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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
1 Kings 11

 

 

Verse 1

1. Loved many strange women — Chiefly princesses, (1 Kings 11:3,) the daughters of the many vassal kings who were tributary to Solomon. How strange that he who in his Proverbs (Proverbs 2:16-19; Proverbs 5:3-4; Proverbs 7:5-27) could give such noble counsel to avoid the strange woman, should be himself taken in her snare.

Together with the daughter of Pharaoh — That is, besides the daughter of Pharaoh. She was the wife of his youth and of his better days; and although his marriage with her was not in harmony with the spirit of the law, (see note on 1 Kings 3:1,) had he remained true to her no particular harm would have resulted, for we cannot find that she ever seduced him to idolatry. But when he essayed to take other foreign wives, and especially of nations among whom the Hebrews were positively forbidden to marry, his fall was speedy and fatal.

Moabites, Ammonites — According to the letter of the law (Exodus 34:11; Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:1; Deuteronomy 7:3) only marriage with the Canaanitish nations was prohibited; but Moabites and Ammonites were forbidden to enter the congregation until the tenth generation, and the Edomites until the third. Deuteronomy 23:3; Deuteronomy 23:8. Indeed, the spirit of the law was against intermarriage with any and all who would be likely to turn the heart after false gods.


Verses 1-8

THE SINS OF SOLOMON, 1 Kings 11:1-8.

We come now to that strange, dark period in Solomon’s career — so strangely dark, and in contrast with his earlier piety and glory so deeply sad, that even the author of Chronicles passes it over in silence, and some modern critics pronounce it incredible and psychologically impossible. We find Jewish pride on the one hand, and German rationalism on the other, uniting to deny or else explain away the literal truth of the history. But there the record stands, and will stand, in unpleasant but simple naked truth, whose obvious meaning none can doubt, holding up to the world a most impressive lesson of human frailty, and showing the terrible danger to spiritual life of the vain pomp and glory of the world. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12.

In the earlier part of his reign Solomon was rich towards God, but later he multiplied to himself gold and silver, and horses and chariots, and wives and concubines. In seeking to surpass the magnificence and glory of the kings of the nations, he fell even lower than they all; for better are they who never knew the way of truth, than he who, having been blessed with superior light from God, turns away and runs headlong into a foul idolatry. Solomon’s fall was no sudden apostasy, and doubtless many a deep and wearing heart-struggle did he pass through ere the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, finally gained over him the mastery. We infer from the warnings against transgression contained in the Divine communication of 1 Kings 9:6, that already the Lord saw in him tendencies that threatened danger; and we suppose that these tendencies grew stronger and stronger until they resulted in the dark and fatal apostasy which this chapter unfolds to us. Compare Nehemiah 13:26.


Verse 3

3. Seven hundred wives — Some have thought by a supposed corruption in the text to reduce the seven hundred to seventy, and the three hundred concubines to eighty, and have referred to Song of Solomon 6:8, as giving support to this conjecture. But all this proceeds from the false idea that an Oriental sovereign has intercourse with all his wives and concubines. The harem of an Eastern monarch is even at the present day looked upon as a sort of state necessity, and the king’s rank and greatness is estimated according to its extent. He multiplies his wives according to his wealth and power, though many of them he never sees at all. Darius Codomannus is said to have taken three hundred and sixty concubines in his camp when he marched against Alexander. So Solomon, wishing to surpass all other kings in the fame of greatness, filled his harem with a thousand women. Among these he had his favourites, who at length turned his heart from God; but the large majority of the thousand he probably never knew personally at all.


Verse 4

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

His heart was not perfect — But whose heart is perfect before God? ask many. We may here infer the latitude in which the word perfect is used in Scripture. He who abstained from idolatry, and was devoted to Jehovah, and walked in all the commandments of the law, was the perfect man. Herein Solomon was sadly defective, as were many of his descendants after him. David is spoken of as perfect, though he was not without sin. See more on 1 Kings 15:14.


