I Kings 1-11

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Failure and Hope in the United Kingdom



1. Summary

• God gave Solomon wisdom to lead Israel.

• His greatest act of wisdom was to build the temple.

• God chastised Solomon when he was unfaithful

2. Structure

-The bright hope of Solomon (IKgs.1:1-9:25)
-The sad failure of Solomon (IKgs.9:26-11:43)

I. The Bright Hope of Solomon (1Kings 1:1-9:25)

A. General Analysis

-Solomon’s great wisdom (IKgs.1:1-5:18)

-Solomon’s great work (IKgs.6:1-7:51)

-Solomon’s great worship (IKgs.8:1-9:25)

B. Detailed Analysis

1. Solomon’s great wisdom (1Kings 1:1-5:18)

  • Political wisdom (IKgs.2:13-3:1)
  • Spiritual wisdom (IKgs.3:2-15)
  • Judicial wisdom (IKgs.3:16-28)
  • Administrative wisdom (IKgs.4:1-6)
  • Economic wisdom (IKgs.4:7-28)
  • Literary wisdom (IKgs.4:29-34)
  • Diplomatic wisdom (IKgs.5:1-12)
  • Organizational wisdom (IKgs.5:13-18)

a. Political wisdom (IKgs.1:1-3:1)
The opening section (IKgs.1:1-2:12) intends to show that Solomon was the rightful heir to the throne. There was a difficulty because Solomon was neither the crown prince nor David’s oldest living son. Adonijah, David’s fourth and oldest living son, was in line to succeed his father on the throne. However, his pre-emptive strike for the throne was not of God. These chapters, then, show how Solomon became king. Firstly, David blessed him and authorized him as his successor. God blessed him and helped him to overcome opposition. By swiftly eliminating four potential opponents and troublemakers – Adonijah, Abiathar, Joab and Shimei – Solomon firmly established himself as king (IKgs.2:46b).
b. Spiritual wisdom (IKgs.3:2-15)
As Solomon did not ask for long life, or wealth, or victory over enemies, but for a gift that would help him fulfill his God-given role as Israel’s king, God granted his petition for wisdom and also added to it what he had not requested – riches and honor. The blessing of long life, however, had a condition attached. Only if Solomon continued to walk in the way of Yahweh would his days be lengthened (IKgs.3:10–14).
c. Judicial wisdom (IKgs.3:16-28)
The classic case of two harlots, both claiming to be the mother of a baby, demonstrated the judicial wisdom which had been given to Solomon. The people of Israel were so impressed and even awed by this that they could not but conclude that the wisdom of God was in this young king (IKgs.3:27–28).
d. Administrative wisdom (IKgs.4:1-6)
Solomon’s wisdom was also demonstrated in his wise and careful choice of faithful servants. The welfare of the whole state depends on the choices.
e. Economic wisdom (IKgs.4:7-28)
Solomon originated the first scientific system of taxation. Economically they enjoyed peace and prosperity.
f. Literary wisdom (IKgs.4:29-34)
Solomon spoke three thousand proverbs and composed 1005 songs, and although we have only a fraction of them they clearly demonstrate his wisdom, a wisdom that attracted the attention of the kings throughout the Near East (IKgs.4:32–34).
g. Diplomatic wisdom (IKgs.5:1-12)
The formal treaty negotiated with Hiram is another example of Solomon’s wisdom.
h. Organizational wisdom (IKgs.5:13-18)
Having secured and organized the laborers, Solomon issued the order for the foundation stones to be cut out and brought to the temple site. The building of the temple is the climax and culmination of Solomon’s wisdom.

This was one of the few times in Israel’s history when all the territory promised to Abraham in the patriarchal covenant was actually under her control (1 Kgs.4:21; and see Gen.15:18). The combination of peace and plenty provided by Solomon for each Israelite (IKgs.4:25) became a symbol of the messianic age (Zec.3:10). Solomon’s wisdom was unsurpassed (IKgs.4:29-34). Just as the law came from Moses and the psalms from David, wisdom was Solomon’s contribution to Israelite religion.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 226.[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: God will bless Israel and her Kings when they seek wisdom of God to faithfully discharge their duties.

2. Solomon’s Great Work (6:1-7:51)

The construction of the temple was the epitome of Solomon’s wisdom at work. Using plans designed by David, and the expertise of Phoenician craftsmen, Solomon brought into being what surely must have been one of the wonders of ancient architecture. With the erection of the House of God, the people obtain a central place of worship, and Israel’s early stage of dwelling in the Promised Land has come to an end. Israel are in firm possession of the land and enjoying that longed-for rest. Its building marked the conclusion of the Exodus and conquest. The promise made to David in 2Sam.7:10 had now been fulfilled.

