20. The Reign of Solomon (1 Kings 1-11)
1 Kings 1-11185
This past presidential election certainly kept us all on edge for several weeks. I was watching the election returns with friends when it looked as though Al Gore had won. A few hours later it appeared that George Bush was the winner, and Al Gore even conceded the election. Then, the count became so close that Mr. Gore reversed his concession and the race seemed to be a draw. After counting and re-counting the ballots (along with a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States), George Bush was declared the winner. These were uncertain moments for many people.
The situation was something like this nearly 3,000 years ago when David was the king of Israel.186 His health and vitality were diminishing daily, and it was only a matter of time until his death. It was assumed that one of David’s sons would become the next king, but no one knew for certain which son it would be. Privately, David had told Bathsheba that Solomon would reign in his place, but he had not publicly installed Solomon as his replacement. David’s failure to step down and to act decisively in installing Solomon on the throne created a leadership vacuum that Adonijah, one of David’s other sons, attempted to fill. Adonijah managed to convince some of Israel’s key leaders to give him their support, and the celebration of his “victory” was already underway.
These were tense moments for the nation Israel, and even more so for Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, and for those who remained loyal to David. If Adonijah was successful in his efforts to seize the throne, he would almost certainly kill every descendant of David who might be a rival for the throne. The first two chapters of 1 Kings are thus filled with suspense and intrigue, as Solomon finally prevails and secures his position as the king of Israel.
The story of Solomon is, in many ways, a wonderful success story. He is the wisest man who ever lived. His wealth and power were known to all who lived in Israel and most of those who lived beyond its borders. Solomon was a prolific writer, composing 1,005 songs and 3,000 proverbs. In spite of all this, Solomon’s life ended as a disaster. His many foreign wives succeeded in turning his heart from the Lord, which cost Solomon’s son much of his kingdom and divided Israel for centuries to come. The lessons we learn from Solomon are largely negative lessons – how not to make the same mistakes Solomon did.
The parallels between the days in which Solomon lived and our own times are many, and they are striking. Let us listen carefully to the words of the first 11 chapters of the Book of 1 Kings, and let us learn from Solomon’s mistakes, rather than repeat them ourselves.
A Rocky Transition: From David to Solomon
1 Kings 1 & 2
I was tempted to title this section, “Over the Hill, But Not Passing the Torch.” As I read the first four verses of chapter 1, I see a very different “David” from the valiant warrior who stood up against Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. Here is a very old man, who is very near the end of his life. He is lying in his bed shivering, virtually oblivious to the daily affairs of his kingdom. He has a beautiful young woman to attend him, who did serve him, but who in my opinion was intended to be far more than a nurse. She was a concubine, which events will clearly substantiate. The fact that David did not “know” her is told to the reader as an indication of David’s age and physical strength. He was a man who no longer was able to function in many areas of his life.
There is no indictment here, no words of condemnation, as though David were at fault for his diminished capacity. The fault lies in David’s failure to step aside, and more particularly in his failure to designate who would follow him as the king of Israel. This man, whose right to rule had earlier been challenged (by Absalom, and probably others), was not eager to let go, and yet he was not really in control either.
Several factors seem to have contributed to Adonijah’s bid to become Israel’s next king. (1) He was apparently David’s oldest surviving son. (2) He was a very attractive and winsome fellow (1 Kings 1:6).
(3) Adonijah was able to assemble an elite group of men who served as his bodyguards (1:5). (4) He was a son that David failed to discipline or “reign in.” I take it that he had never been told, “No,” and so he was used to having his way (1:6). A child who had no respect for, nor fear of, his father would be more inclined to try to replace him. Had David actually been functioning as Israel’s king, Adonijah would not have stood a chance. (5) Adonijah had gained the support of Joab, the commander of the army, and Abiathar, the priest. (6) David was oblivious to what was taking place and virtually non-functioning as the king. There was a vacuum of leadership in Israel, and Adonijah seemed to have the resolve and the resources to fill it.
Nathan was aware of what Adonijah was up to and that he and those loyal to David were carefully excluded by Adonijah. Nathan warned Bathsheba that if she did not use her influence with David, she and her son would soon be in grave danger. At Nathan’s prompting, Bathsheba went to David and told him what was going on. She also reminded the king of his promise that her son, Solomon, would be Israel’s next king. She urged David to do something or she and her son would become enemies of the state should Adonijah be allowed to carry out his revolt.
“Coincidentally,” Nathan now arrives at the king’s court. It would appear that Bathsheba leaves the king’s presence when Nathan appears, so that they can talk privately. Nathan tells David the same story, that Adonijah is seeking to seize the throne. He informs David that the celebration of his victory has already begun. Nathan asks David if these things have been approved by the king. David responds by calling once again for Bathsheba. David then summons Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada (1:32). He gives instructions that they are to immediately crown Solomon as Israel’s king at David’s request.187
While Adonijah and his supporters are celebrating his “victory,” Zadok, the priest, is anointing Solomon as Israel’s king. The trumpet is sounded and the people are declaring, “Long live King Solomon!” The masses must have dreaded having Adonijah as their king; the news of Solomon’s coronation is met with jubilant celebration. The sound of this celebration reaches the ears of those who are with Adonijah, but they don’t know what it means. Jonathan, son of Abiathar the (soon to be “retired”) priest, informs them that the sounds of celebration are not good news for Adonijah and his supporters. He informs them that David has designated Solomon as his successor and that he had already taken the throne. Adonijah’s guests panicked when they realized they were now Solomon’s enemies. They quickly left, and Adonijah fled to lay hold of the horns of the altar. Solomon granted his brother’s plea for mercy and sent him home.
The transition from one ruler to the next is not always a smooth one. In our last presidential election Bill Clinton spent the final hours of his time in office granting pardons and signing executive orders. Much of what was done in those last hours was partisan politics at best. President George W. Bush and his administration will spend many hours reviewing these last minute moves, and many of them will have to be reversed or revised. This is a very different kind of transition than the one described in 1 Kings 2. David called Solomon and gave him some very good advice that would enable him to begin his new administration on the right foot. The interesting thing about David’s advice was that he encouraged Solomon to correct those things which he himself had failed to do while he was king of Israel.