Verse 5

5. Went after — This expression seems to show that Solomon was actually guilty of idolatry. Compare Deuteronomy 11:28; Deuteronomy 13:2; Deuteronomy 28:14. Yet the exact extent to which he went into idolatry is left uncertain. He probably never so far apostatized as to forget Jehovah, and neglect the ordinary service of the temple.

Ashtoreth — See on Judges 2:13.

Milcom — Called also Molech, (1 Kings 11:7;) and Moloch. Amos 5:26. The fire god of the Ammonites, an abomination, particularly in that he was worshipped by the offering of human sacrifices. See on Leviticus 18:21.

Some have distinguished Milcom and Molech as two different deities, chiefly because of the difference in the names and because they seem, in 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Kings 23:13, to have been worshipped at two different places, the Mount of Olives and the Valley of Hinnom. But the similarity of the names, both from the same Hebrews root, ( מלכם מלךְ,) is a stronger argument for their identity than the slight difference is for the contrary; and the same idol may have been worshipped in two different places near Jerusalem.


Verse 7

7. Chemosh — The national god of the Moabites; worshipped also by the Ammonites, probably with abominable practices similar to those used in the worship of Molech. See on Judges 11:24; Numbers 21:29.

The hill that is before Jerusalem — That is, the hill now known as the Mount of Olives. On its three most conspicuous eminences it is probable that the idol altars were erected, and not, as some will have it, on the southern slope, now known as the “Mount of Offence.”


Verse 8

8. Likewise did he for all — He may have erected altars to other idols than the ones here named, but probably the national deities of the Zidonians, Ammonites, and Moabites were sufficient for the religions of all the strange wives; and in building altars for these three he made provision for his Edomite and Hittite wives as well as the rest. Certain it is that no mention is anywhere made of Solomon erecting altars to any other gods than these.


Verse 9

THE LORD’S ANGER AGAINST SOLOMON, 1 Kings 11:9-13.

9. The Lord was angry — Divine anger, as presented in the Bible, is no sudden burst of passion, no low and hateful motion of revenge, as human anger often is, and with which, perhaps, too many are ever prone to associate their idea of Divine anger. It is rather the deep, eternal antagonism of holiness to sin, of truth to error, of right to wrong. Our God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; and how much soever he may love a human soul as such, if that soul cleaves unto sin, it must of necessity place itself along with the sin in enmity towards God, and so become obnoxious to the Divine anger. See note on Judges 2:14.

Appeared unto him twice — At Gibeon and Jerusalem. 1 Kings 3:5; 1 Kings 9:2, where see notes.


Verse 11

11. The Lord said unto Solomon — Probably by the ministry of Ahijah the Shilonite. 1 Kings 11:29.

Thy servant — Jeroboam the son of Nebat. See 1 Kings 11:26-40.


Verse 13

13. One tribe — The tribe of Judah, to which David belonged, and into which the tribe of Benjamin seems to have been absorbed. 1 Kings 12:21.


Verse 14

14. Hadad the Edomite — Probably a grandson, or at least not a remote descendant, of the Hadad (or Hadar) of 1 Chronicles 1:50. The name seems to have been common among the kings of Edom. Compare Genesis 36:35.

Of the king’s seed — A member of the royal family.


Verses 14-40

SOLOMON’S ADVERSARIES, 1 Kings 11:14-40.

Although Jehovah’s love and promise to David secured to Solomon for life the unity of his vast realm, yet would he not permit the idolatrous king, who turned so vilely from the God of his father, to hold an undisturbed career till the end of life, but inflicted penal judgment upon him by raising up three adversaries, Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam, who during his later years gave him great trouble by disturbing the peace of his kingdom, and giving him sad premonition of the misfortunes that must befall his descendants.


