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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
1 Kings 11

 

 

Verse 1

1 Kings 11:1. King Solomon loved many strange women — It was not a fault in him that he married Pharaoh’s daughter; she being a proselyte, as is generally supposed, to the Jewish religion. But in marrying so many other women besides, he committed two sins against the law; one in multiplying wives, and another in marrying those of strange nations, who still retained their idolatrous religion; which was expressly against the law, as the next verse declares.


Verse 2

1 Kings 11:2. Concerning which the Lord said — Ye shall not go in unto them This relates especially to the Hittites and the Zidonians, and consequently the rest of the seven nations of Canaan, with whom they were forbidden to make any marriage, (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3,) for the weighty reason here mentioned. For though they might marry women of other nations, if these women embraced the true religion, yet of the seven nations of Canaan they might not, although they were converted to their religion; lest the venom should lurk and lie hid, and at last break out and infect them. Great was the foresight wherewith God endowed Moses in giving this precept, as Grotius remarks; and the not observing it was of fatal consequence to the Israelites, and laid the foundation of their utter ruin. Solomon clave unto these in love — Was extravagantly fond of them. He had much knowledge; but to what purpose, when he knew not how to govern his appetites?


Verse 3

1 Kings 11:3. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines — This was multiplying them prodigiously indeed, and pouring contempt on the divine prohibition in the most notorious manner. David had multiplied wives too, although to no such extent as this; but probably the bad example which he had set in this particular, had encouraged Solomon to think it, if not lawful, yet a lesser evil than it really was. One ill act of a good man may do more mischief than twenty of a wicked man. “Without knowing the customs of the princes of the East,” says Dr. Dodd, “their pomp and sumptuousness of living, one might be tempted to wonder of what possible use was this milliad of wives and concubines. But as Solomon was between forty and fifty years old before he ran into this excess, we cannot but think that he kept this multitude of women more for state than otherwise. Darius Codomanus was wont to carry along with him in his camp no less than three hundred and fifty concubines in time of war; nor was his queen offended at it, for the women used to reverence and adore her, as if she had been a goddess. Father Le Compte, in his history of China, tells us that the emperor has a vast number of wives, chosen out of the prime beauties of the country, many of which he never so much as saw in his whole life: and, therefore, it is not improbable that Solomon, as he found his riches increase, might enlarge his expenses, and endeavour to surpass all the princes of his time in this, as well as in all other kinds of pomp and magnificence.” He was guilty, however, of a flagrant violation of the divine law.


Verse 4

1 Kings 11:4. For it came to pass when Solomon was old, &c. — Having now reigned nigh thirty years, when it might have been expected that experience would have made him wiser; then God suffered him to fall so shamefully, that he might to all succeeding generations be an example of the folly and weakness of the wisest and the best men, when left to themselves. His wives turned away his heart after other gods — Not that they altered his judgment respecting the true God and idols, which is not credible; but they obtained from him a public indulgence for their idol-worship, and possibly persuaded him to join with them sometimes in the outward acts of it; or at least, in their feasts upon their sacrifices, which was a participation of their idolatry. And his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God — He did not entirely forsake the service of Jehovah, but joined the worship of other gods with him, which he never could have done, after the true knowledge which he had of God, and the solemn profession he had made of adherence to him, unless he had been greatly fallen.


Verses 5-7

1 Kings 11:5-7. Solomon went after Ashtoreth — Called also Astarte. See on 2:13. And after Milcom — The same, it is thought, with Molech, who is here called an abomination, because highly detested by God. Solomon built a high place for Chemosh — That is, an altar upon a high place, as the manner of the heathen was. Concerning Chemosh, see Numbers 21:29. In the hill that is before Jerusalem — In the mount of Olives, which was nigh to Jerusalem, as if to confront the temple. From this act this hill was called the mount of corruption, 2 Kings 23:13. O sad effects of riches and prosperity on mankind! How insolent do they make them, and how forgetful of God! Wisely did Agar pray, Give me not riches, lest I be full and say, Who is the Lord?


