We are coming to the tipping point of Solomon’s life. Things are looking great for the kingdom under Solomon’s reign. But we are going to see cracks in the kingdom as problem begins. So we are going to look at these cracks in Solomon’s life that leads to a catastrophic fall for him and for the kingdom. We have much to learn from how a man who was granted the greatest wisdom from God fell so far to his own destruction. The text is going to bounce back and forth between describing the glory of the kingdom and then the problems that are visible. So watch as we go back and forth between the good and bad, and ultimately ending with the trouble, for Solomon and his kingdom.
The Failure of a Great Kingdom (9:1-28)
The first nine verses describe God confirming the covenant with Solomon. At the temple dedication Solomon asked for God to forgive his people when they repentantly turned and prayed toward the temple and answer their prayers. God confirms that he will do this (9:3) and then calls upon Solomon to be sure to walk in his ways and this kingdom will be established forever (9:4-5). But if Solomon turns from following the Lord, then Israel will be cut off and the temple will be cast into a heap of ruins (9:6-9). Everyone will know that when the temple is destroyed that it was because they abandoned the Lord (9:9).
The foreshadowing of failure is revealed next. Hiram had supplied Solomon with as much cedar and cypress timber and gold as Solomon desired. Solomon gives Hiram 20 cities in Galilee but the cities are not pleasing to Hiram (9:11-13). So he calls the land Cabul which means worthless. Gentiles are not coming from their own land and blessing the name of the Lord. This Gentile king sees what Solomon has given him in return and looks upon it as worthless.
Verse 16 shows Pharaoh doing what Israel could not do. Gezer is a city that the tribe of Ephraim could not drive out the Canaanite inhabitants (Judges 1:29). Pharaoh destroys the city with fire and kills the inhabitants. Pharaoh gives the city as a wedding gift to his daughter who was also Solomon’s wife. Meanwhile, Solomon acts like Pharaoh by building stables for his horses, chariots, and storage cities (cf. Exodus 1:11). But riches are still flowing into the kingdom (9:25-28).
The Fame of a Great Kingdom (10:1-26)
This picture of riches flowing into the kingdom is repeated throughout chapter 10. Gentiles are bringing their treasures as tribute to Solomon (9:28; 10:2, 10, 14, 16, 18, 21, 22, 25). This is exemplified with the queen of Sheba who hears about Solomon’s fame due to the name of the Lord (10:1). She came to test Solomon with hard questions and Solomon answered all her questions (10:1,3). She praises the Lord because of Solomon. Listen to what she says in 10:9.
“Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:9 ESV)
This is what is supposed to happen. The Lord is praised because of the son of David and his rule of justice and righteousness. The people of Israel are blessed because of Solomon’s kingship (10:8). The rest of the chapter describes the extraordinary wealth that belonged to Solomon’s kingdom. Verse 14 tells us that about 25 tons of gold came into the kingdom each year and this amount did not include what came from the Arabian kings and governors. Shields are made from gold, the throne is covered in gold, and goblets are made of gold. Listen to verse 21. Nothing was made from silver because silver was considered as nothing during the height of Solomon’s reign. Verses 23-25 summarize the picture. Solomon’s riches and wisdom were greater than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world wanted to listen to the wisdom of Solomon. Everyone brought gifts to the king every year. The riches and power of the kingdom is on display.
The Fall of a Great Kingdom (10:27-11:43)
However, 1 Kings 10:27-11:1 show Solomon violating the very commands God gave for the kings (cf. Deuteronomy 17:14-17). The Lord commanded that the king to not acquire many horses, to not acquire horses from Egypt, to not acquire excessive silver and gold, and to not marry many wives for himself. God had said to walk in his ways and Solomon’s throne would be established forever. But the fame and success of the kingdom draws Solomon away from the commands of the Lord. Solomon gathered excessive horses and chariots (10:26). Solomon acquired horses from Egypt (10:28). He did accumulate gold and silver to such a degree that silver was considered as common as stone (10:27). Solomon married many women, 700 royal wives and 300 concubines (11:1-3). Further, God warned in Deuteronomy that marrying many women would turn the king’s heart away, which we are reminded of in 1 Kings 11:2. This is exactly what happens. In 1 Kings 11:3 we see this happen as his heart is no longer wholly true to the Lord (11:4). Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and built high places for these foreign idols and gods (11:5-8). Wise Solomon abandons the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom (cf. Proverbs 1:7). But the key phrase I want us to focus on is in verse 4.