First, David urges Solomon to devote himself to keeping God’s law:
2 “I am about to die. Be strong and become a man! 3 Do the job the Lord your God has assigned you by following his instructions and obeying his rules, commandments, regulations, and laws as written in the law of Moses. Then you will succeed in all you do and seek to accomplish, 4 and the Lord will fulfill his promise to me, ‘If your descendants watch their step and live faithfully in my presence with all their heart and being, then,’ he promised, ‘you will not fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel’” (1 Kings 2:2-4).188
Second, David urges Solomon to deal with Joab:
5 “You know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me—how he murdered two commanders of the Israelite armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. During peacetime he struck them down like he would in battle; when he shed their blood as if in battle, he stained his own belt and the sandals on his feet. 6 Do to him what you think is appropriate, but don’t let him live long and die a peaceful death” (1 Kings 2:5-6).
It is difficult for me to understand why David would urge Solomon to deal with Joab, when he himself did not. David spoke out against Joab’s acts of murder, but he did not act decisively as he had with the young Amalekite (2 Samuel 1:13-16) and with the servants of Ish-bosheth (2 Samuel 4:5-12). One wonders if David feared Joab, as many kings and presidents fear the head of their military forces. After all, David did replace Joab once, only to have him back in power within a few days (see 2 Samuel 19:11-15; 20:4-23).
Third, David encourages Solomon to reward Barzillai, a man who remained faithful to him in his time of trouble:
“Treat fairly the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and provide for their needs, because they helped me when I had to flee from your brother Absalom” (1 Kings 2:7).
Just as justice needed to be meted out to those who had sinned, so those who had been faithful to David ought to be rewarded by his son, who succeeded him.
Finally, David urged Solomon to deal with Shimei, a man who had been a thorn in David’s flesh:
8 “Note well, you still have to contend with Shimei son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who tried to call down upon me a horrible judgment when I went to Mahanaim. He came down and met me at the Jordan, and I solemnly promised him by the Lord, ‘I will not strike you down with the sword.’ 9 But now don’t treat him as if he were innocent. You are a wise man and you know how to handle him; make sure he has a bloody death” (1 Kings 2:8-9).
Is this pure vindictiveness, or is David convinced that Shimei will always be an adversary to one of the house of David because he is not a descendant of Saul (see 2 Samuel 16:5-8)? It is somewhat ironic that the man who accused David of being a “man of bloodshed” (2 Samuel 16:7-8) is now to have a “bloody death”
(1 Kings 2:9).
The remainder of 1 Kings 2 describes how Solomon carried out David’s counsel and thereby consolidated his kingdom. Adonijah made it relatively easy for Solomon. Adonijah persuaded Bathsheba to request that he be given Abishag as his wife. Abishag was considered one of David’s concubines and, as such, giving her to Adonijah would be tantamount to acknowledging his right to reign as Israel’s king. To possess the king’s concubine was to take his place.189 David saw through Adonijah’s scheme. He had granted him mercy once, but now he sends Benaiah to execute him. Adonijah will not trouble the kingdom further.
Solomon next dealt with Abiathar, the priest who had betrayed him by supporting Adonijah in his attempt to become king. David did not execute this priest, but he did banish him to his home. Solomon appointed Zadok as priest in his place (1 Kings 2:35). We are reminded that this fulfilled the words of the Lord against the house of Eli (1 Kings 2:27; see 1 Samuel 2:27-36).
When word reached Joab that Solomon was dealing with his enemies, he fled to the altar and grasped its horns, hoping for mercy as Adonijah had received earlier from Solomon. There was reason to hope for mercy, except for those guilty of willful murder (see Exodus 21:12-14). This time, Joab was not to escape the punishment he deserved. Solomon dispatched Benaiah, who put Joab to death before the altar. At last justice was meted out for Joab’s acts of murder (1 Kings 2:31-33).
Solomon finally carried out David’s counsel regarding Shimei, the Benjamite who had wrongly spoken against David. Shimei brought about his own death. Solomon ordered Shimei to build himself a house in Jerusalem, where he could keeps his eye on him. He promised Shimei that if he left Jerusalem, his life would be taken. Two years later, two of Shimei’s servants fled, and Shimei set out after them. When Solomon learned that Shimei had left Jerusalem, he summoned him and rebuked him for violating the terms the king had set down. Solomon then instructed Benaiah to execute him. In this way, Solomon’s kingdom was firmly established, because those who would oppose him had been removed.
Solomon’s Wish Granted
1 Kings 3-8
It is usually in fairy tales or jokes, but we’ve all heard of someone being granted their wish. Who would have ever thought we would find God offering to give a man whatever he wished, but here it is. The granting of Solomon’s wish is found immediately after these words:
1 Solomon made an alliance by marriage with Pharaoh, king of Egypt; he married Pharaoh’s daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he could finish building his residence and the temple of the Lord and the wall around Jerusalem. 2 Now the people were offering sacrifices at the high places, because in those days a temple had not yet been built to honor the Lord. 3 Solomon demonstrated his loyalty to the Lord by following the practices of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places (1 Kings 3:1-3).
Knowing about the warning in Deuteronomy 17:16-17 and how the account of Solomon’s life will end, the reader has to have some concerns about Solomon’s marriage to an Egyptian princess.190 We must remember, however, that there is no specific prohibition against marrying an Egyptian. It was only Canaanite women that the Israelites were forbidden to marry. Abraham took Hagar as a concubine in Genesis 16; Joseph also took an Egyptian wife in Genesis 41:45. Moses took an Ethiopian as a wife, although his siblings did not like it (Numbers 12:1-2).
We might say that when Solomon took an Egyptian princess as a wife, he was beginning to move in the wrong direction. While the author of our text commends Solomon for generally following the practices of his father David, he indicts Solomon for “offering sacrifices and burned incense on the high places” (3:3). If I understand these words correctly, it is not that Solomon is offering sacrifices to the wrong god(s), but rather that he is offering sacrifices to God in the wrong places.
3 “Blood guilt will be accounted to any man from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat inside the camp or outside the camp, 4 but has not brought it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord. He has shed blood, so that man will be cut off from the midst of his people. 5 This is so that the Israelites will bring their sacrifices that they are sacrificing in the open field to the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting to the priest and sacrifice them there as peace offering sacrifices to the Lord” (Leviticus 17:3-5).
5 But you must seek only the place that he has chosen to establish his name, his place of residence, and you must go there. 6 And there you must take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the personal offerings you have prepared, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 Both you and your children must feast there before the Lord your God and rejoice in all the output of your labor with which he has blessed you… . 11 then you must bring to the place the Lord your God will select as the place of residence for his name everything I am commanding you—your burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, the personal offerings you have prepared, and all your choice votive-offerings which you devote to him (Deuteronomy 12:5-7, 11; see also verses 13-14).
