The Promised Land “reflections” 36
K I n g s .. King Solomon dies1
1 Kings 10:1 to 12:33
The queen of Sheba had heard of the fame of King Solomon and decided to pay him a visit. Many commentators have had a guess at the location of the kingdom of which she was queen, and several additional (non biblical) stories are speculated about the relationship they developed. It adds nothing to know such things. What we do know is that the lady’s curiosity was ably dealt with by Solomon. He answered her many difficult questions. She was so impressed that she presented him with an ‘obscene amount’ of gold and precious stones, and was gracious in her praise of him. “Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. Happy are your men and happy are these your servants who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom. Blessed be the LORD your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” King Solomon was equally as generous to the queen when she eventually left, with her servants, to return to her own country, and that is the last we hear about her.
Solomon’s wealth and fame continued to grow seemingly without end. He built a fleet of ships (1 Kings. 9:26-28) which sailed the seas, returning every three years bringing valuable and exotic cargo to add to the opulence. One can only try to imagine the diversionary impact such wealth and status had on Solomon. Wise as he was, he was still very much a human being. And herein lies a salutary lesson for us all. As the Apostle Jude wrote “Stay always within the boundaries where God’s love can reach and protect you.” (Living Bible Jude 21) It is helpful here to remind ourselves of some of the responsibilities of kings which are specified in the Torah (Deuteronomy 17) given to Moses.
A king must be a citizen of Israel and must :-
not acquire many horses … relying on military strength
not take multiple wives … lest his heart turn away from the LORD
not accumulate much silver and gold … relying on wealth instead of God
write for himself a copy of Torah … Ensuring that he understands it
read Torah every day … keeping himself acquainted with it
observe all the commands … that he not be lifted above his brethren
That is a formidable list of requirements, and it is certain that Solomon did not comply with at least four of them.
Then we read that “Solomon loved many foreign women”. Compounding the matter, Solomon took wives of Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite heritage in direct disobedience with God’s specific instruction (Deuteronomy 7:1-4) regarding those particular groups of people.
This should provide a huge lesson for us today, and especially for those whom God has appointed as leaders. And the reason it is so important is because God looked on Solomon, (whom he had gifted above all men, and blessed the people with peace and harmony as a result) and said “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you, and give it to your servant.” (Jereboam , taskmaster of the northern tribes, see verses 29 to 39, and Reheboam, his son, to reign over Judah and Benjamin, the two southern tribes.). If God is willing to judge Solomon in that way and for that reason, then it certainly is “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31). Solomon, of course could not accept that judgment, and sought to kill Jeroboam, and thus frustrate the judgment of God. But Jeroboam fled to Egypt, and remained there until Solomon died in 931 BCE. He had reigned over a united Israel for 40 peaceful years.
Solomon’s son Rehoboam, was made king, in his father’s place, at Shechem, (modern day Nablus) a most important place in Israel’s history. (It is located in the valley between the well known Mounts of Gerizim and Ebal.) What happened then may be viewed as a monumental catastrophe, and for Israel it was. The new king Rehoboam was asked by the elders to provide relief for the people from the heavy tax burden which Solomon had placed on them. Rehoboam rejected that plea, and declared that he would actually increase their tax burden. But the Scripture presents a somewhat different view. “So the king did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from the LORD, that He might fulfil His word, which the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam.” (Chapter 11:29 - 39). So it was that the kingdom became divided again, as it was before David became king. The ten tribes of the north, called Israel, went back to their tribal loyalties under their king, Jeroboam. The two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, remained loyal to king Rehoboam in the south.
Following up on his high taxation policy, king Rehoboam sent his finance minister, Adoram, to the north to collect the taxes. He was ‘stoned’ to death by the people of the north, and as the Scripture put it … “So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David (Judah) to this day.” King Rehoboam attempted to assemble an army to fight against the north, but again the word of the LORD came to him by the prophet Shemaiah saying “You shall not go up against your brethren because this thing is from Me.” Sadly, Jeroboam, king of Israel, then took it upon himself to establish two locations, Bethel in the south and Dan in the north, where he set up worship centres, complete with golden calves, so that the people would not have to go to Jerusalem to worship God, as He had instructed. So, the division of the people, Israel and Judah was complete. But that is not the end of the story.