I. The United Kingdom (1 Kings 1:1–11:43)
I. The United Kingdom (1:1–11:43)
A. The Rise of King Solomon (1:1–2:46)
1:1-4 By the time the events of 1 Kings began to unfold, David was advanced in age and in poor health. He was unable to keep warm, no matter how well he was covered (1:1). So the king’s servants suggested that they find a young virgin who could provide him with warmth and also be his caregiver (1:2). The woman they found was Abishag (1:3), from the village of Shunem in the tribal territory of Issachar. She fulfilled all of their requirements, including being of unsurpassed beauty (1:4). This fact would become important later when Solomon’s half-brother Adonijah became attracted to her and used her to make a thinly disguised attempt to usurp the throne (see 2:13-25).
1:5-10 A reason behind the forthcoming trouble in chapter 2 is revealed here. David’s family drama that resulted from his past sins continued to plague him all the way to his grave. Seeing the king’s great weakness, Adonijah, David’s fourth son and Solomon’s elder, decided the time was right to make his move (1:5). He probably assumed that he was the rightful heir because he was likely the eldest living son. Moreover, there is no record of David publicly declaring his choice of Solomon as his successor prior to this incident.
It seems Adonijah had a lot in common with Absalom (see 2 Sam 15:1-10). First, he kept exalting himself and declared, I will be king! (1:5). Second, like Absalom, he won over many followers by his good looks and charm. Even David’s military commander Joab, his faithful supporter Abiathar the priest (1:7), as well as Adonijah’s royal brothers and all the men of Judah sided with Adonijah (1:9).
1:11-21 The prophet Nathan and Bathsheba soon realized how serious the situation had become (1:11; on David’s sin with Bathsheba and its consequences, see 1 Sam 11:1–12:25). They developed a plan to convince David that, unless he acted quickly and decisively, Adonijah would be king (1:12-14). Bathsheba approached and reminded David that he had sworn to crown Solomon, their son (1:15-17). (This promise is not mentioned elsewhere, so it may have been a private matter between them.) She also informed him that Adonijah had proclaimed himself king, was winning support, and had not invited Solomon to his banquet (1:18-19). That meant that when David was dead and buried, Solomon and his mother would be treated as criminals, enemies of the throne (1:21).
1:22-27 Nathan the prophet came before the king, echoing Bathsheba’s report. Then, he essentially asked the king, “Did I miss something? Did you endorse Adonijah without letting us know about it?” (1:24, 27).
1:28-35 Though David was feeble, he wasn’t feeble-minded. He would keep his previous promise (1:28-30).
Adonijah had not engaged in armed rebellion, as Absalom had done. So, rather than attack Adonijah and touch off a possible civil war, David reasoned rightly that the majority of the people were still loyal to him and would rally around his chosen successor. So, David ordered his faithful servants to anoint Solomon at Gihon, declare him as king before all the people, and place him on David’s throne (1:32-35).
1:36-40 When they did just as David commanded, all the people rejoiced (1:38-40). Gihon was only about half a mile from where Adonijah and his crowd were celebrating. From there, it wouldn’t be hard to hear the noise the people were making (see 1:41).
1:41-48 David’s plan had the desired effect. When Adonijah, Joab, and all the guests at the illegitimate coronation banquet heard the sound of the ram’s horn announcing Solomon’s coronation, they knew something big was happening (1:41). When Jonathan son of Abiathar the priest showed up, Adonijah felt better for a moment, hoping he was bringing good news (1:42). “Unfortunately not,” Jonathan answered him (1:43)—which is one of the great understatements of Scripture. He then proceeded to tell Adonijah, step-by-step, how David had established Solomon as king of Israel. He’d even bowed in his bed (1:43-48).
1:49-53 At the news, Adonijah’s former loyal followers fled like rats from a sinking ship while Adonijah ran to the tabernacle in Jerusalem (1:49). He grabbed the horns of the altar as a way of pleading for his life (1:50-51). Solomon granted Adonijah a reprieve—on the condition that he prove himself loyal (1:52). When he stood before Solomon and paid homage, the king sent him home (1:53). It was an uneasy peace—and it wouldn’t last.
2:1-4 As David realized his days were few, he left his final instructions to Solomon for the wise administration of his kingdom. These are divided into two parts: Solomon’s walk with the Lord and his dealings with the people who could bring harm to his throne.