It is after a statement about Solomon’s sin (of offering sacrifices on the high places) that God speaks to him. Solomon is at Gibeon, the “high place,” where he intended to offer sacrifices and offerings to
God – the very thing that was said to be wrong in verse 3. And yet, God appeared to Solomon in a dream:
4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for it had the most prominent of the high places. Solomon would offer up a thousand burnt sacrifices on the altar there. 5 One night in Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream. God said, “Tell me what I should give you” (1 Kings 3:4-5).
These are hardly the words I would have expected from God. I would have expected God to rebuke Solomon for his sin and to call upon him to repent and worship Him properly. Instead, God offers Solomon anything he wishes. What an amazing thing to do!
My attention is drawn to Psalm 72, a psalm either written by David to (or on behalf of) Solomon, or written by Solomon himself:
1 O God, grant the king the ability to make just decisions!
Grant the king’s son the ability to make fair decisions!
2 Then he will judge your people fairly,
and your oppressed ones equitably.
3 The mountains will bring news of peace to the people,
and the hills will announce justice.
4 He will defend the oppressed among the people;
he will deliver the children of the poor
and crush the oppressor (Psalm 72:1-4).
I am deeply grateful for the questions raised by a couple of friends in our church after I taught this lesson. The superscription reads, “For Solomon” (NET Bible, KJV), or “Of Solomon” (NKJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV). The Hebrew letter before Solomon’s name could mean either; it is the translator’s choice. Initially, I was inclined to suppose that the psalm was written by Solomon, but I have changed my mind. If it were written by Solomon, there is too much of Solomon in it. I believe it was David who wrote this of his son, in the hope that through Solomon (or at least his descendant), the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7) would be fulfilled by the Messiah. This means there would be a great deal of prophecy involved. Would this be surprising? Aware of this psalm, no wonder Solomon asked God for wisdom – it was his father’s wish!
Either way, while Solomon professed that he lacked wisdom, he showed great wisdom in what he requested:
6 Solomon replied, “You demonstrated great loyalty to your servant, my father David, as he served you faithfully, properly, and sincerely. You have maintained this great loyalty to this day by allowing his son to sit on his throne. 7 Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in my father David’s place, even though I am only a young man and am inexperienced. 8 Your servant stands among your chosen people; they are a great nation that is too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning mind so he can make judicial decisions for your people and distinguish right from wrong. Otherwise no one is able to make judicial decisions for this great nation of yours”
(1 Kings 3:6-9).
I am curious that there is no mention of the Spirit of God in the biblical accounts of the life of Solomon, and yet he is the wisest man who ever lived. The Spirit came visibly upon Saul, shortly after he was anointed to be king (1 Samuel 10:10-11). The Spirit also came upon David when he was anointed to be the King of Israel (1 Samuel 16:13). Yet, there is no mention of the Spirit coming upon Solomon at the time of his anointing; in fact, there is no mention of the Spirit coming upon him at all. How do we explain this? To be honest, I’m not sure. I am inclined to think that the Spirit came upon Solomon in answer to his request for wisdom, though there is no spectacular demonstration of the Spirit’s coming upon Solomon. Perhaps we are to learn that one need not have a spectacular experience in order to be empowered by the Spirit.
In Solomon’s case, the “proof was in the pudding.” Immediately after being told that God granted Solomon’s request for wisdom (along with riches and fame – 3:13), we find a number of examples of wisdom in his life. Let me enumerate some of these.
First, there is the example of personal wisdom that we see from Solomon’s actions in the verses which immediately follow his dream:
Solomon then woke up and realized it was a dream. He went to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant, offered up burnt sacrifices, presented tokens of peace, and held a feast for all his servants (1 Kings 3:15).
What a pleasant surprise these verses are to us after reading the first three verses of this same chapter! Solomon received his dream while he was at Gibeon where he had gone to offer sacrifices (3:4), even though this was wrong (3:3). When God granted Solomon his request for wisdom, the first thing the king did was to go back to Jerusalem and offer up burnt sacrifices and peace offerings “before the ark of the Lord’s covenant” (3:15). I think we could all agree that offering sacrifices in the high places was foolish; offering his sacrifices before the ark was a wise move. Solomon’s first demonstration of wisdom was in his own personal life, in his obedience to God’s commands regarding worship.
Second, there is the example of Solomon’s judicial wisdom, as seen in the way he handled the dispute between two women, both of whom claimed the same child as their own (3:16-28). Two prostitutes came before Solomon for him to settle their dispute. Both women had a baby, but one of them accidentally suffocated her child in the night. Each claimed the living child as their own. There seemed to be no way of knowing the truth, but Solomon acted wisely. He asked for a sword and threatened to cut the child in half, giving half of the child to each woman. The mother of the dead child was willing to accept this judgment – if she couldn’t have the other woman’s child, she did not want the mother to have him either. Let Solomon kill the boy. The mother of the living child cared so much for her son that she was willing to give him up, just to save his life. Solomon knew this boy was her child and commanded that the child be given to its true mother. Everyone marveled at Solomon’s wisdom, the wisdom for which he had asked.
Third, there is the example of Solomon’s administrative wisdom, as seen in the men he chose for his “cabinet” (4:1-19).
Fourth, we are also given an example of the wealth and glory that God promised to give Solomon (4:20-28). We see from these verses that all Israel seemed prosperous and peaceful under Solomon’s leadership. The borders of Israel were at their widest point. At the same time, we are told how well Solomon lived. The consumption of goods by Solomon and his royal court was immense, just as Samuel had warned years before in 1 Samuel 8:11-18. Though stated without any word of indictment, Solomon’s prosperity had crossed the lines that God had drawn for Israel’s kings in Deuteronomy 17. Trouble was ahead, though it was not immediately apparent.
Fifth, we see the wisdom of Solomon in his musical compositions, in his research, and in his writings:
29 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment; the breadth of his understanding was as infinite as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon was wiser than all the men of the east and all the sages of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than any man, including Ethan the Ezrahite or Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol. He was famous in all the neighboring nations. 32 He composed three thousand proverbs and a thousand and five songs. 33 He produced manuals on botany, describing every kind of plant, from the cedars of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows on walls. He also produced manuals on biology, describing animals, birds, insects, and fish. 34 People from all nations came to hear Solomon’s display of wisdom; they came from all the kings of the earth who heard of his wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34).