Verse 8

1 Kings 11:8. And likewise did he for all his strange wives — For what he granted to one, the others would be disposed to claim, or else complain of his unkindness to them. One would have expected from his wisdom and piety rather to have found him instrumental in converting them all to his religion, than to be himself seduced to theirs! But, alas! he does not appear to have taken any pains with them for any such purpose, being too much given up to his pleasures, and thinking, perhaps, that he could reconcile his religion with theirs, and find a good meaning in all their superstitious. And sacrificed unto their gods — See what need those have to stand upon their guard, who have been eminent for religion. The devil will set upon them most violently; and if they miscarry, the reproach is the greater. It is the evening that commends the day. Let us therefore fear, lest, having run well, we come short.


Verse 9-10

1 Kings 11:9-10. The Lord was angry with Solomon — Displeased with his actions, and determined to punish him for them; in which sense we are generally to understand such expressions, for we must always remember that human passions can have no place in God. Because his heart was turned from the Lord, who had appeared to him twice — First at Gibeon, in the beginning of his reign, (1 Kings 3:5,) and then at Jerusalem, after the building of the temple. And had commanded him concerning this thing — For in both those visions, the happiness promised him was declared to depend upon his observing God’s statutes. And when he began to build the temple, he was divinely admonished that he had better desist than go on in that work, unless he purposed to walk according to all God’s commandments, 1 Kings 6:12-13. But he kept not, &c. — Which was the greater crime, because God had so often admonished him of his duty, and done such great things for him.


Verses 11-13

1 Kings 11:11-13. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon — Probably by some prophet. I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and give it to thy servant — Namely, Jeroboam, whom God permitted to rise into power and influence, that he might take the greatest part of his kingdom from him. This was enough to astonish Solomon, or any man, to hear that all his splendour should be so soon eclipsed! Notwithstanding, in thy days I will not do it — Or, not suffer it to be done; for in this sense these expressions are to be taken. For David thy father’s sake — For my promise made to him. But will give one tribe to thy son — The tribe of Judah. Benjamin was not entirely his, but part of it adhered to Jeroboam, as Beth-el, 1 Kings 12:29; and Hephron, 2 Chronicles 13:19; both which were towns of Benjamin. For David my servant’s sake — Who, though he was guilty of great sins, yet never forsook God to follow the abominations of idols; nor ever swerved long from God’s commandments, but made haste to repent and amend his ways, whenever he offended. And for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen — Not literally, for the sake of the city Jerusalem, but for the great and precious purposes to mankind in general, which God intended to bring about, in his divine providence, by keeping up the knowledge of himself at Jerusalem.


Verse 14

1 Kings 11:14. The Lord stirred up an adversary to Solomon — All his glory, and riches, and human wisdom availed nothing to preserve his kingdom entire to his posterity, when he turned away from keeping God’s covenant, and fell into idolatry. Hadad the Edomite — A young prince of the royal family of Idumea, who fled into Egypt when David conquered that country; and, finding favour with the king, settled there.


Verses 15-17

1 Kings 11:15-17. When David was in Edom — By his army to war against it; and Joab was gone up to bury the slain — The Israelites who were slain in the battle, (2 Samuel 8:13-14,) whom he honourably interred in some certain place, to which he is said to go up for that end. And this gave Hadad the opportunity of making his escape, while Joab and his men were all employed in the solemnity. After he had smitten, &c. — Or, and he smote, as it is in the Hebrew: which is here observed as the cause of Hadad’s flight; he understood what Joab had done in part, and intended further to do, even to kill all the males, and therefore fled for his life. With all Israel — That is, with all his army. Until he had cut off every male — That bore arms; for it is hardly to be thought that they cut off all the male children and youths. That Hadad fled — While Joab was busy in giving a solemn burial to the Israelites, certain Edomites took the opportunity to carry Hadad into Egypt.


