I Kings 3:5-9
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
I want to make a correction from what I wrote in the last Gem. We looked at Deuteronomy 17:18 and 19, part of the passage where God told the Israelites what their king must do:
“And it shall be when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book. And it shall be with him , and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes....”
And I said concerning these instructions, “There is no record that Solomon ever followed this directive (nor did any other king of the united or split kingdoms of Israel).” But there was one king who followed God’s directive – David! At least most of his private and kingly life he did! For he was, as God said in I Samuel 13:14, “…a man after [the LORD’s]…own heart…”! (see also Acts 13:22).
But back to Solomon, and what he asked God for in his divine visitation dream recorded in I Kings 3:7 through 9:
“Now, O LORD my God, You have made your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give Your ser- vant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
“…that I may discern between good and evil…” includes heeding the prescriptions God laid out for Israel’s future kings in Deuteronomy 17:16 through 19! We have covered four; and while there are two more for our consideration, the next one is so demanding, we may have to go to a fourth Gem to complete this study!
Deuteronomy 17:17 – “Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away….”
- The LORD had warned them more than once concerning this very thing! From the first six verses of Deuteronomy 7, here are some highlights of God’s warning:
When the Lord your God brings you into the land [of Canaan] which you go to possess...and delivers over ...seven nations greater and mightier than you...you shall...utterly destroy them....Nor shall you make marriages with them....For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But...you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved im- ages with fire. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God...a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.
God knew the dynamics of social interaction, love and passion, for He created these dynamics! And He knew the sinful heart of man could be pulled away from loving and serving Him by involvement with those who didn’t follow Him!
- But more than any other Jewish king, Solomon broke the LORD’s command not to “…multiply wives for himself….” ! For we are told I Kings 11:1 through 4:
...King Solomon loved many foreign women...of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hit- tites — from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermar- ry with them, nor they with you. For surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Sol- omon clung to these in love. And he had seven hun- dred wives, princesses, and three hundred concu- bines; and his wives turned away his heart...after other gods.... ✡ Eerdmans, The New Bible Dictionary describes concubines as “A secondary wife acquired by purchase or as a war captive.....Concubines were protected under Jewish law though they were distinquished from wives and were more easily divorced.” (see Exodus 21:7-11; Deu- teronomy 21:10-14). ✡ Primary or secondary wives – Solomon had one thousand of them! I have enough of a challenge keeping one wife happy. How could Solomon keep a thousand happy! ✡ We do know that the king made political allian- ces by marrying foreign princesses, such as the daughter of Pharoah, king of Egypt (see I Kings 7:8).
- I Kings 11:4 – “…when Solomon was old [probably only in his 50’s]…his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God….” What other gods?
✡ I Kings 11:15 – “...Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians....” By Solomon’s time, Ashtoreth (or Ashtaroth) was the main goddess of the Mediter- ranean coastal region, and also worshiped across the territory of Canaan and the Syro-Arabian na- tions. She was the wife of Baal, chief of the gods, and the god of war. Ashtoreth was associ- ated with fertility, sex, love, and war. Accord- ing to The Old Testament Speaks, by Samuel J. Shultz (Harper and Rowe Publishers; New York; 1970) p. 92: Since the gods of the Canaanites had no moral character, it is not surprising that the morality of the people was ex- tremely low. The brutality and immoral- ity in the stories about these gods is far worse than anything found in the Near East....the Canaanites of Joshua’s day [and later into Solomon’s time] practiced child sacrifice, sacred pros- titution, and snake worship in their... religion. Naturally, their civilization degenerated under this demoralizing in- fluence. ✡ I Kings 11:15 – “...Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.” An Ammonite form of Baal, Milcom was the northwest Semitic god of storm and fertility. Little is known about Milcom except (as described above) he was “...the abomination of the Ammon- ites.” ✡ I Kings 11:7 – “...Chemosh the abomination of Moab....” In the days of the prophet Elisha, the alliance of Israel, Judah, and Edom attack- ed the Moabites. Mesha, Moab’s king, retreated to the Moabite walled city of Kir Haraseth. Mesha tried to break through with seven hundred warriors to kill the king of Edom, but failed. Then the king of Moab took his oldest son, who would become the next king after him. On the wall around the city, the king of Moab offered his son as a burnt offering. This upset the Israelites very much. So the Israelites left the king of Moab and went back to their own land. (II Kings 3:27 – Easy-to-Read Version). ✡ I Kings 11:17 – “...Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon.” Although worship of Molech was promoted by Solomon, we find more information a- bout this god from the giving of the law in... ➔ Leviticus 18:21 (Contemporary English Version) – “Don't sacrifice your child- ren on the altar fires to the god Mo- lech. I am the LORD your God, and that would disgrace Me.” ➔ Leviticus 20:2 and 3 (Bible in Basic Eng- lish) – “If any man of the children of Israel, or any other man living in Israel, gives his offspring to Molech, he is cer- tainly to be put to death: he is to be stoned by the people of the land; and My face will be turned against that man, and he will be cut off from his people; because he has given his offspring to Molech, mak- ing My holy place unclean, and making My holy name common.”
This is not a complete list of the gods Solomon worshiped. For it says in I Kings 11:8, “And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.”
So Solomon, who started out so close to the LORD, ended up in major idolatry! For idolatry is the most grievous of sins into which one can fall!
- And he didn’t affect just himself. All Israel followed his lead!
✡ They worshiped foreign gods! ✡ They disobeyed the LORD! ✡ They sinned and brought down His judgement upon themselves and the whole nation – which included Israel splitting into two kingdoms, Israel to the north and Judah to the south, under the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. And the king’s sin affected the nation for at least three hundred years, until King Josiah destroyed the high places where Israelites worshiped! (read II Kings chapter 23). Even after that, the Israelites still practiced idolatry!
- God addressed idolatry in Deuteronomy 6:4 and 5: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”
✡ It is called the Shema, the summation of the Jewish law! ✞ In Mark 12:29 though 31 (see also Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27) Jesus quoted the Shema, and added Leviticus 19:18: “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ✞ If, as Jesus said in Matthew 22:38 (New Interna- tional Version), referring to the first of the two, “This is the first and greatest commandment ...,” then breaking this first and greatest com- mandment is the greatest of sins! ✞ Jesus added another ‘twist’ to all this in John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” or “If you love Me, you will obey Me.” (Worldwide English version). So, if you love God, you are to obey “...the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength...”!
- Anything less than putting God first in your heart and life is idolatry!
✞ And, if the LORD is vacated from the throne of your life, the primary thing that will occupy that throne is your own self! ✡ Solomon replaced God with himself, his own will and way in place of the LORD’s! He was breaking “...the first and greatest commandment...”! By so doing, he committed “...the first and great- est...” SIN!
But there is one more failure in his kingly record according to Deuteronomy 17:14 through 19, and we will examine that in our next Gem, finishing this four-part study called Discerning Between Good and Evil.