1 Kings 10:1 When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions.
If Sheba was in modern day Yemen, the trip was over twelve hundred miles. The queen came with her questions and a caravan of merchandize. When she saw Solomon’s wealth, and heard his wisdom, she was overwhelmed.
The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your people must be! (1 Kings 10:6-8), she said. Then she gave the king her treasure, but Solomon gave her even more (1 Kings 10:10, 2 Chronicles 9:12).
The Queen of Sheba recognized Solomon’s great wisdom, but many overlook the wisdom of Christ. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here (Matthew 12:42), said Jesus.
Even those who are naturally dull become eternally wise by following Jesus Christ. Christ has become for us wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30), wrote Paul. The wisdom of the world is nonsense compared to the wisdom of the Lord. Following him is the highest wisdom there is.
1 Kings 11:1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women.
Solomon had wisdom from God, but he did not always apply it to himself. Instead of following the pattern for marriage established at creation (Genesis 1:27), Solomon took many wives. This was the practice of kings to stabilize relationships with surrounding nations. When a king’s daughter was given to a foreign king, the two kingdoms were less likely to go to war, since they were now related.
1 Kings 11:2 They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.
One of the greatest threats to God’s people was losing their distinction through intermarriage. Even before they reached the Promised Land, some Israelite men were having sex with foreign women, and worshipping their gods (Numbers 25). God’s anger burned so fiercely that twenty-four thousand perished.
Solomon may have thought the command against intermarriage did not apply to him because, as king, his situation was unique. This is a common way of thinking whenever we face temptation, but our situation is never unique.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13), wrote Paul. God is willing to help us whenever we are tempted, and he would have helped Solomon, if he had only asked.
1 Kings 11:2b Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.
Solomon took many wives for political reasons, but also for sexual pleasure. This was so important to him that he had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines (1 Kings 11:3). If Solomon slept with a different woman each night, it took about three years to see each one again. He may have pleased himself, but he denied most of his wives any hope of a meaningful relationship. It was a very selfish practice.
1 Kings 11:4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods.
Solomon’s heart did not turn after other gods all at once, but by degrees. At first he probably found the worship of other gods to be repulsive, but for the sake of his wives he was willing to put up with it. After many years, however, Solomon grew accustomed to the worship of other gods. The practice now seemed normal to him. With the passing of even more time, the worship of other gods not only seemed normal, but desirable. Shouldn’t everyone be allowed to worship according to their conscience?
Finally, the worship of other gods was not only good for others, but also for Solomon. If the God of Israel had blessed him richly, perhaps the other gods would bless him even more. The heart seldom turns away from God all at once, but usually by degrees.
1 Kings 11:5-8 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. . . . Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab. . . . He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.
Solomon did not abandon God completely; he simply added other gods to his religion. When different religions interact, they often blend together in a process called syncretism. Even the early church was prone to this.
Believers in Corinth were invited to eat at pagan temples, and some saw nothing wrong with it. But the Apostle Paul objected: You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons (1 Corinthians 10:21), he wrote.
Many Christians read the Bible, but also their horoscope. They believe in heaven and hell, but also in reincarnation. I met a girl at a bookstore who referred to herself as a Christian Buddhist. This may be fashionable, but it is not Christianity. If we do not limit our religion to the Bible, it will contradict the Bible. Believers should always be on guard against syncretism.
1 Kings 11:9 The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.
Solomon grew up with the knowledge of God, and encountered God on two occasions (1 Kings 3:5, 9:2). This is a privilege given to few, and it compounded Solomon’s guilt. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48), said Jesus.
Encountering God is a gift, but it is no guarantee against turning away from him. Many who have experienced God deeply in the past are not living for him now. It is not enough to rely on past experience; we must seek his face always (Psalm 105:4), wrote the Psalmist.
When we consider Solomon’s wisdom, and his encounters with God, we should be shocked by his apostasy, and fear for our souls. If Solomon turned away from God, what might happen to us? [W]ork out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), wrote Paul. The Bible gives us enough assurance to be secure, but never enough to be careless.
1 Kings 11:11 So the Lord said to Solomon, Since this is your attitude . . . I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you.
Whenever God’s word contradicted Solomon’s judgment, Solomon rejected God’s word, and followed his own judgment (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). This made him successful for a while, but not for very long. God split the kingdom after he died, and all his gains were lost. God’s work must be done God’s way, in order to have lasting results.
Reflection and Review
Why did Solomon turn away from God?
Why is Solomon’s apostasy alarming?
Why was Solomon’s success so brief?