Solomon’s wisdom surpassed that of anyone in his own day, and even in our own. He was somewhat of a mixture of the best of Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington Carver, Einstein, Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, and George Gershwin. This man was a poet, a musician, a scientist, and a writer. The whole nation seemed to benefit from his giftedness. No doubt, many benefited from his work in biology and botany. People came from far and wide to ask him questions and to hear him speak.
Sixth, Solomon manifested great wisdom as a builder. Many great building projects were commenced and completed in Solomon’s lifetime, foremost of which was the construction of the temple. Hiram, king of Tyre, was quick to recognize Solomon’s wisdom:
When Hiram heard Solomon’s message, he was very happy. He said, “The Lord is worthy of praise today because he has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation” (1 Kings 5:7).
We should recognize that while Solomon took on the task of building the temple and of dedicating it, it was really David who made all the preparations for its construction. David made the plans, David and the people of Israel provided the gold, and David had orchestrated the service of the Levites. This we see in
1 Chronicles 23-29. This is not to take anything away from Solomon’s skill as a builder, but only to remind us of how many preparations David had made for the temple before his death.
The dimensions of the temple were twice the size of the tabernacle, so far as its footprint was concerned, and it was certainly higher – 45 feet in height. It had much fine craftsmanship and contained a great deal of gold. It took the labor of thousands of men – 180,000 men – not to mention 3300 supervisors (5:13-16). The project took seven years to complete (6:37-38).
I am somewhat puzzled by a couple of things related to the building of the temple. I have to wonder why so many foreigners were involved in this project:
13 King Solomon sent for Hiram of Tyre. 14 He was the son of a widow from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a craftsman in bronze from Tyre. He had the skill and know-how to make all kinds of works of bronze. He reported to King Solomon and did all the work he was assigned (1 Kings 7:13-14).
15 Here are the details concerning the work crews King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his palace, the terrace, the wall of Jerusalem, and the cities of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. 16 (Pharaoh, king of Egypt, had attacked and captured Gezer. He burned it and killed the Canaanites who lived in the city. He gave it as a wedding present to his daughter, who had married Solomon.) 17 Solomon built up Gezer, lower Beth Horon, 18 Baalath, Tadmor in the wilderness, 19 all the storage cities that belonged to him, and the cities where chariots and horses were kept. He built whatever he wanted in Jerusalem, Lebanon, and throughout his entire kingdom. 20 Now several non-Israelite peoples were left in the land after the conquest of Joshua, including the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 21 Their descendants remained in the land (the Israelites were unable to wipe them out). Solomon conscripted them for his work crews, and they continue in that role to this very day. 22 Solomon did not assign Israelites to these work crews; the Israelites served as his soldiers, attendants, officers, charioteers, and commanders of his chariot forces (1 Kings 9:15-22).
When the tabernacle was constructed, it was made from materials and money contributed by the Israelites during David’s lifetime (1 Chronicles 29:1-20). I don’t see joyful participation on the part of the people, as we did in the construction of the tabernacle and in the preparations David made for the temple. When the tabernacle was constructed, God gifted certain Israelites like Bezalel and Oholiab (Exodus 31:1-11). Why is the temple constructed by skilled craftsmen who are foreigners,191 whose abilities are not said to be given him by the Spirit of God? And why does the palace Solomon builds for himself take almost twice as long to build (see 7:1)? Is there any possibility that this hints to the time when the building of God’s “spiritual house” will involve Gentiles as well as Jews (see Ephesians 2:11-22)? To be honest, I’m not sure I have the answer.
One thing that we must note is that when the temple is finally completed, God dramatically takes possession of it:
6 The priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its assigned place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, in the most holy place under the wings of the cherubs. 7 The cherubs’ wings extended over the place where the ark sat; the cherubs overshadowed the ark and its poles. 8 The poles were so long their ends were visible from the holy place in front of the inner sanctuary, but they could not be seen from beyond that point. They have remained there to this very day. 9 There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets Moses had placed there in Horeb. It was there that the Lord made an agreement with the Israelites after he brought them out of the land of Egypt. 10 Once the priests left the holy place, a cloud filled the Lord’s temple. 11 The priests could not carry out their duties because of the cloud; the Lord’s glory filled his temple (1 Kings 8:6-11).
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the Lord’s splendor filled the temple (2 Chronicles 7:1).
There is little doubt that the building of the temple is viewed as one of Solomon’s greatest contributions. More space is devoted to the building of the temple than any other aspect of his life. Solomon’s prayer of dedication is certainly one of the high points of his spiritual life. His prayer does demonstrate Solomon’s grasp of the law and of the role of the temple. Whether he received this primarily from his father, or came from his own meditation on the law, is debatable. I am inclined to think that Solomon learned most of his spiritual insights from his father. Allow me to make several observations concerning Solomon’s prayer of dedication.
First, this dedication of the temple is a predominantly Solomon’s prayer that is addressed to God, who has taken up residence in the temple (8:10-11, 23ff.). This is not a speech that Solomon makes to the crowd that is gathered, but a petition to the God whose temple it is.
Second, there is a very close link between this dedicatory prayer and the Mosaic Covenant. Solomon anticipates certain events in the future, which should prompt the people of God to turn toward the temple and pray. These include:
Defeat by an enemy (8:33-34; see Deuteronomy 28:25ff.)
Drought and famine (8:35-40; see Deuteronomy 28:23-24)
Captivity in a foreign land (8:46-51; see Deuteronomy 28:36-37, 63-68)
All of these things are anticipated in Deuteronomy. Solomon’s prayer is, therefore, shaped and guided by the Mosaic Covenant.
Third, this dedication is not only a prayer, it is about prayer. The word “pray” or “prayer” occurs 17 times in 1 Kings 8. The temple was intended to encourage and facilitate the prayers of God’s people. Those who could pray included both Jews and Gentiles:
41 “Foreigners, who do not belong to your people Israel, will come from a distant land because of your reputation. 42 When they hear about your great reputation and your ability to accomplish mighty deeds, they will come and direct their prayers toward this temple. 43 Then listen from your heavenly dwelling place and answer all the prayers of the foreigners. Then all the nations of the earth will acknowledge your reputation, obey you like your people Israel do, and recognize that this temple I built belongs to you” (1 Kings 8:41-43).
