Wednesday, March 27, 2013

CXXX - I Kings Chapter 11 - Solomon's Troubles

I've always taken pleasure in studying and teaching about Solomon, but I take no pleasure in this chapter.  The tone of the whole narrative changes.  We've seen in the first nine chapters of I Kings where Solomon took Israel into a golden age.  Wealth and peace through military might.  Political alliances, military conquests, and commercial enterprises were major features of Solomon's reign.  But a close inspection revealed serious cracks in Israel's armor.  Economic success was purchased at the expense of human freedom, representative government, and allegiance to God.  We already know which of these will bring down this great nation.  Solomon's successes separated him from his people and from God Himself.  Divine judgement was coming.

Chapter 11:1-8  -  Solomon's Wives

There are several things Solomon did as king that would have negative results, not the least of which would be taking foreign women as his wives.  Many of his wives brought their foreign customs and religions with them.  These women came out of Egypt, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Phoenicia, and the land of the Hittites (currently Turkey).  All of these countries shared common borders with Israel.  The practice of kings marrying women from other nations has been a common practice for centuries when there was political and economic gain as stake.  But God specificly warned against this in Deut. 17:17.  God specfically warned "Israels KINGS" against this in that passage of Deuteronomy.  Verse 4 says straight out:  ......when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods......  Solomon's idolatry I'm sure was a gradual thing.  It always is.  First he became tolerant of their pagan religious practices.  Then he observed them without making corrections.  Then he approved of them, probably making rationalization that those involved were foreigners anyway.  Then he made accomodations for them, as it says he built "high places" for them to practice worshipping their gods.  Then, and predictably, he participated.  Yes, Solomon participated in worshipping pagan gods.  Remember the first commandment:  Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.  God had every right to be angry with Solomon.  {If we look back at II Samuel, we'll see that David had at least one foreign wife, Maacah.  But the significant difference was that David's heart remained perfect with the Lord.}  What was supposed to be the difference between Israel and all other nations was the Israel's God was the one and only God.  The true God.  The Creator of the heavens, the earth and the universe.  Giving one small bit of homage to pagan gods was an abomination in the sight of our Lord.  God demands exclusive loyalty.  In vss 5-7 it mentions a few of these pagan gods.  It says Solomon "followed after" which meant to desire and serve.  Three gods are mentioned by name:  Ashteroth, Molech, and Chemosh.

The goddess Ashteroth was worshipped in Phonicia and Mesopotamia.  She was given different names by the different nations who disired to have her as their "model goddess".  She was considered the "fertility goddess".  People worshipped her in hopes to please her and in turn she would cause their crops, herds, and actual families would be productive and reproductive.  Her temples were little more that centers of prostitution, as the pagans thought sexual activity in her temples would please her more than anything.  (I would have supposed the same thing.)  Worshipping Ashteroth would have been disgusting in the sight of God.

The god Molech was associated with the Ammonites.  Molech was considered to be the master of the Ammonites.  Child sacrifice was associated with the worship of Molech.  Molech worshippers caused their children to "pass through fire" (Jer. 32:35).  Molech's image was the face of a bull-calf with outstretched arms.  The priests would place a sacrificial human child on the arms of the idol.  As the body of the burning child would roll off into the flames, loud noises from drums and musical instruments would drown out the death cries of the child.  {Did Solomon directly participate in this horrible practice?  I choose to think not.}

The third god mentioned is Chemosh, the Moabite god.  The Moabites were known for their extreme idol worship practices, and Chemosh was their chief god.  Worshipping Chemosh included worshipping the stars and child sacrifice.

Solomon built high places for the pagan gods.  He did not build them in Jerusalem, as they would have detracted from the Temple.  Instead, he built them in the southernmost part of the Mount of Olives.

Verses 9-13  -  God Pronounces Judgement

On two previous occassions, God appeared to Solomon:  At Gibeon (3:14) and at Jerusalem (9:4-7).  In both appearances God expressed a warning to Solomon, both of which pertained to keeping God's commandments and obstaining from the worshipping of idols from the pagans which surrounded Israel.  Vs 9 - The Lord became angry with Solomon.  Solomon disobeyed and followed other gods.  So in verse 11 God pronounce His judgement on Solomon:  He would tear the kingdom of Israel away from Solomon and give it to his subordinates.  However, out of respect for David, He would not do it during Solomon's lifetime.  It would come immediately upon his death.  Also, out of respect for David, he would not take all of Israel away from David's descendants.  He would leave the royal reign with two tribes:  Judah, where Jerusalem was, and Benjamin.

Verses 14-40  -  God Raises Up Adversaries Against Solomon

God raised up three adversaries against Solomon, all of which were very affective.  First, he raised up Hadad of Edom.  Earlier, David conquered and purged Edom, but Hadad escaped and fled to Egypt, where he grew support and a small army with which to exact revenge upon Israel.  Hadad opposes Solomon from the south, constantly marauding Israel's shipping caravans and killing Solomon's soldiers using gorilla warfare.  Hadad did not possess the military strength for waging a direct battle with Israel.
Next (vs 23) God stirred up Rezon, the son of Eliadah.  David had earlier defeated Hadadezer (to whom Rezon was loyal) and like Hadad, Rezon escaped the carnage with his life.  He went north so Syria, make Damascus his home where he proclaimed himself king and grew a private army, which made it almost impossible for Solomon to use the trade routes to the north peacefully.
It makes sense to me that Hadad and Rezon were thorns in Solomon's side during the last half of his 40 year reign.  But with Solomon's wisdom, wealth, and military might, they would never have been serious threats to his kingdom.  However, in verses 26-40, God delivers the knock-out blow:  Jeroboam.  You may have heard of Jeroboam.  He was the first king of the ten northern united tribes that was actually called Israel.  He was a force to be reckoned with.  He was an Ephraimite, the son of Nebat.  While Hadad and Rezon were external threats, Jeroboam was a threat from within Israel, which is far worse than any external force.  The name "Jeroboam" meant "May the people be great".  {The modern idea would be "Power to the People".}  Jeroboam was an idustrious type of man, proving himself over and over again, so much that he was recognized by Solomon himself and elevated to quite a responsible position as overseer of the labor forces of Ephraim and Manassah.  Due to Solomon's erroneous decision to force his people into labor and military service, Jeroboam was able to unite all the northern tribes against Solomon.  Jeroboam's efforts in uniting the people against the king was successful.  So much that Solomon began to fear Jeroboam as a serious threat to the throne.  Also, Jeroboam's efforts drew the attention of the prophet Ahijah.  {Remember that all three kings heretofore were anointed by prophets before they were crowned king.}  Jeroboam was to be blessed by the same affirmation of his leadership.  Ahijah obtained a new garment, and arranged to intercept Jeroboam in such a way that would give them privacy.  Upon getting Jeroboam's attention, he tore the garment into twelve pieces (signifying the twelve tribes of Israel).  To tear a brand new garment signified the importance of the meeting.  He instructed Jeroboam to take ten of the pieces, representing ten of the twelve tribes.  Ahijah then pronounced that the tribes would be torn from Solomon.  He also explained to Jeroboam that two of the tribes (Judah and Benjamin) would remain with the current reigning line of kings.  He anointed and appointed Jeroboam king of the ten northern tribes of Israel.

Verse 40 tells us that Solomon put out the decree to kill Jeroboam, causing him to flee to Egypt, where he would remain until Solomon's death.  Verses 41-43 tells us that Solomon regned a total of forty years (about the same length of time as David).  Solomon died and was buried in the city of David (Zion).  And Rehoboam his son became king.

Next Post  -  I Kings Chapter 12  -  Israel Becomes Divided

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