Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

IS THERE SOMETHING IN THE BIBLE THAT PUZZLES YOU?

If so please EMail us with your question and we will do our best to give you a satisfactory answer.EMailus. (But preferably not from aol.com, for some reason they do not deliver our messages).

FREE Scholarly verse by verse commentaries on the Bible.

THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- THE BOOK OF RUTH --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- I & II CHRONICLES --- EZRA---NEHEMIAH---ESTHER---PSALMS 1-73--- PROVERBS---ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- LAMENTATIONS --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- PHILEMON --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS

Commentary on KINGS (or 1 & 2 Kings)

By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD

The Book of Kings (Kings 1 & 2) Part 3.

Solomon’s Dream Concerning YHWH’s Hallowing Of His House In Which YHWH Warns That By Itself The House Means Nothing. Its Continued Hallowing Will Depend On A Full Response By The House Of David To The Davidic Covenant And Thus Subsequently to the Mosaic Covenant (9.1-10).

The importance of this passage, which provides us with YHWH’s response to Solomon’s dedication, is brought out by an inclusio formed by verses 1 and 10, stressing the connection of the words with Solomon’s successful completion of YHWH’s House and the King’s Palace Complex, which it is once again emphasised took up twenty years to build, taking us some way into the second half of his reign.

In it YHWH declares that He has hallowed (separated off totally to Himself) the House to put His Name there for ever, so that His eyes and heart would be there perpetually. In other words He has accepted it as taking the place of the Tabernacle and the Sacred Tent, where His Name had previously been (2 Samuel 6.2 and context). From then on there would be a sense in which His personal presence would ever be there as expressed through His eye and heart. But it was conditional. For if the house of David, and the people, failed to walk in the ways of David, the House would simply be cast out of His sight and become a place to be hissed at. The House in itself meant nothing apart from the loving and obedient response of the people.

The idea of the House being ‘hallowed’ is typically Mosaic (although not Deuteronomic). In Exodus 29.42-44 YHWH speaks of ‘the door of the Tent of Meeting before YHWH, where I will meet with you, to speak there to you, and there I will meet with the children of Israel, and it will be hallowed by my glory, and I will hallow the Tent of Meeting, and the altar. Aaron also and his sons will I hallow to minister to me in the priest’s office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they will know that I am YHWH their God, Who brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am YHWH their God.’

We note in the passage in Exodus the same emphasis as we find here on the hallowing of YHWH’s sanctuary; on YHWH’s dwelling with His people; and on them knowing that He is YHWH their God Who brought them forth out of the land of Egypt. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Exodus 29.42-44 was in mind in these words spoken to Solomon.

A further more indirect reference is found in Leviticus 21.23, where YHWH speaks of ‘hallowing -- My sanctuaries’ (i.e. the whole sanctuary including the inner court). These two are the only previous references to the ‘hallowing of the Sanctuary’, an idea which is not found at all in Deuteronomy, where sanctifying is always by the people (Deuteronomy 5.12, of the Sabbath; 15.19, of the firstborn; 32.51, of Moses and Aaron failing to hallow God before the people), the concept which is found most regularly throughout the Law of Moses.

It will be noted in the chiasmus of the section that this dream concerning the ‘hallowing’ of the House parallels the passage where the Ark was brought into the Temple and the cloud of YHWH descended on it, thus hallowing it with His presence.

Analysis.

  • a And it came about, when Solomon had finished the building of the house of YHWH, and the king’s house, and all Solomon’s desire which he was pleased to do, that YHWH appeared to Solomon the second time, as He had appeared to him at Gibeon (9.1-2).
  • b And YHWH said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, that you have made before me. I have hallowed this house, which you have built, to put my name there for ever, and my eyes and my heart will be there perpetually” (9.3).
  • c “And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep my statutes and my ordinances” (9.4).
  • d “Then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel for ever, according as I promised to David your father, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel’.” (9.5).
  • c “But if you shall turn away from following me, you or your children, and not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but shall go and serve other gods, and worship them” (9.6).
  • b “Then I will cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them, and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples, and though this house is so high (or ‘this house shall be very high’), yet will every one who passes by it be astonished, and will hiss, and they will say, “Why has YHWH done thus to this land, and to this house?” “And they will answer, ‘Because they forsook YHWH their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them. Therefore has YHWH brought all this evil on them” (9.7-9).
  • a And it came about at the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the two houses, the house of YHWH and the king’s house (9.10).

Note that in ‘a’ the emphasis is on the fact that this took place when both the Temple and the Palace Complex were complete, and in the parallel the same is emphasised. In ‘b’ YHWH declares that He has hallowed the House, so that His presence would be there, but in the parallel warns that the hallowing of the House is totally dependent on their faithfulness to Him so that if they are unfaithful it will be cut off and will become a place of hissing. In ‘c’ obedience in accordance with the ways of David is required, and in the parallel the possibility of the opposite is expressed. Centrally in ‘d’ the dynasty of David will be permanently established for ever.

9.1-2 ‘And it came about, when Solomon had finished the building of the house of YHWH, and the king’s house, and all Solomon’s desire which he was pleased to do, that YHWH appeared to Solomon the second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon.’

This point at which Solomon had completed his desire to build the Temple and the Palace Complex is to be the second major moment of his life, the first having been when YHWH spoke with him at Gibeon. This is in itself a reminder that in spite of his great wisdom he received few direct revelations from God, for this was only his second visitation in twenty years. In it God accepted the genuineness of his attempt to please Him and accepted his gesture, but on conditions. God was already aware, as Solomon was not, of the wayward tendencies in his life. If he was to enjoy the blessing promised to David, he must walk as David walked.

9.3 ‘And YHWH said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, that you have made before me. I have hallowed this house, which you have built, to put my name there for ever, and my eyes and my heart will be there perpetually.” ’

YHWH began by declaring that He had heard Solomon’s prayer and supplication that he had made ‘before Him’ (in the Temple area). And as a result He had hallowed ‘this House’ just as He had previously hallowed the Tabernacle (Exodus 29.42-44; Leviticus 21.23). ‘This House’ is then defined as that in which Solomon had intended to ‘put His Name’, that is, in which he would house the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH (2 Samuel 6.2). And YHWH’s response is that as a result His eyes and His heart would be there perpetually. This connects up with the cloud of YHWH which had descended on the House in 8.10-11 once the Ark was brought into it, thus doubly hallowing the House, as similarly occurred in Exodus 40.34-38.

‘My eyes --- will be there ---.’ Solomon’s prayer had been that the eyes of YHWH would be upon this House (8.29, 52), in order that He might hear His people’s intercession, especially as regards forgiveness. Thus YHWH was promising that His eye would be there so that He would ever be ready to regard their genuine cry, and if necessary forgive. But the eye was regularly seen as the instrument of judgment (Deuteronomy 19.13, 21; 25.12; 2 Samuel 22.28; Psalm 11.4; 66.7). Thus it includes the thought that the eyes of YHWH would watch over His people, both in order to ensure that they were fulfilling His requirements (Deuteronomy 13.18; 2 Samuel 22.28; Psalm 11.4), and in order to demonstrate His continual compassion towards them (Genesis 6.8; Deuteronomy 11.12; 32.10; Psalm 17.8; 32.8; 33.18; 34.15).

‘My heart will be there.’ If they were willing to hear Him and serve Him His heart would perform His will towards them. The heart was the seat of mind, will and emotion, and YHWH’s heart represented His very self (Genesis 6.6; 8.21). He would be there ready to act on their behalf, both for good and for bad.

For the combination of ‘prayer and supplication’ see 8.28, 38, 45, 49, 54; Psalm 6.9; 55.1; 86.6; 143.1. For the hallowing of His House see Exodus 29.42-44; Leviticus 21.23. For man seen as putting YHWH’s Name somewhere see 2 Samuel 6.2 in context. There may be a hint in the phrasing of dissatisfaction with an unsought for situation. This was where Solomon had set His Name, not where YHWH had sought to set His Name (Deuteronomy 12.5), even though, as in the case of the kingship, He would align Himself with man’s genuine efforts and seal them as His own.

9.4-5 “And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep my statutes and my ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel for ever, according as I promised to David your father, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel’.”

As so often in the Torah (Leviticus 26.3, 14; Deuteronomy 28.1, 15) contrasting choices are offered to Solomon. Here the call is to walk before YHWH as David walked, in both integrity of heart and in uprightness (compare the Davidic Psalm 25.1), which would involve doing all that YHWH commanded and keeping His statutes, and His ordinances. The consequence would then be that YHWH would establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever, just as He had promised David (2 Samuel 7.13, 16). This would fulfil His promise to David that, ‘there shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel’ (compare 2.4; 8.25).

9.6 “But if you shall turn away from following me, you or your children, and not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but shall go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them,”

The contrasting alternative is then put, the possibility that they will turn away from following YHWH. (For ‘turning away from following YHWH’ see especially Joshua 22.18). Note the movement from singular to plural. The initial charge was personal to Solomon in the circumstances (although of course continually applicable), while the alternative leaves open the fact that it might be his sons who will later do it (‘you or your children’). And the thought is that they might fail to keep His commandments and statutes, and might go and serve other gods and worship them. The huge pressure on Israelites to do this, in a land where there were ‘ancient’ false sanctuaries everywhere, and where all nations round about had their prominent idols, has to be experienced to be understood. Such sanctuaries were easily available and provided a quick solution and an easy way out, as well as appealing to man’s primitive instincts. And they would be constantly being urged to it by previous inhabitants of the land. Furthermore they provided elements which excited the lower nature and made no excessive moral demands. That was why YHWH had taken such trouble to guard against them (Exodus 20.3-6; 23.24, 32-33; 34.12-14; Leviticus 19.4; 26.1, 30; Deuteronomy 4.19; 7.4; 8.19; 11.16; 13.2-13; 17.3; 28.14; 30.17; Joshua 24.16; Judges 2.19; 10.13; 1 Samuel 8.8). As will be seen from the references ‘serve other gods’ is typically Deuteronomic, while for ‘serve other gods and worship them’ see uniquely Deuteronomy 11.16. For the ease with which Israel could be turned to the worship of other gods see Numbers 25.2.

The consequence of their serving other gods and worshipping them will be that they will be cut off from the land which God has given them, the point being that the land was given to them because He was their Overlord and they were His people, and on rebelling against Him they would thus no longer have any right to it. Compare Leviticus 18.24-28; 20.22. The phrase ‘be cut off out of the land’ is unique in respect of Israel. But a very similar idea is found in Leviticus 18.24-28; 20.22 where His people were warned that they might be spewed out of the land for the same reason, (something which would have the same effect), while the godless nations had previously been ‘cast out’ of the land for the same reason (Leviticus 18.24. Those in Israel who did this would also be ‘cut off from among My people’ (Leviticus 18.29). This phrase ‘cut off from among My people’ occurs regularly in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, but is not found in Deuteronomy. In Leviticus 20.3, 5 it has reference to idol worship. For being ‘cut off’ from God see Leviticus 22.3. (Being ‘cut off’ is thus not a Deuteronomic idea).

The theoretical idea that Israel could lose their land if they were disobedient was clearly a well known one, and does not therefore require a specific reference to the Exile. Indeed a similar idea of what could happen to YHWH’s House is found in Micah 3.12 where the Exile was certainly not in mind. They were to see their privileges as constantly dependent on obedience.

For ‘the land which I have given them’ see Numbers 20.12; Deuteronomy 9.23; 25.19. For the idea behind it see Numbers 20.24; 27.12; 32.7, 9; 33.53; Deuteronomy 3.20; 26.15. The point is that they have a duty and resonibility to Him as their Benefactor and Overlord.

9.7 “And this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples.”

And they are not to see the fact that YHWH has ‘hallowed’ the House as an indication that He will give it special treatment. The ‘holiness’ of the House is not to be seen as intrinsic. Rather it is hallowed (set apart uniquely as His earthly Dwellingplace) because, and while, He is among them (8.10-11) and they are His obedient people. But if they rebel against Him then He will cast the house out of His sight. He will have no interest in it at all.

Furthermore Israel themselves are warned that as a result they will become a kind of private joke, a jest, a ‘proverb’ (illustration) which acts as a warning to others, and a ‘byword’ (a saying with teeth). Because they have rejected Him YHWH will have no concern at all for their good name.

For ‘cast out of My sight’ compare Jeremiah 7.15. For the idea of being ‘a proverb and a byword’ see Deuteronomy 28.37; Jeremiah 24.9, but note that in neither case do the two words stand alone. Those verses are not likely therefore to be the direct source of the idea.

9.8 “And though this house is so high (or ‘this house shall be very high’), yet will every one who passes by it be astonished, and will hiss, and they will say, “Why has YHWH done thus to this land, and to this house?.” And they will answer, “Because they forsook YHWH their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them. Therefore has YHWH brought all this evil on them.”

What is more, whatever reputation the Temple might achieve, it will collapse so that all who pass by will be astonished, and will hiss, and will say, “Why has YHWH done thus to this land, and to this house?” Compare Deuteronomy 29.24-29, although there is no thought there of astonishment and hissing. The reply, however is otherwise very similar, although with interesting dissimilarities. Here the covenant is not mentioned and the emphasis is now therefore more on the idea of the personal forsaking of Him (in Deuteronomy it is Moses speaking, here it is YHWH speaking, and He clearly ‘feels’ their attitude).

