Foreign women: Solomon interacted correctly with the Queen of Sheba: through his wisdom and the glory of his righteous dominion, he directed her to Yahweh in praise to Him as we saw in the last reading. But in 1 Kings 11, instead of guiding foreign women, he is guided by them: “Now 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 people of Israel, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart” (1 Kings 11:1-3; see also Exodus 34:14-16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4 and the example of Baal-peor in Numbers 25:1-3). A central root of all the loss, separation, violence and insecurity that we are about to witness in Israel’s history is due to the wandering heart of King Solomon.
He is not the only king who will turn away from Yahweh because of foreign women; soon we will read about King Ahab whose heart is turned away from Yahweh by Jezebel, the daughter of the king of the Sidonians (1 Kings 16:31). Her
influence over the king and over the entire nation of Israel will drag the royal house and the country under divine wrath. At the same time, the prophet Elijah will guide a Sidonian widow to faith in Yahweh in 1 Kings 17:8-24. As we will see, the relationship between a king or God’s prophet with foreign women will reflect Israel being seduced by the surrounding nations or guiding them as a lighthouse toward Yahweh.
Yahweh’s faithfulness to His covenant with David: In His covenant with David, Yahweh said the following about His anointed one: “When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men” (2 Samuel 7:14). Because of his iniquity, Solomon must face three enemies: Hadad the Edomite (protected by
Pharaoh, Solomon’s own father-in-law!), Rezon the king of Damascus, and Jeroboam, the future king of ten tribes of Israel. But remember the next verse in the covenant: “But my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you” (2 Samuel 7:15). While the royal houses of Israel will be destroyed completely (Jeroboam’s house in 1 Kings 15:29-30, and Baasha’s house in 1 Kings 16:11-12, for example), David’s royal house continues. This evidence of grace in Yahweh’s covenant with David is constant even in the midst of punishment.
Jeroboam’s fabricated religion: 1 Kings 12:26-33 explains the idolatry in which Jeroboam guided Yahweh’s people. To solidify the political devotion of the ten tribes, he put a religious center in the south of the country (why go to Jerusalem when Bethel is so much closer?) and another in the north (in Dan, where a false priesthood and services already exist as we saw in Judges 18:29-31). In part it seems like the true religion: it recognizes the exodus from Egypt (1 Kings
12:28); it celebrates a festival like the Feast of the Tabernacles, just in the incorrect month (1 Kings 12:32); it has priests from among the people (1 Kings 12:31). But it violates Yahweh’s law: “So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold.
And he said to the people… ‘Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt’” (1 Kings 12:28; an echo of the words of the people about the golden calf in Exodus 32:4). “[He] appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites” (1 Kings 12:31). “The high places that he had made” (1 Kings 12:32)… “In the month that he had devised from his own heart” (1 Kings 12:33)… all of these descriptions make us see that this approximation of the true religion is not only invalid but a stumbling block that will trip up Israel to its condemnation. It is a central part of its destruction.
Yahweh’s zeal for obedience to His word: An unnamed prophet miraculously declares judgment against the new services in Bethel (1 Kings 13:1-6). But when he disobeys Yahweh’s word, even though it was through deceit, he
cannot escape divine judgment (1 Kings 13:21-26). As we saw so many times in Israel’s history in the desert, with Moses and Aaron when they did not sanctify Yahweh at the waters of Meribah and with King Saul when he did not destroy the Amalekites completely, Yahweh’s devastating holiness does not allow half-hearted obedience. Yahweh’s severity, His zeal for His holiness, will be demonstrated repeatedly in this unit of the Bible, even with kings who in our sight are good and whom we want to forgive easily.
Yahweh’s clear prophetic voice: The unnamed prophet of 1 Kings 13 and the prophet Ahijah of 1 Kings 14 manifest another aspect of Yahweh’s grace: His clear announcement of prophecy to His people. He reproves and exhorts His people and will not allow false prophets, though they may be numerous, to drown out the clear sound of His voice.
The impoverishment of Yahweh’s people: The wealth of Solomon’s time disappears; Yahweh’s people suffer the loss of their goods: “In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. He took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house. He took away everything. He also took away all the shields of gold that Solomon had made, and King Rehoboam made in their place shields of bronze” (1 Kings 14:25-27). It is difficult to impress with bronze shields after a reign in which silver was treated as common and bronze was not even weighed because it was so insignificant.
As we go through the readings in this new unit, pay attention to the foreign women, to Jeroboam’s fabricated religion and the impoverishment of Yahweh’s people… and at the same time, notice how Yahweh maintains a zeal for His holiness, a zeal for the house of David and how He clearly announces His future judgment so that His people would repent.