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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
1 Kings 11

 

 

Verses 1-13

1 Kings 11:1-13

But King Solomon loved many strange women.

Solomon’s sin

A few years ago two paintings were exhibited in this country, which attracted wide attention. One of them represented Rome in the height of her splendour, and the other in the depths of her decay. The contrast was melancholy and instructive. One could not repress the question as he turned from one scene to the other, What led to this mighty change? It was the old story, which every great nation thus far in history has illustrated sooner or later, that of a secret, slow-moving moral decay, preceding and occasioning social upheaval and ruin. We might fancy that a similar picture might be drawn between two periods in the history of Israel--one, that of the latter part of Solomon’s reign, when there was an unsurpassed wealth and glory and power in the holy city; and the other, only a few years later, when the kingdom was rent and the sceptre had departed.

I. Solomon’s sin. This was no ordinary transgression of an ordinary evil-doer. It was not the general unworthiness of his life--an unworthiness that pertains to every child of Adam. It was a distinct thing. It had an historical character--Solomon’s sin. We now ask briefly in what did it consist?

1. It was not, primarily, sensuality. That was only the outworking of an inner and far deeper evil. The simple and honest historian tells us that he loved many strange women, thus breaking an explicit command to the chosen people. Now the ultimate evil against which Moses was led to legislate in this particular was not polygamy nor licentiousness, but the idolatry which the foreigner would inevitably introduce. Among these women he found an intellectual stimulus and gratification. They were more brilliant than Jewish maidens, and their culture was a distinct and attractive element in the royal pursuit of “wisdom.” For in that great experiment of life Solomon commanded the most costly and varied forms of pleasure and of learning. All the world--all there was in man--was made tributary to the object held up in view.

2. Nor was it pure and simple idolatry. That also was a symptom of inner disorder and weakness. It was like polygamy, a form only of heart-wandering from God. He built high places for his wives, which burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. There is not the slightest evidence that he ever abandoned the worship of Jehovah, or set up images of him as Jeroboam did, or that he ever lost faith in Jehovah as the one and only true God. But his heart was not perfect; and this was the sin beneath his sensuality and idolatry. He began to waver by tolerating the false religions of his wives. He was liberalised in religion. If people were only sincere, he may have said, no matter what they worship. If they live up to their light, it is well enough without letting in more light. Who knows absolute truth? Who can say, “Thus saith the Lord”? Who, thought this king, sets himself up to say that there is only one narrow way of life? The religious world of to-day finds its most subtle and powerful temptation in the general revolt against restraint and constraint. It takes now one form and now another. It comes as a protest against what is called narrowness, even in construing the terms of the gospel upon which men enter into life. The world has always seen the insolence of greatness against the law of God. It sees now the same insolence under cover of the grace of God. But whatever we may discover in science or art, whatever gains we may make in the domain of reason, there can be nothing essentially new in the way of life by Jesus Christ. The data of theology are all furnished, and have been for ages. The path of life is just as narrow and just as broad as ever. God demands the whole heart, because anything less is nothing at all to Him. Half even of Solomon’s great soul is worthless in the kingdom of heaven.

II. Solomon’s punishment. We observe at once that it was of a character to be peculiarly felt by one of his great endowments and brilliant opportunities. It came very slowly In the first place, although we do not find it here recorded, he lived long enough to see that his splendid experiment in life had been a miserable failure. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, was his sad verdict. His “world” passed away and the lust of it. He ceased to desire. Punishment came in another form. He was unable to transmit the kingdom to his posterity; and such men have an eye to the future, in which their greatness will come to be fully seen and honoured. They are above the narrowest lines of an ignorant selfishness. They would make coming ages tributary to themselves. To Solomon, who had been made acquainted with the mind of God towards Israel, there must have been a profound sorrow in the certainty that his failure carried the nation down with himself. Those in authority hold a peculiar place in the divine economy, because their defections entail such widespread disasters. Hence God rightly exacts extraordinary punishments of them. (Monday Club Sermons.)

Solomon’s sin

Solomon had come to the throne of the most important kingdom then on the earth at the youthful age of twenty. Proud of his sublime eminence and flattered by the obsequious attentions of foreign nations, he formed matrimonial alliances with the royal families of them all until a harem of seven hundred wives disgraced the Holy City. These heathen wives required their heathen chapels and chaplains, and the complaisant king surrounded Jerusalem with temples for the enactment of pagan idolatries. To the king, prematurely old, at length comes the prophetic voice declaring the wrath of Jehovah upon the apostate kingdom, the doom, however, softened in two particulars for the sake of David, who, though long dead, still benefited the land by the effects of his piety. The rending of the kingdom from the Solomonian line should not take place till Solomon himself had passed away, and then a remnant (Judah) should remain with the regular succession.

I. A life of luxury is perilous to the soul. God intended man to labour even when he was in Paradise. The idler is practically opposing a fundamental law of the Most High. An abundance of wealth tempts a man to a life of pleasure, which is selfish idleness, and when official power is added to the wealth the flood-gates of sin are opened in the soul in almost all cases. He who, if busy in an honest trade or profession, would readily throw off the approaches of gross sin by his preoccupation. Solomon was a luxurious idler. He was not a statesman busying himself for the good of his country. The young man who has independent resources is in a very hazardous position. He is tempted to play the Solomon on his own small scale. The sin, however, is just as great, and the ruin as profound. He seeks associates who will amuse him, and, instead of growing in spiritual wisdom and strength, he descends rapidly to the plane of stupid carnality.

II. The way of wickedness is a steep descent. Solomon found the step from Pharaoh’s daughter to Pharaoh’s god a very easy one. Youth flatters itself with an idea of its own strength, and plans a descent into sin only a short distance, when it will return and walk in the path of righteousness. It is the silly bird caught in the fowler’s net. Association with evil blunts the perception of the evil, and the young man is soon found apologising for the wickedness he formerly condemned.

III. The wrath of God is a dread reality. Men of loose life love to harp on the truth that God is love, and then interpret love as amiable weakness. It was the Divine anger with Solomon and his corrupted people which rent Israel asunder and raised up formidable foes to destroy the prosperity of the land. Our text is perfectly plain on that head

IV. The source of the false life is in the false heart. Solomon’s heart was not perfect with the Lord God. The word “perfect” here is not to be understood as referring to the character, but to the motive and intent. A perfect character never existed on earth since man fell, except the Lord Jesus. Solomon s religion was a political and fashionable affair. A heart devoted to God had nothing to do with it. He would pay outward respect to the religion of the land, but with the grand liberality of a worldly heart he would be so broad in his views and so free in his charity as to welcome all religious into his realm and capital. It is simply the heart that is not perfect with God pursuing its course of nature. It is the heart that can indulge in sin to any extent, and yet speak eloquently on universal love and the excellent glory of humanity in general. The so-called philosophy of the day is brimful of it, destroying the idea of the personality of God in order that it may make room for a universal righteousness, sin being eliminated as an old wife’s fable. It is the religion that is lauded on the stage by depraved men and women, because it finds no fault with their defilement. This is the Solomonian religion, which is set over against the Davidic religion in our text. (H. Crosby, D. D.)