Verse 15

15. When David was in Edom — See 2 Samuel 8:13-14, and notes there.

We bury the slain — The slain Israelites who fell in the Edomite war. From 1 Chronicles 18:12, it would seem that Abishai, Joab’s brother, had chief command in the great battle that was fought in the Valley of Salt, and which resulted in the slaughter of eighteen thousand Edomites. Doubtless many an Israelite perished in this battle; and Joab, rather than Abishai, took charge of their burial.


Verse 18

18. They arose out of Midian, and came to Paran — They first fled from Edom to Midian, and then, probably supposing themselves still insecure, they arose and went toward Egypt as far as some settlement in the desert of Paran, where they seem to have stayed awhile before proceeding to Egypt. The Midian here referred to was probably the same as that to which Moses fled from Pharaoh, (Exodus 2:15,) and lay in the Sinaitic peninsula south of Edom and around the mountains connected with Horeb. Paran was the vast wilderness north of Sinai and west of Edom, corresponding substantially with the modern desert et Tih. See on Genesis 21:21, and Numbers 10:12.

Took men with them — Probably as guides through the wilderness.


Verse 22

22. Let me go in any wise — Or, Send me by all means away. He was ambitious to recover the lost fortunes of his father’s house, and the luxurious ease of Egyptian court-life could not detain him. The sacred history does not give us the sequel of Hadad’s career; but Josephus, following the intimation of 1 Kings 11:25, and the Septuagint, or perhaps some older tradition, says that Pharaoh persuaded Hadad for a long time not to leave him; but when Solomon’s popularity began to decline, he permitted him to go, and Hadad at once went to Edom and tried to incite his countrymen to revolt from the Hebrew government. Failing in this, he joined himself to Rezon, whose hostility to Solomon is recorded 1 Kings 11:23-25.


Verse 23

23. Rezon — What office or position under Hadadezer he held, to what particular part of his dominions he belonged, or what instigated his revolt from his lord, does not clearly appear. Possibly he belonged to that “border at the river Euphrates,” which revolted from the king of Zobah while he went to assist the Ammonites. See 2 Samuel 8:3; 2 Samuel 10:6, and notes there.


Verse 24

24. He gathered men — Partly, perhaps, from among the fugitives that escaped the slaughter of David, and partly from disaffected portions of the kingdom.

Went to Damascus — This was probably towards the close of David’s life, when the garrisons which were put in that section had become thinned or called away, and there was nothing at Damascus to raise any considerable opposition to Rezon and his band, and so he dwelt and reigned there.


Verse 25

25. All the days of Solomon — Whence it appears that he must have established himself at Damascus before, or soon after, the death of David. In what particular way he acted the part of an adversary does not appear, but perhaps it was, as Josephus states, by making occasional incursions into the land of Israel. His hostility was probably not of sufficient magnitude to cause Solomon, a man who loved peace, and was constitutionally averse to war, to raise an army or make any great effort to oppose him; but his neglect to pay tribute, and his hostile attitude toward Israel, would naturally trouble Solomon with constant apprehension of danger; and once, at least, he led or sent an expedition against Hamath-zobah, (see 2 Chronicles 8:3,) perhaps to put down an insurrection started by this same Rezon.

Besides the mischief that Hadad — Here there seems to be something wanting in the Hebrew text. To say, he was an adversary besides the mischief, etc., is, to say the least, a strange manner of expression. The Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic versions also vary from the Hebrew. The Septuagint, reading זאתinstead of ואת, has: This is the evil which Adar did. And this is probably the true reading, and may still be made out of the Hebrew text by a simple changing of the Masoretic punctuation, and substituting זfor ו. The meaning then will be, This same kind of mischief (incursions in the land of Israel like those of Rezon) wrought also Hadad. He, like Rezon, became captain of a band, and excited insurrections, and ravaged remote portions of Solomon’s empire.

He abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria — If the correction above proposed be the true reading of the original Hebrew text, then these sentences should be understood of Hadad and not of Rezon. This would confirm the account of Hadad given by Josephus, (see note on 1 Kings 11:22,) that failing to persuade the people of Edom to revolt from Solomon he joined himself to Rezon, and became, first, master of a company of men, and then ruler of a part of Syria. Instead of over Syria, the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic read over Edom.


Verse 26

26. Jeroboam the son of Nebat — Here we are first introduced to that distinguished person who figures so prominently in the following history as the first king in the kingdom of Israel.

Zereda — In Septuagint written Sarida, and Sarira; Vulgate, Sareda. It was somewhere in the tribe of Ephraim, but its exact locality has not been found. In the long addition to the Hebrew text which the Septuagint gives after 1 Kings 12:24, and which adds somewhat to the history of Jeroboam, Sarira is represented as the place in Mount Ephraim to which Jeroboam returned from Egypt; there he assembled the whole tribe ( σκηπτρον) of Ephraim, and there he built a fortress. May it not be the same as Tirzah? See 1 Kings 14:17.

Lifted up his hand — A form of expression indicating sedition within the kingdom, a rebellion; rather than hostility from without, like the troubles occasioned by Rezon and Hadad.


Verse 27

27. Breaches — Rents in the walls, made by time and storms. It was while Solomon was repairing the walls and fortifications of Jerusalem, as noticed in 1 Kings 9:15, (where see note,) that Jeroboam showed his superior abilities, and was promoted by the king. 28.

A mighty man of valour — An able and efficient workman.

Charge of the house of Joseph — That is, of the levy of men from the Ephraimites who were descendants of Joseph, and sometimes thus called by their father’s name. The charge or burden of this tribe here means the labour they were required to perform in building Millo and repairing the walls of the city. This tribe was of course called on for its quota of men in the levy which Solomon raised, (1 Kings 5:13; 1 Kings 9:15,) and Jeroboam was at first among the labourers — perhaps an under officer; but at length, on account of his marked ability, was made overseer of all the workmen of his tribe.


Verse 29

29. At that time — While he had charge of the Ephraimite labourers at Jerusalem.

The prophet Ahijah — Here we meet with another representative of that interesting order of men, divine messengers, who appear so often and so prominently during the time of the Hebrew monarchy. Ahijah seems to have been to Jeroboam very much what Samuel was to Saul, and Nathan was to David. He too, probably, announced to Solomon the word of the Lord as recorded in 1 Kings 11:11-13. His two genuine and authentic prophecies, each of great importance to the kingdom of Israel, are recorded here, 1 Kings 11:29-39, and 1 Kings 14:6-16.

The Shilonite — So called because he dwelt at Shiloh. 1 Kings 14:2; 1 Kings 14:4. It is, perhaps, significant that this prophet dwelt at Shiloh, the ancient seat, and up to the time of Samuel the centre, of the national worship. Thence the ark had been taken to its capture, “and the Philistines destroyed Shiloh with such hideous barbarity, that centuries afterwards the heart of the people shuddered at the very mention of the name. They never restored the place. Even Jeroboam, though of the tribe of Ephraim, never ventured to use, as a rival to Jerusalem, a site consecrated by so many centuries of worship.” — SMITH, Prophecy a Preparation for Christ. Ahijah’s oracles seem like a voice from that olden sacred past — the voice of the God of Joshua and of Eli — still proclaiming blessings on the obedient, and penal woes on them that forget his name.

He… clad himself — That is, Ahijah, not Jeroboam, had clad himself.

A new garment — Probably a mantle thrown over the shoulder, similar to that which Samuel used to wear, and which was once used in a like symbolical action, 1 Samuel 15:27. Some interpreters see in the newness of the garment a symbol of the Hebrew monarchy, as yet young and undivided. “Here,” observes Rawlinson, “we find the first instance of that mode of delivering a divine message which became so common in later times, and which has been called ‘acted parable.’”


