1 Kings 11:1-8 . SOLOMON'S WIVES AND CONCUBINES IN HIS OLD AGE.
1, 2. But King Solomon loved many strange women--Solomon's extraordinary gift of wisdom was not sufficient to preserve him from falling into grievous and fatal errors. A fairer promise of true greatness, a more beautiful picture of juvenile piety, never was seen than that which he exhibited at the commencement of his reign. No sadder, more humiliating, or awful spectacle can be imagined than the besotted apostasy of his old age; and to him may be applied the words of Paul ( Galatians 3:3 ), of John ( Revelation 3:17 ), and of Isaiah ( Isaiah 14:21 ). A love of the world, a ceaseless round of pleasure, had insensibly corrupted his heart, and produced, for a while at least, a state of mental darkness. The grace of God deserted him; and the son of the pious David--the religiously trained child of Bath-sheba ( Proverbs 31:1-3 ), and pupil of Nathan, instead of showing the stability of sound principle and mature experience became at last an old and foolish king ( Ecclesiastes 4:13 ). His fall is traced to his "love of many strange women." Polygamy was tolerated among the ancient Hebrews; and, although in most countries of the East, the generality of men, from convenience and economy, confine themselves to one woman, yet a number of wives is reckoned as an indication of wealth and importance, just as a numerous stud of horses and a grand equipage are among us. The sovereign, of course, wishes to have a more numerous harem than any of his subjects; and the female establishments of many Oriental princes have, both in ancient and modern times, equalled or exceeded that of Solomon's. It is probable, therefore, that, in conformity with Oriental notions, he resorted to it as a piece of state magnificence. But in him it was unpardonable, as it was a direct and outrageous violation of the divine law ( Deuteronomy 17:17 ), and the very result which that statute was ordained to prevent was realized in him. His marriage with the daughter of Pharaoh is not censured either here or elsewhere for women, though in the East considered inferiors, exert often a silent but powerful seductive influence over their husbands in the harem, as elsewhere, and so it was exemplified in Solomon.
3. he had seven hundred wives, princesses--They were, probably, according to an existing custom, the daughters of tributary chiefs, given as hostages for good conduct of their fathers.
concubines--were legitimate, but lower or secondary wives. These the chief or first wife regards without the smallest jealousy or regret, as they look up to her with feelings of respectful submission. Solomon's wives became numerous, not all at once, but gradually. Even at an early period his taste for Oriental show seems to have led to the establishment of a considerable harem ( Solomon 6:8 ).
4. when Solomon was old--He could not have been more than fifty.
his wives turned away his heart after other gods--Some, considering the lapse of Solomon into idolatry as a thing incredible, regard him as merely humoring his wives in the practice of their superstition; and, in countenancing their respective rites by his presence, as giving only an outward homage--a sensible worship, in which neither his understanding nor his heart was engaged. The apology only makes matters worse, as it implies an adding of hypocrisy and contempt of God to an open breach of His law. There seems no possibility of explaining the language of the sacred historian, but as intimating that Solomon became an actual and open idolater, worshipping images of wood or stone in sight of the very temple which, in early life, he had erected to the true God. Hence that part of Olivet was called the high place of Tophet ( Jeremiah 7:30-34 ), and the hill is still known as the Mount of Offense, of the Mount of Corruption ( 2 Kings 23:13 ).
and Chemosh--He built altars for these three; but, although he is described ( 1 Kings 11:8 ) as doing the same for "all his strange wives," there is no evidence that they had idols distinct from these; and there is no trace whatever of Egyptian idolatry.