For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. (1 Kings 11:4 ESV)
Solomon now has a divided heart. He is no longer fully devoted to the Lord. We often ask, “What happened? How could someone who is as wise as Solomon and was seeking the Lord like Solomon turn away from be fully devoted to the Lord?” We are shocked by this outcome. But we should not be so surprised at the turning of Solomon’s heart. We should be frightened by what has happened. With all of Solomon’s wisdom and Lord’s warnings to him, Solomon’s heart was still turned away from the Lord. What happened is very simple: the rich blessings of God caused Solomon’s heart to be divided. It is an interesting picture: God wants to bless his people yet those very blessings are a threat to our full devotion to the Lord. Notice the five areas where Solomon’s heart was stolen away from the Lord.
Wealth turned Solomon’s heart away from the Lord. God has made Solomon and his kingdom prosperous. But the prosperity turned his heart. He focuses on gathering more and more. He is gathering horses and chariots. He is accumulating silver and gold. The wealth does not stop but it is just more and more and more. Do we see what wealth can do to our hearts? The desire for more is so dangerous and it is why God tells us to be content. It is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. We need to believe this.
Sex turned Solomon’s heart away from the Lord. Solomon has followed in his father’s footsteps in this way. He is marrying so many women. Many of these women are from foreign alliances but that does not make things any better. Israel was not supposed to make alliances with the other nations. Solomon wants more and more women and it is never enough. Friends, he has 1000 women at this point. When is it enough? How many women will be used until he realizes that this does not satisfy? Yet sex strongly pulls at our hearts in our culture. Our world is saturated in sex, telling us that our identity is found in sex. So we try this and we do not find any more satisfaction than we had before.
People pleasing also turned Solomon’s heart away. Solomon listens to his wives who are asking for things that are contrary to God’s law. Solomon does not want to upset all these women so he does what they want. He does not tell them no as he ought to have. We can have divided hearts between serving God and doing what God says and preserving our family. We end up placing our family above what God says to do. We can do this when we refuse to make a stand with our family about serving the Lord because we still want their company and still want them part of the family. We can do this by not wanting to upset our children, parents, or spouses so we do not worship as we ought or obey the Lord as we ought. We cannot allow our family to prevent us from doing what is right and prevent us from obeying everything the Lord told us to do. We must watch out that even our family can steal our heart away.
Finally, idols turned Solomon’s heart away from the Lord. The women are asking for idols and high places to be set up for them. You might think that it is only the women who were following after the idols. But look at 1 Kings 11:5. Even Solomon followed the Ashtoreth and Milcom. Look at verse 7. He built a high place for Chemosh and Molech on the mountain east of Jerusalem. He built it on the Mount of Olives, across the Kidron Valley in rivalry to the temple of the Lord. At the end of the day, Solomon set up these idols because he wanted the idols just like his wives did. He could try to blame his wives all that he wanted to. But that was not really the problem. The problem was that his heart wanted to do that to. We have idols in our hearts that we desire to follow. We all do what we want to do. Everyone does what they want to do. If we do not want to do it, then we are obstinate and we figure out a way to not do it and come up with excuses to make it sound good. But we all do what we want to do. Solomon wanted to disobey. When we disobey the Lord, we need to not look at other people but look in our own hearts at the idols that are built there. All sinful desires come from within us (James 1:14).
God’s blessing of our lives can cause us to turn our hearts away from the Lord. So we must be careful and guard our hearts. We must make sure that we are not desirous of the things that steal our hearts away from the Lord. I want to make this application for this lesson: we need to finish strong for the Lord. This point comes from 1 Kings 11:4. The text says that when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart from the Lord. We need to finish strong for the Lord. It is easy to retire from the Lord. It is easy to lose our intensity for the Lord. It is easy to grow weary for the Lord. We must be careful that time does not destroy our zeal for the Lord. As time went on, the wealth, women, sex, and idols all chipped away at Solomon and his heart became divided. As each year goes by in our walk with God we must press even harder toward him, not less. Our spiritual growth is not making us immune from spiritual failure. Solomon had that wisdom and fell. Press on, strive forward, and never give up. Paul said it like this:
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. (Philippians 3:13–15 ESV)