First Kings 6:1 dates the building of the temple to 480 years after the exodus, more or less the halfway mark between the exodus and exile and thus the high-water mark of Israel’s Old Testament history. But at the beginning of the project (I Kings 6:11-14) the fulfillment of the Davidic promises and the divine presence within Israel is made to depend on Solomon’s obedience, not on the existence of the temple.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 92.[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: God will bless Israel and her Kings when they put God’s dwelling place first.

3. Solomon’s Great Worship (IKgs.8:1-9:25)

a Solomon’s Worship (IKgs.8:1-66)

b Opening Ceremonies and Speech (IKgs.8:1-21)

c Prayer (IKgs.8:22-53)

b’ Closing Ceremonies and speech (IKgs.8:54-66)

c’ God’s response to the assembly (IKgs.9:1-9)[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 491.[/footnote]
a. The Timing
The Temple dedication took place at the Feast of the Tabernacles, a festival that was associated with covenant renewal (Deut.31:9-13).
b. Solomon’s Prayer
This noble prayer is based upon Moses’ words in Lev. 26 and Deut.28. The language is to be read and explained by the constant aid of the Pentateuch. It reveals a profound theology, based upon a reverent and intimate knowledge of the written Law. Although there is a prophetic foreshadowing of the exile in the words of his prayer (IKgs.8:46-53), Solomon prays that the Temple would become a powerful motive towards covenant fidelity (IKgs.8:57-58).

Solomon plays a priestly role, convoking the elders of Israel, supervising the elevation of the ark, blessing the people, interceding for the people, twice offering sacrifice, consecrating the middle court before the temple, and leading Israel in the observation of the “festival” (1 Kings 8:65). The role of the king is thus to sustain, defend, and protect the Jerusalem cult. The installation of the ark, the repository of the covenant statutes, as Israel’s central cult item in the holiest of holy places (Yahweh’s throne room), legitimates the temple.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 92.[/footnote]

The temple became a symbol of Israel’s governmental system, that is of a theocratic monarchy, a king ruling under God’s authority.

The temple is also a public validation of the Davidic dynasty (1 Kings 8:14-21). Solomon explicates Yahweh’s promises to David (vv. 15-21), commending his father’s intentions. Jerusalem and David are the clear subjects of divine choice.[footnote]Ibid., 92.[/footnote]

b. God’s Response
Just as God appeared to Solomon at Gibeon at the beginning of the Solomon narratives, so he now appears to confirm all that has been done. God consecrates Solomon’s Temple and placed His name there (IKgs.9:3). God’s response was to promise blessings for obedience and disaster for disobedience, experiences already familiar to Israel of that day.

God’s presence in the temple is neither a mechanical association nor guaranteed. The Hebrew verb used (shakan) speaks of a temporary and occasional location, not a permanent enthronement, which would demand the Hebrew yashah. In the closure (8:54-61), the blessing for all Israel, which proper attitudes toward the temple will convey, is asserted.[footnote]Ibid., 93.[/footnote]

This section concludes with the potential for blessing associated with the Temple. However, these blessings are made dependent on two significant conditions: Solomon’s integrity (IKgs.9:4-5) and Israel’s obedience (IKgs.9:6-9). If these conditions are not met, the Temple will be destroyed, the land surrendered, and the nation scattered (IKgs.9:9). Divine promises do not undermine human responsibility.
Deuteronomist’s Message: God will reveal Himself to His obedient and worshipping people, but will withdraw His blessing from a disobedient and apostate people.

4. Warning Signs

The narrator makes clear that Solomon’s reign over a united Judah and Israel in the Promised Land is a fulfillment of the Abrahamic promises (IKgs.3:8; 4:20). However, there are early warning signs in Solomon’s life of sins which would later lead to disaster. He married Pharaoh’s daughter which was contrary to the covenant (IKgs.3:1). Solomon built his own house before that of the temple (IKgs.3:1-2), which raises questions of Solomon’s priorities. The report in I Kings 3:2 of the continued worship at high places and the continued lack of a central sanctuary, raises further initial questions about Solomon’s reign, and his failure to live up to the Deuteronomic kingship ideals.
Solomon breaks up the older tribal structure of Israel (IKgs.4), dividing the realm into twelve economic districts, but, significantly excluding Judah (IKgs.4:19) from any financial contribution. Resources were gradually withdrawn from the north to the south in the face of an emerging Egyptian threat. Parts of the north were virtually abandoned, including valuable trade routes. The political appointments include two of Solomon’s sons-in-law (IKgs.4:11, 15), pointing to anti-covenantal nepotism and favoritism. This favoring of the south and the gradual depletion and surrender of territory in the north makes Solomon part-architect of the later divided kingdom.