The strict translation of the Hebrew is ‘this house shall be very high’, with a recognition of the reputation that it would gain. But the contrast is clearly intended. The height of its renown will not prevent it becoming an astonishment, and something to be hissed at. Rather it will ensure it. For the idea and significance of the hissing see Lamentations 2.15; Ezekiel 27.36; Zephaniah 2.15.

For ‘YHWH your God Who brought forth your fathers out of the land of Egypt’ compare Exodus 29.46 where it is ‘YHWH your God Who brought them forth from the land of Egypt’, and where it is also connected with the hallowing of YHWH’s Sanctuary. Compare also Judges 2.12.

9.10 ‘And it came about at the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the two houses, the house of YHWH and the king’s house.’

This verse represents part of the inclusio with verse 1 and re-emphasises that this occurred once Solomon’s twenty year building stint was over, a period during which he had built two house, the house of YHWH and the king’s house. For the use of ‘it came about’ as a concluding comment in this way compare for example Genesis 7.10; 8.13; 19.29; etc.

It will be noted that YHWH’s words are presented as well diversified, with ideas taken from different parts of the Books of Moses, and indeed from elsewhere as well. In spite of the undoubted Deuteronomic echoes there are no real grounds for calling any part of it specifically ‘Deuteronomic’. We do better to call it ‘Mosaic’ recognising that the echoes come from all sections of the Books of Moses.

Solomon Has So Extended His Resources That He Feels It Necessary To Obtain A Secured Loan From Hiram, Secured Against Galilean Settlements (9.11-14).

It is an indication of the wealth that Solomon had laid out on his enterprises, and the great cost involved, that even he had subsequently to resort to a private loan, in spite of the wealth continually flowing into his kingdom. But, of course, no hint is given of a commercial transaction here (unless possibly in the naming of the lands as Cabul). It simply consisted of ‘gifts’ between extremely wealthy kings. The ‘settlements’ (cities/towns/villages) are ‘given’, both as a gesture of gratitude and as security for a further loan, without any such commonplace suggestions being made. Hiram then views them and is not very pleased with their ‘quality’ but nevertheless decides to send Solomon a huge amount of gold. He knew, of course, that his investment was safe and that he would eventually get it back in return for the ‘settlements’, no doubt at a somewhat enhanced premium.

It is interesting that in the section chiasmus this passage parallels the activities of Hiram the Metalworker from Tyre. He also was seen by the author as not quite ‘up to scratch’, in that while he was genuinely skilful, he lacked the Spirit (in contrast with Bezalel).

Analysis.

  • a Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar-trees and pine-trees, and with gold, according to all his desire (9.11a).
  • b Then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty settlements in the land of Galilee (9.11b).
  • c And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the settlements which Solomon had given him, and they did not please him (9.12).
  • b And he said, “What settlements are these which you have given me, my brother?” And he called them ‘the land of Cabul’ to this day (9.13).
  • a And Hiram sent to the king six-score talents of gold (9.14).

Note that in ‘a’ Hiram had already provided Solomon with much wealth, now in the parallel he will send more. In ‘b’ he receives twenty Galilean settlements, and in the parallel expresses his unhappiness with them. Centrally in ‘c’ we learn of his great displeasure with them. It may well have affected how much he sent as a ‘royal loan’, but nothing would be stated. They were after all allies.

9.11a ‘Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar-trees and pine-trees, and with gold, according to all his desire.’

The passage commences by referring back to all that Hiram the King had provided towards the building of the Temple and the Palace Complex. He had provided cedar-trees, pine-trees and gold in accordance with all his requirements (something for which Solomon had paid well - 5.11). Relations between the two kings was very amicable. This is preparing for the next stage in their commercial transactions. No giving of gold had been previously referred to and the gold described here may be that in verse 14, thus bringing all their dealings together as one.

9.11b ‘Then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty settlements (cities/villages) in the land of Galilee.’

King Solomon now gave Hiram twenty ‘settlements’ in the land of Galilee. These would be in a region close to Tyre. ‘Settlements’ could be cities, towns, or villages. ‘Galilee’ means ‘the circle or circuit’, and clearly indicated a large area of land which included Naphtali (Joshua 20.7; 21.32; 2 Kings 15.29) and probably at this time parts of Asher. Tiglath Pileser will later refer in his inscriptions to both Galilee and Naphtali, indicating that they were not identical. It is referred to in Isaiah 9.2 as ‘Galilee of the nations’, an area with a mixed poulation.

In 18th century BC Alalakh in Syria the exchange of ‘settlements’ by contracts was seen as a means of adjusting borders. That may well be what is happening here. Solomon was ceding to Hiram a part of YHWH’s inheritance, a further indication of his casual attitude towards the covenant in spite of his protestations. The author would certainly not have been anything but displeased at the idea, but leaves us to pass our own judgment. (They may, of course, have been Canaanite settlements, especially in view of their poverty-stricken appearance, but this is nowhere stated, and the land was still part of YHWH’s inheritance. When they were later returned to Solomon he is said to have ensured their habitation by Israelites - 2 Chronicles 8.2)

9.12 ‘And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the settlements which Solomon had given him, and they did not please him.’

Hiram came from Tyre to complete the negotiations, meeting with Solomon at the sites in question, and not being pleased with what he saw. He did not feel that the area being ceded came up to expectations. In his view the gold that he would be giving was worth much more than he was getting, even if it was only as security. He had probably hoped that they would be lucrative trading towns.

The use of the appellative ‘king’ in the narrative as a whole is interesting. In verse 11 it is ‘Hiram king of Tyre’ who supplies ‘Solomon’ followed by ‘King Solomon’ giving twenty settlements to ‘Hiram’. In each case the appellative is applied to the supplier. Now it is ‘Hiram’ and ‘Solomon’ as co-negotiators.

9.13 ‘And he said, “What settlements are these which you have given me, my brother?” And he called them ‘the land of Cabul’ to this day.’

Hiram then politely expressed his dissatisfaction, although we do not know what affect it had. “What settlements are these which you have given me, my brother?” He was clearly not happy. He had probably expected larger towns. We can, however, understand why Solomon was careful about quite he was ready to cede. He had the feelings of his people to consider. ‘My brother’ expressed the treaty relationship between them.

The reference to ‘the land of Cabul’ produces difficulties. Some see it as a contemptuous term ‘ka bul’ (‘as nothing’), but tht would have been offensive to Solomon. Others refer it to the Arabic ‘kabala’ indicating ‘mortgaged’. Still others point to the Hebrew ‘yebul’ which signifies ‘borderland’. The last suggestion contains the right hint of displeasure without being insulting and may well be right.

9.14 ‘And Hiram sent to the king six-score talents of gold.’

Hiram’s response to ‘the king’s’ gift was to send him one hundred and twenty talents of gold, possibly around four tons, a substantial sum. This is not to be seen as his valuation of the worth of the land. He would expect at some stage to receive back the equivalent in value, possibly in valuable produce (5.11) but that would simply be ‘read in’ (compare the similar description of the purchase of a cave by Abraham in Genesis 23 which sounded like a general give-away, but was in fact careful negotiation). Later the settlements would be returned to Solomon who would in fact fortify them and settle them with Israelites (2 Chronicles 8.2).

The significance of this extract from the official annals was that it indicated Solomon’s temporary embarrassment caused by his overspending. It may also have been expressing his unhappiness at the relationship between the two states. Why else should he draw attention to this displeasure, which did not reflect well on Solomon? We have already seen that the author of Kings was not totally satisfied with the sources used in building the Temple, seeing them as tainted.

Solomon’s Extensive Building Projects (9.15-25).

The author now links the building of the Temple and the palace complex with a number of other large scale building works in which Solomon engaged, all of which required extensive slave-labour. The emphasis is on the fact that it caused the raising of the levies, suggesting the prophet’s disapproval of the situation. Solomon obtained this slave-labour by conscripting the Canaanites who were left in the land, for while it has previously been mentioned that he pressed Israelites into part-time service while building the Temple (5.13-14), causing great dissatisfaction (12.4), he had been careful not to make them into slave-labourers. That would have gone against all the recognised customs in Israel. Instead they were made responsible for the defence of the realm as well as the oversight of the slaves. The Canaanites were, however, seen as suitable material for being turned into bond-slaves. That was the old traditional way of dealing with them (Joshua 9.27; Judges 1.28, 30, 33, 35).

Engaging in huge amounts of building works was a policy amongst great kings, who were often judged on that basis. Solomon was thus out to demonstrate his own greatness, as well as to fortify the land.

Analysis.

  • a And this is the reason for the levy which king Solomon raised, to build the house of YHWH, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer (9.15).
  • b Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up, and taken Gezer, and burnt it with fire, and had slain the Canaanites who dwelt in the city, and given it for a portion to his daughter, Solomon’s wife (9.16).
  • c And Solomon built Gezer, and Beth-horon the nether, and Baalath, and Tamar in the wilderness, in the land, and all the store-cities that Solomon had, and the cities for his chariots, and the cities for his horsemen, and what Solomon desired to build for his pleasure in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion (9.17-19).
  • d As for all the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of the children of Israel, their children who were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel were not able utterly to destroy, of them did Solomon raise a levy of bondservants to this day, but of the children of Israel Solomon made no bondservants, but they were the men of war, and his servants, and his princes, and his captains, and rulers of his chariots and of his horsemen (9.20-22).
  • c These were the chief officers who were over Solomon’s work, five hundred and fifty, who bore rule over the people who wrought in the work (9.23).
  • b But Pharaoh’s daughter came up out of the city of David to her house which Solomon had built for her (9.24a).
  • a Then did he build Millo. And three times a year did Solomon offer burnt-offerings and peace-offerings on the altar which he built to YHWH, burning incense with them, on the altar which was before YHWH. So he finished the house (9.24b-25).

Note that in ‘a’ Solomon engaged in building many building works including the Temple and Millo, and in the parallel he built Millo and completed the Temple. In ‘b’ Pharaoh supplies a marriage portion for his daughter, and in the parallel, his daughter takes possession of her new palace. In ‘c’ the many building works are described, and in the parallel the overseers of the work are described. Centrally in ‘d’ we learn how Solomon obtained his slave labour, and how he behaved towards his own people.

9.15 ‘And this is the reason for the levy which king Solomon raised, to build the house of YHWH, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer.’

We note the continual references to the Temple and the palace complex, which were not necessarily required here, having been mentioned previously. This possibly indicates what pride Solomon had in them, or the point might be the cost of them in human lives (this is a prophet writing). In the chiasmus the theme also connects back to the parallel passage of building the Temple and palace complex in 5.1-7.12, with a further parallel being found in the levy on the Israelites in 5.13. Here we have an explanation of the full-scale slave levy on the previous inhabitants of the land. It is in fact almost as though the author is apologising for it. Such levies of subject peoples were common with great kings who had massive building projects planned. We can compare Exodus 1.11, and there are many parallels in inscriptions. Here Solomon is described as ‘building’ not only the Temple and the palace complex, but also the Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. Lists of building projects like this are common in inscriptions.

‘The Millo (filling).’ This is unquestionably referring to fortification work in Jerusalem. It has been suggested that it refers to the system of terraces, which consist of retaining walls with levelled filling, discovered by archaeologists on the eastern slope of Ophel Hill. This enabled the construction of defensive buildings on the slope, and would tie in with the repairs to the walls of Jerusalem.

‘Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.’ These were important defensive cities from north to south. Casemate walls and six-roomed gate towers from the Solomonic period have been discovered at all three. Hazor was in northern Naphtali. It was a substantial city, eight kilometres (five miles) south of the now nearly dry Lake Huleh, and guarded the road from the north. Megiddo, an even larger city, guarded the route from Phoenicia and the important trade route through the Valley of Esdraelon. Gezer was the southernmost large city in Palestine and guarded the way to Jerusalem from the coast. It dominated the south western Philistine plain.

9.16 ‘Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up, and taken Gezer, and burnt it with fire, and had slain the Canaanites who dwelt in the city, and given it for a portion to his daughter, Solomon’s wife.’

Gezer had been an independent ‘Canaanite’ city, but Pharaoh Siamun, a Pharaoh of the weak twenty first dynasty, who ruled around 978-959 BC, had engaged in a police action against it and had subdued it. The weakness of the twenty first dynasty is known from external sources but is apparent here in that it is clear from what is said that Egypt were making no claims on ‘Canaan’, an area which, in their strongest periods, they had looked on as containing vassal city states. They did, however, continue to conduct local actions against the Canaanites and Philistines in protecting their borders from supposed incursions, in the course of which, according to inscriptions, they ‘smote Gezer’. Thus they were not totally quiescent. A damaged triumphal relief scene at Tanis depicts Siamun smiting a foreigner, seemingly a Philistine judging by the Aegean type axe in his hand, which confirms that Siamun did engage in such ‘police action’ in Philistia. But with regard to the area of Canaan as a whole Siamun was apparently quite content to make his northern border safe by means of a marriage treaty with the powerful Solomon as described here, something which would be to their mutual benefit, especially tradewise. One of the obvious benefits of this treaty to Solomon was seen in the multiplicity of horses that he later possessed, for Egypt was a well known source of such horses (10.26-29). There is again here the hint of disapproval. This was the ‘Pharaoh’s daughter’ of 3.1.