Solomon’s fall

I. The nature of Solomon’s fall.

1. It was gradual. No man becomes wholly abandoned or altogether depraved at once; formation of character is, both in its construction and destruction, a gradual process.

2. It was sure. From bad to worse, like a stone rolling down a hill.

II. The causes of Solomon’s fall.

1. The mixing of self-interest with God’s service. He chose wives from nations with whom God had forbidden His people to intermarry; hence contagion from such a bad example.

2. The union of piety and superstition.

III. The consequences of Solomon’s fall.

1. It brought down God s displeasure.

2. It brought ruin on his kingdom. Even the sins of obscure men pass in their effects beyond the power of their perpetrators (as no man liveth, no man dieth, so no man sinneth to himself) but how much more the sins of the great ones of the earth!

IV. The lessons of Solomon’s fall.

1. Great opportunities bring great responsibilities, and such cannot be neglected with impunity.

2. Riches hinder access into the kingdom of God. Wealth applied to selfish ends carries no blessing, but hardens the heart and causes it to lose its hold upon God. (C. E. E. Appleyard, B. A.)


Verses 1-13

1 Kings 11:1-13

But King Solomon loved many strange women.

Solomon’s sin

A few years ago two paintings were exhibited in this country, which attracted wide attention. One of them represented Rome in the height of her splendour, and the other in the depths of her decay. The contrast was melancholy and instructive. One could not repress the question as he turned from one scene to the other, What led to this mighty change? It was the old story, which every great nation thus far in history has illustrated sooner or later, that of a secret, slow-moving moral decay, preceding and occasioning social upheaval and ruin. We might fancy that a similar picture might be drawn between two periods in the history of Israel--one, that of the latter part of Solomon’s reign, when there was an unsurpassed wealth and glory and power in the holy city; and the other, only a few years later, when the kingdom was rent and the sceptre had departed.

I. Solomon’s sin. This was no ordinary transgression of an ordinary evil-doer. It was not the general unworthiness of his life--an unworthiness that pertains to every child of Adam. It was a distinct thing. It had an historical character--Solomon’s sin. We now ask briefly in what did it consist?

1. It was not, primarily, sensuality. That was only the outworking of an inner and far deeper evil. The simple and honest historian tells us that he loved many strange women, thus breaking an explicit command to the chosen people. Now the ultimate evil against which Moses was led to legislate in this particular was not polygamy nor licentiousness, but the idolatry which the foreigner would inevitably introduce. Among these women he found an intellectual stimulus and gratification. They were more brilliant than Jewish maidens, and their culture was a distinct and attractive element in the royal pursuit of “wisdom.” For in that great experiment of life Solomon commanded the most costly and varied forms of pleasure and of learning. All the world--all there was in man--was made tributary to the object held up in view.

2. Nor was it pure and simple idolatry. That also was a symptom of inner disorder and weakness. It was like polygamy, a form only of heart-wandering from God. He built high places for his wives, which burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. There is not the slightest evidence that he ever abandoned the worship of Jehovah, or set up images of him as Jeroboam did, or that he ever lost faith in Jehovah as the one and only true God. But his heart was not perfect; and this was the sin beneath his sensuality and idolatry. He began to waver by tolerating the false religions of his wives. He was liberalised in religion. If people were only sincere, he may have said, no matter what they worship. If they live up to their light, it is well enough without letting in more light. Who knows absolute truth? Who can say, “Thus saith the Lord”? Who, thought this king, sets himself up to say that there is only one narrow way of life? The religious world of to-day finds its most subtle and powerful temptation in the general revolt against restraint and constraint. It takes now one form and now another. It comes as a protest against what is called narrowness, even in construing the terms of the gospel upon which men enter into life. The world has always seen the insolence of greatness against the law of God. It sees now the same insolence under cover of the grace of God. But whatever we may discover in science or art, whatever gains we may make in the domain of reason, there can be nothing essentially new in the way of life by Jesus Christ. The data of theology are all furnished, and have been for ages. The path of life is just as narrow and just as broad as ever. God demands the whole heart, because anything less is nothing at all to Him. Half even of Solomon’s great soul is worthless in the kingdom of heaven.

II. Solomon’s punishment. We observe at once that it was of a character to be peculiarly felt by one of his great endowments and brilliant opportunities. It came very slowly In the first place, although we do not find it here recorded, he lived long enough to see that his splendid experiment in life had been a miserable failure. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, was his sad verdict. His “world” passed away and the lust of it. He ceased to desire. Punishment came in another form. He was unable to transmit the kingdom to his posterity; and such men have an eye to the future, in which their greatness will come to be fully seen and honoured. They are above the narrowest lines of an ignorant selfishness. They would make coming ages tributary to themselves. To Solomon, who had been made acquainted with the mind of God towards Israel, there must have been a profound sorrow in the certainty that his failure carried the nation down with himself. Those in authority hold a peculiar place in the divine economy, because their defections entail such widespread disasters. Hence God rightly exacts extraordinary punishments of them. (Monday Club Sermons.)

Solomon’s sin

Solomon had come to the throne of the most important kingdom then on the earth at the youthful age of twenty. Proud of his sublime eminence and flattered by the obsequious attentions of foreign nations, he formed matrimonial alliances with the royal families of them all until a harem of seven hundred wives disgraced the Holy City. These heathen wives required their heathen chapels and chaplains, and the complaisant king surrounded Jerusalem with temples for the enactment of pagan idolatries. To the king, prematurely old, at length comes the prophetic voice declaring the wrath of Jehovah upon the apostate kingdom, the doom, however, softened in two particulars for the sake of David, who, though long dead, still benefited the land by the effects of his piety. The rending of the kingdom from the Solomonian line should not take place till Solomon himself had passed away, and then a remnant (Judah) should remain with the regular succession.

I. A life of luxury is perilous to the soul. God intended man to labour even when he was in Paradise. The idler is practically opposing a fundamental law of the Most High. An abundance of wealth tempts a man to a life of pleasure, which is selfish idleness, and when official power is added to the wealth the flood-gates of sin are opened in the soul in almost all cases. He who, if busy in an honest trade or profession, would readily throw off the approaches of gross sin by his preoccupation. Solomon was a luxurious idler. He was not a statesman busying himself for the good of his country. The young man who has independent resources is in a very hazardous position. He is tempted to play the Solomon on his own small scale. The sin, however, is just as great, and the ruin as profound. He seeks associates who will amuse him, and, instead of growing in spiritual wisdom and strength, he descends rapidly to the plane of stupid carnality.

II. The way of wickedness is a steep descent. Solomon found the step from Pharaoh’s daughter to Pharaoh’s god a very easy one. Youth flatters itself with an idea of its own strength, and plans a descent into sin only a short distance, when it will return and walk in the path of righteousness. It is the silly bird caught in the fowler’s net. Association with evil blunts the perception of the evil, and the young man is soon found apologising for the wickedness he formerly condemned.

