A Reflection on 1 Kings 11:1-8 for Sunday, June 14 at Mosaic Baptist Church
King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the Israelites, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you; for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods;’ Solomon clung to these in love. Among his wives were seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the Lord, as his father David had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrificed to their gods.
Then the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice…
1 Kings 11:1-8 (NRSVA)
Israel has been warned: ‘…they will surely incline your heart…’ A command given to the many hearts of Israel.
And the king was no exception.
Of course, Solomon behaved like an exception. There were other warnings against amassing horses and armies. Against amassing silver and gold. Yet, Solomon has done all this on a brand new scale – when compared to the kingdoms of the entire earth!
And then there were all those the wives. 700 princesses. 300 concubines. And Solomon ‘…held them close in love…’
Hard to believe – but there you go!
All this ‘amassing’ seems to me to be the flip-side of the gift of wisdom Solomon requested of YHWH after his first dream. He is wise – but it morphs into something very worldly.
In the account of the receiving of this gift (recorded in 1 Kings 3), Solomon – in his newly established kingdom – decides to take a break, go to Gibeon, and sacrifice on the ‘great high place’ there.
It is clearly disapproved of. In fact, this practice of Solomon is the one difference – at this stage – between himself and his exemplary father, King David. 1 Kings 3:3 reads: ‘Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.’
Surprisingly, on this idolatrous visit, after the new king sleeps – YHWH visits and offers the new king a chosen blessing. Solomon chooses wisdom. It is given – generously – along with the wealth of the world. In gratitude he returns to worship in Jerusalem.
Fast-forward to the end of Solomon’s reign and we see that there has been significant compromise. He is the wealthiest and most powerful person on the planet. Essentially he has governed well.
Solomon has all those wives. And concubines. From all over the world.
This is not, however, a story of lust-gone-mad. It is a story of influence.
Slow influence. Influence over a lifetime.
Of course, in his worldly-wisdom, Solomon can defend all this. He’s become a political animal – and nothing forges a good alliance more than common offspring.
A form of wisdom has led here.
It is, however, not God-wisdom. God said this was not to happen – and warned Israel – and the king – of the natural consequences.
They would take his heart…
If repetition is something of an indicator of message, this passage is a good example: ‘…and his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David...’
Heart. Core. Soul.
By now Solomon has built YHWH’s temple. Yet alongside it has has also built temples upon the high places. He can rationalise: they are for his wives, they hold alliances, they keep the peace.
And they have led his heart from his first – and by far most generous – love.
Solomon, it seems, has forgotten the source of his wisdom. The source of his power. The source of his wealth. He has forgotten that it was all given – not earned. Even the peace that allows his reign to flourish was a gift.
A gift from YHWH.
And yet he sacrifices to Asarte, Milcom, Chemosh, Molech. The wisest person in history has been led from the source of all created things to the worship of destruction’s sources.
Please do not hear me wrong. The opposite of all this was not to close Isrel off from the world.
Solomon was meant – indeed called – to interact with the kingdoms of the world. In fact, at one stage it was his prayer: ‘…when a foreigner…comes from a far country…and prays toward this house, hear in heaven…and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name…’ (1 Kings 8:41-43).
The goal was to give to the world.
Yet Solomon, in his wisdom, has ushered the gods of the nations into Israel.
The influencer has become the influenced – and this because he would not allow the God of the universe – who appeared and blessed – to remain his primary influence.
Who are the primary influencers in your life? How do these nurture your love of God?
Who do you think are the people most influenced by your priorities?
What are the gifts that you bring to the world? What do you think may be their ‘flip-side’?