*It's Monday all over again. But, it's still a new day. I hope you are having a good one. I also hope you are still enjoying these little daily Bible studies. Today, we will return to the Book of I Kings and look further into the reign of King Solomon.
"At the end of twenty years, during which Solomon built these two buildings-the temple of the Lord and the royal palace..."(I Kings 9:10) "Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord's temple, his own palace, the supporting terraces..." (I Kings 9:15) "King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber..." (I Kings 9:26)
If you recall we looked at the building of the temple in Jerusalem on Friday. This temple will be referred to as Solomon's Temple. Solomon oversaw the building of the temple that his father, David, envisioned. David could not build the temple because he was a man of war. Solomon began his reign in favorable fashion. He had the support of the people and of the Lord.
The temple was not all that Solomon built. He also built an expensive and expansive royal palace complex. Solomon opened up massive trade programs and strengthened the military. Solomon opened an awareness of culture and had international alliances. Solomon went further than his father ever did on many levels. This can be good, but...(Don't you hate it when there's a "but"?) Solomon did some things that paved the way for trouble.
Solomon undermined tribal loyalties which began to sow seeds that contributed to civil war shortly after his death. Solomon also inspired social inequality. Remember when Samuel warned the people that if they got a king the king would draft their sons and daughters and raise taxes? Well, guess what? Solomon used forced labor to build the temple and he raised taxes. Through all of this Solomon only grew richer and richer. And then...
"King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter-Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, 'You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.' Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray." (I Kings 11: 1-3)
Can you imagine having 700 wives? Wow! Solomon must have been some man, having 1,000 women. You may remember basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain claimed to have had 20,000 women in his lifetime. (*That number is believed to be a conservative figure) However, there is a difference between Wilt and Solomon. Wilt was known to be a "pick up artist." (Yes, that term is a basketball term as well as a social term.) He picked up women for his pleasure. Solomon, however, did not necessarily do so. How did Solomon get so many wives and why? Did he have that kind of "appetite?" Not necessarily. These wives were perhaps a part of an international arrangement. Perhaps he acquired many of these wives through treaties with other nations. Many of his marriages were most likely for political and diplomatic purposes.
Solomon clearly had an abundance of everything. He was perhaps the richest man alive. Even if Solomon did have an excessive sexual appetite it is not so much portrayed in a negative way. No, this is not so much his downfall. The problem was, he loved foreign women. Why was this a problem? They served foreign gods.
"As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods...He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord..." (I Kings 11:4-6)
The fact that Solomon "followed Ashtoreth" implies that he did more that just tolerate the worship of Ashtoreth. He actually may have worshipped Ashtoreth too. Solomon's sexual appetite was not his downfall, his downfall was that he tolerated the worship of foreign gods. He allowed his wives to worship these gods in Jerusalem. By doing so he compromised his own loyalty to Yahweh. This is something! Remember, Solomon was given the gift of wisdom. He prayed for nothing but wisdom so he could lead the people of God. He was clearly one of the wisest people in the day. In fact, people (even kings) were coming from near and far to hear the wisdom of Solomon. But, just like his father, he falls. Wisdom is a gift, and it is a gift that can be taken away.
Well, we know what happened to King David after he had Uriah murdered and took the widow Bathsheba for himself. God promised that David's kingdom would continue. Solomon has been the continuation of that kingdom. But, now Solomon has upset God. So, what will God do now?
"I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the while kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen." (I Kings 11:11b-12)
Now, notice just how important of a figure David continues to be. It's all about David. Because of God's promise to David God will not remove the kingdom from the hands of Solomon. Now, this time there is a twist. Remember, like his father David, Solomon is the ruler of a united kingdom (the northern and southern territories of Israel/Judah). Solomon will remain ruler over all Israel. But, remember, I said earlier that he sowed the seeds for a civil war. Tomorrow we will discover what happens next. Have a great day! -Pastor Rick