August 22, 2014

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Old Testament: The reign of King Solomon

John F. Fink(Thirty-third in a series of columns)

The First and Second Books of Kings contain the history of the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel for a period of 400 years, from about 961 B.C. to 561 B.C., from the death of David to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the monarchy. This week, I’ll summarize the reign of King Solomon, described in the first 11 chapters of the First Book of Kings.

Solomon almost didn’t become king. Before David’s death, Solomon’s half-brother Adonijah was proclaimed king by Joab, David’s general, and some of David’s other followers. But Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, and the prophet Nathan thwarted their plans by reporting the matter to David. David kept his promise to Bathsheba and saw to it that Solomon succeeded him.

After David’s death, Solomon ruthlessly secured his kingdom by ordering the deaths of Adonijah, Joab and others. Of course, that takes 35 verses in Chapter 2.

Then, in Chapter 3, we learn about Solomon’s wisdom. In the first of two times when the Lord appeared to him in a dream, Solomon asked for wisdom—an understanding heart. As an example, we hear the famous story of how he determined the true mother of a child.

For the first time, and the last, the kingdom was at peace. Solomon ruled from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea and to the border with Egypt. We are told how prosperous Solomon was, including 12,000 chariot horses.

It was time to build the Temple, Solomon’s most important accomplishment in the view of the writers. It took 20 years, using the work of 30,000 workmen, and the Bible goes into great detail to describe the Temple and its furnishings. Solomon also took 13 years to build his palace, and again we get great detail.

The Temple was dedicated with a lengthy prayer (45 verses) by Solomon. Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream a second time, and promised to establish his kingdom forever if he and his descendants were faithful to him. If not, though, the Lord said that he would cut off Israel and repudiate the Temple.

Chapter 10 reports the visit of the Queen of Sheba (probably modern Yemen) and how impressed she was with Solomon’s kingdom. We hear of his great wealth: “King Solomon surpassed in riches and wisdom all the kings of the Earth. And the whole world sought audience with Solomon, to hear from him the wisdom which God had put in his heart” (1 Kgs 10:23-24).

However, Solomon wasn’t as wise as he thought. As part of his wealth, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of them foreigners. So all of his piety, wisdom, wealth and prestige meant nothing after he intermarried with pagan wives and turned his heart to their gods.

Therefore, since Solomon had not kept the Lord’s covenant and statutes, God determined to tear away his kingdom. However, for the sake of his father David, he would not do it during Solomon’s lifetime, but during that of his son.

Solomon ruled Israel for 40 years. †

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