This certainly helps us to understand why our Lord was so upset when some of the Jews occupied the temple court and turned it into a business plaza, rather than a place of prayer:
Then he began to teach them and said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have turned it into a den of robbers!” (Mark 11:17)
Fourth, there is a strong emphasis on the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises in this prayer. Among other things, Solomon is praising God for this temple as the fulfillment of His promises. On the one hand there is thanksgiving and praise for the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abram and to Moses:
“The Lord is worthy of praise because he has made Israel his people secure just as he promised. Not one of all the faithful promises he made through his servant Moses is left unfulfilled” (1 Kings 8:56, emphasis mine).
20 The Lord has kept the promise he made. I have taken my father David’s place and have occupied the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised. I have built this temple for the honor of the Lord God of Israel 21 and set up in it a place for the ark containing the covenant the Lord made with our ancestors when he brought them out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 8:20-21, emphasis mine).
We see fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant in the number of Israelites, in Israel’s geographical boundaries under Solomon, and in the blessings that have come to the Gentiles:
1 Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household
to the land that I will show you.
2 Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you,
and I will make your name great,
in order that you might be a prime example of divine blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
but the one who treats you lightly I must curse,
and all the families of the earth will pronounce
blessings on one another using your name”
(Genesis 12:1-3, emphasis mine; compare 1 Kings 8:41-43, cited above).
18 That day the Lord made a covenant with Abram: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites” (Genesis 15:18-21; see also Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4).
Solomon ruled all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These kingdoms paid tribute as Solomon’s subjects throughout his lifetime (1 Kings 4:21).
More than anything, Solomon views the completion of the temple in terms of the covenant God made with his father David:
15 He said, “The Lord God of Israel is worthy of praise because he has fulfilled what he promised my father David. 16 He told David, ‘Since the day I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city from all the tribes of Israel to build a temple in which to live. But I have chosen David to lead my people Israel.’ 17 Now my father David had a strong desire to build a temple to honor the Lord God of Israel. 18 The Lord told my father David, ‘It is right for you to have a strong desire to build a temple to honor me. 19 But you will not build the temple; your very own son will build the temple for my honor.’ 20 The Lord has kept the promise he made. I have taken my father David’s place and have occupied the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised. I have built this temple for the honor of the Lord God of Israel 21 and set up in it a place for the ark containing the covenant the Lord made with our ancestors when he brought them out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 8:15-21).
Fifth, there is a strong sense of expectation in this prayer of dedication that God will completely fulfill His covenant with David:
24 You have kept your word to your servant, my father David; this very day you have fulfilled what you promised. 25 Now, O Lord, God of Israel, keep the promise you made to your servant, my father David, when you said, ‘You will never fail to have a successor ruling before me on the throne of Israel, provided that your descendants watch their step and serve me as you have done.’ 26 Now, O God of Israel, may the promise you made to your servant, my father David, be realized” (1 Kings 8:24-26, emphasis mine).
When these words of Solomon are compared with Psalm 72, one gets the distinct feeling that Solomon hopes his reign might be the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. When you stop to think about it, Solomon and others had some basis for thinking along these lines. After all, Solomon’s kingdom could appear to be the fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants. The descendants of Abraham are as numerous as the sand of the sea (1 Kings 4:20). Israel is living in the Promised Land, they dominate the surrounding nations, and they are living in great prosperity. If all these promises were fulfilled, then why not the promise God made to David, and why not through his son, Solomon?
Sixth, Solomon’s words reveal that he rightly understands God’s presence cannot, and will not, be limited to a temple:
12 Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he lives in thick darkness. 13 O Lord, truly I have built a lofty temple for you, a place where you can live permanently.” … 27 “God does not really live on the earth! Look, if the sky and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:12-13, 27).
This is a point Stephen will take up many years later when he is accused of speaking against the temple (Acts 7:45-50).
1 Kings 9-10
The warning signs were already there, if anyone had eyes to see them. In the Book of Deuteronomy, God had issued warnings to the nation Israel concerning the dangers they would face once they entered the land of Canaan. He warned them about the danger of leaving the Canaanites in the land and of inter-marrying with them. They must not worship the gods of the Canaanites (7:1-6). Their victory over the Canaanites was not due to their greatness as a nation, but due to the faithfulness of God to His covenant promises (7:7-11). Then, in chapter 8, we find these words of warning:
11 “Be very careful lest you forget the Lord your God, not keeping his commandments, ordinances, and statutes that I am giving you today. 12 When you eat to your satisfaction, when you build and occupy good houses, 13 when your cattle and flocks increase, when you have plenty of silver and gold, and when you have abundance of everything, 14 be careful lest you feel self-important and forget the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt, the place of slavery, 15 and who brought you through the great, fearful desert of venomous serpents and scorpions, a thirsty place of no water, bringing forth for you water from flint rock and 16 feeding you in the desert with manna (which your ancestors had never before known) so that he might test you and eventually bring good to you. 17 Be careful lest you say, “My own ability has gotten me this wealth.” 18 You must remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives ability to get wealth; if you do this he will confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, even as he has to this day. 19 Now it will come about that if you forget the Lord your God at all and run after other gods, worshiping and prostrating yourselves before them, I testify to you today that you will be utterly destroyed. 20 Just like the nations the Lord is about to decimate from your sight, so he will do to you because you would not pay attention to him” (Deuteronomy 8:11-20).
Israel had never experienced prosperity and success to the degree that God blessed them during the reign of Solomon. Now, the danger was that Solomon (and others) might suppose that he was the reason for their prosperity. Solomon might begin to think too highly of himself, and the Israelites might “idolize” their king, rather than worship and serve their true King, God Himself. It is for this reason that God appears to Solomon a second time with these words of admonition:
1 After Solomon finished building the Lord’s temple, the royal palace, and all the other construction projects he had planned, 2 the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, in the same way he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 The Lord said to him, “I have answered your prayer and your request for help that you made to me. I have consecrated this temple you built by making it my permanent home; I will be constantly present there. 4 You must serve me with integrity and sincerity, just as your father David did. Do everything I commanded and obey my rules and regulations. 5 Then I will allow your dynasty to rule over Israel permanently, just as I promised your father David, ‘You will not fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ 6 “But if you or your sons ever turn away from me, fail to obey the regulations and rules I instructed you to keep, and decide to serve and worship other gods, 7 then I will remove Israel from the land I have given them, I will abandon this temple I have consecrated with my presence, and Israel will be mocked and ridiculed among all the nations. 8 This temple will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by it will be shocked and will hiss out their scorn, saying, ‘Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple?’ 9 Others will then answer, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord their God, who led their ancestors out of Egypt. They embraced other gods whom they worshiped and served. That is why the Lord has brought all this disaster down on them’” (1 Kings 9:1-9).
