Solomon’s Folly

I. As background to Solomon’s folly, we will review his theology as revealed in his prayer in chapter 8. Solomon gave a clear and instructive statement in acknowledgement of God’s character –

A. God is unique in revelation and mercy (8:23).

B. God is a God of promise and fulfillment (8:24-26), with fitting elements of condition related to the overall promise. cf. 56-58 which has the same dynamic of the immutable trustworthiness of God and the proneness of sinners to wander unless sustained by grace.

C. The immensity of God does not hinder the manifestation of immanence and condescension (8:27-30). God cannot be contained, but he condescends to meet us, to hear us, and to save us.

D. Solomon gives a variety of instances of ways in which the people could falter and intercedes that God’s chastisements will have their saving effect (8:31-53).

E. God’s actions toward us in grace or judgment always reflect his absolute knowledge of our sinful hearts (8:39).

F. He demonstrates his glory in compassion and faithfulness toward his called people, whether of Israel or of the nations (43, 49-53).

II. God Answers Solomon, with a Second Appearance (9:1-9) In this, God shows his response to the prayer of Solomon particularly with reference to 8:46, 47.

A. God hears Solomon’s prayer and promises his presence (9:3). God’s promise extends beyond the house itself into its antitype. The sacrifice and enthronement of the Messiah will never be ineffectual.

B. The covenant with Solomon himself has temporal implications that do not negate the eternal purpose of God through the line of David. This is set forth in the style of “If … Then,” the “if” is prodosis and the ”then” is apodosis.

    1. Positive
    • Prodosis (4) This positive prodosis sets forth three conditions. Again, David’s walk sets a standard for the conduct of the kings; not any pretension to sinlessness, but his self-effacing humility and earnestness of confession before God show evangelical humility and gratitude (2 Samuel 24:10; Psalm 51). In 11:4, 6 our text specifically refers to Solomons’ violation of the path set by David: “as the heart of David his father had been; … as David his father had done.” Second, integrity of heart and uprightness indicates that God’s own goodness was the model that David kept before his eyes and should guide Solomon’s forward progress. David desired a heart to be shaped by God and was called a “Man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). The preservation of at least part of Israel was done, not for the sake of Solomon but “for the sake of your father [my servant] David. Third, If Solomon followed all that God commanded in the Law once for all given as the standard for justice in Israel and the law for worship and sacrifice, not looking to his own ideas but to what is revealed, then he would receive the blessing. Not his own agenda, not any new ideas for political advancement, but “my statutes and my ordinances” according to God’s own word were to be the foundation of his reign over the people of God.
    • Apodosis (5) Blessings would follow such conformity to revealed truth. Temporally, should consistent obedience indeed be the rule followed by the descendants of David and Solomon, the throne of Israel would endure and the seed of David would always occupy it. Eternally, the reign of the Son of David (Romans 1:3; Acts 13:23) could not be intermitted but must be eternal (Ephesians 1:20-23; 1 Timothy 6:14, 15; Hebrews 1:3, 13). The Messiah was the “Son of David” who alone could have mercy on sinners fully consistent with divine justice.
    1. Negative
    • Prodosis – “If” (6). This “if” contemplates the possibility that they would turn away from following God’s commandments and statutes and actually seek to engage in the worship of other gods. What then?
    • Apodosis – “Then” (7-9) This disobedience would lead to widespread apostacy, the captivity of the people into another land, and the destruction of the temple (“ a heap of ruins”) that they had just celebrated with such intense, joyful, and elaborate devotion,

III. Observation of Solomon’s Glory (10)

A. Queen of Sheba – (6-10) Solomon’s fame for wisdom and just rule as well as wise interaction in trade became so well known. This queen had heard extravagant reports of Solomon’s wisdom and prosperity, but after she had seen and heard for herself, she said, “The half was not told me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard” (10:7). Also, she noted, “Because the Lord loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” Jesus referred to this visit in Matthew 12:42, “The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.”

B. Whole World – Verses 23-25 of chapter 10 record the world-wide reputation for wisdom and riches gained by Solomon and the lavish gifts that nations consistently gave to him in admiration of his greatness and, supposedly, to maintain peaceful relations with him.

IV. Solomon’s Failure and Folly (11:1-13)

A. Failure in worldly glory

    1. Deuteronomy 17:14-17 warned against receiving horses from Egypt, the multiplication of wives, and the accumulation of massive amounts of gold and silver.
    2. Solomon violates each – 1 Kings 10:26-11:1. Silver was as common as stone. He imported horses from Egypt and paid them handsomely. He “loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh; Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women” (11:1).

B. Solomon failed in the area of Marriage Law at several levels.

    1. The creation design for marriage in Genesis 2:24 was completely inactive in his life.
    2. Relations with non-covenant nations were prohibited in Exodus 23:32, 33 but Solomon made scores of covenant marriages. Verse two cites this passage from Exodus 23. In Exodus 34:11-17, the Lord warned that such covenants would be a “snare in your midst” and a provocation to “play the harlot with their gods.” Deut. 7:3, 4 made the same warning for such alliances would “turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so that anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly.” Solomon ignored these warnings and reaped the harvest of his seeds of disobedience. “His wives turned his heart away” (3).
    3. He multiplied wives, a prohibition given specifically to kings in Deuteronomy 17. Our text tells us that “when Solomon was old his wives turned his heart away after other gods” (4).

C. Failure in singular purity of worship

    1. Not just lapses of judgment under the pressure of a moment but systemic lapses into idolatry that required energy and investment of resources.
    2. Extended abominations of the worst sort, aggravated by privilege, were pursued by Solomon. “For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians.” Also, we read, “Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab” (7). See verses 33-35 for another statement of the transgressions and the punishment.

D. Provocation of God’s anger – 9-13

    1. God’s anger appears in the light of the revelation of his glory to Solomon. “His heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice” (9). These were appearances of great glory and of amazing condescension to grant promises and warnings.
    2. God’s anger appears because of the violation of his specific command: “He did not observe what the Lord commanded” (10). “You have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you” (11).
    3. God brings to pass the warnings of the apodosis of 9:6ff . “I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant.” (11).
    4. Verses 12 and 13 emphasize both the unconditional irrevocable aspects of the covenant as well as the conditional. cf. Romans 11:25-32

E. God raises up foes

    1. Hadad – the Lord raised him up, an Edomite who fled from brutality of Joab (11:14-22). This was a descendant of Esau whose birthright and blessing had been usurped by Jacob. Like the case with Solomon, Human frailty and sinful weakness led to a manifestation of God’s covenant faithfulness.
    2. Rezon – God raised him up, a victim of David’s conquests as a constant threat of brief incursions into Israel’s towns (11:23-25).
    3. Jeroboam – talented and trusted, marked by Ahijah as God’s rod of justice, was the one who would split the kingdom from the son of Solomon, Rehoboam (12:12-15).

V. Operation of Truth in History

A. We should approach God in a submissive, deferential spirit ready for repentance in all situations, but with awareness of his promises and how they bring him glory.

B. Be careful not to use God’s gifts to violate God’s laws.

C. While we seek grace and depend on it entirely, we pursue the revealed conditions under which it thrives.

D. Marvel at the resoluteness of divine purpose in the context of human sinfulness.

E. God will keep his eternal covenant and punish violations of his revealed standards.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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