The most important thing David said to his son was this: Be strong and be a man, and keep your obligation to the Lord your God to walk in his ways. How would Solomon know how to walk in God’s ways? By keeping his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees that were written in the law of Moses. If Solomon were careful to put God’s Word at the center of his reign, he would have success in everything (2:2-3). David then spoke to Solomon of the covenant God had made with David, granting him an eternal dynasty and establishing his throne forever (see 2 Sam 7:8-16). But, it would require that Solomon and his sons after him walk faithfully before God (2:4).
Though Solomon and his descendants would ultimately fail in this and would instead lead the people into idolatry, God would fulfill his own covenant requirements. When the time was right, he would send his perfect Son, born of the line of David. Jesus Christ would fulfill the demands of God’s law, offer his life as an atoning sacrifice for sin, and then rise from the dead. He will sit on David’s throne and reign forever (see Isa 9:6-7).
2:5-6 David’s awareness of his impending death made him remember that there were some outstanding injustices to correct and a faithful family to reward. The first name on his list was Joab, who had too long escaped justice for his treacherous, cold-blooded murders of Abner and Amasa, both of whom he killed in a time of peace. Joab’s guilt clung to him like the blood of these men that stained his waistband and sandals (2:5). David had probably withheld Joab’s well-deserved death sentence because he had served him loyally. But recently, there’d been a breach in Joab’s loyalty when he conspired with Adonijah (1:7, 19). So, David charged Solomon with the responsibility of bringing justice to Joab (2:6).
In the United States, when we have an election, the winners enter office and the losers go do something else. A new government official will typically replace the old guard in his administration with new officials of his choosing. But, that’s not how things worked in the ancient world.
Most of us don’t know what it’s like to live in a monarchy in which the king must always be on guard against the plotting of his enemies who want to assassinate him and usurp his throne. Joab had proved to be fierce and self-serving. His words and actions could not be trusted; he would be a liability to Solomon.
2:7-9 Good things were in store for the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, David’s great friend who’d ministered to the king’s needs when Absalom drove him into exile. Bringing the aged man’s family to Solomon’s table was David’s way of charging Solomon with taking care of their needs (2:7).
Another man who had appeared during David’s flight from Absalom was Shimei, who had uttered malicious curses at David (2:8). Though he’d apologized when David returned to retake the throne (see 2 Sam 19:16-22), David didn’t trust Shimei but considered him an opportunist. He had to answer for cursing the Lord’s anointed (2:9).
2:10-12 David was buried in the capital he had established, satisfied that Solomon’s kingship was firmly established (2:10, 12). King David had reigned over Israel a total of forty years (2:11).
2:13-17 Adonijah had already proved his willingness to conspire to obtain the throne (2:13). Fading into the background after Solomon spared his life would’ve been the wise thing to do (see 1:51-53), but he couldn’t leave well enough alone.
Adonijah approached Bathsheba for a “peaceful” talk (2:13-14). He began by reminding her—cue the sad music—that he and all Israel expected him to be king, but that it was taken away from him (2:15). Then, he made a request. Adonijah foolishly asked Solomon’s mother to approach the king on his behalf and give him Abishag the Shunammite as his wife (2:17).
2:18-25 Abishag had been David’s concubine, though he had not been intimate with her (see 1:1-4). To acquire a woman from a king’s harem was to have grounds for claiming the crown (see 2 Sam 3:6-7; 16:21-22). Whether Bathsheba was oblivious to what Adonijah’s request meant or understood it all too well, Bathsheba relayed it to the king.
Solomon saw immediately that Adonijah’s request was really a plot against the throne. He retorted, Since he is my elder brother, you might as well ask the kingship for him (2:22). Because Adonijah had been next in line in the normal succession of kings, marrying Abishag would have given him two claims to the throne in the eyes of Israel’s people. As far as Solomon was concerned, then, his brother’s request was an act of treason. Adoni-jah paid for his conspiring with his life (2:25).
There was more going on here, however, than the mere elimination of a rival to Solomon. God was still judging David and his family for his earlier sins of adultery and murder (see 2 Sam 11:1–12:23). Years before, David had pronounced judgment on himself when he thought he was passing judgment on the villain of Nathan’s story about a rich man eating a poor man’s pet sheep. He’d said, “As the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb” (2 Sam 12:5).
Don’t miss that God had taken David at his word. Up to now, David had paid for his sins with the lives of three “lambs”: his sons Amnon (see 2 Sam 13:21-29), Absalom (see 2 Sam 18:9-15), and the unnamed baby boy resulting from his adultery (see 2 Sam 12:15-23). The fourth loss was Adonijah. The lesson is clear: even forgiven sin has consequences.