III. The wrath of God is a dread reality. Men of loose life love to harp on the truth that God is love, and then interpret love as amiable weakness. It was the Divine anger with Solomon and his corrupted people which rent Israel asunder and raised up formidable foes to destroy the prosperity of the land. Our text is perfectly plain on that head

IV. The source of the false life is in the false heart. Solomon’s heart was not perfect with the Lord God. The word “perfect” here is not to be understood as referring to the character, but to the motive and intent. A perfect character never existed on earth since man fell, except the Lord Jesus. Solomon s religion was a political and fashionable affair. A heart devoted to God had nothing to do with it. He would pay outward respect to the religion of the land, but with the grand liberality of a worldly heart he would be so broad in his views and so free in his charity as to welcome all religious into his realm and capital. It is simply the heart that is not perfect with God pursuing its course of nature. It is the heart that can indulge in sin to any extent, and yet speak eloquently on universal love and the excellent glory of humanity in general. The so-called philosophy of the day is brimful of it, destroying the idea of the personality of God in order that it may make room for a universal righteousness, sin being eliminated as an old wife’s fable. It is the religion that is lauded on the stage by depraved men and women, because it finds no fault with their defilement. This is the Solomonian religion, which is set over against the Davidic religion in our text. (H. Crosby, D. D.)

Solomon’s fall

I. The nature of Solomon’s fall.

1. It was gradual. No man becomes wholly abandoned or altogether depraved at once; formation of character is, both in its construction and destruction, a gradual process.

2. It was sure. From bad to worse, like a stone rolling down a hill.

II. The causes of Solomon’s fall.

1. The mixing of self-interest with God’s service. He chose wives from nations with whom God had forbidden His people to intermarry; hence contagion from such a bad example.

2. The union of piety and superstition.

III. The consequences of Solomon’s fall.

1. It brought down God s displeasure.

2. It brought ruin on his kingdom. Even the sins of obscure men pass in their effects beyond the power of their perpetrators (as no man liveth, no man dieth, so no man sinneth to himself) but how much more the sins of the great ones of the earth!

IV. The lessons of Solomon’s fall.

1. Great opportunities bring great responsibilities, and such cannot be neglected with impunity.

2. Riches hinder access into the kingdom of God. Wealth applied to selfish ends carries no blessing, but hardens the heart and causes it to lose its hold upon God. (C. E. E. Appleyard, B. A.)


Verses 1-43

Verse 4

1 Kings 11:4

When Solomon was old.

An aged sinner

Colporteur Pantel of Marseilles once offered a Bible to an old man who angrily replied, “Wine is my god.” “Indeed,” said Pantel, “then let me tell you that you have not imitated your god.” “What do you mean?” “Well, wine becomes better as it grows old, while you, as you have grown old, have become more wicked!” The man was taken aback by this reply. “Look here,” he said, “I’ll buy a Bible. It is least I can do after such an answer.” (British and Foreign Bible Societys Report, 1902.)

Deterioration with years

A picture of a man who has grown in the wrong direction! Backwards--downwards! A bright morning ending in a stormy night. What are these snowy leaves which strew the ground? Perished buds and blossoms of holy character. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Age reveals character

Age seems to take away the power of acting a character, even from those who have done so the most successfully during the main part of their lives. The real man will appear, at first fitfully, and then predominantly. Time spares the chiselled beauty of stone and marble, but makes sad havoc in plaster and stucco.


Verse 6

1 Kings 11:6

Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord.

Solomon the brilliant failure

The character of Solomon is unique--one of the loftiest and saddest of the sacred volume. Grand in its stately strength and towering height--sad in its demoralisation and fall. A morning fair and bright as ever dawned on mortal vision--high noon golden and glowing, flashing its glories far and wide--an evening clouded and mournful, with wailing winds and muttering thunders. Is it not the type of many another life? What were the causes that produced this mournful decline, and overhung with darkest clouds the closing years of a life beginning with such high promise? We approach this question with the more eager interest, because the principles upon which character is built, and the influences effecting its demoralisation, are generically the same in all ages. Men are rotting inwardly to-day, and the pillars of their characters crumbling to decay, from the very same influences that wrought the ruin of Solomon. Moreover, this fact of the decline and fall of character, once lofty and apparently strong, is but the commonest occurrence in modern society. We do well to study its insidious causes.

1. First, then, the superior endowments of Solomon became a snare to him, as they are liable to prove to every gifted nature. Great talents involve great liabilities. Every being is subject to inexorable laws, which cannot be violated with impunity; God secures no man from the legitimate penalties of their violation. One of these laws is that which requires the improvement of talent as a necessary condition of increasing or even retaining it. When God gave Solomon that priceless largess of wisdom He did not exempt him from this law, nor take the work of preserving his character and insuring his ultimate well-being into his own hands. It is a fatal delusion that there is a mysterious gift of God, called Grace, which allows a man to sleep on the lap of some fair Delilah, without being shorn of the locks of his strength--a magic power that holds a man to the right against his own deliberate choice.

2. Another cause wrought with insidious influence to effect his overthrow. Solomon was the dupe of that prince of deceptive devils, misnamed Policy. It was from motives of policy, doubtless, that he entered into alliance with Egypt’s king; it was from motives of policy that he married the daughter of that king, and took to his bosom his first heathen wife. Did ever man or woman marry from policy--political, financial, or social interest--that in the end did not find it the most miserable policy that ever mortal pursued, yielding its bitter fruits of sorrow and sin? There is but one bond that can ever bind two human hearts together in union strong and holy enough for the marriage relation; and that golden bond is Love--true, pure, uncalculating, heaven-born love.

3. In estimating the causes of Solomon’s decline, we must also remember the danger that attends great worldly prosperity. Human nature is too weak to bear, unharmed, great elevation. Dazzled and blinded by the splendour of rank and honour and power and wealth, man reels and falls from the giddy height.

4. But finally Solomon fell, a willing victim to the seductive charms of pleasure and carnal indulgence. One sentence of the Inspired Volume reveals to us this fatal cause: “Solomon loved many strange women: . . . his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God.” Of all the insidious, corrupting, dangerous influences that ever wrought the ruin of man, the influence of a bad woman is the most fatal and irremediable. How powerless are reason and learning to preserve character in the light of such a history as this! How weak is human nature in its best and strongest estate! Who can trust his own heart when such as Solomon fall? Can you, young man? Are you stronger, safer than he, leaning on that broken staff? Let us learn to beware of the beginnings of sin. Not suddenly did this mighty prince fall. Young man, take care that no worm secretly gnaws at the staff of support on which you lean. What of Solomon’s final state? Saved or lost? The good God only knows. In the series of frescoes on the walls of the Campo Santo, at Pisa, he is represented, in the resurrection, as looking doubtfully to the right and to the left, not knowing on which side his lot will be east. If he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes, as it is probable he did, he saw at least the folly of his sins. Let us listen to the deep-toned voice of warning that comes to us from his inspired wisdom--sadly illustrated by his uninspired life--“Fear God, and keep His commandments.” (C. H. Payne, D. D.)

Solomon’s fall

I. Neither age nor experience brings any release to a man from his exposure to sin. “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods.” There is no fool worse than an old fool. Wise man it was who said, “Count no one safe or happy till he dies.”

II. It is possible for even a devout man to become a practical idolater in his secret heart. “For Solomon went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians.” We are solemnly warned against idols in our hearts, three times in one chapter, by a prophet. Idolatry is still a possible sin to dread.

