The Word Made Fresh
1King Solomon wooed many foreign women in addition to the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite. 2These are peoples about whom the LORD said, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will lure you away to follow their gods.” But Solomon desired and embraced them anyway. 3He married seven hundred princesses and took three hundred mistresses, and they turned his heart away, 4and when he was old he embraced other gods. Unlike his father David, he was not loyal to the LORD his God. 5He worshiped the Sidonian goddess Astarte and the obscene god Milcom of the Ammonites. 6Solomon did evil before the LORD and was not loyal to the LORD as David had been. 7On the hill across from Jerusalem he built a shrine for Chemosh, the filthy god of Moab, and another for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8He built these shrines for his foreign women and encouraged them to make sacrifices to their gods.
9The LORD became very angry with Solomon because he had turned away from the God of Israel who had appeared to him on two occasions; 10the God who had ordered him not to acknowledge other gods. But Solomon did not obey the LORD’s commands.
11Then the LORD said to Solomon, “Because you have not kept my covenant agreement and the laws that I ordered you to obey, I will rip the kingdom out of your hands and give it to one of your citizens. 12But for your father’s sake I will not do this during your lifetime. I will seize it from the hands of your son. 13But I will not take away all of it; I will leave one tribe for him for the sake of my loyal follower David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the place I have chosen.”
14The LORD encouraged Hadad, a member of the royal house of Edom, to rise up against Solomon, 15because when David had been at war with Edom and his general, Joab, had gone to bury his men who had been killed in battle, he killed every man in Edom. 16He stayed there for six months until he had killed them all. 17But Hadad had escaped and fled to Egypt with some of his father’s men. He was only a boy at the time. 18They had left Midian and gone to Paran. They gathered more men from Paran and went into Egypt. Pharaoh the king of Egypt gave him a place to live with an allowance of food and land as well. 19Hadad became a favorite of Pharaoh, and Pharaoh gave him the sister of his wife, Queen Tahpenes. 20She gave him a son, Genubath, and Tahpanes raised him in Pharaoh’s house among Pharaoh’s children. 21When Hadad heard the news that David and Joab were both dead, he said to Pharaoh, “Let me return to my own country.”
21Pharaoh protested. “Why?” he asked. “What is it you do not have here that makes you want to return?”
22“Nothing at all,” said Hadad. “Nevertheless, please allow me to go.”
23God also encouraged another opponent — Rezon son of Eliada, who had fled from his master, king Hadadezer of Zobah. 24He gathered worthless men around him and they became a band of raiders after David had wiped out Zobah. They made their way to Damascus and settled there and made Rezon their king. 25He was Israel’s enemy during Solomon’s reign and made trouble like Hadad had done. He ruled over Aram, and hated Israel.
26Then Jeroboam rebelled against the king. He was an Ephraimite from Zeradah. He was one of Solomon’s servants. His widowed mother was Zeruah. 27Solomon had built up the Millo and had closed the gap in the wall of the City of David. 28Jeroboam was a very capable man, and when Solomon took note of him, he was given charge over all the forced labor from the tribes of Joseph.
29One day as he was leaving Jerusalem, he was met by the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh. Ahijah was wearing a new robe, and the two of them were alone in the countryside. 30Ahijah removed his robe and tore it into twelve pieces. 31He held them out to Jeroboam and said, “Take ten pieces. The LORD, the God of Israel says, ‘I am going to wrest the kingdom away from Solomon and give ten tribes to you. 32But for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, Solomon will retain one tribe. 33The reason I am doing this is because he has turned his back on me and is worshipping Astarte the Sidonian goddess and Chemosh the Moabite god and Milcom the Ammonite god. He has not obeyed me. He has not done right in my sight and has not kept my rules and laws as did his father David. 34Even so, I will not remove the whole kingdom from him. He will rule all his life for the sake of my servant David, because David was my chosen one and he did honor my word. 35But, I will take the kingdom away from his son, and I will give you ten tribes. 36I’ll give his son one tribe, to honor my servant David so that he will always have a descendant in Jerusalem where I have chosen for my name to dwell. 37But I will accept you, and you shall rule over all you desire. You shall be the king of Israel. 38If you will listen to me and follow my instructions and keep my laws and regulations as my servant David did, I will be with you. I will establish your dynasty just as I did for David, and Israel will belong to you. 39These are the reasons I will punish David’s descendants, though not forever.'”
40Solomon issued a death warrant for Jeroboam, but Jeroboam fled to king Shishak of Egypt. He stayed in Egypt until Solomon died.
41The rest of Solomon’s deeds and all of his wisdom are written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon. 42He ruled all of Israel from Jerusalem for forty years. 43Then he died and was buried in the City of David. He was succeeded by his son Rehoboam.
1-8: Seven hundred wives and 300 mistresses! What is he thinking? Marrying a princess is a common political expedient to shore up intertribal and international relationships, but 700 of them? In hindsight the historians of Israel see this as the spiritual downfall of Solomon. The opinion given here is that these princesses lured him into being a benefactor for their religious persuasions, and that is why Solomon allowed the worship of other gods to become an influential element in Israelite politics and culture. It is just as possible, of course, that Solomon kept the peace with his neighbors by inviting their daughters into his harem (which would have been considered an honor) and builds the other places of worship so that they will feel comfortable in his territory. Some of these women are of the races that Solomon is using as forced labor (9:20), and he probably thinks it is wise to placate those parts of his constituency. Later judgments of his actions are not so kind.
9-13: The judgment of later historians is that Solomon’s dabbling in other cults results in God allowing the kingdom to be divided, but since the division doesn’t happen until after Solomon’s death, they reason that God must have protected Solomon because he is David’s son.
14-22: Solomon has his enemies, of course. One of them is Hadad, an Edomite prince who had escaped to Egypt when Joab had razed his country. He marries Pharaoh’s wife’s sister and has a child with her, named Genubath. When David dies, he apparently returns to Edom, but we are not told exactly how he opposes Solomon.
23-25: Another enemy is Rezon of Zobah, who becomes king of Damascus and opposes Solomon in ways that, again, are not specified.
26-40: Much more serious opposition comes from within. We meet Jeroboam, an Ephraimite and federal employee whom Solomon set over the forced labor of the two half tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim (the sons of Joseph). We recall that Solomon had divided the land into twelve regions and levied heavy requirements of production on them but had exempted his own tribe of Judah (4:7-19). And we meet Ahijah, a prophet from Shiloh. The prophetic party has not been mentioned, but we know that they are a powerful lobby in the country, and we know that they in particular hate Solomon’s policy of tolerance toward foreigners and foreign religions. Ahijah meets Jeroboam out in the country and tells him that God has decided to make him king of the ten northern tribes upon the death of Solomon. Somehow Solomon finds out about this treachery and seeks to have Jeroboam put to death, but he escapes to Egypt. It is interesting that King Shishak of Egypt, Solomon’s ally, nevertheless aids and abets would-be enemies. Perhaps he has his own eye on Israel and is waiting for Solomon’s reign to end so he can make his move.
41-43: Solomon dies with little fanfare after reigning for 40 years. His son Rehoboam assumes the throne, but we see trouble ahead.
Once again, we see that power corrupts. Oftentimes those who are very faithful cast aside faith once prosperity is assured. Inevitably they begin to think their success is theirs alone, when all along God was behind their accomplishments. Never pat yourself on the back without first going on your knees to thank God for “your” success.