2:26-27 Solomon also didn’t trust the priest Abiathar (2:26), who had “conspired with” Adonijah (see 1:7). Though Solomon thought he deserved death, he chose to banish Abiathar from the priesthood instead, because he had carried the ark of God for King David and had been judged unworthy of continuing the privilege (2:26-27). The author lets us know that this was actually a fulfillment of the Lord’s prophecy . . . against Eli’s family, spoken even before David was born (2:27; see 1 Sam 2:27-33). God’s wheels of judgment often grind slowly, but he is as faithful to judge as he is to pardon and forgive.
2:28-46 The executions of Joab (2:28-35) and Shimei (2:36-46) completed Solomon’s task of purging the threats to his kingdom.
When Joab heard the news about what had happened to his fellow conspirators Adonijah and Abiathar, he realized that his time had come. So he fled to the tabernacle, normally a place of refuge, and grabbed the horns of the altar in hopes of being spared (2:28)—as Adonijah had done after his failed coup attempt (see 1:50-51). But, Joab was not being sought for his part in that rebellion. Solomon announced that Joab was condemned for murders in David’s day, which that king had had no part in (2:31-33). The king didn’t want the crimes of Joab to taint David’s throne and dynasty (2:33), so the man of extreme violence was finally executed (2:34).
In Shimei’s case, Solomon was initially gracious, allowing him to live as long as he remained in Jerusalem (2:36-37). In fact, Shimei considered his sentence to be fair (2:38). But, three years later, when his slaves ran away, Shimei traveled in pursuit of them (2:39-40). (Clearly, he didn’t believe the king would actually follow through on what he’d said.) With Shimei’s death, the kingdom was established in Solomon’s hand (2:46).
B. Solomon’s Wisdom, Administration, and Fame (3:1–4:34)
3:1 Solomon undoubtedly felt the weight of governing God’s people. Sometime early in his reign, the king made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt by marrying [his] daughter. This move showed that Solomon was not hesitant to use marriage as a political strategy, and he would eventually take polygamy and foreign marriages to dizzying heights. In Old Testament times, God tolerated polygamy among his people, but it always cost them because it was outside his will. The king’s practice would exact a terrible cost, not just from Solomon but also from the entire nation of Israel.
3:2-3 At this time, the people of Israel were sacrificing on the high places (3:2), engaging in a pagan practice they learned from their Canaanite neighbors that was in violation of the Mosaic law (see Lev 17:3-4). Despite following these pagan practices, Solomon loved the Lord by walking in the statutes of his father David (3:3).
3:4-9 It was at Gibeon—which was the most famous high place (3:4)—that Solomon famously asked the Lord for wisdom. God initiated the proceedings by appearing to Solomon with a stunning offer: What should I give you? (3:5). Solomon’s response showed that, in one sense, he was already wise beyond his years. (He was about twenty when he became king.) The young man recognized his inadequacies. He had no experience in leadership, yet he had been made ruler of a numerous people (3:7-8). What he needed was a receptive heart to judge and lead them well (3:9). The first step toward becoming a kingdom man is to realize your desperate need for God.
3:10-15 God was so pleased that Solomon asked for wisdom (see Jas 1:5), rather than long life or riches, that he granted the request—and added to it what Solomon did not ask for: riches . . . honor . . . and a long life (3:10-14). But, for these promised blessings to be a reality, Solomon would have to walk in the Lord’s ways and keep his statutes and commands (3:14). God’s promises were sure, but they had to be accessed by obedience. Solomon responded to the encounter with worship and feasting (3:15).
3:16-22 The story appearing in this section was clearly intended by the author of 1 Kings to demonstrate the profound wisdom that God had granted Solomon. It helps us see that having wisdom does not involve the mere acquisition of knowledge and understanding. Rather, wisdom is spiritual understanding applied to earthly living. God had given Solomon not just smarts, but also the ability to see the world from a spiritual perspective and apply that perspective to life. The book of Proverbs, written mostly by Solomon, is further demonstration that God had blessed the king with the ability to put spiritual truth into action.