Verse 30

30. Twelve pieces — The numbers used in this symbolical prophecy have themselves a sacred symbolism; and yet, like all symbols, must not be supposed capable of being pressed into a relation to all possible aspects of the case to which they are made to refer. Thus “twelve” is a sacred number, (see supplementary note on Luke 6, at the end,) and the twelve pieces here represented the twelve tribes, though, counting the two sons of Joseph, there were actually thirteen. So, too, the ten pieces represented the revolting tribes, not altogether because exactly ten tribes revolted, for it is doubtful whether those on the east of the Jordan, and Simeon in the south, had much to do with the matter, but rather because “ten” is the number of totality, and indicated that substantially all Israel would fall away from Rehoboam, as is in fact asserted in 1 Kings 12:20. Then, further, the prophet does not follow out the matter as we might suppose by making the two remaining pieces represent Judah and Benjamin, but says that one tribe should cleave to the house of David, that is, only a single part of the sovereignty of Israel. But besides Judah, it seems that the tribe of Benjamin, and a part of Simeon, adhered to Rehoboam. 1 Kings 12:21; 1 Kings 19:3. But the symbolism was sufficiently exact for the prophetic purpose, and it made an announcement never to be forgotten.


Verse 36

36. A light alway before me — That is, a son to sit on the throne, and like a lamp or candle shine through the future ages, an evidence of the sure mercies of David, and a typical Messianic prophecy. Compare 2 Samuel 7:16.


Verse 37

37. According to all that thy soul desireth — From this we may infer that Jeroboam already had an eye to the throne, and his soul yearned for regal power. His office of ruler of the house of Joseph (1 Kings 11:28) had begotten within him lofty aspirations.


Verse 38

38. Build thee a sure house — Perpetuate thy posterity in regal powers.


Verse 39

39. But not for ever — Literally, only not all the days. Here breaks in another ray of promise to the house of David, whose sons, though chastened and smitten with the rod of men, (compare 2 Samuel 7:14,) were to be the human line of fathers to that Great Son, who “shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Luke 1:33. The Rabbins say: “When Messiah comes, the kingdom shall be restored to the house of David.”


Verse 40

40. Solomon sought… to kill Jeroboam — He probably not only heard of Ahijah’s prophecy, but also saw in the youthful Ephraimite an insubordinate spirit and disposition to usurp his throne. Solomon’s relations to Jeroboam were strikingly similar to those of Saul to David. Solomon, like Saul, drew down upon himself by disobedience the anger of Heaven; and to him, as to Saul, the word of the Lord announced judgments that darkened all his future. Like Saul, he knew, and sought to kill, his rival. The beginning of his reign, like that of Saul’s, was popular and auspicious, but its end was sad and dark. But Jeroboam, unlike David, who would not lift up his hand against the Lord’s anointed, was ambitious to reign, and acted not with modesty and prudence towards his king.

Shishak — This is the first instance in sacred history where the name of an Egyptian king is given as other than the common title Pharaoh, and it becomes therefore important in adjusting Egyptian and Hebrew chronology. The fact that he received and entertained the enemy and rival of Solomon clearly indicates that he was not the king whose daughter Solomon had married, (1 Kings 3:1,) and of this it is a noticeable confirmation that in Manetho’s table, where he is called Sesonchis, his name stands at the head of a new dynasty. On the Egyptian monuments his name is written Sheshonk. He was probably a usurper, who succeeded in dethroning the Pharaoh with whom Solomon had formed such a close alliance, and would therefore be no friend of Israel. See more at 1 Kings 14:25-28.


Verse 41

CLOSE OF SOLOMON’S HISTORY, 1 Kings 11:41-43.

41. The rest of the acts of Solomon — So this scriptural account of Solomon is professedly not a complete history. The writer only recorded such facts as served the purpose of sacred history, and plainly states that for fuller details his readers must look elsewhere. The same thing is true respecting many other parts of the sacred writings. How strange that some professed scholars have ignored this fact, and in their criticisms have assumed that the sacred writers recorded all they knew about the case in hand!