9.17-18 ‘And Solomon built Gezer, and Beth-horon the nether (Lower Beth-horon), and Baalath, and Tamar in the wilderness, in the land,’

The fortification of Gezer is mentioned here again because of verse 16. Also fortified were Lower Beth-horon (something also evidenced archaeologically) which guarded the road through the Ayalon Valley, protecting the route to Jerusalem from the Coastal Plain, together with Baalath, which was possibly south west of Beth-horon in Dan (Joshua 19.44). Alternately the Baalath in mind may have been in the southern wilderness (Joshua 15.24). ‘Tamar in the wilderness’ was south of the Dead Sea, protecting trade with Southern Arabia and with the port of Elath. ‘In the land’ may signify Judah, compare 4.19.

9.19 ‘And all the store-cities that Solomon had, and the cities for his chariots, and the cities for his horsemen, and what Solomon desired to build for his pleasure in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion.’

As well as the great fortified cities Solomon built store cities, and cities for his chariots and horsemen, all necessary for the defence of the land. And on top of these he built many other things, both in Jerusalem, Lebanon and throughout the land. Long, pillared store places have been discovered at a number of places, and at Megiddo there is evidence of earlier Solomonic stables beneath the remains of the stables of Ahab.

It may be that Solomon built a summer house in Lebanon, or it may be that the buildings were connected with iron mines. Alternately ‘Lebanon’ is a name sometimes applied to sections of northern Canaan (southern Lebanon) which would be ‘within Israel’, and it may be building work there that is in mind here.

9.20-21 ‘As for all the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of the children of Israel, their children who were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel were not able utterly to exterminate (put under the Ban), of them did Solomon raise a levy of bondservants to this day.’

The ‘Canaanites’ would be used to the idea of the slave-levy as exercised by their own kings, as we discover from Ugarit. Thus they would not have been surprised as a subject people to find themselves drafted for this work. As with the Israelites in Egypt they and their families would be provided with food of a kind, and would still have their own homes. That is not to say that they found it palatable. No doubt they too groaned under their taskmasters. Nor is it likely that a prophet in 6th century BC found such slavery any more palatable as a concept. It represented the side of Solomon that he was unhappy with (12.4).

Strictly these Canaanites should have been slaughtered or driven from the land. They had been ‘devoted’ to YHWH as being unfit to live amongst because of their evil and perverted ways (Genesis 15.16).

‘Amorites’ was a term that could signify all the pre-conquest inhabitants of the land, or could alternatively signify the hill-dwellers in the hill country. The Hittites would be groups which had wandered into Canaan centuries before and were related in some way to the Hittite empire to the north (see ‘the sons of Heth’ in Genesis 23). T he Perizzites (‘villagers’) who dwelt in the hills were probably native primitive peoples. The Hivites were principally in the Lebanon hills and the Carmel range. The Jebusites were the ancient inhabitants of the hills around Jerusalem. The population of Canaan as a land which was open to settlers had previously been a very mixed one. Compare for these names the names of the original inhabitants of the land regularly mentioned in the Law of Moses (e.g. Exodus 3.17; 23.23; Deuteronomy 7.1; 20.17; Joshua 3.10; etc.).

‘To this day’ may have been in the original record, the author incorporating it in order to remind people that they were still around, suggesting a date for his writing before the final Exile (say in the days of Zedekiah).

9.22 ‘But of the children of Israel Solomon made no bondservants, but they were the men of war, and his servants, and his princes, and his captains, and the third men in his chariots and his chariot horsemen.’

The children of Israel were seen as ‘free-men’ and could not be turned into bond-slaves except by personal choice for debt or in order to ensure a livelihood, even by such a tyrant as Solomon had become. They were thus called into service as soldiers, officers, commanders, captains, chariot shield-bearers and drivers. This was in fact what Samuel had warned the people would be the result of having a king (1 Samuel 8.12). Again the prophet is letting us know that Solomon was the typical harsh non-YHWH-like monarch.

This does not contradict 5.13-14. That was only a partial levy (mas) and was in order to work on the timber for the Temple in a foreign country. That was not a task that could not entrusted to the inhabitants of the land, if only because they were not ‘holy’. These were mas-‘obed, the slave-levy.

9.23 ‘These were the chief officers who were over Solomon’s work, five hundred and fifty, who bore rule over the people who wrought in the work.’

And over the levy were five hundred and fifty taskmasters. Seemingly there were three hundred semi- senior Canaanite taskmasters (over the three units (thousand) of ordinary taskmasters in 5.16, making three units and three hundred) and two hundred and fifty senior Israelite taskmasters.

9.24a ‘But Pharaoh’s daughter came up out of the city of David to her house which Solomon had built for her.’

Adding to his disapproval the prophet points out that much of this work had been carried out in order to make provision for Pharaoh’s daughter. (You can almost hear himself saying, ‘that woman’). Now that the palace complex had been completed, and the Ark had been removed from the Sacred tent in David’s house, the Egyptian princess, with her false deities, could be allowed to live there.

9.24b ‘Then did he build The Millo.’

And this was the time when he built The Millo. ‘The Millo (filling)’ unquestionably referring to fortification work in Jerusalem. It has been suggested that it refers to the system of terraces, which consist of retaining walls with levelled filling, discovered by archaeologists on the eastern slope of Ophel Hill, strengthening the hillside. This enabled the construction of defensive buildings on the slope, and would tie in with the repairs to the walls of Jerusalem.

9.25 ‘And three times a year did Solomon offer burnt-offerings and peace-offerings on the altar which he built to YHWH, burning incense with them, on the altar which was before YHWH. So he finished the house.’

The Temple having been built it was used as the Central Sanctuary to which the men of Israel gathered for the three great feasts, Passover, Sevens (Weeks) and Tabernacles. And during those feasts Solomon arranged for the offering of the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings as required by Law, and as required for the subsequent feasting. The burnt- offering was a dedicatory offering, and was wholly consumed. The peace or wellbeing offerings were also atoning, but parts of the animal could be eaten by the worshippers. These would be offered on the bronze altar. The incense would be burned by the priests ‘before YHWH’ on the incense altar in the Holy Place before the veil. The reference of the original word to incense is however secondary, and the word may simply refer to ‘fire-offerings’. (There is no requirement that we see Solomon as doing this himself. It was the responsibility of the priests. Indeed if Solomon had offered all the offerings himself he would have been a very busy man).

‘The altar which he built to YHWH.’ The bronze altar was hollow and had to be built up inside so as to take the heat of the flames.

‘So he finished the house.’ Compare 6.14, 22, 38. The House could not be considered to be ‘finished’ until it had been put to its proper use in the offering of the required offerings and sacrifices, and that had awaited the transfer of Pharaoh’s daughter to the palace complex, and the establishment of the Ark in its unique position in the Most Holy Place. Now at last it was fully operational.

Solomon’s Seafaring Activity And The Visit Of The Queen Of Sheba (9.26-28).

In this passage we learn of Solomon’s international influence and widespread trading activities, while central to it is Solomon’s reputation for wisdom as evidenced by the visit of the Queen of Sheba. Even though very much aware of Solomon’s weaknesses and failures the author hides nothing of his splendour. He is fair and open minded while making clear his disapproval simply by the way in which he words things. The sad thing about Solomon is that such a wise man, to whom God had given so much, should have been so foolish as to destroy his kingdom because of his vanity, pride and lust. He was fulfilling all the prophetic warnings of what happened when men were given supreme kingship (1 Samuel 8.11-18; Deuteronomy 17.16-17).

The coming of the Queen of Sheba was almost certainly because she wanted to ensure the maintenance of trading routes between her kingdom in Arabia, the Red Sea trade through Ezion-Geber, the northern trade routes, and the maritime trade through Tyre and Sidon. Solomon’s kingdom bestrode and controlled all the trade routes. We know from Assyrian records that queens were a regular feature of Arabian rule of Saba around this time, along with their priest-kings, so that this visit is not surprising. She clearly wanted to search out and sum up her prospective trading partner. She was suitably impressed. But, of course, no hint of such trading activities is given. Kings did not ‘trade’. They gave each other things (compare Hiram above).

Analysis.

  • a And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom (9.26).
  • b And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen who had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon, and they came to Ophir, and fetched from there gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon (9.27-28).
  • c And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of YHWH, she came to prove him with hard questions. And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels which bore spices, and very much gold, and precious stones, and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart (10.1-2).
  • d And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not anything hid from the king which he told her not (10.3).
  • e And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, and the house which he had built, and the food of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up to the house of YHWH, there was no more spirit in her (10.4-5).
  • f And she said to the king, “It was a true report that I heard in my own land of your acts, and of your wisdom” (10.6).
  • e “Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and my own eyes had seen it, and, behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame which I heard” (10.7).
  • d “Happy are your men, happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you, and who hear your wisdom. Blessed be YHWH your God, who delighted in you, to set you on the throne of Israel, because YHWH loved Israel for ever, therefore he made you king, to do justice and righteousness” (10.8-9).
  • c And she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones. There came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon (10.10).
  • b And the navy also of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug-trees and precious stones. And the king made of the almug-trees pillars for the house of YHWH, and for the king’s house, harps also and psalteries for the singers. There came no such almug-trees, nor were seen, to this day (10.11-12).
  • And king Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatever she asked, besides that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned, and went to her own land, she and her servants (10.13).

Note that in ‘a’ Solomon had established maritime trade routes through the port of Ezion-Geber, trade routes which were important to Arabian trade, and in the parallel ‘all her desire’ would include access to these trade routes on reasonable terms. In ‘b’ Hiram enabled Solomon to set up his fleet, which went to Ophir, and in the parallel Hiram’s navy brings goods back from Ophir. In ‘c’ the Queen of Sheba arrived bring many precious gifts, and in the parallel she supplies these gifts to Solomon. In ‘d’ Solomon revealed his wisdom to the Queen of Sheba, and in the parallel she extols his wisdom. In ‘e’ the Queen saw all the splendour of Solomon’s court, and in the parallel she expatiates on its magnificence. Centrally in ‘f’ she gives her fulsome verdict on Solomon.

9.26 ‘And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom.’

As a result of David’s conquest of Edom Solomon had control of the port of Ezion-Geber on the Red Sea. This is now Guzarat al-Far’un, and the nearby ancient storage facilities have been excavated. Traces of ship-building materials (long nails, lumps of pitch, carbonised cables) were found on site. It was an important maritime trade route for Arabia. Elath also was on the Gulf of Aqabah, and is mentioned for identification purposes. These facilities would provide Solomon with huge revenues, as well as enabling his own trading ventures.

9.27-28 ‘And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen who had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. And they came to Ophir, and fetched from there gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon.’

Taking advantage of his treaty friendship with Hiram Solomon set up his own fleet, with his own people receiving expert guidance and help from the experienced Tyrian sailors and shipbuilders. And they regularly set sail for Ophir, and returned bringing back large consignments of gold (compare Job 22.24; 28.16; Isaiah 13.12), a trade attested on the Tell Qasileh ostracon inscriptions. We do not know the identity of Ophir, which may have been in southern Arabia (Genesis 10.29), or East Africa (e.g. Somalia which was a source of frankincense and myrrh) or even India. India is known to have had a thriving trade with the Persian Gulf region in 2nd-1st millenniums BC, and all the commodities mentioned were available from there.

There is no reason for doubting the huge amount of gold which would accumulate over many voyages. Solomon’s trade was expansive, and such levels are mentioned in inscriptions elsewhere.

10.1 ‘And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of YHWH, she came to prove him with hard questions.’

The real purpose of the visit, trading negotiations, would naturally be passed over, and there is no good reason for doubting the Queen of Sheba’s genuine interest in what she had heard of Yahwism. The fame of Solomon’s Temple had no doubt spread, and together with it the mystery of the covenant chest, topped by the Cherubim which represented the invisible God, which ‘bore the Name of YHWH of Hosts’ (2 Samuel 6.2). It would be quite clear to all the greatness that He had given to Solomon, as He had raised up this powerful empire on his behalf. Furthermore Solomon’s reputation for wisdom had reached her ears, and she wanted to test him out with riddles, as well as to discuss diplomatic and ethical questions. All this is quite in accord with what we might expect.

10.2 ‘And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels which bore spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.’

The Queen was taking advantage of the visit for trading purposes, and brought with her a huge train of valuable commodities, no doubt well guarded. Her camels brought the spices, gold and precious stones for which Arabia was famous. They would, of course, have been a gift, in return for which she would be entitled to expect similar ‘gifts’. But the main purpose of her own coming was in order to sound Solomon out, and discover what she could about him, with thoughts of future dealings in mind. Thus they talked about many things.

10.3 ‘And Solomon told her all her questions. There was not anything hid from the king which he did not tell her.’

She found Solomon competent and capable, and able to live up to the reputation that he had earned. He was able to give satisfactory answers to all her questions, and was not caught out by any of them.

10.4-5 ‘And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, and the house which he had built, and the food of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up to the house of YHWH, she was breathless with wonder (there was no more spirit in her).’

The magnificence of Solomon’s court impressed even such a great queen, while his wisdom, the magnificence of his palace complex, and the engineering ingenuity of the access which had been built between the palace and the Temple, filled her with awe. It fulfilled all her expectations. Also included among her impressions was the quality and quantity of food, the protocol of his chief ministers, the wide variety of lesser ministers, and the kind of clothing that they wore, together with the hugely important ‘cupbearers’ (not just wine waiters. Compare the Rabshakeh in 2 Kings 18.17, and the later Nehemiah) who supervised all drinking and ensured that no important persons were poisoned. Everything was magnificent, and it took her breath away.

Alternatively what might have impressed her about his ascent to the house of YHWH may have been the huge bodyguard with their shields of glistening gold (14.28 with 10.17).

10.6-7 ‘And she said to the king, “It was a true report that I heard in my own land of your acts, and of your wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and my own eyes had seen it, and, behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame which I heard”.’