1 Kings 11:9-13 . GOD THREATENS HIM.
9-12. the Lord was angry with Solomon--The divine appearance, first at Gibeon [ 1 Kings 3:5 ], and then at Jerusalem [ 1 Kings 9:2 ], after the dedication of the temple, with the warnings given him on both occasions [ 1 Kings 3:11-14 , 9:3-9 ], had left Solomon inexcusable; and it was proper and necessary that on one who had been so signally favored with the gifts of Heaven, but who had grossly abused them, a terrible judgment should fall. The divine sentence was announced to him probably by Ahijah; but there was mercy mingled with judgment, in the circumstance, that it should not be inflicted on Solomon personally. and that a remnant of the kingdom should be spared--"for David's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, which had been chosen" to put God's name there; not from a partial bias in favor of either, but that the divine promise might stand ( 2 Samuel 7:12-16 ).
13. I will give one tribe to thy son--There were left to Rehoboam the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi ( 2 Chronicles 11:12 2 Chronicles 11:13 ); and multitudes of Israelites, who, after the schism of the kingdom, established their residence within the territory of Judah to enjoy the privileges of the true religion ( 1 Kings 12:17 ). These are all reckoned as one tribe.
1 Kings 11:14-40 . SOLOMON'S ADVERSARIES.
14-25. the Lord stirred up an adversary--that is, permitted him, through the impulse of his own ambition, or revenge, to attack Israel. During the war of extermination, which Joab carried on in Edom ( 2 Samuel 8:13 ), this Hadad, of the royal family, a mere boy when rescued from the sword of the ruthless conqueror, was carried into Egypt, hospitably entertained, and became allied with the house of the Egyptian king. In after years, the thought of his native land and his lost kingdom taking possession of his mind, he, on learning the death of David and Joab, renounced the ease, possessions, and glory of his Egyptian residence, to return to Edom and attempt the recovery of his ancestral throne. The movements of this prince seem to have given much annoyance to the Hebrew government; but as he was defeated by the numerous and strong garrisons planted throughout the Edomite territory, Hadad seems to have offered his services to Rezon, another of Solomon's adversaries ( 1 Kings 11:23-25 ). This man, who had been general of Hadadezer and, on the defeat of that great king, had successfully withdrawn a large force, went into the wilderness, led a predatory life, like Jephthah, David, and others, on the borders of the Syrian and Arabian deserts. Then, having acquired great power, he at length became king in Damascus, threw off the yoke, and was "the adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon." He was succeeded by Hadad, whose successors took the official title of Ben-hadad from him, the illustrious founder of the powerful kingdom of Damascene-Syria. These hostile neighbors, who had been long kept in check by the traditional fame of David's victories, took courage; and breaking out towards the latter end of Solomon's reign, they must have not only disturbed his kingdom by their inroads, but greatly crippled his revenue by stopping his lucrative traffic with Tadmor and the Euphrates.
26-40. Jeroboam--This was an internal enemy of a still more formidable character. He was a young man of talent and energy, who, having been appointed by Solomon superintendent of the engineering works projected around Jerusalem, had risen into public notice, and on being informed by a very significant act of the prophet Ahijah of the royal destiny which, by divine appointment, awaited him, his mind took a new turn.
29. clad--rather, "wrapped up." The meaning is, "Ahijah, the Shilonite, the prophet, went and took a fit station in the way; and, in order that he might not be known, he wrapped himself up, so as closely to conceal himself, in a new garment, a surtout, which he afterwards tore in twelve pieces." Notwithstanding this privacy, the story, and the prediction connected with it [ 1 Kings 11:30-39 ], probably reached the king's ears; and Jeroboam became a marked man [ 1 Kings 11:40 ]. His aspiring ambition, impatient for the death of Solomon, led him to form plots and conspiracies, in consequence of which he was compelled to flee to Egypt. Though chosen of God, he would not wait the course of God's providence, and therefore incurred the penalty of death by his criminal rebellion. The heavy exactions and compulsory labor ( 1 Kings 11:28 ) which Solomon latterly imposed upon his subjects, when his foreign resources began to fail, had prepared the greater part of the kingdom for a revolt under so popular a demagogue as Jeroboam.
40. Shishak--He harbored and encouraged the rebellious refugee, and was of a different dynasty from the father-in-law of Solomon.