The book of the acts of Solomon — The authorship and extent of this book cannot now be determined. It was probably a very full history of Solomon compiled from the public annals of the kingdom, and also from the works of contemporary prophets, like Nathan, Ahijah, and Iddo. See 2 Chronicles 9:29.


Verse 43

43. Was buried in the city of David — See note on 1 Kings 2:10. The precedent of burying David in the holy city was followed in the burial of his descendants. Compare 1 Kings 14:31; 1 Kings 15:8, etc.

Rehoboam his son — Apparently his only son. He was forty-one years old at the beginning of his reign, so he must have been born the year before Solomon’s enthronement. His mother was Naamah, an Ammonitess, who probably died before Solomon’s marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter. Compare 1 Kings 14:21. “Many a poor man,” says Hall, “hath a houseful of children by one wife, whereas this great king hath only one son by many housefuls of wives.”

Stanley says, “As Bacon is in English history ‘the wisest, greatest, meanest of mankind,’ so is Solomon in Jewish and in sacred history.” His character, as drawn in the Scriptures, is surely many-sided. The simple, unpretending child; the darling of Jehovah, (2 Samuel 12:25;) the chosen king; the seeker after wisdom, choosing her above all other things; the wise and sagacious judge; the powerful ruler and glorious sovereign, surpassing in many ways all the kings of the nations round about him; his navies traversing many a sea, and kings and princes from afar bringing and laying at his feet their gifts. But in his old age a despot, (1 Kings 12:4,) a polygamist, and an idolater. These last were doubtless the immediate causes of his own decline, and of the subsequent misfortunes of the nation.

In his reign the Israelitish monarchy reached the highest pitch of worldly splendour, the memory of which is still preserved in many an Oriental legend and tradition. But that very splendour seemed to pervert the nation’s heart, and cause the cloud of Jehovah’s glory to depart from his people and his holy habitation. The outer splendour of his court and empire, the magnificence of his buildings, and his commerce with foreign nations, were, perhaps, not in themselves wrong. They might have been made the means of leading other nations to the knowledge of the one true God. But they were fraught with danger. Worldly glory has ever had the tendency to take away the heart from the pure and the good rather than to win it to the worship of God. So it was with Solomon, and so it ever has been. “How hardly shall a rich man enter the kingdom of God!” The thing is not impossible with God; but the dangers of wealth and worldly splendour far surpass their probable advantages to their possessor. And so the Church, whenever she has sought to increase her strength by a showing of worldly forces, has become shorn of her spiritual power.

Viewed from the theocratic standpoint, Solomon’s reign was a grand failure. It corresponded largely with the sad failure of Saul, the first king of Israel. Saul’s misfortunes, however, were largely owing to his incapacity for government, as well as to moral obliquity. He was unequal to the exigencies of his age, and the task of successfully moulding into a monarchy the nation so long ruled by judges exceeded his powers. But with Solomon there was no lack of ability. His wisdom, sagacity, and power were equal to any possible emergency. But his grievous sins and neglect of God’s law brought on his ruin. His greatness and glory weaned his heart from God, and his wives led him into idolatry. Speculation as to his probable repentance and final salvation is idle and fruitless, and will always be governed by preconceived opinions. The sacred writers pass it over in utter silence, and give no shadow of intimation that he ever turned from his idolatry. The assumption that he repented of his sins, and afterwards composed the Book of Ecclesiastes as a record of his sad but profound experiences, is destitute of any valid or controlling proof; and the authorship of Ecclesiastes is altogether a matter of uncertainty. A mighty shadow clouds his latter days; and there, in Holy Writ, he stands depicted; one part of his life and character in strangest contrast with the other — the grandest and saddest personage of sacred history.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 11:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-kings-11.html. 1874-1909.

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