, and religious decline began. His exalted regal position and high mental endowments raised him into a lofty region, in which few but himself could enter; and there were none round about him who had the fidelity or the courage to warn him of his danger, even if they themselves perceived that danger. He became the victim of his own imperious self-sufficiency—the weight of his own aggrandisement crushed him to the dust! Wealth, prosperity, promotion, will ever lift men into the midst of a thousand threatening dangers; and the higher the pinnacle to which they are elevated, the more imminent their peril, and the more awfully calamitous their fall.

2. That in the greatest characters there is a mingling of good and evil. As Bacon is, in English history, "the wisest, greatest, meanest of mankind." so is Solomon in Jewish and in sacred history. Every part of his splendour had its dark side. "The web of our life," says Shakespeare, "is of mingled yarn—bad and good together." It is important to recognize this fact in forming a just estimate of human character. Solomon is "the chief example in Sacred History of what meets us often in common history—the union of genius and crime. The record of his career sanctions our use of the intellectual power even of the weakest or the wickedest of mankind. As Solomon's fall is not overlooked in consideration of his power and glory, so neither because he fell does he cease to be called the wisest of men, nor is his wisdom shut out from the Sacred Volume."—Stanley.

3. That worldly prosperity is powerless to satisfy the deepest needs of the soul. All the great gifts of the world were possessed by Solomon in an unexampled degree. His riches were fabulous, and came from afar—the inexhaustible mines of the Eastern and Western worlds replenished his treasury with an unfailing supply. He wielded the most absolute authority. Whatever pleasure could delight the eye or gratify the taste was at his command. He was a philosopher, a poet, an accomplished scientist, and penetrated to the depths of all human wisdom—even to exhaustion and satiety. And yet there was nothing in all these to make him happy. Turning from all his former delights with unutterable surfeiting and loathing, he raises the sad, melancholy lamentation—"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!" All that worldly good can do for us is—to show us its own emptiness: it raises our hopes with delusive promises, and dashes them to atoms with bitter disappointments. The flowers which it sprinkles around our path barely hide the charnel house in which our bones will soon have to rot!

4. That the success of the work of God does not depend upon external display. Solomon appears upon the scene like a mighty magician who, with one stroke of his wand, calls into existence an enchanting spectacle of royal splendour—the towering palace, the shining throne, the courtly attendants in gorgeous apparel, the military with glittering weapons and prancing chargers, the exuberant riches of a prosperous commerce, and all the external evidences of a great and powerful nation—himself the most conspicuous figure in the gay and animated throng; and, before the eye has got well accustomed to the dazzling pageant, both magician and his marvellous creation gradually melt away into the surrounding mysteries. But, all the time, the ulterior purpose of God in raising up the Jewish nation, and through it endowing the world with unspeakable blessing, marched grandly and silently on its way. Through the changing fortunes of succeeding dynasties—through the decline and final extinction of the kingdom—through the disasters, sufferings, and desolations of the long captivities, unto the coming of the Son of God, the gracious purpose slowly ripened, and gave promise of a glorious fruitage. The moral impress on the world of the Saviour's advent was made utterly independent and in defiance of external pomp. And still the work of God goes on, often silently, often in obscurity and suffering, but always triumphantly!

HIGH INTELLECTUAL ENDOWMENTS PERILOUS

I. Because they are liable to be corrupted by the seductions of sensuality (1Ki ). Mental power is no safeguard against the grossest sins. Superior knowledge did not protect Adam from the blandishments of Eve. "If one woman undid all mankind, what marvel is it if many women undid one. To them did Solomon join in love, who can marvel if they disjoined his heart from God? Satan hath found this bait to take so well, that he never changed it since he crept into Paradise. How many have we known whose heads have been broken with their own rib?"

II. Because they may breed an undue consciousness of personal superiority. It is a lovely sight to see wisdom combined with humility, a giant intellect in union with a childlike simplicity of character. It is a thrilling but dangerous moment when the mind becomes conscious of its true power; the danger is increased when it discovers its superiority to others. The dim-sighted wanderer, stumbling with uncertain foothold on the sides of precipitous crags, is not in greater peril. A moment like that came to Mahomet, and thenceforth the noble method of moral suas on gave place to the shorter and more imperious argument of the sword. A moment like that came to Napoleon Bonaparte, and his career thenceforword was a lurid, bloody tragedy.

III. Because they are intolerant of advice and admonition. No one single mind possesses all the truth on any subject. Different shades of the same truth alter the complexion of the whole, and may influence personal action in an opposite direction. It is therefore an unspeakable advantage to be surrounded by those from whom we can take council. The wise man will learn something even from an enemy. To be impatient of advice and indifferent to warning is to be exposed to danger and disaster. It is like rushing into conflict without sword and shield; or fording the turbulent torrent, whilst despising the use of boat or raft. It is one of the misfortunes of the intellectual genius that so many regard him as above the necessity of help from others. Few have the courage to offer him advice; fewer still the fidelity to warn.

IV. Because they are apt to encourage a proud self-sufficiency. Intellectual greatness propounds to itself the sublimest tasks. It "soars into the heavens, penetrates the earth, penetrates itself, questions the past, anticipates the future, and seeks to find in every region of the universe types and interpreters of its own deep mysteries and glorious inspirations" (Ecc ). No wonder, with such themes revolving in the mind, it should be in danger of losing its balance; and that it should proudly arrogate to itself the credit of all success and discovery. Pride of intellect is the most dangerous form of all pride. "It is a vice," says the judicious Hooker, "which cleaveth so fast unto the hearts of men, that if we were to strip ourselves of all faults, one by one, we should un loubtedly find it the very last and hardest to put off. In the world many things are the cause of much evil; but pride of all."

Deep is the sea and deep is hell; but pride mineth deeper:

It is coiled as a poisonous worm about the foundations of the soul.

If thou expose it in thy motives and track it in thy springs of thought,

Complacent in its own detection, it will seem indignant virtue.

Smoothly it will gratulate thy skill, O subtle anatomist of self!

And spurns its very being, while it nestleth the deeper in thy bosom.

Tupper.

V. Because they may disparage the deepest religious sentiments (1Ki ). The colossal intellectualism of Solomon did not protect the purity and genuineness of the religion of his youth. His "heart was turned away it was not perfect with the Lord his God." Not that he ceased to believe in Jehovah as the only true God: he could not so far insult and stultify his intellectual consciousness. But his religious fervour was abated, and his dearest religious convictions dishonoured. The sensual over-shadowed the intellectual; and the intellectual, thus eclipsed, depreciated the religious. And there is a school of thinkers to-day who, in their haste to reconcile difficulties, advance the theory of one theology for the intellect, and another for the feelings. Their theory is, there are two modes of apprehending and presenting truth; the one by the logical consciousness that it may be understood; the other by the intuitional consciousness that it may be felt. These two modes may often conflict, so that what is true in the one may be false in the other, reminding one of the old dictum, "What is true in religion is false in philosophy." The danger of this theory is evident in its enabling a man to profess his faith in doctrines which he does not believe. If asked, Do you believe that Christ satisfied the justice of God?—he can say Yes, for it is true to his feelings: and he can say, No, because it is false to his intellect. In all true religious experience the head and the heart are in harmony.

VI. Because they render failure the more ignominious and unbearable. The degradation of Nebuchadnezzar was all the more conspicuous because of the loftiness of his vauntings. The humiliation and suffering of the stately dames of Jersualem were all the more noticeable in contrast with their mincing gait, their stretched-out necks, and tinkling ornaments. So the fall of Solomon was the more calamitous because of his rare and vast endowments and high exaltation. The locomotive which slips from the metals when at full speed works all the greater devastation and ruin because of the ponderous power which pulses in its capacious breast. The nature which is capable of the highest ecstasy is susceptible of the deeper woe and misery.

LESSONS:—

1. Intellectual gifts involve corresponding responsibility.

2. It is better to be wiss than to be clever.

3. To be truly good is to be truly great.

SOLOMON'S RESTRORATION

(Compared with Neh ).

The deep interest of biography consists in this—that it is in some measure the description to us of our own inner history. You cannot unveil the secrets of another heart without at the same time finding something to correspond with, and perchance explain, the mysteries of your own. It is for this reason that Solomon's life is full of painful interest. Far removed as he is, in some respects, above our sympathies, in others he peculiarly commands them. He was a monarch, and none of us know the sensations which belong to Rule. He was proclaimed by God to be among the wisest of mankind, and few of us can even conceive the atmosphere in which such a gifted spirit moves, original, enquiring, comprehending, one to whom Nature has made her secret open. He lived in the infancy of the world's society, and we live in its refined and civilized manhood. And yet, when we have turned away, wearied, from all those subjects in which the mind of Solomon expatiated, and try to look inwards at the man, straightway we find ourselves at home. Just as in our own trifling, petty history, so we find in him, life with the same unabated, mysterious interest; the dust and confusion of a battle, sublime longings and low weaknesses, perplexity, struggle; and then the grave closing over all this, and leaving us to marvel in obscurity and silence over the strange destinies of man. The career of Solomon is a problem which has perplexed many, and is by no means an easy one to solve. He belongs to the peculiar class of those who begin well, and then have the brightness of their lives obscured at last. His morning sun rose beautifully, it sank in the evening, clouded, and dark with earthly exhalations, too dark to prophesy with certainty how it should rise on the morrow. Solomon's life was not what religious existence ought to be. The Life of God in the soul of man ought to be a thing of perpetual development; it ought to be more bright, and its pulsations more vigorous every year. Such certainly, at least to all appearance, Solomon's was not. It was excellence, at all events, marred with inconsistency.