The unraveling of Solomon’s greatness in chapter 11 opens up a view to Israel’s future.[footnote]L Ryken and T Longman III (Editors), The Complete Literary Guide to the Bible (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1993),[/footnote]

Israel, in reaching the summit of its national political success, now begins the inevitable slide down to the nadir of the exile.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 91.[/footnote]

Israel’s brief period of strength and prestige was ruined by Solomon’s religious apostasy. Solomon’s unfaithfulness to the covenant erased all the great accomplishments of his reign. Shortly after his death, Israel’s period of glory was over. Though it was the nation’s greatest moment politically, it was remembered in the Bible as one of its most tragic. This is a story of missed opportunities.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 224.[/footnote]

Deuteronomist’s Message: The roots of Israel’s fall from God’s favor is in covenant unfaithfulness.

C. New Testament Analysis

1. Christ the wisdom of God

Christ is the antitype of wise Solomon.

But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God (1Cor.1:24).

In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col.2:3).


2. Christ the true temple

Christ is the antitype of Solomon’s temple.

Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body (Jn.2:19-21).


II. The Sad Failure of Solomon (9:26-11:43)

A. General Analysis

-Solomon’s great glory (IKgs.9:26-10:29)
-Solomon’s great sins (IKgs.11:1-13)
-Solomon’s great troubles (IKgs.11:14-43)

B. Detailed Analysis

1. Solomon’s great glory (IKgs.9:26-10:29)

  • Material wealth (IKgs.9:26-28)
  • Mental wealth (IKgs.10:1-29)

Solomon was deeply involved in international trading relationships. These alliances brought economic blessings to Israel and were thus of great value to the nation.

The visit of the Queen of Sheba was undoubtedly the premier example of the international adulation of Solomon’s splendid kingdom. This was seminal for the later Israelite eschatology of a universal pilgrimage of the world to Jerusalem. The queen becomes the paradigm for the later nations, by blessing Yahweh for placing the Davidic representative on the throne of Israel to render justice and righteousness (IKgs.10:9). In coming to Solomon and acknowledging the source of his wealth, influence, and wisdom (IKgs.10:9), the Sabean queen, the ruler of probably the largest trading empire of its day, brought her world with her (IKgs.10:24). Her visit and her acclamation of Israel’s God were a confirmation of the promises to Abraham (Gen. 12:3). This provided inspiration for the later prophetic vision that saw Gentile kingdoms coming into Jerusalem to receive wisdom and Torah from Yahweh’s shrine. The summary of Solomon’s accomplishments in 1 Kings 10:23-24 confirms his peerless status. Solomon was greater than all the other kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 94.[/footnote]

Yet these positive events had negative repercussions as Solomon began to be adversely influenced by these foreign relationships.
Deuteronomist’s Message: Israel’s glory was a result of God’s blessing but national pride is very dangerous.

2. Solomon’s great sins (IKgs.11:1-13)

In Deuteronomy 17:14–20 God clearly stipulated three things that the future kings of Israel were not to do. They were not to multiply horses unto themselves, or wives, or wealth. As the years went by Solomon violated all three of these stipulations, and added a fourth, the marriage of pagan wives.
-Increase of wealth (IKgs.10:14-22)
-Increase of horses (IKgs.10:26-29)
-Increase of wives (IKgs.11:1-13)
Even more fundamentally, perhaps, was the earlier Deuteronomic command about centralized worship and the destruction of Canaanite worship sites (Dt.12). This should have been easier in the South where the temple was located. However, worship at these Canaanite high places continued. Solomon worshipped at one earlier in his reign (IKgs.3:3-4) and later they stole his heart (IKgs.11:7-13), eventually costing him the kingdom. The architect of Israel’s glory was also the architect of its destruction.

Just as the rival altars of Jeroboam were used by the author to measure the kings of Israel, so the high places became the yardstick to measure the kings of Judah. Two of the kings (Hezekiah and Josiah) did it right: they were not only faithful to the Jerusalem temple, but also suppressed the high places. Another half dozen personally did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but the high places continued to flourish during their reigns. Most of the remainder themselves participated in the cults that flourished at the high places. This single command to worship God at the place of his choosing was used to measure the reign of almost all the kings of Israel and Judah. The results were disappointing, and eventually God would take his temple away from his people.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 163.[/footnote]

He is an enigma, for he was both the perfecter of Israel’s glory and the architect of its destruction.

Deuteronomist’s Message: Covenant unfaithfulness will make Israel and her Kings fall far from their God-given glory and blessings.