III. Progress by steps of persistent advance into deeper sin may always be expected when one has taken quick start away from the right and towards wrong. “Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab,” etc. There is nothing more to be feared than the unperceived inroad of what might be termed a little sin. The old parable relates that the trees of the forest once held a solemn parliament, wherein they consulted concerning the innumerable wrongs which the axe, first and last, had done unto them and their neighbours. They insisted that this dangerous implement of steel had no power of its own; and they therefore instantly passed an enactment that no tree should hereafter be allowed to furnish any blade with a helve on pain of being itself cut down to the root. So the axe journeyed through the forests, begging but a bit of wood from the oak, from the ash, from the cedar, from the elm, from even the willow and the poplar; but a stern denial met it at each turn; not one would lend it so much as a splinter from its branches. At last, it desired just this small indulgence: give it but a chip--a mere handle with which it could trim away useless boughs, or cut off briers and bushes, for such suckers, as was well known, only used up the juices of the ground; they always hindered the growth of any thrifty tree and obscured its fairness and beauty. The forest win, impressed with such moderation in the argument; it agreed that the axe in this instance might be supplied with one fragment which a storm had riven from an unfortunate sapling--a mere little stick, lying there, which no one prized and no one dreaded. But the instant that keen edge of steel was fitted with any sort of a handle, it struck off the branch of a sturdy oak at a stroke, then hewed itself a new helve at its will; and down went the elms, over toppled the cedars, and the hills grew bare as never before. The time for all defence was passed when the forest surrendered.

IV. The guilt of all transgression is in the sight of a holy god aggravated by past warnings given. “And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel,” etc.

V. Retribution gathers up the entire history of the sinner, even if it is discharged in one act. “Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou has not kept My covenant and My statutes which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.” Henceforward it would do no good for this rejected monarch to awake himself to paternal zeal, and try to build up the fortunes of his shattered realm for his children. It is often worth while to attempt to avert a great catastrophe; but one of the punishments sometimes inflicted for sin is the denial to the sinners of all success in after usefulness.

VI. It may be possible to misunderstand and even pervert God’s forbearance into excuse for further sin. “Notwithstanding, in thy days I will not do it for David thy father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy sore Howbeit, I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son, for David My servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen.” On the shore of eternal history stands this beacon-light for human warning. The wisest man in the world lived to behave like a fool! ( C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Solomon’s, life; its spiritual significance

I. The co-existence of good and evil in the same human soul. So long as we are in this world, this is more or less the case with the best of us; evil is not perhaps entirely subdued, until this “mortal puts on immortality.” In heaven evil is not found in alliance with good in any heart, nor in hell is good found in alliance with evil. Their co-existence is only in the human heart, whilst here. This fact should always be recognised by us in estimating the characters of our fellow-men. A man is not to be pronounced utterly bad because he has committed a wrong, nor completely good because he has performed some virtuous deeds. “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse Thou us from secret faults.”

II. The energy of the degenerating tendency in human nature. There seems to be in all men a something, call it original sin, depravity, or what you like, which urges to the wrong; a law in the members warring against the laws of the Spirit. You see this force in the case of Solomon. It was in him stronger than three things.

1. It was stronger than the influence of parental piety.

2. The degenerating force within him proved stronger even than his own religious convictions.

3. It proved stronger, moreover, than his own clearest conceptions of duty.

III. The utter insufficiency of all earthly good to satisfy the mind. “I said in my heart, go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and behold this also is vanity.”

IV. The superiority of true thoughts to all the other productions of man. Solomon was an active man, and accomplished many material works while here; but what were they all compared with his thoughts contained in the Book of Proverbs?

1. What are they as to their utility?

2. What are they as to their duration? Where now is his throne of “ivory and gold”? etc. (Homilist.)


Verse 7-8

1 Kings 11:7-8

Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh.

Solomon and toleration

1. Proverbs, it has been said, are “the wisdom of many and the wit of one,” at least they are most often trustworthy exponents of a uniform experience. And there is a proverb which tells us that no one ever became thoroughly bad all at once. And so it was with Solomon; as the stream of his career sweeps by us in Holy Scripture, windows, as it were, are opened for us through which we gaze out on that sunny flood, so full of promise, carrying on its bosom such rich opportunities and varied treasures, and we note that as it gets wider it loses its pure beauty, as it gets deeper it parts with its simplicity. Here and there these glimpses into his life prepare us for a catastrophe. It requires a vast store of wisdom to keep a man unspoiled amidst popular applause. The power of wealth with all its opportunities may very easily sweep away the calmer dictates of a higher reason. Solomon is the liberal patron of error. He is not an idolater; it would not be fair to call him that. But as he would tell us, “he is no bigot,” that the Zidonians and Moabites were sincere in what they believed and practised. That his first duty was to the empire, and to consolidate the acquisitions which he had made. After all, there is an element of truth underlying all religions--“All worships are true.” Take care, Solomon! The next step is only too easily taken,. which goes on to proclaim, “All worships are false.” I suppose there is no chapter in Church history which we look back upon with such unfeigned horror and humiliation as that which deals with religious persecution. We never shall forget the fires of Smithfield, or look with anything but disapproval at the stern and repressive violence of the Puritan Rebellion. At the same time it must be remembered that there is one thing which, if less repulsive, may be equally deadly in God’s sight. Toleration, which springs from a real respect for our neighbour’s convictions, is one thing; indifference, which does not feel strongly enough to oppose, is another. At the present moment we are oddly enough confronted with these two developments combining in their efforts to weaken religion.

2. But Solomon does not stop at undenominationalism. No one does. It is an impossible position. He settles down a step further into aestheticism--the worship of the beautiful, the luxurious, the fascinating. A protest against Ritualism is, no doubt, an excellent thing in which every intelligent Churchman should join, if we mean by the term a religion which consists of mere rites and ceremonies, void of real significance, subversive of the sterner realities of religious truth. There is always a tendency, in view of the extreme difficulty of religion, to put up with something easy, in which the heart and the intellect, and the better part of man, need of necessity have no share. Some people think they can saunter into heaven on a ceremony; or be wafted there on the wings of music; or be carried there on a text of the Bible; or be admitted without any trouble, if they sufficiently protest against somebody else. But the very essence of religion is intense personal exertion and personal devotion, and religion has always had to pay the penalty of this difficulty, which belongs to all true excellence, in the various shifts and substitutes invented by indolent humanity. Ritual, music, the accessories of Divine service, are utterly abhorrent unless they mean something. Solomon was not spreading religion when he erected his numerous shrines for the manifold superstitions of the East, and their attractive rites. He was degrading it, he was vitiating the religious instinct and depraving the religious sense. Do let us remember, dear brethren, that all the beauty, all the magnificence of the services of the Church, are for the honour and glory of God, and that if we fail to honour Him, fail to find Him, fail to worship Him, they only add to our own condemnation.