These words are a reiteration of what God had spoken to the Israelites through the prophet Samuel when the people had demanded to have a king like the nations:
12 “When you saw that King Nahash of the Ammonites was advancing against you, you said to me, ‘No! A king will rule over us’—even though the Lord your God is your king! 13 Now look! Here is the king you have chosen—the one that you asked for. Look, the Lord has given you a king. 14 If you fear the Lord, serving him and obeying him and not rebelling against what he says, and if both you and the king who rules over you follow the Lord your God, all will be well. 15 But if you don’t obey the Lord and rebel against what the Lord says, the hand of the Lord will be against both you and your king (1 Samuel 12:12-15).
Both Israel and her king must abide by the commandments God had set down in His law. If they obeyed God’s commandments, God would continue to bless them. If not, God would judge His people, as the rest of the world looked on and learned. Israel’s king would not set aside the law – the law must be observed, both by the king and by the people. We are about to see that Solomon will not live up to the law. Before we read of Solomon’s downfall, we are reminded of the standard God established for the king and the people.
The first clear indications of trouble appear in 1 Kings 9:10-10:29. In 9:10-14, we read that King Hiram of Tyre was displeased with the cities Solomon had given him. Hiram called them Cabul (which seems to mean “good for nothing”). Is Solomon beginning to abuse his power? His friend Hiram is not at all pleased with the way Solomon has dealt with him.
In 9:15-23, the author describes the work crews that Solomon employed to carry out his building projects. In verses 17-19, we are told about some of the cities Solomon built:
17 Solomon built up Gezer, lower Beth Horon, 18 Baalath, Tadmor in the wilderness, 19 all the storage cities that belonged to him, and the cities where chariots and horses were kept. He built whatever he wanted in Jerusalem, Lebanon, and throughout his entire kingdom (1 Kings 9:17-19, emphasis mine).
Three times in the account of Solomon’s life we are told that he had acquired a large number of horses and chariots (1 Kings 4:26; 9:19; 10:26, 28-29). This is a violation of God’s instructions regarding kings in Deuteronomy 17:
16 Moreover, he must not accumulate horses for himself or allow the people to return to Egypt to do so, for the Lord has said you must never again return that way. 17 Furthermore, he must not marry many wives lest his affections turn aside, and he must not accumulate much silver and gold. 18 When he sits on his royal throne he must make a copy of this instruction on a scroll given to him by the levitical priests. 19 It must be with him constantly and he must read it as long as he lives, so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and observe all the words of this instruction and these statutes in order to carry them out (Deuteronomy 17:16-19, emphasis mine).
In verses 20-23, we learn where Solomon obtained the laborers to carry out his construction projects:
20 Now several non-Israelite peoples were left in the land after the conquest of Joshua, including the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. 21 Their descendants remained in the land (the Israelites were unable to wipe them out). Solomon conscripted them for his work crews, and they continue in that role to this very day. 22 Solomon did not assign Israelites to these work crews; the Israelites served as his soldiers, attendants, officers, charioteers, and commanders of his chariot forces. 23 These men were also in charge of Solomon’s work projects; there were a total of five hundred fifty men who supervised the workers (1 Kings 9:20-23, emphasis mine).
The problem with the forced laborers that Solomon employed is that they were Canaanites, whom God had instructed His people to annihilate:
1 When the Lord your God brings you to the land that you are going to occupy and forces out many nations before you—Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful than you—2 and he delivers them over to you and you attack them, you must utterly annihilate them. Make no covenant with them nor show them compassion! 3 You must not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons nor take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your sons away from me to worship other gods. Then the wrath of the Lord will erupt against you and he will soon destroy you (Deuteronomy 7:1-4, emphasis mine).
We know from Judges 1 that a number of these Canaanites were not destroyed and the Israelites became content to live among them. When the Israelites were strong, they made these folks serve as slave laborers:
34 The Amorites forced the people of Dan to live in the hill country. They did not allow them to live in the coastal plain. 35 The Amorites managed to remain in Har Heres, Aijalon, and Shaalbim. Whenever the tribe of Joseph was strong militarily, the Amorites were forced to do hard labor. 36 The border of Amorite territory ran from the Pass of the Scorpions to Sela and on up (Judges 1:34-36, emphasis mine).
This historical backdrop may have made Solomon feel less guilty about his treatment of the Canaanites. He was only dealing with the Canaanites as his predecessors had – by using them as forced laborers. One could hardly say, however, that Solomon allowed the Canaanites to live because he was not able to defeat them. His reasons seem to be much more pragmatic – he wanted to keep them alive to do jobs that his own people would not be willing to do. In effect, Solomon wanted to keep the Canaanites alive so that he could use them in a way that was similar to the Egyptians’ treatment of the Israelites who were in their
land – by making slave laborers of them.
We are soon to learn that Solomon’s major failure came as a result of his “foreign wives” (11:1ff.). I would like to suggest that the turning point may have come with a “foreign woman,” who did not become his wife – the Queen of Sheba:
1 When the queen of Sheba heard about Solomon, she came to challenge him with difficult questions. 2 She arrived in Jerusalem with a great deal of pomp, bringing with her camels carrying spices, a very large quantity of gold, and precious gems. She visited Solomon and discussed with him everything that was on her mind. 3 Solomon answered all her questions; there was no question too complex for the king. 4 When the queen of Sheba saw for herself Solomon’s extensive wisdom, the palace he had built, 5 the food in his banquet hall, his servants and attendants, their robes, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings which he presented in the Lord’s temple, she was amazed. 6 She said to the king, “The report I heard back home about your wise sayings and insight was true. 7 I did not believe these things until I came and saw them with my own eyes. Indeed, I didn’t hear even half the story! Your wisdom and wealth surpass what was reported to me. 8 Your attendants, who stand before you at all times and hear your wise sayings, are truly happy! 9 May the Lord your God be praised because he favored you by placing you on the throne of Israel! Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he made you king so you might make just and right decisions” (1 Kings 10:1-9).