I. The wanderings of an erring spirit. "Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things?"

1. This is the first point to dwell on—the wanderings of a frail and erring human spirit from the right way.

1. That which lay at the bottom of all Solomon's transgressions was his intimate partnership with foreigners. "Did not Solomon sin by these things?" That is, if we look to the context, marriage with foreign wives. Exclusiveness was the principle on which Judaism was built. The Israelites were not to mix with the nations, they were not to marry with them: they were not to join with them in religious fellowship or commercial partnership. And it was this principle which Solomon transgressed. He married a princess of Egypt. He connected himself with wives from idolatrous countries—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites. Sidonians, Hittites. And then Nehemiah's argument, built on the eternal truth that friendship with the world is enmity with God, is this—"Did not Solomon sin by these things?" That Jewish law shadowed out an everlasting truth. God's people are an exclusive nation; God's Church is for ever separated from the world. When a religious person begins to feel an inclination for intimate communion with the world, and begins to break down that barrier which is the line of safety, the first step is made of a series of long, dark wanderings from God. The world changes its complexion in every age. Solomon's world was the nations of idolatry lying round Israel. Our world is not that. The sons of our world are not idolaters, they are not profligate, they are, it may be, among the most fascinating of mankind. Their society is more pleasing, more lively, more diversified in information than religious society. No marvel if a young and ardent heart feels the spell of the fascination. No wonder if it feels a relief in turning away from the dulness and the monotony of home life to the sparkling brilliancy of the world's society. No marvel if Solomon felt the superior charms of the accomplished Egyptian and the wealthy Syrian. His Jewish countrymen and countrywomen were but homely in comparison. It is almost natural, almost intelligible—a temptation which we feel ourselves every day. The brilliant, dazzling, accomplished world—what Christian with a mind polished like Solomon's does not own its charms? And yet now, pause. Is it in wise Egypt that our highest blessedness lies? Is it in busy, restless Sidon? Is it in luxurious Moab? No. The Christian must leave the world alone. His blessedness lies in quiet work with the Israel of God. His home is in that deep, unruffled tranquillity which belongs to those who are trying to know Christ. And when a Christian will not learn this; when he will not understand that in calmness, and home, and work, and love, his soul must find its peace; when he will try keener and more exciting pleasures; when he says, I must taste what life is while I am young, its feverishness, its strange, delirious, maddening intoxication, he has just taken Solomon's first step, and he must take the whole of Solomon's after and most bitter experience along with it.

2. The second step of Solomon's wandering was the unrestrained pursuit of pleasure. And a man like Solomon cannot do anything by halves. What he did, he did thoroughly. No man ever more heartily and systematically gave himself up to the pursuit. If he once made up his mind that pleasure was his aim, then for pleasure he lived. There are some men who are prudent in their epicureanism. They put gaiety aside when they begin to get palled with it, and then return to it moderately again. Men like Solomon cannot do that. No earnest man can. No! if blessedness lies in pleasure, he will drink the cup to the dregs. We have none of the cool, cautious sipping of enjoyment here. We have none of the feeble, languid attempts to enjoy the world which make men venture ankle-deep into dissipation, and only long for courage to go a little further. It is the earnestness of an impassioned man, a man who has quitted God, and thrown himself, heart and soul, upon everything that he tries, and says he will try it fairly, and to the full. There is a moral to be learnt from the wildest worldliness. When we look on the madness of life, and are marvelling at the terrible career of dissipation, let there be no contempt felt. It is an immortal spirit marring itself. It is an infinite soul, which nothing short of the Infinite can satisfy, plunging down to ruin and disappointment. Men of pleasure! whose hearts are as capable of an eternal blessedness as a Christian's, that is the terrible meaning and moral of your dissipation. God in Christ is your only Eden, and out of Christ you can have nothing but the restlessness of Cain; you are blindly pursuing your destiny. That unquenched impetuosity within you might have led you up to God. You have chosen instead that your heart shall try to satisfy itself upon husks.

3. There was another form of Solomon's worldliness. It was not worldliness in pleasure, but worldiness in occupation. He had entered deeply in commercial speculations. He had alternate fears and hopes about the return of his merchant ships on their perilous three-years' voyage to India and to Spain. He had his mind occupied with plans for building. The architecture of the temple, his own palace, the forts and towns of his now magnificent empire—all this filled for a time his soul. He had begun a system of national debt and ruinous taxation. He had become a slaveholder and a despot, who was compelled to keep his people down by armed force. Much of this was not wrong; but all of it was dangerous. It is a strange thing how business dulls the sharpness of the spiritual affections. It is strange how the harass of perpetual occupation shuts God out. It is strange how much mingling with the world, politics, and those things which belong to advancing civilization, things which are very often in the way of our duty, deaden the sense of right and wrong. Let Christians be on their guard by double prayerfulness when duty makes them men of business, or calls them to posts of worldly activity.

4. It was the climax of Solomon's transgression that he suffered the establishment of idolatry in his dominions. There are writers who have said that in this matter Solomon was in advance of his age—enlightened beyond the narrowness of Judaism, and that this permission of idolatry was the earliest exhibition of that spirit which in modern times we call religious toleration. But Solomon went far beyond toleration. The truth seems to be, Solomon was getting indifferent about religion. He had got into light and worldly society, and the libertinism of his associations was beginning to make its impressions upon him. He was beginning to ask, "Is not one religion as good as another, so long as each man believes his own in earnest?" He began to feel there is a great deal to be said for these different religions. After all, there is nothing certain; and why forbid men the quiet enjoyment of their own opinion? And so he became what men call liberal, and he took idolatry under his patronage. There are few signs in a soul's state more alarming than that of religious indifference—that is, the spirit of thinking all religions equally true; the real meaning of which is, that all religions are equally false.

II. Consider God's loving guidance of Solomon in all his apostacy. "There was no king like unto him who was beloved of his God."

1. In the darkest, wildest wanderings, a man to whom God has shown his love in Christ is conscious still of the better way. In the very gloom of his remorse, there is an instinctive turning back to God. According to Scripture phraseology, Solomon had a great heart; and therefore it was that, for such an one, the discipline which was to lead him back to God must needs be terrible. "If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men." That was God's covenant, and with tremendous fidelity was it kept. You look to the life of Solomon, and there are no outward reverses there to speak of. His reign was the type of the reign of the power of peace. No war, no national disaster, interrupted the even flow of the current of his days. No loss of a childlike David's, pouring cold desolation into his soul; no pestilences or famines. Prosperity and riches, and the internal development of the nation's life—that was the reign of Solomon. And yet, with all this, was Solomon happy? Has God no arrows winged in heaven for the heart, except those which come in the shape of outward calamity? Is there no way that God has of making the heart grey and old before its time, without sending bereavement, or loss, or sickness? Has the Eternal Justice no mode of withering and drying up the inner springs of happiness, while all is green, and wild, and fresh outwardly? Look to the history of Solomon for the answer.

2. One way in which his aberration from God treasured up for him chastisement was by that weariness of existence which breathes through the whole book of Ecclesiastes. That book bears internal evidence of having been written after repentance and victory. It is the experience of a career of pleasure, and the tone which vibrates through the whole is disgust with the world, and mankind, and life and self. I hold that book to be inspired. It is not written as a wise and calm Christian would write, but as a heart would write which was fevered with disappointment, jaded with passionate attempts in the pursuit of blessedness, and forced to God as the last resource. That saddest book in all the Bible stands before you as the beacon and the warning from a God who loves you, and would spare you bitterness if He could. Follow inclination now, put no restraint on feeling, say that there is time enough to be religious by-and-by, forget that now is the time to take Christ's yoke upon yon, and learn gradually and peacefully that serene control of heart which must be learnt at last by a painful wrench—forget all that, and say that you trust in God's love and mercy to bring all right, and then that book of Ecclesiastes is your history. The penalty that you pay for a youth of pleasure is—if you have anything good in you—an old age of weariness and remorseful dissatisfaction.

3. Another part of Solomon's chastisement was doubt. Once more turn to the book of Ecclesiastes: "All things come alike to all; there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not." In this observe the querulous complaint of a man who has ceased to feel that God is the Ruler of this world. A blind chance, or a dark destiny, seems to rule all earthly things. And that is the penalty of leaving God's narrow path for sin's wider and more flowery one. You lose your way, you get perplexed, doubt takes possession of your soul. And there is no suffering more severe than doubt. There is a loss of aim, and you know not what you have to live for; life has lost its meaning and its infinite significance. There is a hollowness at the heart of your existence; there is a feeling of weakness and a discontented loss of self-respect. God has hidden his face from you because you have been trying to do without Him, or to serve Him with a divided heart.

4. Lastly, we have to remark that the love of God brought Solomon through all this to spiritual manhood. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man." In this we have the evidence of his victory. Doubt, and imprisonment, and worldliness have passed away, and clear activity, belief, freedom, have taken their place. It was a terrible discipline, but God had made that discipline successful. Solomon struggled manfully to the end. The details of his life were dark, but the life itself was earnest; and after many a fall, repentance, with unconquerable purpose, began afresh. And so he struggled on, often baffled, often down, but never finally subdued; and still with tears and indomitable trust returning to the conflict again. And so, when we come to the end of his last earthly work, we find the sour smoke, which had so long been smouldering in his heart, and choking his existence, changed into bright, clear flame. He has found the secret out at last, and it has filled his whole soul with blessedness. God is man's happiness. "Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man."

LESSONS.—

1. There is a way—let us not shrink from saying it—in which sin may he made to minister to holiness. "To whomsoever much is forgiven, the same loveth much." There was an everlasting truth in what our Messiah said to the moral Pharisees: "The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." Now, these are Christ's words, and we will not fear to boldly state the same truth. Past sin may be made the stepping-stone to heaven. Let a man abuse that if he will by saying: "Then it is best to sin." A man may make the doctrine absurd, even shocking, by that inference, but it is true for all that. God can take even your sin, and make it work to your soul's sanctification. He can let you down into such an abyss of self-loathing and disgust, such life weariness, and doubt, and misery, and disappointment, that if He ever raises you again by the invigorating experience of the love of Christ, you will rise stronger from your very fall. But forget not this: if ever a great sinner becomes a great saint, it will be through agonies which none but those who have sinned know.

