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Solomon's Heart Turns From God (1 Kings 11:1-25) January 6

For all his wisdom, for all his marvelous insight, for all his education, Solomon drifted away from God. Wisdom is good, and much to be desired, but Solomon never learned (or learned much too late if Ecclesiastes was his end-of-life reflection) that there is one thing that is far above wisdom and much more to be desired than all the wealth that Solomon's wisdom brought him—a faithful heart yielding to the commands of God. When God gives gifts to people, He allows those people the choice of whether to use them or not. Every Christian can either use or not use the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is why the apostle Paul admonished the evangelist Timothy to "stir up the gift that is in you" (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6)—and why he admonishes all Christians not to stifle or suppress that gift (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

First Kings 11 begins by succinctly stating the cause of Solomon's idolatry: "But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites…. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart." As we read earlier, many of Solomon's wives and concubines were undoubtedly the result of foreign alliances, as was the custom of the day. God knew these customs, and He commanded Israel's kings not to engage in them. While certain alliances were apparently permitted (with the understanding that God was the true source of security), multiple wives for the king as a consequence of the alliances were not. Nor were marriages to women of peoples God had expressly forbidden. Solomon, then, disobeyed—even though he most likely knew of these prohibitions (compare Deuteronomy 17:18-20; 7:1-4).

It is explicitly stated that Solomon turned away from God "when he was old" (1 Kings 11:4). Of course, he couldn't have been that old, as he apparently didn't reach the age of 60. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown's Commentary notes regarding Solomon's apostasy in verse 4, "He could not have been more than fifty." Still, a man's vitality naturally diminishes with age. No doubt Solomon's wives, having never given up their gods, continually pressured him concerning their religion and how certain forms of worship were required of them. Although Solomon penned Proverbs 27:15-16, he likely became a victim of its dynamics. And no doubt this idolatry came upon him by degrees, starting small and increasing over time. Perhaps he first allowed his wives to possess small images. Gradually, perhaps, the idols became bigger, required shrines and demanded rites and ritual. However it happened, it surely did not happen all at once. Sin usually increases through neglect and compromise over time. Solomon's example should serve as instruction for God's people today to not compromise with His revealed ways and to shun intermarriage with anyone who is not spiritually likeminded (see 2 Corinthians 6:11-18; 1 Corinthians 7:39).

The result of Solomon's compromise and idolatry was that ultimately Israel would be split into two rival kingdoms. Solomon's son would not be the king of a wealthy nation with worldwide trading interests, but the potentate of a small kingdom with greatly reduced wealth and little power. Even before the rupture of the kingdom, God allowed the peace and security Solomon had inherited, nurtured and enjoyed to be taken away by an increasing number of adversaries and unfaithful allies. Turning away from the simple and plain commands of God never results in greater peace and happiness, but always in frustrating and persistent problems that rob us of the life and peace God wants us to enjoy.

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