While fulsome praise was expected by kings, and indeed its lack would have been looked on as an insult, there is no reason for doubting the genuineness of the Queen’s words. She had heard of his doings and his wisdom, and had hardly been able to believe that it was true, but now she had seen it with her own eyes. Indeed what she had seen had surpassed all that she had heard. Both in wisdom and in wealth, Solomon surpassed all expectations. Sadly it was these very things which would contribute so very much towards his downfall. Reputation and wealth can destroy the best of men, especially when they have absolute power.

10.8 “Happy are your men, happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you, and who hear your wisdom.”

She declared that his wisdom was such that all who served him should count themselves fortunate. How this fulsome praise must have delighted Solomon’s heart. And how dangerous it was for him. It is little wonder that he began to believe that he could do anything that he liked with impunity. He saw himself as the centre of his world, and as being beyond requiring advice or rebuke.

10.9 “Blessed be YHWH your God, who delighted in you, to set you on the throne of Israel. Because YHWH loved Israel for ever, therefore he made you king, to do justice and righteousness.”

She also expressed her full appreciation of YHWH Who had set him on the throne of Israel. But even her reference to YHWH almost made it sound as if it was YHWH Who was privileged to have been able to establish Solomon’s throne. He had chosen Solomon because out of His love for Israel because none could be found who compared with him. No doubt she had learned all about YHWH’s covenant with David, and His promise of an everlasting throne, and how YHWH required him to rule in justice and righteousness. Solomon was proud of all these facts, and would not have hesitated to have spoken of them. And kings in those days always gave due credit to their gods, while at the same time, of course, keeping some for themselves. So even her worship of YHWH was eclipsed by her appreciation of Solomon. How careful we have to be that we do not take away the glory from God.

10.10 ‘And she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones. There came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon’

The Queen brought much gold, and large quantities of spices and precious stones (compare verse 2). As she had accompanied the caravan she would not want it to come short in any particular. It had to reveal her own worth. It was thus much larger than usual, and beyond compare. She would, of course, expect to return to her country with reciprocal gifts of equal value (verse 13). But that went without saying.

For the one hundred and twenty talents of gold compare the 150 talents of gold was which extracted from Metten II of Tyre by Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria c. 730 BC. It is thus not an abnormal ‘present’, and may well have acknowledged treaty obligations.

10.11 ‘And the navy also of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug-trees and precious stones.’

Meanwhile Solomon’s other trading avenues continued, and his ships as supplemented by Hiram, also brought in almug-trees and precious stones, as well as gold. The word ‘almug’ is found only here, but is witnessed to at Ugarit. It would appear to have been a particularly fine wood, as its use in musical instruments suggests. At Alalakh it appears to have been used to make fine furniture.

10.12 ‘And the king made of the almug-trees pillars for the house of YHWH, and for the king’s house, harps also and psalteries for the singers. There came no such almug-trees, nor were seen, to this day.’

Solomon’s importance was such that only the very best was sent to Solomon. The word for ‘pillars’ is obscure, but clearly refers to something, probably decorative, requiring particularly fine wood. The harps and psalteries (both stringed instruments) are a reminder of David’s prowess, and of the musical background to Temple worship (compare Amos 5.23), Such musical instruments were known at Ugarit, and going far back in time (Genesis 4.21).

‘To this day’ again probably comes from the original source, but was taken over by the author.

10.13 ‘And king Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatever she asked, besides what Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned, and went to her own land, she and her servants.’

Having supplied her ‘gifts’ the Queen was now asked to provide details of what gifts she ‘desired’ in exchange, that being on top of his own magnificent gifts. And once that had been satisfactorily settled, the caravan was loaded up and she returned with her array of ministers and attendants to her own land, no doubt well satisfied with the outcome of her visit. There was nothing romantic about it. It had been a hard-headed business trip.

The description of all this is, of course, double-edged. On the one hand it reveals all the wealth that YHWH piled on Solomon, and the great ‘name’ that He had given him. But on the other it is all part of what so possessed Solomon’s interests that he forsook YHWH. It is doubtful if the prophet gave it full-hearted approval.

A Description Of King Solomon’s Toys (10.14-22).

With the wealth that was pouring into his country Solomon made himself some ostentatious ‘toys. These included both large and small shields of covered with solid gold for display purposes, a splendid and unique gold and ivory throne, and all his golden drinking and other vessels within his palace complex. Indeed such was the quantity of gold available in his kingdom that silver was accounted of little worth, at least within the capital city.

Analysis.

  • a Now the weight of gold which came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, besides what the agents brought, and the traffic of the merchants, and of all the kings of the mingled people, and of the governors of the country (10.14-15).
  • b And king Solomon made two hundred larger shields of beaten gold, six hundred shekels of gold went to one large shield. And he made three hundred smaller shields of beaten gold, three pounds of gold went to one shield, and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon (10.16-17).
  • c Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the finest gold. There were six steps to the throne, and the top of the throne was round behind, and there were stays on either side by the place of the seat, and two lions standing beside the stays. And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other on the six steps. There was not the like made in any kingdom (10.18-20).
  • b And all king Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold: none were of silver. It was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon (10.21).
  • a For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram. Once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks (10.22).

It will be noted that in ‘a’ we have described the gold coming in from tribute and trade, and in the parallel the gold and other items coming in from the sea trade. In ‘b’ we have described Solomon’s ornamental golden shields, and in the parallel the golden vessels in his house. Central in ‘c’ is his golden throne.

10.14-15 ‘Now the weight of gold which came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, besides what the agents brought, and the trading of the merchants, and of all the kings of the assorted people, and of the governors of the country.’

Gold poured into Solomon’s coffers from every quarter. Some was brought by his agents, some was in respect of trading activity by the merchants, some came in tribute from the petty kings round about, including parts of Arabia, and some from the governors of the country. These may have been the officers appointed by Solomon in 4.1-19.

While this amount of gold (around twenty tons) might appear enormous, it is not really over-enormous in the light of what we learn elsewhere, although we need not doubt that someone possibly selected one of the best years for the obtaining of his example. As we have seen above, the Queen of Sheba brought 120 talents of gold in one particular year, while Ophir despatched 420 talents of gold over a period. We can compare how five centuries after the death of Solomon, one province alone in ‘India’ (the Indus basin) gave to the Persian emperors annually 360 talents of gold (Herodotus iii, 94), while within ten years of Solomon’s death and stretching over a period of four years Osorkon I of Egypt presented a total of two million deben weight of silver (a staggering 220 tons) and another 2,300,000 deben weight of silver and gold (some 250 tons) to the gods, largely in the form of precious objects (vessels, statuary, etc.). This grand total of 470 tons of precious metal, although admittedly some was in silver, outstrips Solomon’s reputed weight of gold by twenty times, and the Egyptian record is not only detailed but is undoubtedly firsthand.

10.16-17 ‘And king Solomon made two hundred large shields of beaten gold, six hundred shekels of gold went to one large shield. And he made three hundred shields of beaten gold, three minas of gold went to one shield, and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.’

Gold was pouring into Solomon’s treasury in such abundance that Solomon made two hundred large golden shields, each containing six hundred shekels of gold, and a further three hundred smaller shields, each containing three minas of gold. These would be for ceremonial purposes (14.28), and were designed in order to further bring out Solomon’s glory. They were stored on the House of the Forest of Lebanon (so-named because of its multiplicity of pillars of cedar) which was part of the palace complex in Jerusalem, and were brought out whenever Solomon wanted to make an impression.

‘Beaten gold.’ This is literally ‘slain gold’, the verb presumably being a technical term signifying some production process.

The prophet might well have had a wry smile on his face when he wrote these words, for he would know that in the not too distant future he would be deliberately pointing out that these shields would be appropriated by the Pharaoh, and would be carried off to Egypt (14.26). Solomon’s glory would thus not be long lasting. It was a fading glory because of his arrogance and disobedience. What YHWH supplied, YHWH could take away.

10.18-20 ‘Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the finest gold. There were six steps to the throne, and the top of the throne was round behind, and there were stays on either side by the place of the seat, and two lions standing beside the stays. And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other on the six steps. There was not the like made in any kingdom.’

The king also had made for him his own unique throne. This was a throne inlaid with ivory, and overlaid with the finest gold. Six steps led up to the throne, and the rearward curving back is paralleled in Egyptian thrones. The purpose of the throne was to lift Solomon above his minions. The six steps led up to the dais on which the throne was placed which was the seventh level. Such designs elsewhere indicated the supreme power of the gods. In Babylon the seven-staged ziggurats led up to the gods. At Ugarit seven steps led up to inmost shrine of the Temple of Baal. Here it may well have been intended to indicate that Solomon was priest-king after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110.4), and therefore the Intercessor of the nations. It was therefore intended to indicate his supreme power over the nations. We may compare the attitude behind it with that of the King of Babylon in Isaiah 14.13-14. Solomon did not yet realise it, but he was on the way down.

On either side of the throne seat were stays, with two lions standing by the stays, providing protection (in a similar way to the Cherubim) and indicating Solomon’s power and fearsomeness. They may well also have symbolised the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Genesis 49.9-10) over his lion people (Numbers 23.24; 24.9) and surrounded by his pride. A lion also stood at each side of each step leading up to the throne. These may have represented the leaders of the tribes of Israel, seen as young lions. Here then was the lion king. When he roared the earth shook. No other parallel to this throne could be found anywhere. It was unique. Thus is Solomon’s glory emphasised.

10.21 ‘And all king Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold: none were of silver. It was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.’

Furthermore all the drinking and other vessels in the palace complex were made of gold. Silver vessels could not be found anywhere, because they were seen as too inferior. Silver counted for nothing in the court of Solomon. Such was his fading splendour. The writer leaves us to meditate on the fact without comment, aware that it will all soon come tumbling down.

10.22 ‘For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram. Once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes (qopim), and peacocks (tukkiyim).’

Furthermore Solomon had formed a joint fleet along with Hiram. A ‘navy of Tarshish’ was a navy of large sea-going vessels of the type used on long distance voyages bringing back ore from far distant places. These may have been constructed by Hiram’s and Solomon’s men at Ezion-geber, or it is even possible that vessels had been taken to pieces in Tyre and then carried to Ezion-geber where they would be reconstructed. This was common practise in the ancient world.

These large ships regularly set off on their voyages, and would be away ‘three years’ (one full year and two part years). This does not necessarily signify long voyages. Ships in those days did not just sail away into the sunset and return. They would visit different ports to trade and gather water and provisions, they would often hug the coast, they would be laid up at times because of unseasonal weather, they might remain in some ports for a long time until they had disposed of their produce and filled up with the goods they received in return. Thus it is difficult to know how much actual sailing time was included in the ‘calculation’.

They then returned with exotic goods such as gold, silver, ivory, and possibly apes and peacocks (the meaning of the nouns is uncertain, especially the latter, but they are presumably exotic creatures), which were a wonder to all who beheld them. These may not all, of course, have been obtained from their original home-lands. They may have been traded on by other vessels which had come from those places. Thus we have no real idea how far Solomon’s fleet was able to penetrate. But to Israelites, unused to the sea, it would all have seemed wonderful, and added greatly to Solomon’s glory.

The Tyrian large long-distance vessels were called ‘ships of Tarshish’. It has been conjectured that tarshish refers to iron smelteries. Thus they may have derived their name from the ores that they carried, or from the destinations that they reached (smelteries in different part of the ancient world, such as Spanish Tartessus and Sardinia). It may not have indicated a particular place. ‘Tarshish’ may well have described their purpose rather than their destination, and the name have gradually come to signify large, long-distance vessels, with Tarshish being a description of the mysterious places that they visited in the search for ores.

The Ultimate Greatness Of Solomon (10.23-29).

The author concludes his description of the magnificence of Solomon by indicating the impact that he made on the ancient world, both in reputation and in arms dealing. The build up has been intentional. He wanted it to be seen how gracious YHWH had been to Solomon, giving him a name in the world as He had given David (2 Samuel 7.9), and making him supremely wealthy and powerful. But as we have also seen he continually leaves us to recognise the cracks that there were on the surface, because unlike David, Solomon’s heart was not fully right towards God, something that he will shortly emphasise. Thus he expects us to be aware of where all this is leading, to the collapse and disintegration of the kingdom. It was not simply unstinted admiration of Solomon. In the future kings would be judged not by the standard of Solomon, but by the standard of David.

Analysis.

  • a So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom, and all the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart (10.23-24).
  • b And they brought every man his tribute, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and raiment, and armour, and spices, horses, and mules, a rate year by year (10.25).
  • c And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen, and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, which he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem (10.26).
  • b And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars made he to be as the sycamore trees that are in the lowland, for abundance (10.27).
  • a And the horses which Solomon had, were brought out of Egypt and Kue, and the king’s merchants received them from Kue at a price, and a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty, and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they bring them out by their means (10.28-29).

Note that in ‘a’ Solomon’s great wealth and wisdom is exalted, and in the parallel this is revealed in his arms dealing whereby he cornered the market in chariots and horses. In ‘b’ the vassal nations of Israel constantly brought in to Solomon a stream of tribute, and in the parallel the result was that silver and cedar wood became so abundant that they could be compared numerically with stones and common sycamore trees. Central in ‘c’ is a description of Solomon’s own armed might in terms of chariots.