3. Solomon’s great troubles (IKgs.11:14-43)

At the close of the account of Solomon the author of Kings has gathered all the significant information concerning the adversaries of this king. These accounts have been placed here because it is the habit of the author to collect into one passage material related to a particular facet of Solomon’s reign. It was only in his later life that these adversaries materially affected his position. The placement here also reflects their connection with Solomon’s sin which has just been described.
a. Anger from God (IKgs.11:9–13)
Yahweh was extremely angry with Solomon because his allegiance to him had grown cold. Exceptional favors had been granted to this king. Twice he had been permitted to receive direct revelations from God (IKgs.3:5; 9:2). Solomon had been solemnly warned about pursuing other gods, but he had disregarded this command of the Lord (IKgs.11:9–10). In his anger the Lord pronounced a solemn judgment upon Solomon. The message is dreadful. Because Solomon had failed to live up to his obligations before God, the Lord would rend the kingdom from him. A mere servant would be heir to all of Solomon’s glory and treasure (IKgs.11:11). God tempered the judgment with two gracious and merciful limitations. Firstly, the blow would not fall until after the death of Solomon; and, secondly, the disruption would only be partial. One tribe, Judah, would remain under the Davidic dynasty. Two reasons are given for these merciful limitations. Judgment would be mitigated because of the promises made to David (2 Sam.7:13), and for Jerusalem’s sake, which he had chosen as the site of his temple and as the appropriate capital of his earthly kingdom (IKgs.11:12–13).
b. Adversaries from God (1Kings 11:14-40)
-Hadad rebels (IKgs.11:14–22).
-Rezon rebels (IKgs.11:23–25).
-Jeroboam rebels (IKgs.11:26–40)
Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite, led a rebellion against Rehoboam and had to flee. Ahijah the Shilonite sought out Jeroboam and privately conferred with him in a field near Jerusalem. The prophet was clad in a new outer garment which he took in his hands and tore into twelve pieces. Ahijah instructed the young Ephraimite to take ten of the pieces of cloth, symbolizing the ten tribes which God would rend from the hand of Solomon (IKgs.11:29–31). One tribe would be left to the rulers of Judah (IKgs.12:21).

First Kings 11 marks a new and negative stage in Solomon’s rule. A stunning set of reversals in 1 Kings 11 contrasts with the tone, mood, and content of the earlier chapters, most noticeably 1 Kings 3. First Kings 11 details the results stemming from the divided state of Solomon’s heart (v.4). Solomon goes from experiencing triumph over his enemies (1 Kings 1-2) and enjoying the absence of adversaries (1 Kings 5:4) to experiencing the covenant curses in the shape of his adversaries (1 Kings 11:14-25). Finally, Solomon suffers prophetic opposition (IKgs.11:29-38) and not prophetic legitimization (IKgs.1:11-14, 23-27, 38-40). First Kings 11 points to the legacy of the Solomon reign as providing a decisive turning point in the history of Israel. The charges leveled against Solomon plainly associate him with Israel and Judah’s worst kings…Solomon’s punishment is ameliorated, however, because of the oath to David. The dynasty will survive, and Solomon will not live to see the division of the kingdom (1 Kings 11:34).[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 94.[/footnote]

God’s gracious tempering of the judgment on Solomon was based on His faithfulness to David. Solomon may have broken his covenant with God, but God would not break His covenant with David (IKgs.11:33–38).

Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant’s sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes: But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes. And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there. And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel. And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee. And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever (1Ki.11:34-39)

A major theme is reiterated here. David would always “have a lamp” before God. The lighted lamp is an Old Testament symbol of life, happiness, and prosperity. It may have come from the custom of keeping a lamp burning in the tent or home. The extinction of the lamp symbolized the breaking up of the home.

As a result, the king with the divided heart leaves behind a divided kingdom, and 1 Kings then traces the twin histories of two sets of kings and two nations of disobedient people.[footnote]Nelson’s complete book of Bible maps and charts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

This section, therefore, ends predominantly on a negative note of judgment, due to Solomon’s failures, but there is still a glimmer of hope held out to those who turn from sin and walk in God’s ways.
Deuteronomist’s Message: God punishes covenant unfaithfulness with national and personal division and disaster, but holds out renewed blessings to the repentant.

C. New Testament Analysis

1. A greater than Solomon is here

The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here (Matt.12:42).

Solomon and David present two different views of the kingly reign of the Messiah. King David stands for the Christ engaged in war. In contrast, Solomon, as his name implies, is the Prince of Peace. King Solomon’s peaceful kingdom was the result of the victories King David had won. King Solomon symbolizes the Lord Jesus Christ reigning in peace after the battle.
Although Solomon’s kingdom was the greatest Israel saw on this earth, Christ’s kingdom will be greater in extent, in duration, in riches, in wisdom and peace. (Ps.72; Rev.7:9; 11:5)

2. Be not unequally yoked to unbelievers (2 Cor.6:14)

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Cor.6:14).


III. The Message

Original Message: God graciously blessed Solomon’s faithfulness and justly punished his unfaithfulness, but holds out hope of renewed blessing upon repentance
Present Message: God graciously blesses the faithful and justly judges the unfaithful, but holds out hope of renewed blessing upon repentance.