2. I speak to those among you who know something about what the world is worth, who have tasted its fruits, and found them like the Dead Sea apples—hollowness and ashes. By those foretastes of coming misery which God has already given you, those lonely feelings of utter wretchedness and disappointment when you have returned home palled and satiated from the gaudy entertainment, and the truth has pressed itself icy cold upon your heart, "Vanity of vanities"—is this worth living for? By all that be warned. Be true to your convictions; be honest with yourselves; be manly in working out your doubts, as Solomon was. Greatness, goodness, blessedness lie not in the life that you are leading now, they lie in quite a different path; they lie in a life hid with Christ in God.

3. Learn from this subject the covenant love of God. There is such a thing as love which rebellion cannot weary, which ingratitude cannot cool. It is the love of God to those whom He has redeemed in Christ. "Did not Solomon, king of Israel, sin? and yet there was no king like him who was beloved of his God." Let that be to us a truth not to teach carelessness, but thankfulness.—Condensed from F. W. Robertson.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . We come now to that strange, dark period in Solomon's career, so strangely dark, and, in contrast with his earlier piety and glory, so deeply sad, that even the author of Chronicles passes it over in silence, and some modern critics pronounce it incredible and psychologically impossible. We find Jewish pride on the one hand, and German rationalism on the other, uniting to deny or else explain away the literal truth of the history. But there the record stands, and will stand, in unpleasant but simple naked truth, whose obvious meaning none can doubt, holding up to the world a most impressive lesson of human frailty, and showing the terrible danger to spiritual life of the vain pomp and glory of the world (1Co 10:12). In the earlier part of his reign Solomon was rich towards God; but later he multiplied to himself gold and silver, horses and chariots, wives and concubines. In seeking to surpass the magnificence and glory of the kings of the nations, he fell even lower than they all; for better are they who never knew the way of truth, than he who, having been blessed with superior light from God, turns away and runs headlong into a foul idolatry. Solomon's fall was no sudden apostasy, and doubtless many a deep and wearing heart-struggle did he pass through ere the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, finally gained over him the mastery. We infer from the warnings against transgression contained in the Divine communication of chap 1Ki 9:6, that already the Lord saw in him tendencies that threatened danger; and we suppose that these tendencies grew stronger and stronger until they resulted in the dark and fatal apostasy which this chapter unfolds to us. (Compare Neh 13:26).—Whedon.

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 ever 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.

—The example given by the Bible in the case of Solomon. I. What it teaches.

1. That for the sinful human heart, a constant outward prosperity is allied to spiritual dangers (Mat ). Thus it is that trial and sorrow are often blessings for time and eternity (Heb 12:6-12).

2. That the most abundant knowledge, the highest education and wisdom, are no protection against moral and religious shortcomings. Wine and women make foolish the wise man. Says the proverb, no wise man commits a little folly. II. How it warns us.

1. To 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.

2. To pray. In the great prosperity and delight of this life, Solomon forgot prayer, which he had so well practised in earlier years (chap. 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.—Lange.

—The vanity and insecurity of human greatness.

1. Exemplified in all ages.

2. Should moderate human ambition.

3. Should beget a constant self-vigilance.

4. Should lead man to aim at accomplishing the highest moral good.

5. Should foster complete reliance on God.

—It is sad to turn from the contemplation of the greatness of Solomon's wisdom to the mournful reality of his end. But the thought of God flooding the soul of man must always be transcendently more grand than the life lived by man. So it was with Solomon, and so it must ever be. As perhaps chief among the causes which led to his downfall may be mentioned polygamy. Like David, he had his "burst of great heart," but, like David also, he had his "slips in sensual mire." A loose morality led to looseness in religion. The commandments of Jehovah, broken in regard to moral conduct, were also broken in regard to religious faith. Under the name of liberty, licence became the rule. The sweet grace of toleration, so invaluable a possession in itself, was profaned; and tolerant men, as they have often been before and since, were made half ashamed of a creed that could lead to such practices as Solomon encouraged. There arose two parties among his subjects—the one favouring his easy, tolerant sympathy of all religious beliefs, and only, probably, too willing to taste some of their sensuous fruits; the other keeping strong by the laws of their early religion, and resolutely opposed to innovations which they saw, under their very eyes, leading to such disastrous and ruinous consequences. The murmurs of discontent grew loud and frequent. The old tribal jealousies, which had been stilled for a time, showed that their fires were only smouldering. There were other agencies at work which helped to fan the flames of discontent. The burdens laid upon the Israelites and the taxes exacted from them were by no means light. We have seen how many of them were taken from their homes and pressed into service at the building of the temple. The obligations of the king were so great that he had to appoint officers over special districts to levy money for his use. It was often exacted in the spirit of the insolence of office. Manliness and independence could not long brook such treatment.—The absence of the prophetical order at the court of Solomon is very striking, and is, no doubt, a marked cause of his downfall. It might appear that in the person of Solomon the offices of king and prophet were fitly joined together; and so, for a time, they might have been, had Solomon only kept a perfect ideal before him. This he could not do; and neither the monarchy nor the prophetic office were at this time ripe for such a union. Only a perfect religion could produce a perfect prophet; and the monarchy was far from being in the position of producing a perfect king. As it was, the time soon arrived for the representatives of the old order to raise their voice on high. Thus arose Ahijah, Shemaiah, and Iddo, stung into speech by the conviction that the monarchy in Israel, by its narrow aims, was degenerating into an ascendency and violence which endangered the theocracy itself, and with it the sacred and inviolable basis of Israel's whole existence.—(The Quiver for 1875).

1Ki . This "but" is a danger-signal to warn us against—

1. Disobedience of the Divine commands.

2. Evil companionships. We are reminded of St. Paul's solemn admonition: "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (1Co ). Solomon's intercourse with these idolatrous nations led to his adopting their corrupt worship and customs. Every true Christian must be a nonconformist: "Be not conformed to this world" (Rom 12:2). The service of God admits of no compromise. We cannot serve God and Mammon.

The friendship of the world is enmity against God. A distinct line of division must be drawn and maintained between the Church and the world. They are at deadly feud against each other: there can be no truce between them. "There are your foes," said a general, as he led on his men to the attack; "kill them, or they'll kill you." We must not allow our hearts to be turned away from Christ to worldliness, like Demas. The world is not to be converted by unholy alliances with the enemies of God, but is to be conquered by His Word and Spirit.

1Ki . The wise fool. We have seen many strange sights in our time—many horrible sights, but none so strange, none so horrible, as that of a wise man making himself a fool. Solomon did that, and he was a wise man, even the wisest of men. If the deep sagacity of Solomon, if his keen discernment, if his strong reason, if his profound knowledge of human life and character, if even his intimate acquaintance with the law and counsels of the Lord, did not preserve his name from that stamp of foolishness which we find impressed upon so many of the great names and great acts of men, who is there that can hope to stand? Not one, as of himself, but there is without us and above us a power that can exalt even the lowly to high things, and can sustain them in all true wisdom so long as they rest upon it; instead of that, the light which shines upon their path and glorifies their way, shines out of themselves and not into them. Solomon was wise; Solomon was foolish. Strange contrast and contradiction of terms! Yet it does not astonish. It may astonish angels, but not us. We are used to this kind of experience. We see men who are foolish without being wise; but we see not one who is wise without being also foolish. Foolishness, which every man certainly has in his nature; wisdom, if he has it, is a gift bestowed on him—bestowed as freely upon him as it was upon Solomon. The wisdom does not suppress or drive out the foolishness, but is a weapon, it may be a staff, or it may be a glittering sword given into his hands to fight against it, to keep it under; a weapon to be used with daily and ever-watchful vigilance, and not to rest idly in the scabbard. This was king Solomon's fault. Having been victor in many a deadly fray, until victory became easy and habitual, he forgot that the enemy of his greatness and peace still lived—was not mortally wounded—did not even sleep. He suffered his weapon to rest until its keen edge was corroded, until it clung in rust to the scabbard, and could not be drawn forth.—Kitto.

—It was the charge of God to the kings of Israel that they should not multiply wives. Solomon had gone beyond the stakes of the law, and now is ready to lose himself amongst a thousand bedfellows. Whose lays the reins on the neck of his carnal appetite, can promise where he will rest. O Solomon! where was thy wisdom, while thine affections run away with thee into so wild a voluptuousness? What boots it thee to discourse of all things, while thou misknowest thyself? The perfections of speculation do not argue the inward power of self-government; the eye may be clear, while the hand is palsied. It is not so much to be heeded how the soul is informed, as how it is disciplined: the light of knowledge doth well, but the due order of the affections doth better. Never any mere man, since the first, knew so much as Solomon; many that have known less have had more command of themselves. A competent estate well husbanded is better than a vast patrimony neglected. There can be no safety to that soul where is not a strait curb upon our desires. If our lusts be not held under as slaves, they will rule as tyrants. Had Solomon done this, delicacy and lawless greatness had not led him into these bogs of intemperance.—Bp. Hall.

1Ki . These wives and concubines were introduced to add to the splendour and gaiety of the court. The love of display is destructive of Christian simplicity. It has ruined many by a silly desire to vie with their wealthy neighbours.

1. It has weaned mens' hearts from Christ and His people.

2. Ruined many families.

3. Swollen the list of commercial failures.

4. Drawn away its victims into wicked associations and pursuits. Fashion is the modern Moloch, whose worshippers are legion. How true is it that:

"Gold glitters most where virtue shines no more,

As stars from absent suns have leave to shine."

David, with all his faults, never tolerated idolatry during his reign; hence he is called "The man after God's own heart."

1Ki . Denial of the existence of marriage as a divine ordinance 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. Not without danger is it that a man takes a wife who is not of his own religion (1Co 7:19). 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 (Ecc 7:27).—Lange.

1Ki . Wasted love.—

1. Love is wasted when it is placed on an unworthy object.

2. When it is not properly concentrated—a multiplicity of interests weaken its power, as the many-pointed rock breaks up the force of the wave.