Central to this passage is the fact that Solomon trust was now firmly in chariots and horsemen (contrast Psalm 20.7). This was what his greatness and wisdom had led him to, armed might and global arms-dealing. The chariot is, in fact, rarely looked on with favour in the Biblical narratives, being usually in the hands of Israel’s enemies, and in Kings such chariots are seen as in direct contrast with the heavenly chariots of YHWH which protect His people (2 Kings 2.11-12; 6.17; 7.6; 13.14; compare Psalm 68.17). The prophetic attitude was that men were to trust in YHWH rather than in chariots (Deuteronomy 20.1; Psalm 20.7; 46.9; 76.6; and see especially Isaiah 2.6-7; 31.1, 3; Micah 5.10), and there are no grounds for thinking that the prophetic writer here saw it any differently (he would be familiar with Isaiah and Micah, and with the Psalms). Thus what appeared to be Solomon’s high point was really in the writer’s view also his low point. He no longer trusted in YHWH, he trusted in chariots.

10.23-24 ‘So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And all the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.’

All that has gone before has led up to this point. The presentation of the wealth and glory of Solomon has reached its zenith, (although, as we have seen, along the way the prophet has constantly drawn out the cracks behind the facade). Clearly the comparison is in terms of the world as it was then known in Palestine, the Ancient Near East. There was no king around who could compare with Solomon for riches and for wisdom. His superiority in both areas was widely acknowledged. He truly had a great name among ‘the kings of the earth’ (i.e. of surrounding nations). And all acknowledged that he had special wisdom from God, and came to learn from him. He was a kind of father figure, almost a Messianic figure, to the nations.

10.25 ‘And they brought every man his tribute, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and raiment, and armour, and spices, horses, and mules, a rate year by year.’

And those riches grew year by year, as vassal nations and subjects owned his overlordship and brought their tribute in silver and gold and splendid clothing, and armour, and spices, and horses, and mules (a highly valued article in those days). And they did it as their liability was assessed year by year.

10.26 ‘And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen, and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, which he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem.’

Solomon had also reached the high point militarily speaking. He had one large unit and four smaller units of chariots, together with twelve units of ‘horsemen’ to man the chariots and care for the horses. These were spread around the chariot cities, with a fair proportion being with the king in Jerusalem. This was where his trust now lay.

10.27 ‘And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars made he to be as the sycamore trees that are in the lowland, for abundance.’

Such was the prosperity of Israel, and especially of Jerusalem, that silver had a common value with stones (it was not much accounted of - verse 21), while valuable cedarwood was as common as the local ‘sycamore trees’ (large well-rooted spreading trees which produced an inferior kind of fig and grew in abundance, while having little value).

10.28 ‘And the horses which Solomon had, were brought out of Egypt and Kue, and the king’s merchants received them from Kue at a price.’

Having seen the potential of the chariot with its horses, and spotting a gap in the market, Solomon, in partnership with Pharaoh as a result of his special relationship with the Pharaoh through his wife, brought to Israel horses from both Egypt and Kue, the latter bought by his merchants at an agreed price (the former would be supplied in accordance with the partnership agreement). Kue was just north of the Taurus and was famous for horse-breeding.

10.29 ‘And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty; and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they bring them out by their means.’

The partnership then sold Egyptian chariots for six hundred shekels of silver, and sold on the horses at one hundred and fifty shekels each, to the kings of the Hittites (seven city states in Syria which we know perpetuated the name of the Hittites, including Carchemish and Hamath) and to the kings of Aram, the Aramaean states. (The Assyrians and Babylonians knew Syria and Palestine as a whole as ‘Hatti-land’). This had the advantage of building up buffer states against anyone who might encroach from the north. It was also very profitable.

The chariots appear very expensive, but they may have been special ceremonial chariots intended for royalty and suitably furbished, or ‘chariot’ may have signified the complete set up, a chariot with its three horses (two to draw it and one led). The prices of the horses as trained chariot horses were not excessive. A letter from Mari in 18th century BC refers to horses bought at 300 shekels apiece, while at Ugarit a horse was bought for the royal stud for 200 shekels.

Thus the mighty Solomon had become an international arms dealer, with his focus on chariots and horses. This was what his wisdom had brought him to. We must remember that the prophetic writer was aware of the inveighing of the prophets against such activities and knew what all this had come to, and as he copied down what he found in the state annals it must have been with a grieved heart. Indeed this portrayal of Solomon’s power and glory would now be followed by an indication of his follies and the reason for the total failure of his kingdom.

We might set what we have seen about Solomon in this chapter in contrast with Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3.17-18. ‘We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen, for the things which are seen are temporal, the things which are unseen are eternal.’ It was that lesson of which Elisha was aware (2 Kings 6.17).

Solomon Throws Himself Wholeheartedly Into Idolatry Because Of His Wives (11.1-8).

Solomon’s obsession with his own glory inevitably resulted in his beginning to feel that he was so great that he could do what he liked, for it is one of the sad traits of mankind that the more they prosper because of God’s goodness, the less concern they have for God. That was recognised by the writer of Proverbs in Proverbs 30.8-9, when he wrote, ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches, --- lest I be full and deny you, and say, Who is YHWH? or lest I be poor and steal and use profanely the name of my God’. And that was what happened to Solomon.

He had already portrayed the traits of the false king with his chariots and horsemen, and servants and bond-slaves (see 1 Samuel 8.11-18). Now he would do the same with his multiplicity of wives (Deuteronomy 17.16-17). It will be noted that in Deuteronomy 17.16-17 the multiplication of wives is linked with fetching horses from Egypt, which is again linked with a warning of in any way returning to Egypt, and Solomon had done all three. He had married Pharaoh’s daughter (3.1; 9.24; 11.1), he had multiplied horses from Egypt (10.28-29), and now we are to see that he multiplied wives for himself. In other words he had specifically and deliberately ignored YHWH’s commandment, and was a judgment waiting to happen. This indeed is what the author has been building up to.

Analysis.

  • a Now king Solomon loved many foreign women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites, of the nations concerning which YHWH said to the children of Israel, “You shall not go among them, neither shall they come among you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clave to these in love. (11.1-2).
  • b And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart, for it came about that, when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not perfect with YHWH his God, as was the heart of David his father (11.3-4).
  • c For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites (11.5).
  • b And Solomon did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and went not fully after YHWH, as did David his father (11.6).
  • a Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, in the mount that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the children of Ammon, and so did he for all his foreign wives, who burnt incense and sacrificed to their gods (11.7-8).

Note that in ‘a’ Solomon loved the women against whom Israel had been warned because they would turn away their hearts after false gods, and in the parallel Solomon was turned away after false gods because of those very wives. In ‘b’ Solomon’s heart was turned away by his wives so that he was not perfect in his heart like David his father, and in the parallel he did what was evil in YHWH’s sight and went not fully after YHWH like David his father. Centrally in ‘c’ he ‘went after’ Ashtoreth and Molech, the very gods against which Israel had been constantly warned.

11.1-2 ‘Now king Solomon loved many foreign women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites, of the nations concerning which YHWH said to the children of Israel, “You shall not go among them, neither shall they come among you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clave to these in love.’

The first ‘foreign woman’ to be mentioned is the daughter of Pharaoh. The author has demonstrated his unease about this relationship from the beginning by never mentioning her name (3.1; 7.8; 9.16, 24; 11.1). She was not to be seen as welcome within the fold. While she would undoubtedly have brought her family gods with her, there is no suggestion that she actually had any part in leading Solomon astray, and in fact Solomon appears to have kept her waiting in her own private house in ‘the city of David’ until the palace no longer held the Ark (3.1; 7.8; 9.24), probably in order not to defile the Ark. Furthermore no specific gods of Egypt are mentioned (although it is always possible that she favoured Semite gods like many Egyptians did).

Along with her are mentioned the princesses of the three local Transjordanian states, the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites; the Phoenician Sidonians, and the Syrian Hittites (see 10.29 above). These would be treaty wives, royal princesses married in order to seal treaty arrangements. They were worshippers of, among others, Chemosh, Molech (Melech), Baal and Asherah (Ashtoreth/Astarte). The Moabite women had led Israel astray after Baal-peor at Shittim on the final part of the journey towards Canaan (Numbers 25.1-4), but the main Moabite god was Chemosh. Molech was a god of the Ammonites, whose influence extended over much of Canaan. It required child sacrifices, and was regularly condemned in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 18.21; 20.2-5), and by later prophets. Baal and Asherah were ‘Canaanite’ deities (Judges 2.11, 13; 3.7; 8.33; 10.6; etc.), with an influence that spread widely, both into Egypt (Exodus 14.2), among the Moabites (Numbers 22.41; 25.1-4) and among the Phoenicians (who were ‘Canaanites’). We know a good deal about Baal through the discoveries at Ugarit.

“YHWH said to the children of Israel, “You shall not go among them, neither shall they come among you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” This to some extent follows the ideas in Deuteronomy 7.2-4, but it is clearly not a direct citation, and differs quite considerably in detail, which would duggest that it comes from another tradition known to Solomon.

We know in fact that Solomon’s first wife was an Ammonite princess, and she bore him Rehoboam (14.21).

It is quite possible that the original state record from which this information was extracted merely explained Solomon’s propensity for women as a compliment, and that ‘foreign’ has been introduced by the author in order to bring out his point, because as a prophet he recognised how the king had disobeyed God’s commandment and had suffered the consequences. There can, however, be no doubt that a good number of his wives would be foreign princesses.

11.3 ‘And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.’

The extent of the empire is revealed by the number of royal wives Solomon had. ‘Seven hundred’ is probably not to be taken as exact but as signifying the ‘divine perfect’ (seven) nature of his harem. However, clearly a large number are indicated by the figure, and they were all seen as ‘princesses’, being women of good standing. And as if this were insufficient he had three hundred concubines, that is, common wives selected mainly for their beauty and ability to satisfy the king’s desires. They would include Abishag. Three is the number of completeness. The idea is of total sufficiency. One royal house in Egypt was claimed as having three thousand wives and concubines, probably on a similar basis.

11.4 ‘For it came about, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not perfect with YHWH his God, as was the heart of David his father.’

We are probably not to take ‘old’ here too literally, but rather as ‘mature’ (agewise). Solomon did not in fact live to be too old. He reigned for forty years (11.42), and if he was twenty at his accession, he barely reached sixty years old. Furthermore the activities described would take some time to develop. Thus the point is that in the later part of his life he went astray after these gods and goddesses, although it was clearly some time after his two dreams (11.9; compare 3.5-15; 9.2-9).

11.5 ‘For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.’

Two especial deities are initially mentioned. For the first we must assume a Sidonian princess. The latter (Milcom = Molech = Melech) may have been through the influence of his first wife, Naamah the Ammonitess (14.31). Ashtoreth/Asherah/Astarte, the consort of Baal, was widely worshipped, but different areas would have different approaches to worship. Thus here it was after the manner of the Sidonians (compare how Jezebel would later introduce the Tyrian Baal into a land where Baal was well known). There was no word for ‘goddess’ in Hebrew, and therefore the male term elohe is used. Molech was seen as particularly heinous because it constantly sought child sacrifice, which is why the writer describes it as an ‘abomination’.

11.6 ‘And Solomon did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and went not fully after YHWH, as did David his father.’

So Solomon failed to live up to his original promises to YHWH, and ‘did what was evil in the sight of YHWH’. In Kings this was the verdict on the worst kings (fifteen times in 2 Kings). And like some later kings, and unlike others, he did not go ‘fully after YHWH as David his father did’ (compare 15.3, 11; 2 Kings 14.3; 16.2; 18.3; 22.2). Thus the final verdict on Solomon was that he was one of the worst kings, even though he seemed to begin so well!

For following ‘fully after YHWH’ see Numbers 14.24; 32.11, 12; Deuteronomy 1.36. It is thus a Mosaic idiom.

11.7 ‘Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, in the mount that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the children of Ammon.’

But Solomon did even worse. He built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab (see 2 Kings 3.27), who is mentioned in the in the Moabite Stone, and in Numbers 21.29; Judges 11.24, and also for Molech the abomination of Ammon. And this was within the environs of greater Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives. This was a further step on from his previous worship at syncretistic high places (3.3), for verse 5 makes clear that he not only built them for his wife but was participating himself. ‘Abomination’ was a word regularly applied to idolatry. It was seen as the most heinous of sins.

11.8 ‘And so did he for all his foreign wives, who burnt incense and sacrificed to their gods.’

Nor did he stop there, but revelled in idolatry with all his ‘foreign wives’, burning incense and sacrificing to their gods. Solomon had always been a compromiser. Now he was letting himself go all the way into evil practises, and revealing himself for what he really was. He was sacrificing to devils (Deuteronomy 32.16-17).

The word for ‘burning incense’ could be rendered ‘offered a fire offering’ but as incense altars were regularly found at pagan high places the burning of incense was probably intended.

YHWH’s Verdict And Judgment On The House Of Solomon (11.9-13).

Solomon had no doubt appeased his conscience by persuading himself that he was still honouring YHWH at the regular feasts when he took up his position as Intercessor of Israel, not realising that in fact by that very compromise he was demeaning YHWH. He was bringing Him down to the level of the other ‘gods’.

We are not told how YHWH conveyed His message to Solomon, but it was probably through a prophet (Ahijah (11.29) may well be a contender), and in it He brought out the seriousness of what Solomon had done. In spite of his privilege of being specifically illuminated twice by God at crucial points in his life, he had broken every promise and had defied the covenant. From now on therefore his house was only to have responsibility for two of the tribes of Israel. The other ‘ten’ would be handed over to one of his ‘servants’.

