1 Kings 10-11
The United Kingdom under Solomon, cont’d. 1 Kings 1-11
1 Kings 9:9-10:36 Solomon’s Temple, cont’d.
1 Kings 10:1-13-The Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon's wisdom, so she visited him and asked him difficult questions. She was amazed at both his wisdom and his wealth.
SHEBA, QUEEN OF. An unnamed Sabaean (*Sheba) monarch who journeyed to Jerusalem to test Solomon’s wisdom (1 Ki. 10:1–10, 13; 2 Ch. 9:1–9, 12). A major purpose of her costly (1 Ki. 10:10) yet successful (1 Ki. 10:13) visit may have been to negotiate a trade-agreement with Solomon, whose control of the trade routes jeopardized the income which the Sabaeans were accustomed to receive from the caravans which crossed their territory—an income on which Sheba (or better Saba) was dependent despite considerable achievement in agriculture due to favourable rainfall and an effective irrigation system. The spices, gold and precious stones with which she sought Solomon’s favour (1 Ki. 10:3, 10) would have been typical of the luxurious cargoes of these caravans, which linked the resources of E Africa, India and S Arabia to the markets of Damascus and Gaza by way of oases like Mecca, Medina and Tema.
Both Assyr. and S Arab. inscriptions testify to the presence of queens in Arabia as early as the 8th century bc. (See N. Abbott, ‘Pre-Islamic Arab Queens’, AJSL 58, 1941, pp. 1–22.) The widespread domestication of the camel 2 centuries or so before Solomon’s time made the Queen of Sheba’s trip of about 2,000 km feasible (1 Ki. 10:2).
Her willingness to make this arduous journey is contrasted by Christ with the Jews’ complacency in Mt. 12:42, where she is called ‘Queen of the South’, a title which reflects a Semitic construction like malkaṯ seḇā’ or malkaṯ yāmîn, Queen of Sheba or Yemen.
This queen is enshrined in Ethiopian legends, particularly the Kebra Nagast (‘Glory of the Kings’), as the queen of Ethiopia who bore by Solomon the first king of Ethiopia. This legend reflects the close tie which existed in antiquity between S Arabia and E Africa, which Josephus also notes when he calls this ruler ‘Queen of Egypt and Ethiopia’ (Ant. 8.165–175; cf. also Gregory of Nyssa, Homilies on the Song of Songs 7). Arabian legends remember her as Bilqis.
Hubbard, D. A. (1996). Sheba, Queen of. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 1088). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, Logos Bible Software
For additional information on the Queen of Sheba see:
1 Kings 10:14-29-An accounting of Solomon's immense wealth.
1 Kings 11 Solomon’s Sin and Death
1 Kings 11:1-8…Solomon’s Sin
Solomon sinned by marrying women who were from foreign nations that God had forbidden. Eventually, when he was old, he built places of worship to their gods...there in Jerusalem.
11:1–3 After the glowing report in 10:14–29, these verses are the literary equivalent of a blow to the face. Despite all his obvious strengths, the king has a very evident weakness for women, especially foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he loves Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women. Altogether he accumulates “seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines.” Like the marriage to the Egyptian princess, most of these unions probably were politically motivated. Such linking of nations was intended to foster peaceful relations between normally combative countries. In a straightforward secular kingdom this practice would be good politics.
There are several problems, however, with what Solomon has done. First, he has disobeyed Moses’ law for marriage, which constitutes a breach of the agreement Solomon makes with God in 1 Kgs 3:1–14; 6:11–13; and 9:1–9. Moses says in Deut 7:3–4 and Exod 34:15–16 that Israelites must not intermarry with noncovenant nations. Why? Because God says “they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods” (Deut 7:4). Judgment will then result. Second, Solomon has broken Moses’ commands for kings (cf. Deut 17:14–20). Moses explicitly says, “He must not take many wives or his heart will be led astray” (Deut 17:17). Indeed, all of Moses’ dire predictions come true in Solomon’s case. His wives do lure him into idolatry. Solomon, however, is responsible for his own actions. He knows better but does not act on this knowledge.
Third, Solomon has evidently fallen into the emotional trap of wanting to be like pagan kings. Moses counsels kings to remain as close to the people as possible (Deut 17:14–20). Kings who become too wealthy desire possessions and women more than they desire to serve God and the people, Moses warns (Deut 17:14–20). Solomon has clearly forgotten this admonition. He has competed with other kings and queens in wisdom and splendor and has won (cf. 1 Kgs 4:29–34; 10:1–13, 23–25). These victories are gifts from God (1 Kgs 3:10–15). Competing in wives is outside of God’s will and promise to bless, though, so the process can have no positive result.
11:4–8 What occurs in this passage must have sickened the author of 1, 2 Kings and any original readers committed to the Lord. In Solomon’s old age his wives influence his devotion to God, and he worships “other gods.” How did this outrage occur? “His heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” In other words, his heart was no longer wholly God’s. The Lord had ceased to be the major factor in his life. Once this shift occurred, the next steps into idolatry became more natural and easier to accept.
Other than their link to his wives, Solomon’s choice of gods makes no sense. In the ancient world polytheists tended to worship the gods of nations who had conquered their armies or at least the gods of countries more powerful than their own. Ironically, Solomon worships the gods of people he has conquered and already controls. What could he possibly gain from such activity? The whole episode makes no sense, just as idolatry itself makes no sense.
Who were these gods Solomon worshiped? The fertility goddess Ashtoreth had been a stumbling block to the Israelites since they arrived in Canaan (Judg 2:13). Perhaps it is fitting for Solomon to worship a sex goddess. Molech was an astral deity (Zeph 1:5) to whom human sacrifices were offered (Lev 20:2–5; 2 Kgs 23:10; Lev 18:21; Jer 32:35). Chemosh, like Molech, probably was also an astral god. Besides these deities, Solomon probably worshiped other gods as well (1 Kgs 11:8). Thus, the miraculously blessed heir of David, leader of the covenant people, has broken the most fundamental command of all: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod 20:3).
House, P. R. (1995). 1, 2 Kings (Vol. 8, pp. 166–168). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, Logos Bible Software
Solomon had many wives…polygamy. Is that a Biblical practice?
1 Kings 11:9-13…God’s Judgment
God tells Solomon that because of his sin He is going to take the kingdom away from his family...with the exception that He will leave one tribe with his family.
1 Kings 11:14-26…The Enemies Attack
3 adversaries rise up against Solomon...Hadad (Edomite), Rezon, Jeroboam (Ephraimite).
1 Kings 11:29-40…A Prophet’s Warning
Abijah (a prophet) tells Jeroboam that he will be king over 10 of the tribes of Israel. Solomon finds out and tries to kill him because it was his intent for his son, Rehoboam to become king in his place. Jeroboam knows that Solomon will attempt to kill him so he flees to Egypt and finds protection there.
1 Kings 11:41-43…Solomon’s Death
After reigning in Jerusalem for 40 years Solomon dies...his son, Rehoboam becomes king.
Prayer: Lord, I can’t be too harsh on Solomon in regards to his sin. I can imagine how he justified his taking many wives. His rationale maybe went this way…You had made him king and in order to maintain the kingdom he would have to make certain concessions in regards to the common secular practices of his day. You knew that when You made him king. Not only that, but it was You Who gave him the responsibility to produce children through these women. I may not find myself in the exact same position that Solomon was in…but I have to make decisions in my world that could just as easily seem to be so natural and obvious, and yet are contrary to what You have said. Please, Lord, don’t let me be deceived…either by others, or by myself. God, please don’t let the words, “his heart was turned away from the LORD” ever be spoken of me.