3. When it is sinful in its tendency.

4. When it weans the heart from God.

5. Is supremely ridiculous and offensive in old age.

1Ki . Woman was first given to man for a comforter, and not for a counsellor, much less for a controller and director; and, therefore, in the first sentence against men this cause is expressed—"Because thou obeyedst the voice of thy wife."

1Ki . What sight on earth more sad than the disgraceful fall of an old man whose youth had been devout and promising and his manhood noble? Well did Solon, the Athenian, insist that no man should be counted blessed until he had nobly ended a happy, noble life.

—Solomon was the less to be excused because his soul had had so long communion with God and experience of His goodness; as also because his body was declining, so that his lust was the more monstrous, like as it is to behold green apples on a tree in winter. Augustine inveighed against those, and worthily, who consecrate the flower of their youth to the devil, and reserve for God the dregs of their old age. Solomon offended on the contrary part. Let every man look to what Lord he dedicateth both his youth and his age; for it sometimes falleth out that Satan preyeth upon those when old, whom he could not prevail with when young; and it is not for nothing that the heathen sages say that old age is to be feared as that which cometh not alone, but is itself a disease, and bringeth with it not a few diseases both of body and mind.—Trapp.

—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 grey-haired sinner is much more abominable in the sight of the Lord than a youth. The sole condition under which, amid his natural weakness, an old man can retain his spiritual strength and guard his honour, is this—that his heart is purely fixed on 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.—Lange.

—The ways of youth are steep and slippery, wherein as it is easy to fall, so it is commonly relieved with pity; but the wanton inordinations of age are not more unseasonable than odious. Yet, behold, Solomon's younger years were studious and innocent: his overhasted age was licentious and misgoverned. If any age can secure us from the danger of a spiritual fall, it is our last; and if any man's old age might secure him, it was Solomon's, the beloved of God, the oracle, the miracle of wisdom. The blossoms of so hopeful a Spring should have yielded a goodly and pleasant fruit in the Autumn of age. Yet, behold even Solomon's old age vicious. There is no time wherein we can be safe while we carry this body of sin about us. Youth is impetuous, mid-age is stubborn, old age weak, all dangerous. Say not now—"The fury of my youthful flash is over, I shall henceforth find my heart calm and impregnable," while thou seest old Solomon doating upon his concubines, yea, upon their idolatry.—Bp. Hall.

—The fall of an old tree, or of some noble old ruin, is beheld with some regret, but it occasions no rending of heart. It was their doom. Age ripened them but for their fall; and we wondered more that they stood so long, than that they fell so soon. But man is expected to ripen in moral and religious strength—to harden into rock-like fixedness as his age increases. He whom we have looked up to so long, he whose words were wise as oracles, and from whose lips we had so long gathered wisdom, he who had borne noble testimonies for the truth, he who had laboured for the glory of God, who had withstood many storms of human passion and many temptations of human glory, and in whose capacious mind are garnered up the fruits of a life's knowledge and experience—for such a man to fall from his high place, fills the most firm of heart with dread, and makes the moral universe tremble. It is altogether terrible. It is a calamity to mankind; it is more than that: it is a shame, a wrong, and a dishonour. The righteous hide their heads; and the perverse exult:—hell laughs.—Kitto.

—Old age.

1. Is encumbered with many frailties.

2. Has its peculiar temptations.

3. Is not exempt from the possibility of great crimes.

4. Is often a pitiable contrast to the promise and opportunity of youth.

5. Should be rich in valuable experiences.

6. Is less excusable in yielding to the force of evil passions.

—"His heart was not perfect with the Lord." The heart the central force of the religious life.

1. The reason may be convinced when the heart is untouched.

2. The truth that moves us most is that which we feel.

3. The highest feeling is the highest reason.

4. If the heart is wrong towards God, all is wrong.

5. He who is unfaithful towards God, is not to be trusted by his fellow-men.

6. The outer evidence of a perfect heart is a loving, obedient life.

1Ki . 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 so ever 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 open to them, or where they are patronized instead of being resisted, then both people and kingdom are going to meet their ruin.—Lange.

—The evil results of an unholy alliance.

1. Idolatry was allowed.

2. It became the fashion.

3. It divided the king's heart.

4. He patronized it.

5. State provision was made for it. We learn from this history—

1. Jehovah is a jealous God, and will tolerate no rivals.

2. The Divine commands are imperial, and must take precedence of all human laws.

3. The impossibility of harmonizing Christianity and heathenism. In ancient times this led to the worship of Baalim and other idols-deities, with their cruel orgies and barbarous rites. A later result has been the birth of Popery, which inculcates image cultus in defiance of the Divine commands, turns the simple spiritual worship of God into an elaborate heathenish ritual, proclaims the Pope infallible, and exalts the Virgin Mary to a higher dignity than the Saviour Himself. Religion demands decision, and admits of no compromise.

1Ki . He that built a Temple to the living God, for himself and Israel, in Zion, 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. Even our very permission appropriates crimes to us. We need no more guiltiness of any sin than our willing toleration. Who can but yearn and fear to see the woful wreck of so rich and goodly a vessel? O Solomon! wert thou not he whose younger years God honoured with a message and style of love; to whom God twice appeared, and in a gracious vision renewed the covenant of his favour; whom he singled out from all the generation of men to be the founder of that glorious temple which was no less clearly the type of heaven, than thou wert of Christ, the Son of the ever living God? Wert not thou that deep sea of wisdom, which God ordained to send forth rivers and fountains of all divine and human knowledge to all nations? Wert not thou one of those select secretaries, whose hand it pleased the Almighty to employ in three pieces of the Divine monuments of Sacred Scriptures? Which of us dares ever hope to aspire unto thy graces? Which of us can promise to secure ourselves from thy ruins? We fall, O God, we fall to the lowest hell, if thou prevent us not, if thou sustain us not!—Bp. Hall.

—So fallen! so lost! the light withdrawn

Which once he wore!

The glory from his gray hairs gone

For evermore!

Of all we loved and honoured, nought

Save power remains;

A fallen angel's pride of thought,

Still strong in chains.

All else is gone; from these great eyes

The soul has fled:

When faith is lost, and honour dies,

The man is dead.

Then pay the reverence of old days

To his dead fame;

Walk backward with averted gaze,

And hide the shame.—Whittier.


Verses 9-13

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . Forasmuch as this is done of thee; or, is purposed of thee.

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

THE DIVINE ANGER AND HUMAN DISOBEDIENCE

I. That the Divine anger is a fact. "And the Lord was angry with Solomon." It is the fashion with many to expatiate on the Divine benevolence while they ignore the Divine anger. But the fact of that anger is one of the plainest and most awful revelations of the Bible (Isa ; Joh 3:36; Rom 1:18). Divine anger is no sudden burst of passion, no low and hateful motion of revenge, as human anger often is, and with which too many are prone to associate their idea of the Divine anger. It is rather the deep, eternal antagonism of holiness to sin, of truth to error, of right to wrong. However much God may love the human soul as such, if that soul cleaves unto sin, it must of necessity place itself along with the sin in enmity towards God, and so be exposed to the Divine anger. It requires a sound judgment and a heart of tenderest love to speak with profit on the subject of the Divine anger.

II. That the Divine anger is excited by human disobedience. "Because his heart was turned from the Lord" (1Ki ).

1. Disobedience is aggravated when committed against definite commands. "And had commanded him concerning this thing" (1Ki ; comp. 1Ki 6:12; 1Ki 9:6). When law is violated ignorantly it is still a sin, but is not so aggravated as when committed with the full knowledge of the prohibition. Princes who have dominion over others are apt to forget the Divine dominion over them, and while they exact obedience from their own subjects, to neglect on their part to render obedience to the Great Ruler of all. The mariner who disregards the lights and landmarks which define the path of safety is the more reprehensible when he wrecks his vessel among the treacherous shoals.

2. Disobedience it aggravated when committed notwithstanding repealed Divine manifestation. The Lord "appeared unto him twice" (1Ki ; comp. 1Ki 3:5; 1Ki 9:1-2). Good turns aggravate unkindnesses. It is a great privilege to receive the law through the lips of God's ministers, but a greater still to hear it from the lips of God Himself. Solomon was singularly favoured with Divine blessings. His recalcitrance excited the greater displeasure, and merited the greater punishment. The Lord does not trifle with men in the declarations of His word, and He will not eventually allow men to trifle with Him.

III. That the Divine anger will manifest itself in some form of punishment (1Ki ). The threat to divide the kingdom was carried out: the subsequent repentance and restoration of Solomon did not prevent it. There are some things in which repentance comes too late. Repentance does not arrest the course of physical law. It must have been a bitter experience to Solomon to know that the magnificent empire it had been his life-work to build up must ere long be rent asunder and crumble into ruins. "Solomon had let go the sincere service of God by sharing himself betwixt Him and his idols; his servant therefore shall share the kingdon with his son, and bear away the better half from him." The Divine anger is not a theological scare-crow set up to frighten timid souls, but a terrible reality, as the evil-doer will by-and-by discover to his dismay. Homer has given expression to a similar idea:—

Fast by the threshold of Jove's court are placed

Two casks, one stored with evil, one with good.

To whom He gives unmixed

The bitter cup, He makes that man a curse,

His name becomes a by word of reproach,

His strength is hunger-bitten, and he walks

The blessed earth unblest, go where he may.

IV. That the Divine anger is ever tempered with mercy.

1. Mercy in delaying punishment. "Notwithstanding in thy day I will not do it" (1Ki ). Compare a similar mitigation of punishment promised to Josiah (2Ki 22:20). Delay affords space for repentance. If the opportunity it presents is despised, the punishment will be the heavier, and the sufferer be without excuse.

2. Mercy in moderating the severity of punishment. "Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom, but will give one tribe to thy son" (1Ki ). Two tribes were really retained. The tribe of Benjamin seems to have been absorbed into the tribe of Judah, to which David belonged (1Ki 12:21). This second mitigation of the sentence reveals the tender compassion of God, and His unwillingness to punish. Solomon did not at once turn from God: his defection was gradual; and Jehovah did not at once wrest the kingdom from him. This additional proof of the Divine mercy must have greatly affected Solomon; and there is room to hope that it led him to repent and retrace his wanderings. Kindness succeeds where a stern severity fails.