As often with God’s judgments this would actually occur through historical events, and much of the blame would lie at the door of the recalcitrance of his own son. But it is a reminder that behind all history lies the controlling hand of God.

Analysis.

  • a And YHWH was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from YHWH, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what YHWH commanded (11.10).
  • b For which reason YHWH said to Solomon, “Forasmuch as this is done by you, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely rend the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant” (11.11).
  • a “Notwithstanding in your days I will not do it, for David your father’s sake, but I will rend it out of the hand of your son. However that may be I will not rend away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen” (11.12-13).

Note that in ‘a’ Solomon had turned away his heart from God, and in the parallel God will in turn rend the kingdom from Solomon’s son. Central in ‘b’ is the detailed explanation of why this will be. Note how ‘b’ is the glue that holds all together. It looks back to the breaking of the commandment in ‘a’ and forward to the rending away of the kingdom in the parallel ‘a’.

11.9-10 ‘And YHWH was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from YHWH, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what YHWH commanded.’

The result was that YHWH was ‘angry with Solomon’. In other words He took an antipathy to him because of his sin. It was no mild antipathy for it was to affect Solomon’s children and his house from then on. And Solomon’s sin was seen as especially heinous because YHWH had twice appeared to Solomon in dreams and warned him of the consequences of turning away from Him and going after other gods (compare 3.5-15 where it is implied in the command to walk in His ways and keep His commandment; 9.2-9), and besides he had less excuse than later kings because, unlike them, he was not under any other kind of threat (at least later kings had the excuse that they were being pressurised politically by powerful overlords). He was thus totally inexcusable. The final verdict, like that on Adam and Eve, was that he had not kept what YHWH had commanded and would thus be thrust out of his kingdom.

The idea of the ‘anger of God’ is used regularly in the Old Testament as a way of describing God’s antipathy to sin. Compare 8.46; Deuteronomy 1.37;4.21; 9.8, 20. > While a parallel idea of ‘the anger of God’ was also to be found in the Moabite stone (the anger of Chemosh) and in Assyrian and Hittite texts, there it was a crude polytheism that was in mind that was reflected in violence, whereas here it will be noted that God did not lash out violently but gave a merciful and considered judgment which was far more merciful than was deserved. To speak of God’s anger is an anthropomorphism indicating God’s necessary antipathy to sin.

11.11 ‘For which reason YHWH said to Solomon, “Forasmuch as this is done by you, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely rend the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant”.’

YHWH’s verdict was then declared. Because Solomon had failed to keep His covenant and His statutes which YHWH had commanded him, the kingdom that YHWH had given him was to be torn away from him and given to one of his ‘servants’. Solomon was now in total disgrace, and his name was to be humiliated. Solomon’s son, instead of inheriting an empire, would become a petty king.

11.12 “Notwithstanding in your days I will not do it, for David your father’s sake, but I will rend it out of the hand of your son.”

Nevertheless, for the sake of David to whom YHWH had given such wonderful promises about Solomon (2 Samuel 7.12-15; 12..24-25), this would not take place while Solomon was alive, but after he had gone. For David had been promised that YHWH would not take away His mercy from his son as He had taken it away from Saul (2 Samuel 7.15), and YHWH would never go back on His promise. All His mercy therefore was for David’s sake.

11.13 “However that may be I will not rend away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen.”

Furthermore, because He had promised to David that his throne and his kingship would last for ever and had guaranteed the permanence of his house (2 Samuel 7.16) he would not take the whole kingdom out of his son’s hands, but would give him one more tribe other than Judah. And He would do this ‘for David My servant’s sake, and ‘for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen’.

The notion that YHWH had chosen Jerusalem has never been stated before. But that choice had been made by David when he had brought the Ark into Jerusalem and placed it in a Sacred Tent at which sacrifices were offered, and YHWH had therefore ‘chosen it’ for David’s sake (compare 8.16-21 where no city had been chosen before). This was where David’s kingship had been set up, and this was therefore where it would be continued. This was quite important, for strictly, now that Solomon had turned away from YHWH, Jerusalem should have been doomed (9.7-9). But for David’s sake it was to be spared, because as David’s city YHWH had chosen to watch over it. Jerusalem was not eternally chosen. It was chosen for David’s sake.

YHWH Raises Up Three Adversaries to Solomon (11.14-40).

At the commencement of his reign Solomon had had to deal with three rebels against the throne, Adonijah, Abiathar and Joab and Shimei (2.13-46). Now we learn of three adversaries whom, during the course of his reign, YHWH ‘raised up’ to be a thorn in Solomon’s side, Hadad the Edomite (11.14-22), Rezon of Damascus (11.23-26), and Jeroboam, the son of Nebat (11.27-40). The narratives are not in chronological order (chronologically the first two mainly occurred before YHWH’s judgment on Solomon) but in topical order. They are gathered together at the end of the narrative so as to demonstrate the opposition that had been growing continually towards Solomon because of his ways, and what it would eventually lead to. Thus even while Solomon had been moving on to greater and greater arrogance, YHWH had been giving him warnings about his vulnerability.

It is significant that two of these adversaries were sheltered by Egypt. Solomon had courted Egypt by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, and now Egypt was ready to stab him in the back. His compromise with Egypt had thus had limited benefits. It may well be that Siamun, the father of Solomon’s wife, had died, and that the Pharaoh who sheltered Hadad was his successor Psusennes II. It will, however, be noted that the Pharaoh had no belligerent intentions against Solomon, and in fact did not want Hadad to return to Edom. He was simply sheltering a royal refugee with whom he had established good relations. Shishak, the Pharaoh who would later take in Jeroboam, was from a new and more enterprising dynasty whose aim was to destabilise Israel. It is noticeable, however, that even he did not dare to threaten Israel while Solomon was still alive, only foment trouble for him with the hope of destabilising Israel, something which was later achieved for him satisfactorily by Rehoboam’s folly. He then walked in and said ‘thank you very much’. But Solomon, instead of taking warning, went heedlessly on.

Hadad The Edomite (11.14-22).

The first adversary was Hadad, the Edomite. He was of the royal family of Edom and had escaped the retaliatory massacre that necessarily followed an Edomite raid on Israel that had produced many dead. Joab had, in retaliation, carried out an extermination campaign in which he had attempted to kill every male capable of fighting in Edom. To be fair to him it was the only way of preventing further raids from the mountains of Edom, and making southernmost ‘Israel’ safe.

Hadad, a young teenager of the royal family, was smuggled out of the country into the land of Midian, with the aim, once it was feasible, of fleeing for refuge to Egypt. From Midian they eventually moved on to Paran in the Sinai wilderness, and then, with the assistance of the men of Paran, escaped into Egypt, where Hadad was received by the Pharaoh as royalty, and given a house, food fit for royalty and land. Indeed he gained such favour with the Pharaoh that he was allowed to marry the Pharaoh’s wife’s sister. This marriage resulted in the birth of a son named Genubath who was weaned and grew up in the Pharaoh’s household among his own sons. Solomon’s enemies were also gaining favour with Egypt.

Once, however, news reached Egypt that David and Joab were dead, Hadad presumably saw an opportunity of gaining back his throne (he was not aware of Solomon’s calibre) and asked to be allowed to return to Edom. The Pharaoh tried to dissuade him, but in the end gave him permission to go. Once safely hidden in the mountains of Edom he rallied the men who remained (some would have escaped the massacre either by hiding in remote places, or fleeing to surrounding countries), and began to cause Solomon a great deal of ‘mischief’ (verse 25). In other words, from his mountain hide-out he was a constant thorn in Solomon’s side. Such ‘brigand’ or ‘patriotic’ (depending on your viewpoint) bands are difficult to search out in mountainous country which is well known to the ‘brigands’, and were of course a nuisance rather than dangerous to the empire, for Solomon was still able to work the mines in Edom and trade through the port of Ezion-geber. But it was unquestionably a blot on the peaceful empire of Solomon, especially as Hadad’s claims had some validity. The whole account was possibly extracted at some stage from Edomite annals.

Analysis.

  • a And YHWH raised up an adversary to Solomon, Hadad the Edomite. He was of the king’s seed in Edom (11.14).
  • b For it came about, when David was in Edom, and Joab the captain of the host was gone up to bury the slain, and had smitten every male in Edom, (for Joab and all Israel remained there six months, until he had cut off every male in Edom), that ’Adad fled, he and certain Edomites of his father’s servants with him, to go into Egypt, Hadad being yet a young teenager (11.15-17).’
  • c And they arose out of Midian, and came to Paran, and they took men with them out of Paran, and they came to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house, and appointed him victuals, and gave him land (11.18).
  • d And Hadad found great favour in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him to wife the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen (11.19).
  • c And the sister of Tahpenes bore him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh’s house, and Genubath was in Pharaoh’s house among the sons of Pharaoh (11.20).
  • b And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, Let me depart, that I may go to my own country (11.21).
  • a Then Pharaoh said to him, “But what have you lacked with me, that, behold, you seek to go to your own country?” And he answered, “Nothing. However that may be only let me depart” (11.22).

Note that in ‘a’ YHWH raises up an adversary to Solomon, and in the parallel he insists on returning to his own country in order to be an adversary. In ‘b’ David and Joab had carried out the slaughter of the Edomites, and in the parallel it is because of the deaths of David and Joab that Hadad returns to Edom. In ‘c’ Hadad is well looked after by the Pharaoh, and in the parallel his son is well looked after in Pharaoh’s household. Centrally in ‘d’ Hadad finds favour with the Pharaoh and marries the sister of Pharaoh’s wife.

11.14 ‘And YHWH raised up an adversary to Solomon, Hadad the Edomite. He was of the king’s seed in Edom.’

The first adversary raised up by YHWH against Solomon was Hadad the Edomite, who was descended from the royal house of Edom. The author has no doubt that YHWH had all history in His hands, and knew and shaped what was to come. Thus the ‘raising up’ began as early as the time of David when the young prince of Edom escaped the massacre of his countrymen, and was finally able to make his way to Egypt where he was treated with honour.

11.15-17 ‘For it came about, when David was in Edom, and Joab the captain of the host was gone up to bury the slain, and had smitten every male in Edom, (for Joab and all Israel remained there six months, until he had cut off every male in Edom, that ’Adad fled, he and certain Edomites of his father’s servants with him, to go into Egypt, Hadad being yet a young teenager.’

The background to his story is given, It looked back to a time when the Edomites had raided David’s kingdom and had viciously slaughtered a good number of ‘Israelites’. Joab had then been despatched by David ‘to bury the Israelite dead,’ which would include the necessity for obtaining vengeance on their behalf and ensuring that such Edomite raids never took place again. In those days there was only one way in which to ensure that, and that was by totally destroying the enemy’s fighting capability. The women of Edom would not do any raiding on their own. Thus Joab set out to slaughter every male capable of fighting in Edom, a task over which he took six months.

But however savage the onslaught, clearly there would always be some who escaped into remote places or into other lands, and among them were a group of his father’s ‘servants’ who smuggled him away into the land of Midian (the ‘servants’ may have been some of his father’s courtiers and chieftains, or they may have been loyal household servants). This ‘land of Midian’ may have been the perilous and mountainous land to the south of Edom often seen as being ‘the land of Midian’, or it may even refer to that part of the Sinai peninsula which in Exodus 2.15 was also spoken of as ‘the land of Midian’. The Midianites roamed over wide areas, and therefore ‘the land of Midian’ was not easy to define. In their view it was wherever they roamed. So it depended on the perspective of the user.

It will be noted that Hadad is only this once in the narrative called ’Adad. This may have been his more popular name as a youngster, and therefore be the sign of a personal reminiscence by someone who had known the young prince well by that name, Hadad being his ‘royal name’. The dropping of an ‘aitch’ was by no means uncommon with names (compare Adoram (1 Kings 12.18) and Hadoram (2 Chronicles 10.18) for the same man).

Hadad (‘the Thunderer’) was the Aramaean god of storm, the equivalent of Baal, and this may indicate that the Edomites worshipped the Aramaean pantheon, for Hadad had long been a popular name for Edomite rulers (see e.g. Genesis 36.35-36; 1 Chronicles 1.46, 50). Interestingly we are never otherwise given any indication as to which gods the Edomites worshipped.

11.18 ‘And they arose out of Midian, and came to Paran, and they took men with them out of Paran, and they came to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house, and appointed him victuals, and gave him land.’

We do not know how long they remained in hiding in Midian, which would not normally have been very friendly towards them, (although the Midianites did sometime harbour refugees, as they did Moses), but eventually they determined to make an attempt to reach Egypt, and made their way into the Sinai peninsula into the land of Paran. There they were seemingly befriended by peoples who assisted them on their way to Egypt. David was probably not very popular with any of these peoples, and they were probably delighted to be able to ‘get their own back’ on him, even if only in so small a way.

On arrival in Egypt Hadad’s identity was disclosed, and he was welcomed by the Pharaoh who provided him with a house and some land, and ensured that he was properly and royally fed.

11.19 ‘And Hadad found great favour in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him to wife the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen.’

Indeed Hadad grew to such favour with Pharaoh that he was given for a wife the sister of the Pharaoh’s own chief wife. She was thus not of Pharaoh’s own seed, but nevertheless it was a great honour. Tahpenes was probably not the name of the queen, but a title signifying ‘wife of the king’ (Egyptian t.hmt.nsw). Hadad now counted for something in Egypt.

11.20 ‘And the sister of Tahpenes bore him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh’s house, and Genubath was in Pharaoh’s house among the sons of Pharaoh.’