3. But the worship of aestheticism has no finality about it. It is a religion of butterflies after all, who flit from flower to flower, who expand in the sunshine and die in the frost, who are here to-day and are gone to-morrow. Ephemeral, creatures of a day! Do not suppose it, for one moment, if any of you have given up vital belief, if you have teased to believe in God, that you will be able to go on finding religious satisfaction in beautiful sounds, and artistic sights; you will either get better, or you will get worse--and it is terribly easy to get worse. The end of Solomon’s career is not encouraging; the best you can say of it is, that it is shrouded in gloom. It was an easy step from a worship of the beautiful to the nature-worship so-called, which was the distinguishing feature of so many of the cults which he imported to Jerusalem. There is a seamy side to many a renaissance, so-called, and there is a seamy side to much which is dignified now by the name of the love of the beautiful. Nature-worship in its simplest form, and apparently its least harmful form, takes the shape of the worship of what we take to be our own nature. It is startling to find how intensely people dislike anything in religion which is stern, or causes them trouble, or appeals to self-denial. This appears in all manner of little ways. Solomon erects his nature-shrine for the pent up denizen of the city, at some little distance outside, and tells him that it is far better for him to go and worship God in the green fields, and among the hedgerows, or even on the river, than to shut himself up in a musty church in Jerusalem. He will tell him that “the Sabbath was made for man,” and that to fill his lungs with pure air, and to scent the flowers and be cheerful, is the best worship which God seeks from him. And the worshipper of nature comes back with a tired body, a dissatisfied mind, and a starved soul, and believes that he has spent a happy Sunday. There, in the old temple at Jerusalem, are the double sacrifices and the long round of services, because those who have studied the mind of God believe that He requires on His day a certain proportion of our time, not the smallest contribution which a Christian can make, at the earliest possible hour in the morning, or the latest moment at night. And if they ask for happiness and enjoyment, they remember how Mary says, “He fills the hungry with good things,” or how the Psalmist says that God “never fails them that seek Him.” But Solomon turns his back, his wisdom departs from him, and he seeks for other gods. He is indifferent, and he calls it toleration. He is intolerant, and he calls it religion. He dishonours the Church, and he thinks that he does God service. He becomes aesthetic, he is lingering now in the courts of the temple, he has turned his back on her realities, he is like a man who just stays a little longer to hear the anthem. He has turned his back, he is gone, he is worshipping nature, in all the downward gradations of that terrible cult. Wise Solomon! who began with building the temple, goes on by tolerating error, to become a besotted voluptuary, and to insult God. It is the history of many a soul, who has forgotten the lesson of his youth, who is false to his tradition, and falls below his own standard. “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceits? There is more hope of a fool, than of him.” (W. C. E. Newbolt, M. A.)

The half-and-half man

Up to a certain point, being a true Christian is a terrible thing. The advantage lies in carrying it far beyond that point where fruit is to be reaped. As long as the nights are long and the days are short we have the stern certainties of winter; as long as the days are long and the nights are short we have the sweet, precious, genial hours of summer; but when the days and the nights are just about alike, and the equinox comes on, and light and dark strive for the mastery, that is the time for storms to rage. And so, in Christian experience, so long as the night is longest, you have the peace of darkness; and when the day is longest, you have the peace of light; but when the night and the day are of about the same length, and they strive to see which shall rule, that is the time for storms. The hardest way to live is to be half a Christian and half a sinner. The easiest way to live is to be wholly a sinner or wholly a Christian. Harmonise on one side or the other, if you want quiet. Take the middle ground, if you want perpetual gales. (H. W. Beecher.)


Verse 12

1 Kings 11:12

Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it.

Solomon’s sin

I. The action related to us. To appreciate it, we must consider

II. The motive revealed to us. Why this mercy shown in this instance? Only two reasons are mentioned. One had to do with Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:13), the place of Solomon’s throne. God had chosen it for His dwelling-placer with great objects in view. The other motive (twice mentioned) has to do with Solomon’s father. “For David’s sake” the threatened evil was postponed till after his son’s death; and even then, for the same “David’s sake,” it was not to be complete. See, finally, how all this encourages us in the hope of salvation through Christ. See how completely it is part of God’s character to spare one man for another’s sake; especially where they are so connected that they may be considered as one. Also, if He does thus for a sinner and a servant (as here), how much more for His Holy One (Acts 2:27), His own Son, the Christ of God! (W. S. Lewis, M. A.)

Children honoured for their fathers’ sake

Many peerages have been created in this realm which descend from generation to generation, with large estates, the gift of a generous nation, and why? Because this nation has received some signal benefits from one man and has been content to ennoble his heirs for ever for his sake. I do not think there was any error committed when Marlborough or Wellington were lifted to the peerage; having saved their country in war, it was right that they should be honoured in peace; and when for the sake of the parents perpetual estates were entailed upon their descendants, and honours in perpetuity conferred upon their sons, it was only acting according to the laws of gratitude. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 14-22

1 Kings 11:14-22

And the Lord stirred up an adversary unto Solomon.

Divine impulses

Is this an old story that has in it no modern pith or music, or is it our own life anticipated and set in strange lights? Does it not throw some light upon the unexplained restlessness which now and again comes over the spirit of perhaps the quietest man? What is it that tugs at the heart and that says, “Come this way?” We are not sitting upon barren rocks, nor are we ploughing inhospitable and unresponding sand: we are in paradise: we have but to touch the ground and it blooms with flowers or teems with luscious fruit. And yet that same invisible hand keeps tugging at the heart, that same weird voice sustains its appeal in the reluctant, wonder-struck and unwilling ear. “Leave the gilded roof, leave the marble floor, leave the loaded table, leave the streams of ruddy or foaming wine; come away, come away.” What is it that will not let us alone? I said, “I will die in my nest,” and lo, it was torn to pieces. You cannot escape the religious element in life; you may shut your eyes, you may close your ears, you may learn the language of earth and the worse language of the pit, and you may exclude all outward religious ministries and appeals, but now and again there is a shaking in the life, a whisper in the ear, a strange quiver in the air, a face at the window, a quantity you cannot name. Then again, this incident shows us how impossible it is, sometimes, to give reasons for our action. Persons say to the Hadads who come round them, “Why do you leave Egypt?” and Hadad says, “I do not know.” “O foolish man, are you going back to Edom, the memory of cruelty, shame and agony, without knowing why you are going back?” And poor Hadad can only answer, “Yes.” And to the men who can give a reason for everything, Hadad’s answer is a reply of insanity. Oh, happy is the man who has never to leave the paved pathway, who knows nothing of the pains of inspiration, the pangs of a high calling, the surprises of a Divine election! Yet not so happy, measured by the higher and larger scale; if he misses much pain, he misses much high delight; if he is commonplace on the one side, he is commonplace all through. Is it not better sometimes to be mad with inspiration, though afterwards there be collapse and suffering, than never to feel the Divine afflatus, and never to respond to the call of God? In the fourteenth verse of the chapter in which the narrative is recorded the whole secret is given. The Lord had stirred up the heart of Hadad against wicked Solomon. It was a Divine stirring, it was an impulse from heaven, it was the sound of a rushing mighty wind from the skies, a song without words, a ministry without articulation, a movement of the soul. Have you ever been in that case in any degree? I have, and persons have said to me, “Surely you can give us some reasons for going?” I have said, “Really, I cannot help, but a sensible man always bases his conduct upon reason. Think of it and tell us what your reasons are, and they will relieve our minds, for our anxiety is very painful,” and I have only had to say, “I cannot tell you anything more about it, but I must go.” This narrative suggests the inquiry, How am I to know when I am stirred by Divine impulses? When the impulse moves you in the direction of loss, pain, and sacrifice, the probability is that the impulse is Divine. Now where is your stirring? Gone. I thought it would go. I have frightened many birds in the same way, and they have flown from the trees on which they had alighted, in chaffering crowds. Moses is called--to what? To hardship and difficulty, and much pain, and long provocation in the wilderness. Before him Abraham is called--to what? To a pilgrimage that has a beginning only that he can ascertain: what the explanation and conclusion of it will be he knoweth not: the impulse was Divine. Then I hear a dear old father-friend: now, what says he? Listen. “Howbeit, let me go, in any wise.” Where to, dear father? “To the other country.” What other country? “I have a desire to depart.” What, to leave the old house at home, with all your children and grandchildren, ,and the garden, and the library, and the church--you have not a desire to depart, have you? “Yes. O that I had wings like a dove, for then I would flee away.and be at rest. My Lord calls me, I must meet Him in the promised land.” Ay, God sends that homesickness over the heart when He wants to take us up. We begin to say, “I am much obliged to you for all your kindness; you have bestowed favours and honours upon me. God bless you, but--I want to go, to go home, to be at rest; I want to see God’s heaven--let me go.