3. Mercy shown on account of ulterior Divine purposes. "For David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen" (1Ki ). The line of the Messiah must be preserved. The prevailing lion must come out of the tribe of Judah: not only the tribe must be preserved, but the regal line and the regal right. All this must be done for the true David's sake; and this was undoubtedly, observes Dr. A. Clarke, what God had in view by thus miraculously preserving the tribe of Judah and the royal line in the midst of so general a defection. As David was a type of the Messiah, so was Jerusalem a type of the true church: therefore the old Jerusalem must be preserved in the hands of the tribe of Judah, till the true David should establish the new Jerusalem in the same land and in the same city. And what a series of providences did it require to do all these things! The prosperous career of Solomon was only part of a great scheme for the benefit of the entire race; and the failure of even so great a man as Solomon must not be allowed to frustrate the Divine intention.

LESSONS:—

1. Man cannot sin with impunity.

2. The Divine anger is righteous.

3. The manifestation of the Divine anger it terrible.

4. God has more delight in showing mercy than in punishing.

5. He who most delights in mercy most resembles God.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . Had not this man's delinquency been strongly marked by the Divine disapprobation, it would have had a fatal effect upon the morals of mankind. Vice is vice, no matter who commits it. And God is as much displeased with sin in Solomon as He can be with it in the most profligate, uneducated wretch. And, although God sees the same sin in precisely the same degree of moral turpitude as to the act itself, yet there may be circumstances which greatly aggravate the offence, and subject the offender to greater punishment. Solomon was wise; he knew better: his understanding showed him the vanity as well as the wickedness of idolatry. God had appeared unto him twice. The promises of God had been fulfilled to him in a most remarkable manner. All these were aggravations of Solomon's crimes, as to their demerit; for the same crime has, in every case, the same degree of moral turpitude in the sight of God; but circumstances may so aggravate as to require the offender to be more grievously punished: so the punishment may be legally increased where the crime is the same. Solomon deserved more punishment for his worship of Ashtoreth than any of the Sidonians did, though they performed precisely the same acts. The Sidonians had never known the true God: Solomon had been fully acquainted with Him.—A. Clarke.

1Ki . The sin of idolatry.

1. Is a tendency of fallen humanity.

2. Is an insult to God.

3. Is a violation of the most specific prohibitions.

4. Is the cause of national disgrace and ruin.

1Ki . The punishments that fell upon Solomon show us—I. The holiness and righteousness of God (Psa 145:17; Jer 17:10; Luk 12:47). II. His faithfulness and mercy (1Ki 11:12-13). He knows how to punish so that His gracious promises remain firm (2Ti 2:13; Rom 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 (Eze 33:2). If judgment fell specially on Solomon, notwithstanding the fact that the Lord appeared unto him twice in a dream, and he was honoured with distinguished grace, what judgment must we expect, to whom He has appeared tenderly in Christ Jesus (1Co 1:30; Heb 2:3; Heb 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 (Dan 4:34).—Lange.

1Ki . In the midst of the horror of this spectacle, able to affright all the sons of men, behold some glimpse of comfort. Was it of Solomon that David his father prophesied—"Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand"? If sensible grace, yet final mercy, was not taken from that beloved of God. In the hardest of this winter, the sap was gone down to the root, though it showed not in the branches. Even while Solomon removed, that word stood fast: "He shall be my son, and I will be his father." He that foresaw his sin, threatened and limited his correction (Psa 89:31-33). Behold, the favour of God doth not depend upon Solomon's obedience. If Solomon shall suffer his faithfulness to fail towards his God; God will not requite him with the failing of his faithfulness to Solomon: if Solomon break his covenant with God, God will not break His covenant with the father of Solomon, with the son of David. He shall smart; he shall not perish. O gracious word of the God of all mercies, able to give strength to the languishing, comfort to the despairing, to the dying, life! Whatsoever we are, thou wilt be still thyself, O Holy one of Israel, true to thy covenant. The sins of thy chosen can neither frustrate thy counsel, nor outstrip thy mercies.—Bp. Hall.

1Ki . One tribe remains to him—that is, of the Divine grace only a single part of the sovereignty over all Israel is left to him. This view is confirmed by the observation that even the standing distribution in the Old Testament of Israel into twelve tribes has its most proper ground, not in the fact that Jacob had exactly twelve sons, as after the recognition of Ephraim and Manasseh as separate tribes, the people properly formed thirteen tribes; but is to be sought in the import which this number had acquired in the remotest antiquity by the observation of the twelve months of the year, and the twelve signs of the zodiac.—Keil.


Verses 14-40

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

THE AGENTS OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION

I. Are secretly preparing when least suspected. Hadad and Rezon on the frontier, and Jeroboam under the shadow of the throne, were plotting mischief for the empire. In a time of unexampled peace and security, the seeds of rebellion were being sown. Things are not always what they seem. The loveliest flower may hide within its cup the deadliest poison. The mountain draped with richest verdure, and musical with forest songs, may simmer with internal fires which shall burst their prison, and spread devastation and woe in their burning pathway. The most promising productions of earth may be blasted in a single night. But the agents of destruction are not always in haste: they can afford to wait. Not at once does Divine retribution overtake the offender; but after much long-suffering and many opportunities for repentance.

II. Often accomplish their mission by gratifying personal revenge and ambition (1Ki ; 1Ki 11:25-26). The Edomite prince, who escaped when a child, the desolating slaughter of David (2 Samuel 8), dreamed of recovering the lost throne of his father. He dreamed of vengeance for the blood of his countrymen; and "dreams grow realities to earnest men." Rezon was influenced in all his plottings against Israel by a spirit of bitter and ungovernable hatred (1Ki 11:25), and lost no opportunity of inflicting injury on Solomon. Jeroboam, endowed with unquestioned ability, and evidently conscious of it, was eagerly ambitious of place and power. While these men pursued their several selfish ends, Jehovah used them as agents for the punishing of wrong-doing. History is full of examples of this Divine procedure. The Lord can make the wrath of men His servant, and to minister to His praise (Psa 76:10). His hand is on all the springs of being. All the forces of the universe are His obedient instruments in scattering blessings, or in accomplishing the sterner missions of justice.

III. Embitter the close of a career which had a brilliant and promising beginning. How few can foresee the contrast which the end of life will present with its opening! How sad, how heart-rending would be the picture if we could see, as God sees, the horrid process by which the innocence of youth gives place to the hardened effrontery and guilt of old age! "Nothing but love and peace sounded in the name of Solomon; nothing else was found in his reign while he held in good terms with his God; but when once he fell foul with his Maker, all things began to be troubled. There are whips laid up against the time of Solomon's foreseen offence which are now brought forth for his correction. God would have us make account that our peace ends with our innocence. The same sin that sets debate betwixt God and us, arms the creatures against us. It were a pity we should be at any quiet, while we are fallen out with the God of peace. Solomon's reign of peace closes amid the threatenings of war, the firmness of his government is supplanted by the tremors of rebellion, his enormous supplies are failing him, his greatness is dwarfed to littleness, his wisdom is transformed into folly. Many a bitter pang smote the monarch's heart as he beheld the wreck and failure of his life. The grave holds many a human heart that has been wounded and broken by disappointed hopes, baffled endeavours, or dethroned pride.

IV. Are limited and restrained by the Divine will (1Ki ; 1Ki 11:39). The Power which has directed the migrations and limited the wars of nations, fixed the boundaries of the ocean, and adjusted the force of gravitation, also interferes in moderating and defining the degree of punishment for sin. "I will for this afflict the seed of David; but not for ever" (1Ki 11:39). Here breaks in another ray of promise to the House of David, whose sons, though chastened and smitten with the rod of men (2Sa 7:14), were to be the human line of fathers to that Great Son who shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of whose kingdom there shall be no end. The very anger of God is more constructive than destructive. The worst enemies can do the church no damage beyond what the will of God permits.

V. Cannot be defeated in their purpose by human malice (1Ki ). "Solomon thought therefore to kill Jeroboam." Murder has ever been the ghastly policy of the tyrant, the idolized weapon of the coward, the sport of the brutal, the sanguinary carnival of monsters. Solomon's relations to Jeroboam were strikingly similar to those of Saul to David. Solomon, like Saul, drew down upon himself by disobedience the anger of heaven; and to him, as to Saul, the words of the Lord announced judgments that darkened all his future. Like Saul, he knew and sought to kill his rival. The beginning of his reign, like that of Saul's, was popular and auspicious, but its end was sad and dark. The rage of man is impotent to frustrate the ultimate designs of God.

LESSONS:—

1. The prosperous have always many enemies.

2. The fall of a great man involves many in his ruin.

3. The instruments by which a man climbs to greatness will, when abused, be his most inveterate adversaries.

4. Gilded sins entail dismal retributions.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . The certainty of punishment for sin.

1. Is here directly attributed to Jehovah.

2. May be effected by human agencies.

3. Is a warning to evil doers.

4. Vindicates the righteousness of the Divine law.

—God is said to have stirred up Solomon's adversaries, not by infusing this malice into them, but as using it to punish his wickedness by them, even as a workman worketh by tools that another made, and by crooked tools oft maketh straight and smooth work.—Trapp.

1Ki . 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 (Jer ). 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, 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 man is a sermon of repentance from thy God to thee.

2. They were in God's hands, and could do not 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.—Cramer.

1Ki . The power of the little to annoy the great. Solomon's last years were not suffered to pass without heavy troubles, which must have brought down his kingly pride very low. Enemies, one after another, appeared, who had in his early years been kept down by the memory of David's victories, and by the show of substantial strength which his own government presented. At length, however, they ventured to try its texture, and finding it more vulnerable than even they had suspected, that there was nothing very terrible to resolute men in its showy greatness; and having found that the king had really no power to make any effectual opposition to their assaults, far less to put them down, they were emboldened to take further measures, until some established their independence, while others offered the passive resistance of withholding their tributes—so that his power became shorn at the borders, and eventually shaken at home, where the discontinuance of many outer supplies of revenue, and probably the interruption of his various lines of trade, no longer in his undisputed possession, urged him, not to economy and retrenchment, but to make good the deficiency by the taxation of his native subjects.—Kitto.

—Formerly, all kings did homage to Solomon, and brought him gifts, and journeyed from all countries to see and 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 man, but in the former we must recognize the will and power of God.—Gerhardt.

1Ki . The fate of Hadad is recounted to us not so much on his own account as on our own, in order that we may learn to regard the ways of God with man, and order our ways by Him who is ever mercy and wisdom (Psa 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.—Lange.

1Ki . The love of fatherland.

1. Is deeply implanted in humanity.

2. Creates irrepressible yearnings in the heart of the exile.

3. Becomes intensified under a sense of oppression and wrong.

4. Fires the soul with bravery in its defence.

5. Is a faint image of the love we should feel for the heavenly fatherland—to go to heaven is to go home again.

1Ki . The secresy of revenge.

1. The fierceness of revenge is fanned by the rehearsal of past injuries.

2. Is cherished in the midst of peace and plenty.

3. Is hidden from the dearest friend and benefactor.

4. Is intensified by its secresy.

O that the slave had forty thousand lives;

One is too poor, too weak for my revenge!

Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell!

Yield up, O love, thy crown and hearted throne,

To tyrannous hate! Swell, bosom, with thy freight,

For ‘tis of aspics' tongues!—Othello.

1Ki . Though vanquished and east 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 against those secret and mighty motives in the natural heart of man (Rom 12:19).

1Ki . Solomon's servant, but unthankful and disloyal, such as was Ahithophel to David, Brutus to Csar, Phocas to Mauritius, Frederick III.'s courtiers and creatures to him, Biron to Henry IV. of France. That king had made him of a common soldier a captain, of a captain a knight, of a knight Duke of Biron, Marshal of France, Governor of Burgundy, &c. Yet all this and more could not keep him from conspiring the death of his king, queen, and prince, that the kingdom might be transferred to others, and the Huguenots rooted out.

1Ki . The dangerous glitter of a crown.

1. Infatuates the ambitions.

2. Has allured many to their ruin.

3. Hides the misery and care of the unhappy wearer.

4. Should be guarded and fenced by a strict moral obedience to the law of God (1Ki ).

—The disruption of the kingdom was not the work of a day, but the growth of centuries. To the house of Joseph—that is, to Ephraim, with its adjacent tribes of Benjamin and Manasseh—had belonged, down to the time of David, all the chief rulers of Israel: Joshua, the conqueror; Deborah, the one prophetic, Gideon, the one regal, spirit of the judges; Abimelech and Saul, the first kings; Samuel, the restorer of the state after the fall of Shiloh. It was natural that, with such an inheritance of glory, Ephraim always chafed under any rival supremacy. Even against the impartial sway of its own Joshua, or of its kindred heroes, Gideon or Jephthah, its proud spirit was always in revolt, how much more when the blessing of Joseph seemed to be altogether merged in the blessing of the rival and obscure Judah; when the Lord "refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which he had loved (Psa ). All these embers of dissatisfaction, which had well nigh burst into a general conflagration in the revolt of Sheba, were still glowing; it needed but a breath to blow it into a flame. There was one man who, by his office and character, had long ago been indicated as the natural successor of Joshua. This was Jeroboam.—Stanley.

—Hitherto the chief restraint upon the people had lain in the notion that the Lord had guaranteed the throne over all Israel to the house of David, and the most turbulent spirits had been kept under restraint by the fear of resisting the purposes of God. The intimation of the nomination of Jeroboam under Divine authority fell like a spark upon fuel. The important principle involved—freedom from a restriction which had become intolerable—at once raised the agent, in whose person it had been set forth, to the height of popularity among the tribes under the influence of the house of Joseph; and although he had been warned that no change was to take place until after the death of Solomon, he found himself driven, by the force of circumstances, if not by the promptings of his own ambition, into some immediate demonstrations. The movement was not attended with the result he expected, and, finding that he had become a marked man to Solomon, he deemed it prudent to evade the storm he had raised by retiring into Egypt, and there awaiting the progress of events.—Kitto.

1Ki . 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 Psa 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 favoured until ambition incites them to suppress every feeling of gratitude (Joh 13:18).—Lange.

1Ki . The man of industry.

1. Improves the powers he already possesses.

2. Attracts the notice of the great.

3. Is intrusted with important undertakings.

4. Acquires a position of honour and influence.

1Ki . Here we meet with another representative of that interesting order of men—Divine messengers—who appear so often and so prominently during the time of the Hebrew monarchy. Ahijah seems to have been to Jeroboam very much what Samuel was to Saul, and Nathan was to David. He, too, probably, announced to Solomon the word of the Lord as recorded in 1Ki 11:11-13. His two genuine and authentic prophecies, each of great importance to the kingdom of Israel, are recorded here, 1Ki 11:29-39, and chap. 1Ki 14:6-16. Ahijah's oracles seem like a voice from that olden, sacred past—the voice of the God of Joshua and of Eli—still proclaiming blessings on the obedient, and penal woes on them that forget His name.—Whedon.

1Ki . Here we find the first instance of that mode of delivering a Divine message which became so common in later times, and which has been called "acted parable." Generally the mode was adopted upon express Divine command (see Jer 13:1-11; Jer 19:1-10; Jer 27:2-11; Eze 3:1-3; Eze 4:1; Eze 5:1). In this instance we may trace a connection between the type selected and the words of the announcement to Solomon, in 1Ki 11:11-13—"I will surely rend the kingdom from thee"—where the kingdom is likened unto a glorious' mantle upon the king's shoulders, as in 1Sa 15:28.

1Ki . 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 on whom He will (Dan 4:29; 1Sa 2:7-8; Luk 1:52).

1Ki . 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 2Sa 7:14-15, is seen in Solomon's history. The house of David remained a light for "ever," until that Son of David came who is the Light of the world, which lighteth all men who come into the world (Joh 1:9; Rom 15:12).—Lange.

1Ki . The severity and tenderness of God.

1. God will punish the evil-doer.

2. God will punish with awful severity.

3. God will temper justice with mercy.

4. The severity of God does not destroy His tenderness (Rom ).

—"But not for ever." for some kings of Judah—as Asa, Hezekiah, Josiah—grew very great. But especially is this to be understood of Christ, in whom the glory was restored to David's house, such as never any mortal king had.—Trapp.

—In no case—not even if Jeroboam and his seed continued faithful, serving God as David had served Him—was the seed of David to be afflicted for ever. David had been distinctly promised that God should never fail his seed, whatever their short-comings (Psa ). The fulfilment of these promises was seen, partly in the providence which maintained David's family in a royal position till Zerubbabel, but mainly in the preservation of his seed to the time fixed for the coming of Christ and the birth of Christ—the Eternal King—from one of David's descendants.—Speaker's comm.

Verse.

40. Fickle humanity.

1. Solomon at one time promotes Jeroboam to honour, at another seeks to murder him.

2. Jeroboam at one time is the faithful and diligent servant of Solomon, at another his vexatious and rebellious foe.

3. Unhappy subject whose sovereign is so fickle, unhappy sovereign whose subject is so faithless.

—From the time when they furnished to their nation the great conquering leader who settled Israel in the possession of Palestine (Num ), the tribe of Ephraim, already encouraged to hope for high things by the blessing of Jacob (Gen 48:17-22; Gen 49:22-26), had claimed, and, in the main, enjoyed, a preeminence above their brethren. But the transfer of power to the rival tribe of Judah involved in the elevation of David, and the loss of prestige both by Shiloh and Shechem through the concentration at Jerusalem of both the temporal and the ecclesiastical, must have been bitterly felt by the Ephraimites. When David boasted that God refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, he touched a sore place in the hearts of his Ephraimite subjects. They felt themselves the "strength" of Israel, while Judah was the "lawgiver" (Psa 60:7; Psa 108:8). The military glory of David's reign, and the splendour of his son's in its earlier portion, had prevented the discontent of the Ephraimites from gathering to a head. But as Solomon's lustre faded, as his oppression became greater and its object more selfish, and as a prospect of deliverance arose from the personal qualities of Jeroboam, the tribe, it is possible, again aspired after its old position. Jeroboam, active, energetic, and ambitious, placed himself at their head, and, encouraged by the prophet's words, commenced a rebellion (1Ki 11:26). The step proved premature. The power of Solomon was too firmly fixed to be shaken; and the hopes of the Ephraimites had to be deferred till a fitter season. Speaker's Comm.

—Rebellion.

1. Is easily fomented where conscious wrong exists.

2. Is the opportunity of the ambitious.

3. Is often ill-timed in its movements.

4. Is always attended with great risks.

5. Is powerless in frustrating Divine arrangements.

6. Is vigilant and impatient to accomplish its purpose.


Verses 41-43

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . When David was in Edom; or, was (at war) with. The Sept. and Peshito read, had smitten. Hadad was a royal child, rescued from Joab's extirminating slaughter (2Sa 8:13) in Edom, carried into Egypt, and fostered by the Egyptian king. On learning of the death of David and Joab, he quitted Egypt, returned to his own land, and sought to restore the ruined kingdom of his fathers. Foilod in his efforts, he joined himself to Rezon another of Solomon's adversaries (1Ki 11:23-25).

1Ki . Let me go in any wise—The Sept. and Codex Vat. insert here, "And Hadad returned to his own land; this is the mischief which Hadad did; and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Edom."

1Ki . Another adversary, Rezon—Comp. 2Sa 8:3, sq.

1Ki . Beside the mischief that Hadad did יְאֶת־הָרָעָה אֲשֶׁר הֲדָד—A peculiar phrase, not easy to render; yet A. V. gives the sense fairly; or thus, But as for this mischief that Hadad did; or, And, indeed, along with the evil that Hadad did (so Bertheau).