His marriage prospered and Hadad’s wife bore him a son, whom they named Genubath. This son was honoured by being weaned in Pharaoh’s own household, and brought up among his sons.

11.21 ‘And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, Let me depart, that I may go to my own country.’

But when Hadad learned that David and the dreaded Joab were both dead, and that the young Solomon had come to the throne, he saw an opportunity, and began to hanker for his own country. The period after the death of a king was often one of unrest, and here was surely the opportunity for him to establish himself on the throne of Edom and obtain independence for Edom from Israel. So he went to the Pharaoh and begged permission to return to his own country. He was, of course, aware, as Pharaoh was, that he was thereby forfeiting a life of ease and comfort for a life of hardship, but it seemed to his patriotic spirit that it was worthwhile. Indeed, he probably felt that he must do it.

11.22 ‘Then Pharaoh said to him, “But what have you lacked with me, that, behold, you seek to go to your own country?” And he answered, “Nothing. However that may be only let me depart.”

Pharaoh tried to persuade him not to leave, and pointed out the luxurious lifestyle that he enjoyed. But Hadad was determined, and while admitting how good the Pharaoh had been to him, nevertheless begged permission to depart. This permission was clearly granted for we already know that he had been raised up by YHWH to be an ‘adversary’ to Solomon, and we learn in verse 25 that he caused ‘mischief’ to Solomon. We are given no details, but this suggests that he returned to Edom, along with his retainers, where he was accepted by the remnants of the men who had escaped the Edom massacre, and the younger Edomites who were now growing to manhood, as their king and chieftain.

His rule was probably that of a chieftain of a band of patriots who had to remain hidden in the mountains like bandits, But he clearly caused Solomon some irritation, although being a thorn in his flesh rather than a danger to his kingdom. The cities of Edom probably still had to pay their tribute to Solomon, and Solomon was still able to work the mines and trade through Ezion Geber. But Hadad no doubt raided the supply trains and merchant caravans as they made their way to and from Israel. It is doubtful whether Solomon ever gave him any recognition.

The deliberate omission here of any mention of Hadad’s ‘mischief-making’ and its being coupled with the mischief-making of Rezon of Damascus in verse 25 is with the deliberate intention of linking the two incidents as part of YHWH’s one overall attempt to curb Solomon’s growing arrogance.

This crack in the peace of his realm should have given Solomon pause for thought. But when men are set on the downward path they rarely stop to think.

Rezon of Damascus.

The next ‘adversary’ that God raised up against Solomon was Rezon of Damascus. He was an office in the army of Hadadezer, king of Zobah, at the time when David retaliated against Hadadezer for aiding the Ammonites, and brought him into subjection, slaying many men of Zobah. Rezon deserted Hadadezer, and gathered a band of marauders (as David had done before him), and eventually, probably after a considerable period of time, established himself in Damascus. From there he was a constant adversary to Solomon, seeking to cause mischief, hating Israel, and reigning over Aram (Syria). In other words he was a constant trouble-maker and thorn in the flesh.

We do not know the full details. It may well be that Damascus still paid tribute to Solomon on and off, and that it was at least nominally tributary, but that Rezon, with his men, having virtual control of Damascus, constantly caused trouble. (It is difficult to see how it could totally have resisted the power of Solomon and remained fully independent, and it is noticeable that Rezon is not said to have been king of Damascus, which had once been garrisoned by David). Again it was seen to be a thorn in the flesh rather than a major threat, and it does not appear to have greatly affected Solomon’s trading arrangements. In the future, however, Damascus would grow into a greater threat to Israel than Edom could ever be. But that yet lay ahead. Rezon’s ruling over Aram may well have been after Solomon’s death, the account here being a brief summary of Rezon’s whole life.

Analysis.

  • a And God raised up another adversary to him, Rezon the son of Eliada, who had fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah (11.23).
  • b And he gathered men to him, and became captain over a roving band, when David slew those of Zobah, and they went to Damascus, and dwelt in it, and ruled in Damascus (11.24).
  • a And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, besides the mischief that Hadad did, and he abhorred Israel, and ruled over Aram (Syria) (11.25).

Note that in ‘a’ he was an adversary to Solomon and the same in the parallel. Central in ‘b’ is his control of Damascus.

11.23 ‘And God raised up another adversary to him, Rezon the son of Eliada, who had fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah.’

Once more God is seen to be active in causing trouble for Solomon through historic events. This time it was a man called Rezon (which means ‘chieftain’, probably the name he took when he became leader of his band. His real name was probably Hezion - see below), the son of Eliada. E(h)li-Ada is a typically Aramaean name. This man was an officer in the army of Hadadezer of Zobah, and when David invaded Zobah in retaliation for Zobah’s assistance to Ammon (2 Samuel 10.1-19), Rezon at some stage deserted or fled and, taking advantage of the chaos, got together a band of marauders.

11.24 ‘And he gathered men to him, and became captain over a roving band when David slew those of Zobah, and they went to Damascus, and dwelt in it, and ruled in Damascus.’

As his band of marauders grew they were able over a considerable period of time to grow strong enough to enter Damascus, which initially had been subdued and garrisoned by David (2 Samuel 8.3-6), and take control of it. How far he was totally able to resist the influence of Solomon we do not know. It may well be that for a time they paid tribute unwillingly (he is not called king), but with belligerent reluctance, being allowed to remain because he was not seen as too great a threat.

11.25 ‘And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, besides the mischief that Hadad did, and he abhorred Israel, and ruled over Aram (Syria).’

He was never reconciled to Solomon, and like Hadad constantly sought to act against him, hating Israel with loathing and eventually taking over the rule of the whole of Aram (which may have been immediately after Solomon’s death). He may well have been identical with Hezion, grandfather of Benhadad I who would later make an alliance with Asa of Judah (15.18).

Had Solomon taken notice of this chastising of YHWH it might have faced him up with his waning obedience, but he was far too busy on his pet projects and with his wives and their false worship to bother too much about such things. And the result was that it passed him by. His failure would have devastating consequences for his descendants.

Jeroboam The Rebel (11.26-40).

Because Solomon had not responded to YHWH’s chastening and had grievously sinned YHWH, now raised up one who was to be given the large part of Solomon’s kingdom. His name was Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, and he was an Israelite, an Ephraimite from Zeredah.

He had come to prominence because Solomon had observed how industrious and capable he was during some of his building work, and had therefore set him over ‘all the labour of the house of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh, and possibly even more)’. This had given him great influence due to the constant levies on the people of Israel during the period of the building of the Temple, and it had also enabled him to enter in to the pain of his people.

After some time in his position, as he was leaving Jerusalem one day, he was met in the solitariness of the countryside by the prophet Ahijah. Ahijah was deliberately wearing a new cloak (symbolic of the new kingdom), and tearing it into twelve pieces he gave ten pieces to Jeroboam, declaring that just as this cloak had been torn so Israel would be torn, with the result that ten tribes of Israel would be given to him to rule over, with two tribes remaining under the rule of the house of Solomon because of His promises to David. Jeroboam was thus destined to become king over Israel, because of Solomon’s grievous sins in connection with foreign gods.

Such a prophetic utterance was not intended to be seen as an incitement to rebellion. It was simply preparing Jeroboam for the future (as Samuel had with David). But the fact that Solomon sought Jeroboam out to kill him suggests that Jeroaboam did initiate some moves against Solomon, moves which Solomon found out about, something confirmed by later tradition which cites an actual rebellion. That may have been overstating the case, but certainly we are told that he ‘lifted up his hand against the king’ and it would appear later that the tribes of Israel looked to him as their prospective leader (12.2-3). It may well be that these moves were connected with seeking to make the burden of the people lighter carried to such an extent that it became insubordination.

The consequence was that he had to flee to Egypt, where he came under the protection of Shishak, the Pharaoh of a new, more enterprising dynasty, who was delighted to do anything that might contribute towards undermining Solomon’s power.

Analysis.

  • a And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow, he also lifted up his hand against the king (11.26).
  • b And this was the reason why he lifted up his hand against the king. Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breach of the city of David his father (11.27).
  • c And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour, and Solomon saw the young man that he was industrious, and he gave him charge over all the labour of the house of Joseph (11.28).
  • d And it came about at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way (11.29a).
  • e Now Ahijah had clad himself with a new robe, and they two were alone in the countryside, and Ahijah laid hold of the new robe which was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces, and he said to Jeroboam, “You take ten pieces. For thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to you’ ” (11.29b-31).
  • f “But he shall have one tribe, for my servant David’s sake and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel” (11.32).
  • g “Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and they have not walked in my ways, to do what is right in my eyes, and to keep my statutes and my ordinances, as did David his father” (11.33).
  • f “However that may be 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, who kept my commandments and my statutes” (11.34).
  • e “But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it to you, even ten tribes, and to his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a lamp always before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for myself to put my name there” (11.35-36).
  • d “And I will take you, and you shall reign according to all that your soul desires, and will be king over Israel” (11.37).
  • c “And it shall be, if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did” (11.38).
  • b “That I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you, and I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever” (11.39).
  • a Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon (11.40).

Note that in ‘a’ Jeroboam lifted up his hand against the king, and in the parallel he had to flee to Egypt from Solomon’s wrath. In ‘b’ Solomon built up the Millo and repaired the breach of the city of David, and in the parallel YHWH promised that, if he was obedient, He would build up the house of Jeroboam in the same way as he had promised to David, causing a breach with the seed of David who would thus be afflicted. In ‘c’ Jeroboam demonstrated his diligent obedience to Solomon, and in the parallel he was called on to be diligently obedient to YHWH. In ‘d’ Ahijah sought Jeroboam out in order to deliver to him a prophecy, and in the parallel he prophesied that he would rule over Israel. In ‘e’ Ahijah symbolically indicates that ten tribes will be torn from Solomon and given to Jeroboam, the remainder remaining with the house of David, and in the parallel that is emphasised. In ‘f’ ‘one tribe’ will remain with the house of David, something confirmed in the parallel. Central in ‘g’ we have the reason behind all this. It is because of Solomon’s rebellion against YHWH in following after false gods.

11.26 ‘And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite (Ephrathite) of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow, he also lifted up his hand against the king.’

The third in the sequence of troublemakers was a man whose name was Jeroboam (‘the people is great’). He was the son of Nebat, and an Ephraimite from Zeredah. But his father was dead, and his mother was a widow named Zeruah. Zeruah means ‘leprous’. This name may have been given because her mother had become a leper, but the prophet no doubt saw it as significant in view of what followed. Zeredah is probably Banat-Bar, north-west of Bethel. Jeroboam was ‘an officer of the king.’

‘He lifted up his hand against the king.’ 11.27-28 may be seen as suggesting that this arose out of his position as officer in charge of the labour of the house of Joseph. He may well simply have been involved in actively and strongly campaigning for better rights for his workers, something which the arrogant Solomon would have seen as insubordination and incipient rebellion, and therefore as worthy of death Certainly later Israel called on him to help them obtain a better deal under Rehoboam (12.2-4).

11.27-28 ‘And this was the reason why he lifted up his hand against the king. Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breach of the city of David his father, and the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour, and Solomon saw the young man that he was industrious, and he gave him charge over all the labour of the house of Joseph.’

The reason given for his having lifted up his hand against the king is that when he demonstrated his ability and zeal in the building of the Millo, Solomon took notice of him and, recognising that he was a man of property (a mighty man of wealth/valour) appointed him to have charge over the large labour force from the house of Joseph. This would include the two large tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh but may well also have included some of the other northern tribes as well. Thus he was given a position of considerable authority.

Being a ‘mighty man of valour’ ( a man of property, and of considerable courage and ability) he may well have felt it his responsibility to defend the needs of his workers, even to the point of open hostility towards Solomon’s officers, something which in itself would have had him branded as a ‘troublemaker’. If he thereby gained the affection and support of a large proportion of the people so that there were murmurings among them Solomon would certainly have seen him as a potential threat. He did not deal kindly with troublemakers, as we know.

Such a display of godly concern for the people in accordance with covenant principles, and of a willingness to take risks on his people’s behalf, would explain why YHWH saw Jeroboam as a potentially reliable ruler, and sent a prophet to inform him that one day he would be rewarded for his ‘right actions’ by becoming king over Israel.

11.29 ‘And it came about at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way. Now Ahijah had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the countryside.’

When one day Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem and was walking (or riding on an ass) through the open countryside away from prying ears, he was met by Ahijah the prophet, a Shilonite, who was wearing a new robe which we will discover was symbolic of the new kingdom of David. Note the emphasis on the aspect of privacy. What the prophet had to say was for Jeroboam’s ears alone.

Alternately the newness of the garment may have been because it was to be used for a sacred purpose, and thus must never have been previously used (compare 2 Samuel 6.3).

The fact that Ahijah was from Shiloh may suggest that he was a member of a group of prophets who were based at Shiloh, the site of the ancient Tabernacle prior to the site being ransacked by the Philistines (see e.g. Joshua 18.1; 1 Samuel 1.3; 4.4; Jeremiah 7.14). It would be seen as a legitimate place where YHWH had recorded His Name. These prophets would thus be less influenced by, and more independent of, Solomon than prophets in Jerusalem (who if they had a message might have been expected to speak directly to Solomon) would be.

11.30 ‘And Ahijah laid hold of the new garment which was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces.’

On coming up with Jeroboam Ahijah took off his new robe and tore it into twelve pieces (compare 1 Samuel 15.27-28). This was an acted out prophecy which guaranteed the certainty of what was to happen. It was, as it were, a prophetic earnest of what was to come.