“Hark! they whisper: angels say--

Sister spirit, come away.

I want to go now. Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace: I am ready; put in the sickle, cut me down and garner me in heaven.” It is a Divine stirring: it is the beginning of immortality. (J. Parker, D. D.)


Verses 14-41

Verse 21-22

1 Kings 11:21-22

When Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers.

A few turns of a kaleidoscope

Let me use this text like a kaleidoscope, giving it three or four turns, and try to describe what I see. Dealing with the incident as it stands here, there is a lesson for kings and all that are in authority. And it is something like this: Do not abuse your power. “In wrath, remember mercy.” When you have your enemy at the point of the sword, remember mercy even while you remember justice, and pay off old scores. The national lesson we might learn is, that if we will be over severe, if we will harass the Jews, for example, as all nations have more or less combined to do, God will spread the lap of His skirt over the Jews. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” God likes to see justice done; but God will not have vindictive and sinful revenge, and He will spread the lap of His cloak over the Jews as He did over Hadad. God may find His executors of vengeance in the descendants of those with whom we deal too harshly, or our fathers before us, long, long ago. Ay, they will spread through your English cities and towns, and play the very mischief with you at voting times, and make the balance “kick the beam “ in most undesirable and provoking fashion. We forget that God hates inhumanity, and God’s heart repents Him for those who seem to be utterly trampled under foot, and denied the right to live. He has strange ways with Him, and He is worth watching. Therefore let mercy season justice. Then there is the same lesson, not now from a national, but from a private and personal point of view. Do not be vindictive. You may have power to-day, but use it mildly; let mercy season justice, for you do not know what may happen to yourself; and long after you are gone. The roots of this business are very deep, and go very far back. In your hour of power be patient even to the evil, lest you be betrayed into sinful abuse of power. As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. I know a man just now, and this is what has come to him. Years ago he was in a certain business, and he was strong and flourishing. But he dealt in a very high-handed and dictatorial manner with one under him. He cast him out, or forced him to flee. And now--it has taken some thirty years to do it, but thirty years have done it--now that man who was cast out--Hadad over again--Hadad to-day has destroyed his former master’s business. He started a rival establishment, has got on and prospered, and things have so come about that he who was up is down, and he who was down is up. Therefore take care; and just because you have the ball at your foot, and you have only to kick it, kick it with discretion. Be magnanimous; the day may come when you may need all your friends. But there is a spiritual lesson. Hadad comes back to do mischief to Solomon, for he has beard things and drawn inferences. It has spread among the surrounding nations that the strength of Israel now is not so strong as it seems to be. It is far more pasteboard and stucco, than granite and marble. They come and afflict him whom erewhile they feared. So with individual men. Are there not men and women here to-day, and Solomon’s history and danger is theirs? You are not what you seem to be. With all your credit and reputation, you are backslidden in heart. And these old sins, like vultures, are sharpening their beaks, and they are coming round upon you. For God’s sake and thine own, take care: hie thee back to God, return to faith, and prayer, and penitence. But I want to use this text in an entirely different way. One cannot read this without wishing to apply it to a certain class of Gospel hearers in this land of ours, and very likely in this very church, to whom it may be useful. This is the time that a soul comes to when, known only to itself and to God, there comes across it yearning and discontent. You can hardly explain it to yourself, and do not like to speak about it to other people. This longing comes to you, not when you are young and struggling, but, mayhap, when you are in mid-manhood, or growing age. Ask your own heart, and it will teach you. Does it not ring responsive to my poor words this morning? It is Hadad before Pharaoh over again. The genuineness of that feeling, may be tested by this: the sacrifice it will involve. See what Hadad had to give up; see the risks he had to run. To become truly regenerate, sons of God will make a wrench. If you had become a true Christian years ago, it would have been, humanly speaking, kind of natural and easy. But now, for all these years, you have been away in exile. And you have got on, I don’t deny it. But what, I repeat, is that yearning in your heart? Why are you not contented? Why can’t you be at rest? Will it cost you something to put yourself right now, to go to Jesus, to become a Christian, to give up your world like Hadad, with its positions, and its honours, and its ambitions? Then all the more make the wrench. Ah yes! Thank God for times like these. All through your boyhood, or girlhood, your open youth, your busy, bustling middle life, the world sufficed. Thank God for that dissatisfaction; it is a spur in your lazy sides to send you home. What is happening to you is what happened to Noah’s dove. The raven could sit pecking at any corpse on the water, and find its satisfaction there. But doves are doves, and not carnivorous. The dove found no rest for the sole of its foot, and it winged its way back across the black hills of water, back to that great ship that came drifting slowly along. Back to yon window, which is a kind of frame for the face of weather-beaten old Noah, standing there with his hand stretched out so that the weary thing may light. So Christ Jesus comes to weary hearts in London to-day. And He holds out His hand and asks for weary worldlings to light upon it. He will take you into warmth, and light, and love, and peace, and an ark of safety that will ride all storms. Gleaming lightnings may flash past, the last judgment may thunder upon the world, all things be overwhelmed in the wrath that is coming, but your soul has reached its rest, its refuge, its abiding home. (J. MNeill.)

Hadad: the pressure of destiny

David, and Joab the captain of the host of Israel, wrought great desolation in Edom; “for six months did Joab remain there with all Israel, until he had cut off every male in Edom.” Amongst those who escaped was a little child, comparatively speaking, an infant member of the royal house. He was so little that he could not have made his escape alone, but he was taken care of by certain Edomites of his father’s servants, and in their company he fled into Egypt. Pharaoh was very kind to his royal exile. “He gave him an house, and appointed him victuals, and gave him land.” With growing years he came into growing favour, and by and by he married the sister of the queen of Egypt. It would seem, then, that he did well to escape from his own ill-treated country, and to put himself under the protection of the mighty and gracious Pharaoh. It came to pass, however, that Hadad (that is the name of the Edomite) said to Pharaoh, “I want to go home; let me depart, that I may go to mine own country.” Pharaoh was astounded by the inquiry, and began to wonder whether Hadad had been unkindly treated in Egypt, and in the frankest manner he said, “What hast thou lacked with me, that, behold, thou seekest to go to thine own country?” A very proper question; to which Hadad appears to have returned an ungrateful and insufficient answer--“Nothing: howbeit let me go in any wise.” You will find the secret in the fourteenth verse of the chapter:--“And the Lord stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite: he was of the king’s seed in Edom.” It was a Divine stirring! It was a restlessness sent from God! It was a hunger created in the heart!