1Ki . Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite, i.e., an Ephraimite. Hadad and Rezon were "adversaries" to Solomon; but Jeroboam was an internal enemy, a subject and servant who developed into a rebel, and a more dangerous enemy. Being a young man of industry and talent, Solomon entrusted him with the honourable position of superintendent of the engineering works in progress around Jerusalem. He evidently used this eminence to sow sedition, for "this was the cause," &c., 1Ki 11:27. Lange suggests that the Ephraimites had an old and irrepressible jealousy of Judah, and very reluctantly submitted to labour in the king's citadel. Compulsory labour increased this dislike to hatred so that Jeroboam found it easy to fan the flame of insurrection among them.

1Ki . Ahijah the Shilonite—Shiloh was in the tribe of Ephraim; hence Ahijah and Jeroboam were of the same tribe—probably, of the same spirit also.

1Ki . Solomon sought, therefore, &c.—Jeroboam's inflated pride and restless ambition led him to conspiracies even before Solomon's death, as 1Ki 11:26 affirms. Unto Shishak, king of Egypt, who harboured this seditions rebel, thus showing his own hostility to or jealousy of Solomon. Shishak was of a different dynasty from Solomon's father-in-law.—W. H. J.

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

THE DEATH OF GREAT MEN

I. Is not always a calamity to a nation. When the powers of a great mind are devoted to the best interests of the people irrespective of selfish and ulterior designs, and when the nation is flourishing under the sagacious and virtuous policy adopted, the death of such a character is an irreparable loss, a lamentable disaster. But a great man may be a great curse to a nation. He may be a genius in wickedness, aggrandising and indulging himself by cruel oppression and shameless fraud. The death of such a man, terrible as it may be to himself, is a blessing to the nation he has so wofully wronged. It is well for humanity that death does come to the great tyrants of society, else life on earth would become intolerable. The world would be transformed into a Gehenna of unutterable torture.

II. Is a humbling spectacle when it happens after they have outlived their reputation. Napoleon Bonaparte lamented that he did not fall at Waterloo. And it is said of Daniel O'Connell, the great and gifted Irish patriot, that he ought to have died thirty or forty years before he did, and while he stood on the highest pinnacle of fame he ever reached, alter the victories he achieved on behalf of Catholic emancipation. So it might be said of Solomon that had he died immediately after the great event of his reign—the dedication of the Temple—he would have fallen in the midst of glory untarnished and of greatness unexampled, and bequeathed to history a character of wondrous moral symmetry and unrivalled reputation. But Solomon lived too fast, and, though not old, lived too long. His death, which, had it occurred years before, would have produced a profound impression and wrung the nation's heart with sorrow and wailing, was chronicled without emotion. "Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David" (1Ki ). Death in any form is a saddening sight—in bird, or beast, or flower. Decay is a subtle, mysterious, but all-potent power, which baffles inquiry and conquers all opposition. It is heart-breaking to watch the ravages we are so powerless to arrest. The death of a good man is sad; but it is a still sadder sight to witness the death of one who once was great and noble, and has sunk into obscurity and disgrace. Oh, the weakness and vanity of man! How little is he to be trusted, how deeply to be pitied! How manifold are the changes through which he passes during the course of one brief life-time!

III. Does not hinder the progress of the Divine purpose concerning the race. The individual may prove unfaithful, God never. Great as is the power for evil of one erring spirit, the evil is circumscribed, and will not be allowed to imperil the good which God has provided for sinning humanity. "Where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound." It is humbling to observe how soon and how easily the greatest men can be dispensed with. The defection of Solomon, and of the nation he governed, did not prevent Jehovah from carrying out his merciful intention of redeeming humanity. By methods the most insignificant and unexpected He can accomplish His gracious designs.

LESSONS:—

1. Death brings both great and small to one common level.

2. The most brilliant gifts will not protect man from committing the most ruinous follies.

3. Greatness is supremely contemptible when divorced from goodness.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . 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 ever 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.—Roos.

1Ki . These three truths are nowhere more powerfully exemplified than in the life of Solomon.

1. What is a man profited, &c. (Mat ).

2. Vanity of vanities (Ecc ).

3. The world passeth away (1Jn ).—Lange.

1Ki . Solomon died in almost the flower of his age, and, it appears, unregretted. His government was no blessing to Israel, and laid, by its exactions and oppressions, the foundation of that schism which was so fatal to the unhappy people of Israel and Judah, and was the most powerful procuring cause of the miseries which have fallen upon the Jewish people from that time until now.—A. Clarke.

—His son followed him in the throne. Thus the graves are filling in with the generations that go off, and houses are filling in with those that are growing up. As the grave cries—Give, give; so land is never lost for want of an heir.—M. Henry.

—Solomon a type of Christ.

1. As the child of promise.

2. As the king of Israel, though ready to spare, yet finally executing and destroying every obstinate rebel against his government.

3. As the Prince of Peace.

4. As the builder of the Temple of the Lord.

5. As the embodiment of Wisdom

6. As attracting multitudes towards him, even of the most distinguished rank.—Robinson.

REFLECTED RAYS FROM THE BEST LITERARY LIGHTS ON THE CHARACTER AND CAREER OF SOLOMON

You have seen a blight in summer. The sky is overcast, and yet there are no clouds; nothing but a dry and stifling obscuration, as if the mouth of some pestilent volcano had opened, or as if sulphur mingled with the sunbeams. "The beasts groan; the cattle are oppressed." From the trees the embryo fruits and the remaining blossoms fall in an unnoticed shower, and the foliage curle and crumples. And whilst creation looks disconsolate, in the hedgerows the heavy moths begin to flutter, and ominous owlets cry from the ruin. Such a blight came over the Hebrew summer. By every calculation it ought to have been high noon; but the sun no longer smiled on Israel's dial. There was a dark discomfort in the air. The people murmured. The monarch wheeled along with greater pomp than ever; but the popular prince had soured into the despot, and the crown sat defiant on his moody brow; and stiff were the obeisances, heartless the hosannas, which hailed him as he passed. The ways of Zion mourned; and whilst grass was sprouting in the temple-courts, mysterious groves and impious shrines were rising everywhere; and whilst lust defiled the palace, Chemosh and Ashtoreth and other Gentile abominations defiled the Holy Land. And in the disastrous eclipse beasts of the forest crept abroad. From his lurking place in Egypt Hadad ventured out, and became a life-long torment to the God-forsaken monarch. And Rezon pounced on Damascus, and made Syria his own. And from the pagan palaces of Thebes and Memphis harsh cries were heard ever and anon, Pharaoh and Jeroboam taking counsel together, screeching forth their threatenings and hooting insults, at which Solomon could laugh no longer. For amidst all the gloom and misery a message comes from God: the kingdom is rent; and whilst Solomon's successor will only have a fag-end and a fragment, by right Divine ten tribes are handed over to a rebel and a runaway.

What led to Solomon's apostasy? And what, again, was the ulterior effect of that apostasy on himself? As to the origin of his apostasy the Word of God is explicit. He did not obey his own maxim. He ceased to rejoice with the wife of his youth; and loving many strangers, they drew his heart away from God. Luxury and sinful attachments made him an idolater, and idolatry made him yet more licentious; until in the lazy enervation and languid day-dreaming of the Sybarite, he lost the perspicacity of the sage and the prowess of the sovereign; and when he woke up from the tipsy swoon, and out of the kennel picked his tarnished diadem, he woke to find his faculties, once so clear and limpid, all perturbed, his strenuous reason paralysed, and his healthful fancy poisoned. He woke to find the world grown hollow, and himself grown old. He woke to see the sun bedarkened in Israel's sky, and a special gloom encompassing himself. He woke to recognize all round a sadder sight than winter—a blasted summer. Like a deluded Samson starting from his slumber, he sought to recall that noted wisdom which had signalized his Nazarite days; but its locks were shorn; and, cross and self-disgusted, wretched and guilty, he woke up to the discovery which awaits the sated sensualists. He found that when the beast gets the better of the man, the man is abandoned by his God. Like one who falls asleep amidst the lights and music of an orchestra, and who awakes amidst empty benches and tattered programmes—like a man who falls asleep in a flower-garden, and who opens his eyes on a bald and locust-blackened wilderness—the life, the loveliness was vanished, and all the remaining spirit of the mighty Solomon yawned forth that verdict of the tired voluptuary—"Vanity of vanities! vanity of vanities! all is vanity!"—Dr. James Hamilton.

Less varied and less profound is the insight afforded into the private experience of the Wise King. The insufficiency of the most perfect human wisdom to guard the heart, and of the loftiest eminence of power and earthly magnificence to satisfy its cravings, are almost painfully prominent. From amid the lustre of his throne, and the depth of an experience that had fathomed every created element of happiness, issues the plaintive voice still repeating its witness of the vanity of all human things. It is a happiness to turn from Ecclesiastes to the Song of Solomon, and, in its rich and gorgeous allegory, to read that not in vain had he searched for the secret of human happiness, but had found it in the heavenly Bridegroom and the unutterable joys of His espoused Church. There is, however, another point of view in which this period of imperial splendour stood in very close relation to the Divine plan. For it constituted a new appeal to the consciences and even to the interests of Israel, such as they had not previously experienced. It was, indeed, the fault of their own sin, and of that alone, that they had hitherto, with the brief exception of the latter days of Joshua, tasted the bitterness of the warning, and not the glory of the promise. The alternatives presented by Moses, and again reiterated by Joshua, were two: an extraordinary blessing upon obedience, and an extraordinary curse upon disobedience. They had perversely chosen the second course, and had already experienced the first blows of the scourge, to culminate hereafter in their dispersion among all nations. But thus it happened, that of the other alternative they had enjoyed no experience up to the time of David. It might, therefore, have been open to object against God's final dealings with His chosen race, on the ground that reward had not been adequately tried. The opposition hardened by the storm would have melted, it might have been thought, amid the sunshine. Had they actually known by experience what the blessing was, who can tell what effect it may have had upon Israel? This possible objection has been foreclosed by the glory of the times of David and Solomon. During this period God, by His own gracious acts—not by virtue of any meritorious obedience of theirs—gave them the enjoyment of the blessing; not wholly, for the sinful luxury and profusion of Solomon rapidly introduced the elements of evil, but sufficiently to indicate the nature of what God had in store for them. Both alternatives were tried, and both the frown and the smile equally failed to conquer the stubbornness of their disobedience. Hence over this brief period of national magnificence and religious progress the clouds soon gathered again. Here the fortunes of the Hebrew race culminated at their highest point, and then hasted to their decline. Not that God wearied in blessing, but that Israel wearied in obeying. If neither the wise king himself, nor the people he ruled, could bear that time of glory without introducing elements of decay amid such a full flush of life, what wonder that others have proved unable to do so; and that the history of every nation under heaven has hitherto been one invariable story of growth, prosperity, corruption, decline, and ruin! Christianity has, indeed, introduced into nations a new principle of life, and extended the duration of their strength far beyond all the limits of the ancient world; but whether, even among them, the purifying salt will permanently correct the festering elements of moral corruption, is a lesson still to be learned.—Garbett's Divine Plan of Revelation.