11.31-32 ‘And he said to Jeroboam, “You take ten pieces. For thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to you, (but he shall have one tribe, for my servant David’s sake and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel),”

Then Ahijah told Jeroboam to accept ten pieces of the robe, which was an indication that YHWH intended that ten out of the twelve tribes of Israel were for him, and would be given to him by YHWH. The remainder would still belong to the house of Solomon. The fact that two pieces were retained for Solomon indicated that he would have two tribes, thus the ‘one tribe’ must have meant ‘one other as well as Judah’.

However, we must not overpress the specific numbers. Some time had passed by since Israel had been divided into twelve distinct tribes, and there had been much movement and mingling, dividing up and assimilation, among the tribes, to say nothing of the effect of the inter-relationships with other inhabitants of the land. The two who would unite around the house of Solomon would be Judah and Benjamin (12.21), although some parts of Benjamin, such as Jericho, would remain with Israel, but among them would be living many individuals from other tribes, especially from the tribe of Simeon who had once dwelt among Judah in the place where they had first settled, mainly losing much of their identity, and there would be those from all tribes who had centred their focus on Jerusalem as the hub of the empire and centre of worship for Israel, and wished to remain there.

It would seem, however, that many Simeonites had moved elsewhere and were seen as separately identifiable (1 Chronicles 12.24-25; compare how cities that were Simeonite in Joshua 19.1-9 could be seen as cities of Judah in Joshua 15). Indeed many Simeonites from the north continued to make pilgrimages to the shrine in Beersheba (Amos 5.5). We know also that Dan had similarly become divided up into two distinct groups, one group having moved to Laish (Judges 18), and the remainder remaining where they were. Furthermore many from the tribe of Levi would naturally focus on Jerusalem. Thus ‘the ten tribes’ was simply intended as a general description indicating all who would not see themselves as still a part of the kingdom when the rebellion took place, those who would not specifically identify themselves with the leaders of Judah and Benjamin, thereby roughly making up the rest of ‘Israel’. They were probably still identifiable to some extent as ‘tribes’ by the fact of whom they demonstrated their loyalty to among the elders of Israel, for there would still be elders who were seen as representing particular ancient tribes to whom loyalties would be due. But we must not think of ten easily separable and identifiable tribes. We can compare how in Jesus’ time when things were even more complicated He could still speak of ‘the twelve tribes of Israel’ as though they were each identifiable, even though they were not (and all knew that they were not), and James could address the whole church as ‘the twelve tribes of Israel’ (James 1.1). This is not to deny that large numbers of Israel did still identify themselves with a particular tribe, but with many it was more wishful thinking than a reality of birth. It was a matter of seeing themselves as adopted by the tribe with which they, sometimes loosely, aligned themselves, and in whose anciently allocated area they lived.

11.33 “Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and they have not walked in my ways, to do what is right in my eyes, and to keep my statutes and my ordinances, as did David his father.”

The reason for this astounding prophecy is now given. It was because Solomon and his wives (and/or his people) had forsaken YHWH, and had worshipped foreign gods in Jerusalem, the city which had been set apart for YHWH by David when he introduced the Ark into it, with the result that YHWH had ‘chosen it’. Furthermore they had also not walked in His ways to do what was right in His eyes and to keep His statutes and ordinances, in the way that David, Solomon’s father had. Thus what was to happen was due to a combination of idolatry and of disobedience to His moral and religious requirements (compare Isaiah 1.11-18). The language of the second half of the verse is similar to that in 3.14; 9.4, although ‘to do what is right in my eyes’ is new (although see Deuteronomy 13.18). As we have seen earlier the ideas are a mixture of Mosaic and Davidic rather than simply Deuteronomic (in whatever sense) ideas. They look back on the whole of Israel’s history. The gods described are those mentioned in 11.5, 7.

11.34 “However that may be 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, who kept my commandments and my statutes,”

However, because of His promise to David His chosen king, and for David’s sake, and because David had been obedient to His commandments and statutes, He would not take the whole kingdom away from Solomon. Indeed He would make him ‘prince/ruler’ all the days of his life. There is here both a degrading and a consolidating of Solomon’s position. While outwardly king over all Israel, it is no longer a permanent dynastic position, but one dependent on the will of the people and the mind of YHWH.

11.35-36 “But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it to you, even ten tribes. And to his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a lamp always before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for myself to put my name there.”

And while it was YHWH’s intention to take the majority of the kingdom out of the hands of the house of Solomon, ‘even ten tribes’ (ten regularly means ‘a good number’), He would not take the whole kingdom out of his son’s hands. He would give him one tribe, in contrast to the ten tribes that He would give to Jeroboam. This clearly had to mean one tribe as well as Judah, in order to make up the twelve. Thus He saw Judah as already irrevocably belonging to David’s house. (These two tribes would then be known as ‘Judah’ (12.20) which became the accepted designation of the southern kingdom).

And the reason for this was so that David might always have a lamp before Him in Jerusalem, the city which YHWH ‘had chosen for Himself’ in response to David’s choice of it. Had David’s house only ruled over Judah, Jerusalem, which was on the border between Judah and Benjamin, and partly belonged to each tribe, would have been in an impossible position. Thus in order to preserve it both Judah and Benjamin were required to unite as one kingdom.

The phrase, ‘that David my servant may have a lamp always before me in Jerusalem’, the idea behind which is repeated in 15.4; 2 Kings 8.19, may possibly have in mind 2 Samuel 21.17 where David was seen as the lamp of Israel because as the chosen king he was seen as the nation’s very life, and the means of God’s light shining on them. It had been David’s, and the people’s, longing that his house might always be such a light, and God now confirms that it will be so. Compare how in Lamentations 4.20 the Davidic king was also seen as ‘the breath of our nostrils’. He was seen as essential to their whole wellbeing.

But in the end the lamp indicated a living representative of the house of David, just as the seven-branched lampstand in the Tabernacle visibly represented YHWH among His people. There would be a Davidic representative while the kingdom lasted.

Having ‘chosen Jerusalem’ because it had been David’s choice to make it His Sanctuary, God now confirmed His choice of Jerusalem as the place where His Name would dwell (compare 11.11 which was the first mention of such an idea concerning Jerusalem). We should note that this ‘choice’ of Jerusalem is always linked with the name of David. It was the fact of the presence of the Davidic throne and of the Ark in Jerusalem that made Jerusalem YHWH’s choice. (Thus once Jerusalem rejected Jesus it ceased to be the city of God’s choice).

11.37 “And I will take you, and you shall reign according to all that your soul desires, and will be king over Israel.”

So YHWH would take Jeroboam and make him reign in accordance with all the desires of his inner life, and establish him as king over Israel. If he fulfilled YHWH’s conditions he would have free rein and YHWH’s blessing.

11.38 “And it shall be, if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, that I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.”

This was, however, conditional upon obedience. If he was fully obedient, and walked in YHWH’s ways, and did what was right in His eyes, keeping His statutes and commandments as David had, then YHWH would be with him and would build him a sure house, just as He had built one for David, and his kingship would be over Israel (the tent tribes). Thus Jeroboam was being offered an equal blessing with David, if he was willing to obey Him like David had. We must not underestimate this covenant. It conditionally put him in the same covenant position as David was. That is why his subsequent fall was seen as so heinous. It was a total rejection of YHWH’s covenant such as even Saul had not achieved.

This promise suggests that there were good grounds, outwardly and humanly speaking, for seeing Jeroboam as having been looked on as a promising king, another David. This would serve to confirm that Jeroboam in his previous behaviour had not been simply a power-seeker, but was to be seen as having demonstrated a genuine concern for the needs of God’s people. This would tie in with his main effort having been to obtain some relief for the labourers over whom he had been appointed, rather than his having raised a specific rebellion. The later tradition of such a rebellion found in one strand of LXX (as given in the Vatican MS B) was probably an expansion on the reality. It bears the marks of ‘invention’. (The Lucianic recension of LXX is much closer to the Hebrew text). But it is nowhere supported by MT.

11.39 “And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever.”

Meanwhile the house of David would be restricted before YHWH to only ruling Judah, and even in the end to ruling nothing at all, although in accordance to His promise to David that would one day be put right, something which happened when Jesus Christ came as God’s king Who was to rule over all men.

11.40 ‘Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.’

We are not told on what grounds Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam, apart from the fact that he had ‘lifted up his hand against him’. But any ground-swell of growing popularity and resistance to Solomon’s will would have been quite sufficient for Solomon to make such a verdict about him. And Jeroboam, as a result, had to flee to Egypt for refuge, where Shishak, the Pharaoh of the new dynasty, took him under his protection. And he remained safely in Egypt until the death of Solomon.

Each of these cases of the three adversaries is:

  • Firstly a reminder that if we are not wholly following the Lord He will raise up chasteners to seek to bring us to our senses (Hebrews 12.5-12).
  • Secondly a reminder that if we ourselves do what is wrong, or fail to do what is right, we will thereby give opportunity for the enemy’s of God to spoil our ‘kingdom’, and mar God’s handywork.
  • Thirdly a reminder, in the case of Jeroboam, that if we do not consider the consequences of our behaviour and attitudes, they will in the end rebound on us.
  • There is the constant warning in Kings that what we sow we will reap, (which is the message, for example, of Exodus 32.34; 34.7; Leviticus 10.1-2; 18.24-28; 20.2-5; 26.14-46; Numbers 11.1-2; 14.40-45; 16.41-49; 21.4-9; Deuteronomy 4.25-28; 11.16-17, 26-28; 28.15-68; 29.18-29 ). It is a reminder that while God is gracious, He will not be mocked.

Comments In Respect Of The Close Of Solomon’s Reign (11.41-43).

It will be noted that some of the information which will in future be given at the commencement of a king’s reign here comes at the end of Solomon’s reign (see also 11.6). This will also partially be so with Rehoboam (14.21-22, 29-31) and Jeroboam (14.19-20). Thus the forthcoming regular pattern was not established by the author until after the deaths of these three kings. Its basis was that God had made two covenants, one that pertained to the kings of Judah (the Davidic covenant) and one that pertained to the kings of Israel (the covenant with Jeroboam - 11.37-38), with the kings of both Israel and Judah thus committed to obey YHWH and walk in His ways. And the continuing principle is that the kings were judged in the light of these covenants, and of how their fathers had behaved towards them Thus the kings of Judah are often compared against David, who had walked rightly before YHWH, and the kings of Israel in comparison with Jeroboam, who had grievously sinned and broken His covenant. This indicates that this framework was very much the creation of the main author of Kings, rather than simply a carrying forward of the practise found in Samuel (1 Samuel 13.1; 2 Samuel 5.4-5), although no doubt his reading of Samuel gave him something of the idea.

Analysis.

  • a Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon? (11.41).
  • b And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. (11.42).
  • a And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father, and Rehoboam his son reigned in his place (11.43).

Note that in ‘a’ we have the beginning of Solomon’s obituary, and in the parallel the end of it. Centrally in ‘b’ we have the declaration concerning his reign.

11.41 ‘Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon?’

Here we are given details of the main source from which the prophetic author had obtained much of his information. Two things are in mind, Solomon’s doings and his wisdom. He had a reputation for wisdom, and much had been written about it. But the author was not concerned with his wisdom, but with how it had been worked out in his life. While for a time it had seemed that he would live up to his promise, in the end his behaviour had let him down. This was a sign sadly of his lack of true wisdom, for ‘the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil that is understanding’. So in the end it had not mattered how wise he was. What mattered was whether he had lived in accordance with that wisdom, and our author has made clear that he did not, condemning him in the end as one who had ‘done evil in the sight of YHWH’, and as one who had not followed in the steps of his father David (11.6).

For all of us a book of our acts are being written in Heaven (Revelation 20.12). And in the end we too will be judged by our actions, and especially by how we responded to the Lamb, and whether our names were written in His book of life (Revelation 20.15). By this we too demonstrate whether we are really wise.

11.42 ‘And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years.’

Solomon reigned in Jerusalem for the whole of his adult life, and he reigned for forty years. The ‘forty years’ indicates a full and complete reign which had not been cut off early, and in view of the fact that Solomon began to reign as a young man and, after a period of consolidation, spent twenty years over building the Temple and the palace complex, it is almost certainly fairly accurate, although it is not to be pressed. The number is a round number and the main idea is of the completeness of his reign. YHWH had not cut him off early. This indication of the length of reign will in future be given in the opening formula.

11.43 ‘And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father, and Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.’

This rather stereotyped statement indicates the bare facts concerning his death and his successor. Its pattern will be constantly repeated. Solomon died and was buried in the city of David, and eventually Rehoboam reigned in Jerusalem in his place, (although it would be over a very much diminished kingdom). The description of a king’s burial will usually indicate that he came to a peaceful end, although certainly not in the case of Ahab (22.37, 40).

Return To Home Page For Further Interesting Articles

For Kings part 1 (1-4) click here

For Kings part 2 (5-8) click here

IS THERE SOMETHING IN THE BIBLE THAT PUZZLES YOU?

If so please EMail us with your question and we will do our best to give you a satisfactory answer.EMailus. (But preferably not from aol.com, for some reason they do not deliver our messages).

FREE Scholarly verse by verse commentaries on the Bible.

THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- THE BOOK OF RUTH --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- I & II CHRONICLES --- EZRA---NEHEMIAH---ESTHER---PSALMS 1-73--- PROVERBS---ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- LAMENTATIONS --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- PHILEMON --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS