Despite enjoying peace and prosperity (wisdom, wealth, and wives) as blessings from God, Solomon breaks the covenant with his attitude and actions incurring the just (but merciful) punishment of God.
Purpose (my reflections):
- Consequences for disobedience are real. The stakes are high. God is serious. Sin is punished
- Attitude and action maketh the man
- Even the greatest splendor without God is a filthy worthless rag (What does it profit a man to gain the world but forfeit his soul?)
God is crystal-clear in the Solomonic covenant (1 Kings 9:1-9): Walk before God as David did and be forever blessed, or disobey and follow other gods and incur disaster. On the surface, chapters 9-10 describe the peak of Solomon’s reign. But there are lots of ways his reign is less than ideal e.g. selling off Israelite towns to the king of Tyre (1:10-11); Solomon’s great splendor in chapter 10, rather than God’s; Solomon explicitly acts contrary to Deut 17 e.g. accumulating gold and horses.
Despite growing wealthy, his spiritual poverty begins to show itself more clearly. Solomon’s many forbidden wives appear to be the most significant influence in his spiritual degeneration. We see the extent of Solomon’s apostacy in building multiple high places for their/his ‘detestable’ gods (v5-8).
It is interesting to consider the different ways the author describes Solomon’s state of sin – his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD as was David (4), Solomon did evil, did not follow the LORD (6), his heart turned away from the LORD (9), his attitude (11). From this we see something of the complex interplay between heart and hand, attitude and action. As public statesman and representative of God’s rule, obviously his actions are significant. But the heart of the matter is the state of his heart. His wives turn his heart from God, as his heart then turns him towards evil action.
Solomon’s heart turned from God points to his failure in keeping the greatest (most fundamental) commandment – Love God with ALL your heart (Deut 6:5, Matt 22:37). Jesus makes this standard of heart orientation our standard as well.
David is the model against which Solomon is compared (6, 13), and significantly, it is for the sake of David that the kingship of Solomon will continue at all. That the kingdom is to be torn away is no surprise (i.e. 1 Kings 9:6-9). And note that God’s punishment is prophetic, showing both the mercy of God in delaying the impact of the punishment, but also divine providence of God his his control of events into the future.
- Donald J. Wiseman, 1 and 2 Kings, TOTC 9 (Leicester: IVP, 1993), 134–136
- Iain W. Provan, 1&2 Kings, NIBC/UBCS 7 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995), 91–93