Solomon's character, as drawn in the Scriptures, is surely many-sided. The simple, unpretending child—the darling of Jehovah—the chosen king—the seeker after wisdom: choosing her above all other things—the wise and sagacious judge—the powerful ruler, and glorious sovereign—surpassing, in many ways, all the kings of the nations round about him; his navies traversing many a sea, and kings and princes from afar bringing and laying at his feet their gifts: but in his old age a despot, a polygamist, and an idolater. These last were doubtless the immediate causes of his own decline, and of the subsequent misfortunes of the nation. In his reign the Israelitish monarchy reached the highest pitch of worldly splendour, the memory of which is still preserved in many an oriental legend and tradition. But that very splendour seemed to pervert the nation's heart, and cause the cloud of Jehovah's glory to depart from His people and His Holy Habitation. The outer splendour of his court and empire, the magnificence of his buildings, and his commerce with foreign nations were, perhaps, not in themselves wrong. They might have been made the means of leading other nations to the knowledge of the One True God; but they were fraught with danger. Worldly glory has ever had the tendency to take away the heart from the pure and the good rather than to win it to the worship of God. So it was with Solomon, and so it ever has been. "How hardly shall a rich man enter the kingdom of God!" The thing is not impossible with God; but the dangers of wealth and worldly splendour far surpass their probable advantages to their possessor. And so the Church, whenever she has sought to increase her strength by a showing of worldly forces, has become shorn of her spiritual power. "Viewed from the theocratic stand-point, Solomon's reign was a grand failure. It corresponded largely with the sad failure of Saul, the first king of Israel. Saul's misfortunes, however, were largely owing to his incapacity for government, as well as to moral obliquity. He was unequal to the exigencies of his age, and the task of successfully moulding into a monarchy the nation so long ruled by judges exceeded his powers. But with Solomon there was no lack of ability. His wisdom, sagacity, and power were equal to any possible emergency. But his grievous sins and neglect of God's law brought on his ruin. His greatness and glory weaned his heart from God, and his wives led him into idolatry. Speculation as to his probable repentance and final salvation is idle and fruitless, and will always be governed by preconceived opinions. The sacred writers pass it over in utter silence, and give no shadow of intimation that he ever turned from his idolatry. A mighty shadow clouds his latter days: and there, in Holy Writ, he stands depicted—one part of his life and character in strangest contrast with the other—the grandest and saddest personage of sacred history.—Whedon.

The danger came, and, in spite of the warning, the king fell. Before long the priests and prophets had to grieve over rival temples to Moloch, Chemosh, and Ashtoreth, forms of ritual, not idolatrous only, but cruel, dark, impure. This evil came as the penalty of another. He gave himself to "strange women." He found himself involved in a fascination that led to the worship of strange gods. The starting point and the goal are given us. We are left, from what we know otherwise, to trace the process. Something there was, perhaps, in his very "largeness of heart," so far in advance of traditional knowledge of his age, rising to higher and wider thoughts of God, which predisposed him to it. In recognising what was true in other forms of faith, he might lose his horror at what was false. With this there may have mingled political motives. He may have hoped, by a policy of toleration, to conciliate neighbouring princes, to attract a larger traffic. But probably also there was another influence less commonly taken into account. The widespread belief of the East in the magic arts of Solomon is not, it is believed, without its foundation of truth. Disasters followed before long as the natural consequence of what was politically a blunder as well as religiously a sin. The strength of the nation rested on its unity, and its unity depended on its faith. Whatever attractions the sensuous ritual which he introduced may have had for the great body of the people, the priests and Levites must have looked upon the rival worship with entire disfavour. The seal of the prophetic order was now kindled into active opposition. The king in vain tried to check the current that was setting strong against him. The old tribal jealousies gave signs of renewed vitality. Ephraim was prepared once more to dispute the supremacy of Judah, needing special control. And with this weakness within there came attacks from without. The king, prematurely old, must have foreseen the rapid breaking up of the great monarchy to which he had succeeded. Of the inner changes of mind and heart, which ran parallel with this history, Scripture is comparatively silent. We may not enter into the things within the veil, or answer either way the doubting question—Is there any hope?—Smith's Bible Dictionary. (See also Smith's Old Testament History, p. 419-424; also Stanley's Jewish Church, second series, p. 256-260.)

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 chequered. His character was romantic, chivalric, and generous. He showed himself capable of both 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. By degrees the splendour 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. The sun of his life rose in all splendour 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 for ever.—Dr. E. Harwood in Lange.

It is impossible not to perceive that such a time as this of Solomon (the dedication of the Temple), though really a great one, is a critical one for any nation. The idea of building a house which the Lord would fill with His glory was a recognition of God as eternally ruling over that people and over all people. Yet there lay close to it a tendency to make the invisible visible; they represent the holy presence as belonging to the building, instead of the building as being hallowed and glorified by the presence. There was no necessity that this evil should grow out of that good; in a very important sense one is the testimony against the other; still all experience, and none more decisively than the experience of the Israelites, prepares us to expect such a result. And here I believe is the precious moral of Solomon's history, that which makes it a perfectly harmonious history in spite of the incongruities in his own life. There was the seed of idolatry in him, as there is in every man. That early prayer for an understanding heart was the prayer against it—the prayer for an inward eye to look through the semblances of things to their reality; for a continual revelation of that which passeth show. The prayer was answered as fully as any prayer ever was. The Divine judgment, the discrimination of good and bad, came to Soloman: it was not limited in any direction; it could be exercised on persons as on things; it was shown to be the faculty which a king requires, because it is that which a man requires, since by it God perceives the thoughts and intents of the heart. But there comes a moment when the king or the man ceases to desire that the light should enter into him, should separate the good and the bad in him. There comes a time when his faculty begins to be regarded as a craft, when he half suspects that the light by which he sees is his own. Then appears the tempter. He may come in the form of an Egyptian princess, or any other; but he will in some way appeal to the senses; he will point the road to idolatry. The secret desire of the heart, mightily resisted once, will be allowed to prevail; it will convert all that once checked it to its nourishment. The gold and the silver, not of the palace only, but of the temple—not the glory only of the kingdom, but of the sanctuary—will strengthen and deepen the falsehoods of the inner man. The glorious power of judging, which enabled one who knew not how to go out or come in, to look into the hardest cases, and to resolve them, itself receives the yoke and bows to the image; its keenness and subtilty only inventing arguments and apologies for the shame. And the sympathizing king who sent his people away with gladness of heart, sure that God was the king, and that they had a human king, who felt towards them as he felt, would gradually become a tyrant, laying on his subjects Egyptian burdens, compelling them to do the work of beasts, proving that he valued the stones, the iron, and the brass which formed the materials of God's house, above the living beings who were to draw nigh to offer their supplications in it. So the wise king may prepare his subjects for rebellion, and his kingdom for division. A lesson surely full of instruction and wisdom for all kings and all men; for those who think, and for those who act; for those who study the secrets of the human heart, and for those who investigate the meaning of nature; for those who despise the arts and wealth of the world, and for those who worship them; for those who hold strength and glory to be the Devil's, and for those who covet them and hunt after them as if they were Divine; for nations upon which God hath bestowed mechanical knowledge, and the blessed results of it; for nations which look upon human beings as only the machines and the producers of a certain amount of physical enjoyments. But though so full of instruction, it would be utterly melancholy and oppressive, seeing that it speaks of retrogression instead of progress, of folly coming forth from wisdom—death from life—if there were no sequel to the story. But the wisdom which Solomon prayed for and pursued with so great and earnest a heart was not a wisdom which could die with him, or which his forgetfulness of it could kill. "The Lord possessed me," says the writer of the Book of Proverbs, "in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up for everlasting, from the beginning or ever the earth was." "In the beginning was the Word," says St. John, "and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." This is the King "who shall be found as long as the sun and moon endureth, whom all nations shall call blessed." This is that Son "who shall judge the people with righteousness and the poor with judgment." This is He in whom the prayers of David are ended. Brethren, every one of us may ask that Divine Word who is near to us and with us, for an understanding heart. Every one of us who feels that a great work is laid upon him, and that he is in the midst of a people which God hath chosen, and some of whom at least he must teach and judge, and that he is but a little child, may crave for a spirit to discern the good and the bad in himself and in all others. And if we feel, as most of us perhaps do, that we need above all things else, is that sense of responsibility, that consciousness of a calling, that feeling of feebleness which were the source of Solomon's prayer—let us ask for these gifts first. And so we shall understand more and more clearly that we are called to be kings and priests in that city which He hath set up, and in which He reigns, a city in which there is one visible temple; for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple of it; a city into which the kings of the earth shall at last bring their glory and honour.—F. D. Maurice.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Kings 11:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/1-kings-11.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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