Verse 18

1 Kings 11:18. They arose out of Midian — They first went into Midian and stayed there a while, probably that they might send from thence to know whether Pharaoh would give them entertainment and protection. And came to Paran — Another country in the road from Edom to Egypt, where he hired men to attend him, probably either as guides, or that, making his entrance into Egypt in some degree like a prince, he might find more favour from the king and people. Which gave him a house, &c. — According to the manner of generous princes, who pity noble persons that are in distress, Pharaoh not only assigned him a house, and kept a table for him, that he might want nothing, but also gave him land, that out of the revenues of it he might provide himself an equipage suitable to his quality.


Verse 19-20

1 Kings 11:19-20. Hadad found great favour in the sight of Pharaoh — God so disposing Pharaoh’s heart, that Hadad might be a scourge to Solomon for his impieties. Here Hadad married the sister of Tahpenes the queen, who bare him a son. Whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh’s house — Having as great a fondness for the child, as the king had for his father; and kept the feast generally made at the weaning of a child. In all these things the providence of God was conspicuous, thus causing Hadad and his family to rise into power and influence, that he might give the greater trouble to Solomon.


Verse 21-22

1 Kings 11:21-22. Hadad said — Let me depart, that I may go to my own country — To Edom, which he hoped to recover, now that the great enemies of it, David and Joab, (whom he feared as much as David,) were dead, and Solomon was young. Thither he accordingly came; and was there even from the beginning of Solomon’s reign. And, it is probable, by the near relation which was between his wife and Solomon’s, and by Pharaoh’s intercession, he obtained his kingdom with condition of subjection and tribute to be paid by him to Solomon; which condition he kept till Solomon fell from God, and then began to be troublesome and dangerous to his house and kingdom.


Verse 23-24

1 Kings 11:23-24. Which fled from his lord Hadadezer — When David had defeated him. King of Zobah — A part of Syria, between Damascus and Euphrates. And he gathered men unto him — Some of those that fled when David defeated Hadadezer, 2 Samuel 10:18. And became captain over a band — Who listed themselves under him as their commander, with others, who readily joined them, and lived by robbery, as many Arabians did. And they went to Damascus — And took it while Solomon was wallowing in luxury: David had put a garrison into Damascus, and brought the people under tribute, 2 Samuel 8:5-6; and so they probably continued during his life, and were subject to Solomon after his death, till that prince, doting upon strange women, minded not the defence of his conquests. This Rezon took advantage of, and invaded and got possession of Damascus, and reigned there, as Hadad did in Edom.


Verse 25

1 Kings 11:25. He was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon — This, perhaps, is not to be understood of the whole reign of Solomon, which for the most part was peaceable, but of all the days which remained of his life, from the time that his wives publicly exercised their idolatry, unto the day of his death. Or, it may mean, that he was a secret enemy all that time, and when Solomon had forsaken God, he showed himself openly. Besides the mischief that Hadad did — This infelicity was added to the former; while Hadad molested him in the south, Rezon threatened him in the north. But what hurt could Hadad or Rezon have done to so powerful a king as Solomon, if he had not by sin made himself mean and weak? If God be on our side, we need not fear the greatest adversary; but if he be against us, he can make us fear the least; yea, the grasshopper shall be a burden. And reigned over Syria — Over all that part of Syria, enlarging his empire the more, and thereby laying a foundation for much misery to Solomon’s kingdom.


Verses 26-28

1 Kings 11:26-28. Even he lifted up his hand against the king — Probably made some secret attempts to raise a dissatisfaction against Solomon; for we do not read of any open attempt. And this was the cause, &c. — This was the occasion of Jeroboam’s advancement, as it follows in the next verse. Solomon built Millo, &c. — Solomon, being engaged in many buildings, made choice of such as he judged were fit persons to oversee his works; among whom Jeroboam was one. A mighty man of valour — Of great courage and strength of body. Solomon seeing — that he was industrious — Very diligent in the business wherein he had employed him, of overlooking his works. He made him ruler, &c. — Set him over those of the tribe of Benjamin who were employed in carrying stones, &c., for Solomon’s buildings; or over the taxes and tributes which were to be collected of the house of Joseph, that is, of Ephraim and Manasseh, or of Ephraim only, termed here, as often elsewhere, the house of Joseph.