I am reminded of the proverb that Solomon may have written himself:
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
It is my opinion that the visit of the Queen of Sheba fanned the coals of Solomon’s pride into flames of arrogance. She had heard the stories about his wisdom and thought they were exaggerated. Then she came to visit Solomon to see for herself. When he answered all of her most difficult questions, she was impressed. The worst of it is that she told him so. It would have been very difficult for Solomon not to believe what this woman told him. After all, most of it was true. But in the process of hearing her words, I fear that Solomon began to take credit for his wisdom and status. The text does not tell us this directly, but it is interesting that what follows is further details concerning his great success.
Solomon had accumulated a great deal of wealth (10:14-22), but God had forbidden the kings of Israel to do so (Deuteronomy 17:17). Those who came to visit Solomon and to marvel at his wisdom came bearing gifts, which further enhanced his wealth (10:23-25). All of this success and fame seemed to pave the way for the last chapter of Solomon’s life, a chapter that did not go well for this great king.
Solomon’s Downfall: Foreign Wives
1 Kings 11
1 King Solomon fell in love with many foreign women (besides Pharaoh’s daughter), including Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. 2 They came from nations about which the Lord had warned the Israelites, “You must not establish friendly relations with them! If you do, they will surely shift your allegiance to their gods.” But Solomon was irresistibly attracted to them. 3 He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines; his wives had a powerful influence over him. 4 When Solomon became old, his wives shifted his allegiance to other gods; he was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been. 5 Solomon worshiped the Sidonian goddess Astarte and the detestable Ammonite god Milcom. 6 Solomon did evil before the Lord; he did not remain loyal to the Lord, like his father David had. 7 Furthermore, on the hill east of Jerusalem Solomon built a high place for the detestable Moabite god Chemosh and for the detestable Ammonite god Milcom. 8 He built high places for all his foreign wives so they could burn incense and make sacrifices to their gods (1 Kings 11:1-8).
Solomon’s failure is not described until the end of his biography, in the last chapter (1 Kings 11) that deals with his reign. Solomon married many wives – 700 royal wives and 300 concubines. Can you imagine trying to keep track of the names of your wives and children? Deuteronomy 17:17 was very clear about having many foreign wives:
Furthermore, he must not marry many wives lest his affections turn aside, and he must not accumulate much silver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:17).
The warning God gave through Moses could not have been more accurate. Solomon’s wives worshipped foreign gods. To keep them happy, Solomon built places of worship for them. Eventually, Solomon even joined them in the worship of their gods. Solomon, the wisest man on the face of the earth, played the fool.
God was angry with Solomon. Twice before, God had appeared to him and warned him of the dangers of disobedience (1 Kings 11:9-10). God told Solomon that his persistent disobedience would cost him most of his kingdom. For the sake of David, God would put off judgment on Solomon’s house until after his death. One tribe would be left for Solomon’s son to reign, but ten tribes would follow someone else (11:11-13).
God did bring about certain consequences during Solomon’s lifetime. He raised up adversaries who opposed Solomon: Hadad the Edomite (11:14-22); Rezon son of Eliada (11:23-25); and Jeroboam son of Nebat, who would eventually rule over ten of the tribes of Israel (11:26-40). Jeroboam was assured that God would give Jeroboam a lasting dynasty, if he only obeyed His rules and commandments. This divided kingdom would not be forever.
We then come to the final epitaph in 1 Kings 11:21-43:
41 The rest of the events of Solomon’s reign, including all his accomplishments and his wise decisions, are recorded in the scroll called the Annals of Solomon. 42 Solomon ruled over all Israel from Jerusalem for forty years. 43 Then Solomon passed away and was buried in the city of his father David. His son Rehoboam replaced him as king (1 Kings 11:41-43).
The story of Solomon’s life contains many lessons for us. First, it has some important lessons for us about leadership. I see in the first two chapters of 1 Kings a reluctance on the part of David to step aside and let others take his place. David was once a great leader, but there came a time when he was no longer able to continue at the helm of the kingdom. He functioned with a greatly diminished capacity. He seems not to have been aware of what was going on in his kingdom. He was certainly not aware of Adonijah’s plot to seize the throne. There comes a time when leaders ought to lead by stepping aside, before others wish they had and before someone has to come along and force them to let go. It was not that Solomon was unfit for the task; it was that David was unwilling to step aside.
Adonijah can also teach us a lesson about leadership. There are those today, like Adonijah, who are far too eager to be “in charge,” who grasp for positions of power and prestige. Adonijah would not have been a servant-king; he would have been a despot. Over the years I have served in the church, I have observed some people who were too eager to be leaders and were too driven to be placed in positions of authority. It would seem that many (if not most) of Israel’s great leaders were those who began as servants.
Second, here is another lesson to be learned about leadership from our text. Those whom God has called to lead need to deal quickly and decisively with those who would undermine their administration. It seems to me that David should have personally dealt with men like Joab and Shimei, but at least he had the wisdom to encourage his son to deal with them. Wise leaders identify those who are wicked and seek to remove them from any leadership role:
Drive out the scorner and contention will leave;
strife and insults will cease (Proverbs 22:10).
A king sitting on the throne to judge
separates out all evil with his eyes (Proverbs 20:8).
A wise king separates out the wicked;
he turns the threshing wheel over them (Proverbs 20:26).
Remove the wicked from before the king,
and his throne will be established in righteousness (Proverbs 25:5).
One cannot read the story of Solomon without asking the question, “How is it possible for a man who was so wise to become so foolish?” The answer to our questions may very well come from Solomon himself in the Book of Ecclesiastes. But for now, let me suggest that the key may be found in the contrasts between Solomon and his father, David.
David is credited with 73 of the Psalms – almost half of them. Of Solomon’s 1005 songs, only 1 (or at the most 2) of them are “published” in the Book of Psalms.
Solomon’s wisdom was, to one degree or another, wisdom that dealt with somewhat secular matters. These are important matters – construction, botany, biology, government, justice – but we do not see his wisdom focused on the revealed Word of God, the Law of Moses. One would think that his wisdom could have provided great insight into the Law. Psalm 119 makes it clear that there is a great wealth of truth to be found here, but Solomon doesn’t seem to have spent as much time here as he did elsewhere.
David sought to know and to worship God; Solomon sought to know much about God’s creation.
David was a “man after God’s own heart;” Solomon was never in the same league, spiritually speaking.
David was a servant, who was rejected (to some degree) by his brothers. He learned to serve God faithfully, in menial ways. Solomon seemed to have been born into royalty and position. He was never a shepherd boy, defending his flock against wild animals.
David suffered much in his life; Solomon suffered little, if at all.