1. Men cannot always give an account of their impulses. We seem to have everything, yet we want something else. What that something else is, we perhaps seldom know, or if we do know, we cannot put the want into words. We have all Egypt, yet we are willing to leave it for Edom.

2. What we mistake, either in ourselves or in others, for mere restlessness may be the pressure of destiny. We blame some men roughly for desiring a change, and when we question the men themselves as to their reason, they tell us that they have been treated well, even handsomely, yet they want to go! Then we condemn them as unreasonable, and we predict many a judgment for them! Alas, how ignorant we are, and how cruel to one another!

3. We may judge of the value of our impulses by the self-denial imposed by their operation. Consider what Hadad had to lose! “Except a man deny himself and take up his cross daily,” he cannot be moving in the Divine direction. Remember in the cases quoted David was impelled to war, and Samuel to make revelations which must have cost his heart no small strain. Are our impulses towards self-enjoyment?

4. Is it not by some such impulse that the good man meets death with a brave heart? How else could he leave loved ones, home, manifold enjoyment, and social honour? Yet he pines for heaven. “I have a desire to depart.” “Oh that I had wings like a dove”

To thee, O dear, dear country,

Mine eyes their vigils keep.

God surely sends this home-sickness into our hearts when He is about to call us up higher.

5. Remember how possible it is to overrule our best impulses. Pharaoh said stop, Hadad begged to be allowed to go. Peter said, “That be far from Thee, Lord,” but Christ called him an offence, and drove him behind. “Grieve not the Spirit.” “Quench not the Spirit.” Is not the Spirit of Christ urging every man to leave the Egypt of sinful bondage? “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life.” (J. Parker, D. D.)

Hadad the Edomite (love of country)

This narrative of Hadad comes in as a short episode in the later days of King Solomon, when he was being punished for his defection. The story has an interest of its own. We wish to take this one feature--the love of country--and look at it as implanted in the human heart for a wise and Divine purpose, passing beyond this simple instance, and drawing whatever light we can from God’s providence and Word.

1. The first remark we make is, that it is a feeling not only deep in our nature, as we do not need to show, but acknowledged and approved in the Bible. This has been denied, and some have blamed, while others have praised, the Book on this account; but whether it be to its blame or praise, the feeling is there. We cannot surely fail to perceive that the love of country was employed by God to build up the place He gave the Jewish people in preserving His truth in the long period of darkness, before the time came for the Gospel to go out into the world. Their love was drawn to it before they saw it as the land of Promise. But what purposes are served by this? There is one which may seem low enough to begin with, but which has its own importance. It is one of the ways by which God secures that the earth should be inhabited. There is a dispersive force in the world which began long ago, and which has been going on ever since, the spirit of adventure and energy which seeks action and change; so waste places are peopled and tilled. But there is needed not less an adhesive power to maintain what is gained. The world must have an anchor as well as a sail. Rocky Edom is dear as fertile Egypt, and bleak, storm-struck islands more than southern Edens. If it were not for this, wars for sunny spots would be more common than they are, and kindreds and peoples could not be gathered and held together to build up communities. But the building up of communities is a part of God’s providential design. Each one in its own place brings out its own character, and, in the end, may be found to bring its own contribution to the interests of humanity. We may come to a higher view of this feeling when we think of its effect on the individual man. This love of the native soil has been one of the great springs of the poetry of the race; and whatever we may think of poetry ourselves, we cannot fail to see its power. God, who gives the bird wings for its safety and delight, has given man imagination. It is certainly His gift, if men would only use it for Him. And it can be said with truth that, apart from the region of the spirit itself, it is never more pure and purifying than when it takes for its subject the things of native land and home.

2. Another thought suggested by this feeling is that it leads to acts of great self-sacrifice and endeavour. Next to religion, there is probably nothing in human nature which has called out such a heroic spirit of martyrdom, or such long, persistent labour, as the love of native land. The grandest part of the history of nations has been the period when they have risen for independence and freedom, against the attempts to crush out their liberty or their separate life, and when they have left names of leaders which make hearts of men throb and thrill wherever they arc heard. It is a poor Christianity, because it is not a true humanity, which affects to disregard this. There is an heirloom of stimulus to a whole race in the heroic acts of those who have bequeathed them a name among the nations of the world. There are men who can be reached by the love of fellow-countrymen, when they cannot be moved by the love of their fellow-men; and it is quite possible for a man to have both. The narrower is sometimes more intense and energetic than the wider. In the annals of the civil wars in England, an officer, who had fought in many battles abroad, tells that in his first fight on English ground he heard a cry of agony in his own tongue, and he looked behind him to see who of his men was killed. He discovered that the cry came from the opposing ranks, and then first he realised what a terrible thing it was to kill his own countrymen. There are many who feel it so in our quieter times, and who can be stirred more strongly to save from destitution and death those who speak their own language, and have a nearer blood beating in their heart.

3. Another thought suggested by this feeling is, that it should enable us to understand the hearts, and work for the rights of all men. There is a rule recommended by some religious communities, that their members should have no special friendships; that they should do nothing for each other as friends. And there are some philosophers who defend this. They say that “friendship is a barrier which hides from view the qualities of many who are more worthy of regard, that it is a kind of theft from the common good for the benefit of a few, and that, in a higher state of society, friendship will disappear; which amounts very much to saying that if we put out our eyes, so as not to see things that are close to us, we shall be more likely to discover those that are far away. These are the theories of men who have either had no hearts to begin with, or have managed to cover them by cobwebs of speculation. Augustine has said that we may make a ladder of the dead things within us, to climb to the highest; but there is another ladder of living things by which we can rise as high, and by which our sympathies can be travelling to and fro like the angels in the dream of Bethel. The vision begins in the dreamer’s own breast, and then it passes up into the skies. This is the very way in which God Himself has dealt with us. He came from the limits of the universe into this world, and became our friend, that He might lead us step by step into the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.

4. The last thought we suggest is, that this feeling may help the conception of another and a higher country. It is quite true that we find the spirit of patriotism filling the hearts of men with the highest enthusiasm, and spreading itself over masses of men and long periods, but bringing little spiritual desire. Yet it is one of the ways, as we have said, by which God keeps the heart above sensualism and utter selfishness--a kind of salt that saves nations from entire corruption. We see in the Bible that the thoughts of native land and home are more than any others the figures which God has used to convey to us conceptions about the future. They are more than figures. They have been woven into His plan of education. He made the old patriarchs exiles, in order that He might create in them the longing which went further than any land, behind or before them, in this world. The last view given us of the heavenly world is that of a land and city which have over them a Father and an Elder Brother, and for friends the nations of the saved. (J. Ker, D. D.)