Verse 29

1 Kings 11:29. When Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem — Probably to execute his charge. The Prophet Ahijah found him — Met with him as he was going along. “Ahijah was a native of Shiloh, and one of those who wrote the annals of King Solomon’s reign, 2 Chronicles 9:29. And he is thought to have been the person who spake twice to Solomon from God, once while he was building the temple, (1 Kings 6:12,) and again when he fell into his irregularities,” 1 Kings 11:11. They two were alone in the field — Having gone aside for private conference; for otherwise Jeroboam’s servants, (it being most likely he had servants attending him,) if they heard not the words, might have seen the action of rending his coat, and thus the matter might have come to Solomon’s ears.


Verses 30-32

1 Kings 11:30-32. And rent it in twelve pieces — An emblem of what he was to acquaint him with; or rather a prediction of it. For there were two ways, in those ancient times, of foretelling future events; one in express words, the other by signs and resemblances, many instances of which we have often after this of Ahijah. And will give ten tribes to thee — Hence it is generally called, the kingdom of the ten tribes. But he shall have one tribe Besides his own. Or Benjamin and Judah may, be looked upon as but one tribe, both of them having a share in the city of Jerusalem, and lying near one another.


Verse 34

1 Kings 11:34. I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hands — Solomon held even the ten tribes as long as he lived. But I will make him prince all the days of his life — This was an admonition to Jeroboam not to molest Solomon in his life-time, by raising a rebellion against him; and also to walk in God’s ways as David did, and not fall into idolatry; for which sin God resolved to punish Solomon so severely as to rend the greatest part of his kingdom from his posterity. For David my servant’s sake — Not for his own sake; he had forfeited his crown to the justice of God; but for his father’s sake. “Children that do not tread in their parents’ steps,” says Henry, “yet often fare the better in this world for their good parents’ piety.”


Verse 37

1 Kings 11:37. I will take thee — From the condition wherein thou art, and place thee on a throne, as here follows. Thou shalt reign according to all thy soul desireth — According to thy utmost wishes and desires. It appears from this that he was a very aspiring and ambitious man, fond of power and pre-eminence; and it is not unlikely but he might at this time be plotting against Solomon, and contriving to rise to the throne. The Jews say, that when he was employed by Solomon in repairing and building Millo, as the expenses attending the work were very great, he took opportunities of reflecting upon Solomon as oppressive to his people, and of suggesting that which he thought would alienate them from his government, and infuse a spirit of sedition and revolt. He complained heavily, especially to his brethren of the tribe of Ephraim, “of the hard labour to which they were forced to submit, and the taxes they were obliged to pay; and to represent the whole affair as a work of vanity, merely to gratify a proud foreign woman, and a silly, doting king; for Solomon filled up a part of the valley of Millo to build a palace for Pharaoh’s daughter. By these insinuations, it is thought, Jeroboam wrought in the people a disaffection to Solomon and his government.” See Calmet’s Dict. under the word MILLO.


Verse 38

1 Kings 11:38. If thou wilt hearken to all that I command thee, &c. — He is hereby given to understand, that the grant of the crown to him and his descendants will be conditional, and that he and they will be upon their good behaviour.


Verse 39

1 Kings 11:39. I will for this — For Solomon’s sin, mentioned 1 Kings 11:33; afflict the seed of David — By rending the greatest part of the kingdom from them; but not for ever — A time shall come when the seed of David shall not be thus molested by the kingdom of Israel, but shall flourish again in great power and prosperity; which it did in many illustrious kings of Judah, who reigned in glory when Jeroboam’s family was extirpated. And at last the Messiah came, who united together the broken sticks of Judah and Joseph, and rules over Jews and Gentiles also.