David fought many battles; Solomon was a man of peace. He did not attempt to rid the land of the remaining Canaanites.
It was David who became the standard by which all subsequent kings in Israel were measured; it was not Solomon, even though his kingdom was greater than that of David by external standards.
I have been especially troubled by the downfall of David and Solomon. At least David spiritually recovered from his fall, something that Solomon never did so far as the biblical record is concerned. The failures of these two great men should serve as a warning to each of us. Both men allowed their sexual passions to dominate their lives with devastating consequences. Both men, in my opinion, were driven by their egos, as well as by their hormones. David had become proud and arrogant as a military leader. He stayed home when he should have been with his men fighting the enemy. He abused his position as commander-in-chief of Israel’s armed forces to kill Uriah, one of his faithful servants.
It is my opinion that Solomon’s sexual passions were enflamed by his ego as well. He listened to the flattery of women like the Queen of Sheba, and he liked what he heard. He did not disobey God by engaging in sex outside of marriage; he just married any woman he wanted. This, too, was a violation of God’s law for Israel’s kings, as found in Deuteronomy 17. I suspect that most of Solomon’s marriages were not the result of his sexual passions, but a pragmatic means of extending his power, and his alliances with other nations. Even so, it was his wives who turned his heart from the Lord to the point that he began to worship foreign gods.
There was one crucial difference between David and Solomon. David had a heart for God. He became the standard by which all subsequent kings were measured. Solomon had a more intellectual relationship with God. He was more detached, more philosophical about his relationship with God. It was an “upper story faith,” rather than an intimate, daily, passionate relationship with God. As I have watched biblical scholars rise and fall, the two major causes have been sexual immorality and intellectualism – an infatuation with one’s own intellectual powers.
The Bible has some words of wisdom for all of us, words that the life of Solomon illustrates:
With regard to food sacrificed to idols, we know that “we all have knowledge.” Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1, emphasis mine).
I fear that many of us (including me) are more “Solomonic” in our relationship with God than “Davidic.” It is wonderful for us to pursue truth (biblical or natural), but it is no substitute for a simple childlike faith in God. Let us give serious thought to those things which predisposed both David and Solomon to fall. Let us learn from their experience so that we need not learn from our own.
Finally, as I conclude this lesson, I wish to turn from mere men and their failures to the impeccable Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider the fact that Israel’s two greatest kings fell; they fell far short of the standard God had set for the Messiah. If God’s promises to David – promises of an eternal kingdom through the offspring of David – are to be fulfilled, it will not be by mere men, no matter how great they may be. Israel wanted a king, and they got one, and then another, and another… . The only king who will ever fulfill God’s promises and our hopes is God Himself. God’s promises to David were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
30 So the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Listen: you will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:30-33).
Solomon’s greatest accomplishment may have been in the completion of the temple. Whenever God’s people were in trouble, they were to look to the temple and to pray, trusting that God would hear and answer their prayers. Consider, for a moment, just what those circumstances were that were to prompt men to turn to the temple and pray:
When accused of sin (8:21-32)
When defeated by an enemy (8:33-34)
When God judges the nation for their sins against Him (8:35-40)
When a foreigner wishes to turn to God (8:41-43)
When the Israelites go to war (8:44-45)
When God gives sinful Israel over to her enemies,
and they need forgiveness and deliverance (8:46-51)
It is our Lord Jesus who is the “ultimate temple”:
Now the Word became flesh and took up residence [literally “tabernacled”] among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father (John 1:14).
18 So then the Jewish leaders responded, “What sign can you show us, since you are doing these things?” 19 Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” 20 Then the Jewish leaders said to him, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and are you going to raise it up in three days?” 21 But Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 So after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the saying that Jesus had spoken (John 2:18-22, emphasis mine).
Jesus made it clear to the Samaritan “woman at the well” that worshipping God is no longer a question of “the right place,” but it is a matter of worshipping the right person, Jesus Himself:
21 Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews. 23 But a time is coming—and now is here—when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (the one called Christ); “whenever he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I, the one speaking to you, am he” (John 4:21-26).
Are you guilty of sin? Turn to Jesus. Are you overcome by difficulties and trials in your life? Turn to Jesus. He alone will hear and answer your prayers for salvation. He was the visible manifestation of God’s presence among men. He lived a sinless life and died a sacrificial death, by which He paid the penalty for sin. He died, was buried, and rose from the dead and is now at the right hand of the father. He is the One we should worship and serve. Men, no matter how great, will fail; Jesus never fails.
185 This is the edited manuscript of a message delivered by Robert L. Deffinbaugh, teacher and elder at Community Bible Chapel, on April 1, 2001.
186 I should mention that the account of the transition of Israel’s leadership from David to Solomon in 1 Chronicles 29 is quite different in its perspective. There, David seems to take the initiative, not only to provide all that is needed for Solomon to complete the temple construction, but for Solomon’s ascent to the throne of Israel. In Chronicles the author does not seem as interested in pointing out the problems as he is in giving the big picture. Thus, David’s sin regarding Uriah and Bathsheba is never mentioned in Chronicles, though it is spelled out in 2 Samuel. David’s reluctance to designate Solomon as his replacement is also passed over in Chronicles. It would seem that chapters 23 through 29 of 1 Chronicles (at least 23:1 and 29:22) describe David’s actions after Bathsheba and Nathan advised him concerning Adonijah’s attempt to seize the throne.
187 As mentioned earlier, this is the point that I see the events of 1 Chronicles 23-29 taking place.
188 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at: www.netbible.org.
189 See Genesis 35:22; 49:3-4; 2 Samuel 16:20-23; 1 Kings 2:22.
190 Commentators point out that, while it was not unusual for the Pharaoh of Egypt to take a wife from the surrounding nations, it was very rare for the Pharaoh to give one of his daughters in marriage to someone like Solomon. They view this: (1) as a sign of the weakness of Egypt at this point in time, and (2) as a sign of Solomon’s great power and prestige.
191 There are two Hiram’s involved in the construction of the temple: (1) Hiram, the King of Tyre (5:1ff.), who supplies the timber for the temple; and, (2) the “Hiram of Tyre” of chapter 7 (7:13ff.). The latter “Hiram” was the son of a woman from the tribe of Naphtali, whose father was a man of Tyre, who was a craftsman with bronze (1 Kings 7:13-14). We know from 2 Chronicles 2:3 that Hiram’s mother was said to be a Danite, which some explain by understanding Dan to be her tribe by birth and Naphtali her residence, or vice versa.