Patriotic sentiment

An American citizen in a foreign city, seeing the meteor flag of his native land floating at the masthead of a ship, is inwardly moved by the associations it revives to patriotic feelings, to emotions of love, to fond anticipations of his return to the joys and repose of his fireside. But of his secret thoughts the people about him know nothing. To them the flag of his country is but as one flag among many others. They meddle not with the secret joys it kindles within his swelling breast. It is even so with the secret of the Lord in a good man’s breast. He walks the street like other men. Yet while their thoughts are of things visible and earthly, his are of God and things unseen. He sees God in everything about him. God is communing with him, feasting him on holy thought, quickening his spiritual aspirations, comforting him with assurances of his sonship, and with visions of his incorruptible inheritance. (W. Hoyt, D. D.)


Verses 31-33

1 Kings 11:31-33

Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon.

The purpose of God

“Nothing,” we are told, “succeeds like success.” It is the sign of a man of transcendent genius and power that he is able to carry through all his projects, and bring his schemes to a successful issue. And yet God seems to fail. What could be a greater failure than this world, if it was made by a beneficent God, says the average observer? Why are evil, misfortune, pain, and failure so obvious in its history, and so marked upon its operations? So with Christianity itself; it is the commonplace of missionary meetings that only a small fraction of the world has as yet become Christian, after centuries of preaching and earnest effort. Even where the Church has spread, and fixed her seat, how many schisms and controversies rend her unity, how imperfect is the faith of professing Christians, how unworthy their lives, how poor the realisation of those promises to which they cling. Before we can criticise anything we must know the facts. Before we can give a worthy judgment we must be in a position to judge, and in pronouncing on the great work of God in the universe, we may well ask ourselves, are we in a position during our short visit, which we call life, when we know so imperfectly what came before, when we know absolutely nothing of what comes after--are we in a position to judge? There we stand with the vast ocean before us. Here the wave has receded and left a bare patch of sand, there it is thundering with overwhelming catastrophe against some crumbling barrier. Is the tide coming in, or is it receding? Is there a progress or a steady shrinking back? Before we can decide we have to move away. Has God failed? Is this world in any sense a mistake? Are the Chronicles of Israel and Judah an uninteresting record of a monotonous disaster, unedifying to the soul, and powerless to amuse any attention, or fire our enthusiasm? Is Christianity to alter its name to Civilisation T and to substitute the worship of the beautiful for the service of the sanctuary, the book of science for the Book of God? Is the Church to be carted away in its crumbling masses to the lumber room, where lie now covered with the dust of ages the mouldering forms of Utopias, Republics, and “Cities of God,” in the model room, where repose the unattainable visions of unpractical men?

I. The plan of God, regarded from the side of His wise omnipotence. Is this world a failure? Does it whirl unchecked and uncontrolled along an aimless path, where luck and fortune and chance are the apparent and only guide to its caprice? Is life a game of chess with an unknown adversary, whom we neither see nor hear--where a mistake on our part is followed by a blow, and that a blow without a word? Have vice and violence and cunning, on the whole, the upper hand in the control of the world? Have all the improvements, the luxuries, the refinements of life, only crushed off in their path a wider and a more sordid fringe of poverty, a moraine of misery, and secured the greatest happiness of the few at the expense of the happiness of the greater number? No! Just remember that God is dealing with a fallen world, a world not as He made it, but as man marred it. A child no doubt, as he lies on his bed, powerless, faint, and ill, crippled by an accident, thinks the doctor cruel as he handles his aching limb, and probes the dangerous wound, and prescribes the bitter medicine; he wishes to be free, to be active, to be playing with his fellows, to feel life in his limbs and health in his frame, to eat what is pleasant, to taste what is sweet, and to fill his life with joy. But the father or the mother, and those who have at heart his welfare, marvel the rather at the skill, the nerve, the resource of the careful physician who is bringing health out of sickness, and a wholesome life out of deformity and mishap. An orchard of trees pruned and cut back is a sorry sight to one, who does not understand the secrets of fruit-bearing, and will not be there to see the golden clusters in the rich autumn. God is dealing with a fallen world, where the measures must be largely remedial, and tending towards a future, rather than self-sufficient in the present. The world is better than it was, it has advanced, and is advancing. Although here and there men sigh over the barren sand, as the wave sighs off with a gasp and a groan, and a sound of falling and disaster. Look out over the world and you will see progress--you cannot deny it--a tending towards a renewal of that time, when in the beginning God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good; while by the side of progress we see the unerring punishment which overtakes sin and evil; retribution we call it; a sign that God has given us a law, which cannot be broken.

II. Equally shallow is the criticism which would believe the purpose of God to have failed in His church. The Church is God’s Kingdom set up for the better management of the world. And most emphatically the Church has not been a failure. We have the strange spectacle of lands, once covered with its beneficent richness, now barren and dry, and in the hands of the infidel. We see large fields of the Church, once covered with ripe grain, and rippled with the breath of Heaven, now lying fallow, untilled, apparently uncared for, and yet all waiting on the good purpose of God. If we refuse to despair of the world, much more do we refuse to despair of the Church. The purpose of God in spite of drawbacks is being worked out here. Who can deny it?

III. But there is another region where we are apt to charge God with failure. I mean the region of our own soul. God has called us through the Red Sea, and, we say, would God we had stayed in Egypt. God has led us into the promised land, and we say it is no land of milk and honey. Men turn round on the old Bible and say it has failed; on the simple life of prayer and devotion; and say that it has proved powerless to effect its purpose. It is a bitter thing, dear brethren, to look back on life and say that it has fared. To look back on a pure home and careful training only to deride it, and get away from it. To have that bitter severance in life, which owes no piety to the past, which has lost all sense of vocation, or duty, or mission, and simply lives on from day to day a life which would be bearable were it not for its pleasures, and hopeful were it not for its ambitions. It is a terrible verdict which the world records of a man when it says, “He has thrown himself away.” It is a terrible sense of failure, when a man owns to himself, “I am not what I used to be.” It is sad for the returning prodigal to think of a large portion of his life, of which the most hopeful wish would be, that it might remain a blank. It is a more awful thing for a man to feel that his early hopes and aspirations have failed, and that a brilliant morning is likely to be obliterated in a stormy sunset. What can be more sad than the complete breakdown of the moral sense in the heart once alive unto God? Wise Solomon sunk in sensuality; David, whose heart was responsive to every ripple of the Divine breath, dull and insensate; the altar of God spurned, Sunday desecrated; evil eagerly followed; the shame of vice causing no blush, the meanness of it no compunction? And yet God’s purpose survives in another way. Magdalen stands before the world to cheer it with the sight of penitent love, more deep, more utter, because like a precious flower, it has been snatched out of the abyss of sin. An Augustine stands before the world, stored with an experience written in letters of blood, and burned in with horror into his soul, invites those who have made shipwreck of youth, to hope to revive and seek Him ten times the more. Ah! my brethren, believe in the inherent vitality of all God’s good gifts to you. If ever you have been religious, when you now are cold and dead, cherish that seed of life. God means yet again to revive it if you will let Him. If ever your heart was open and responsive before sin blinded your eyes, and the ways of the world made you hard, put yourself back before the first wilful sin, and know and believe that God wishes to revive in you the promise of a better past. (W. C. E. Newbolt, M. A.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Kings 11:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/1-kings-11.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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