Verse 40

1 Kings 11:40. Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam — How Solomon came to know what was secretly transacted between Ahijah and Jeroboam alone, is a great question: perhaps the prophet made no scruple to report what he had delivered in the name of the Lord. Or, Jeroboam himself, being puffed up with the expectation of ascending the throne, could not conceal it, nor keep his own counsel, but told the matter to some of his confidants, who spread it abroad. But that Solomon should ever entertain a thought of endeavouring to defeat the purpose of God, is astonishing indeed! Jeroboam arose and fled — unto Shishak king of Egypt — Solomon’s brother-in-law, as is probable, who yet might be jealous of him, or alienated from him, because he had taken so many other wives to his sister; or might cast a greedy eye upon the great riches which Solomon had amassed together, and upon which, presently after Solomon’s death, he laid violent hands, 2 Chronicles 12:9. We may observe here that all the kings of Egypt, from the time of Abraham, are in the sacred history called by the name of Pharaoh, unless Rameses (mentioned Genesis 47.) be the name of a king, not of a country; so that this is the first we meet with called by his proper name, different from the rest of the Pharaohs. The opinion is pretty general that this was the great king, called by the Greeks Sesostris, who, having subdued Ethiopia, extended his conquests into Asia, as far as the Assyrians and Medes, as Josephus tells us, who calls him Sethosis.


Verse 41

1 Kings 11:41. The rest of the acts of Solomon, &c. — It is probable that Solomon employed a chronologer, or historiographer, to write the annals of his reign, which public record is here termed, The book of the acts of Solomon. And out of these annals the sacred writer of this history took what he judged most useful, and omitted the rest, which he did not think so necessary to be related, or so instructive.


Verse 42-43

1 Kings 11:42-43. The time that Solomon reigned — was forty years — His reign was as long as his father’s, but not his life: sin shortened his days. And Solomon slept with his fathers — This expression is promiscuously used concerning good and bad, and signifies only, that they died as their fathers did. And was buried in the city of David his father — Thus concludes the history of this great man; without any the least mention of his repentance, or of his bringing forth any of the proper fruits of repentance, such as pulling down the high places he had built for the worship of idols, and abandoning his idolatrous wives and concubines. Many Jews and Christians, however, think it extremely probable that he was awakened to a sense of his sin and misery by means of the message which God sent him, as recorded 1 Kings 11:11; and that he humbled himself before him, and became a true penitent from that time. They even judge that this is put out of dispute by the book of Ecclesiastes, written after his fall, as, they say, is evident, not only from the unanimous testimony of the Hebrew writers, but also from the whole strain of that book, which was manifestly composed long after he had finished all his works, and after he had liberally drunk of all sorts of sensual pleasures, and sadly experienced the bitter effects of the love of women. Now in this book he appears greatly to lament his own folly and madness, 1 Kings 7:25-28; and warns others to take heed of the like evil courses, and to fear God and keep his commandments, in consideration of the judgment to come, chap. 1 Kings 11:9-10, and 1 Kings 12:13-14. They think it probable, therefore, that as David wrote Psalms 51., so Solomon wrote this book, as a public testimony and profession of his repentance. On the other hand, many are of opinion, that the silence of the divine historian on this subject is an insuperable objection to all this, and that if he had truly repented, so considerable a circumstance of his life would not have been omitted, and that we should, at least, have been informed of his abolishing all the monuments of his idolatry, and those of his wives and concubines. Perhaps, as Dr. Dodd observes, “this is one of those questions which will for ever be a field of controversy, as we have no certain guide from the Scripture to direct us.” We may, however, safely conclude, that if Solomon did repent, yet as the sacred writer has not recorded that he did, but suffered the important circumstance to remain doubtful, he intended to leave a blot upon his memory, that all posterity might have before their eyes an awful example of human weakness, even in a man of the greatest endowments; and might learn thereby to watch and pray lest they should enter into temptation; and to beware of the beginnings and infatuations of vice, since even Solomon was not secure against its delusions; and, once unhappily immersed in it, perhaps, was never disengaged from it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 11:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-kings-11.html. 1857.

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