The king served as Israel’s one-man supreme court, the last level of appeal in difficult cases. This particular case involved a dilemma between two women who were prostitutes (3:16). Each had given birth to a child (3:17-18). The first woman claimed that the child of the second woman had died because she lay on him while sleeping (3:19). Then, while it was still night, the second woman placed her dead son next to the first woman and took her living son for herself (3:20). When the first woman woke to find the child next to her dead, she recognized that he wasn’t her son (3:21). The second woman vigorously denied it and claimed the exact opposite (3:22).
3:23-26 Left without the help of a DNA test, the average judge would be stumped by the case. But, with his God-given insight into the ways of human nature, Solomon knew just what to do. He said to cut the living boy in two and give half to each woman! (3:25). And, just as the king knew would happen, the child’s true mother begged for the baby’s life and was even willing to give him up; the other woman cruelly seconded the king’s decision (3:26).
3:27-28 His unique solution to the dilemma rewarded, Solomon gave the living baby to the first woman (3:27). The account quickly made the rounds in Israel, so that everyone stood in awe of the king because they saw that God’s wisdom was in him to carry out justice (3:28). Solomon’s reputation as the wisest man who’d ever lived spread quickly, and it brought glory to God.
4:1-19 Solomon also displayed God’s wisdom in the way he organized his administration, delegating responsibility for the kingdom’s order and efficiency. His top officials included secretaries (4:1-2), a position that could be comparable to secretary of state. These men would have prepared the official documents that pertained to the administration of Solomon’s kingdom. The court historian (4:3) was responsible for keeping a record of the court’s daily activities. Other officials included the priests and the commander of the army (4:4). And so it went down the line, as Solomon appointed his kingdom administrators. The king also divided the nation into twelve districts with twelve deputies. Each was to provide food for the king and his household for one month out of the year (4:7).
4:20-21 The people of Judah and Israel were numerous (in fulfillment of God’s promise in Gen 22:17), and Solomon’s kingdom was vast. The king exacted tribute from the nations under his rule, and they served him (4:21). This is a reminder that God is able to take the resources of unbelievers and use them for his kingdom purposes.
4:22-28 The provisions required for the king and everyone who came to [his] table were staggering (4:22-24, 27). The twelve district deputies who were responsible for supplying the food each month had a huge assignment on their hands (4:27; see 4:7). Each one must have been glad when he could hand over the responsibility to the next guy! Nevertheless, they neglected nothing (4:27), and all of Judah and Israel lived in safety under Solomon’s reign (4:25).
4:29-34 As a result of God’s blessing, Solomon was what we would call a Renaissance man. There was no area in which he did not have unsurpassed wisdom (4:29). He was an author of proverbs, a composer of songs, and even a botanist and zoologist (4:32-33). That his wisdom far surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt (4:30) was significant because these regions were fabled for their wisdom. In fact, the author flatly declared that there was no real comparison to be made: Solomon was wiser than anyone. What’s more, Solomon’s reputation was no secret. The surrounding nations came to know and revere the king of Israel (4:31). Every king on earth sent emissaries to listen to Solomon’s wisdom (4:34). The kingdom of God was blessing the kingdoms of the world.
A consideration of Solomon’s ancestry is instructive. He was David’s son by Bathsheba, a Hamitic woman of African descent. We know of her lineage because Bathsheba literally means “the daughter of Sheba.” The “Table of Nations” identifies Sheba in the line of Ham, making Sheba a man from an African nation (see Gen 10:7). Solomon’s mother (as well as his ancestors Rahab and Ruth; see commentary on 1 Sam 16:13) gave him further roots within the black community. They thus place him as an example of black achievement as well as black history in biblical culture.
C. The Construction and Dedication of the Temple (5:1–8:66)
5:1-5 Though King Solomon was exalted for his unsurpassed, God-given wisdom (4:29-34), the high point of his rule was his construction of the temple in Jerusalem. His father David had desired to build a permanent temple for the Lord, but he was told no (5:3; see 2 Sam 7:1-17). That assignment would instead fall to this son. When the king received a congratulatory message from King Hiram of Tyre (5:1), a Phoenician kingdom just north of Israel, Solomon’s plans for temple construction and for enlisting Hiram’s assistance got rolling.
5:6-9 The Phoenicians were well-known for their architectural abilities, and the cedars from Lebanon to the east of Tyre would provide excellent lumber. So, Solomon offered to pay Hiram to provide timber for the temple, and Hiram agreed (5:6-9). In fact, Hiram, who had been a friend of David (5:1), blessed the Lord and praised Solomon for his wisdom (5:7).
5:10-12 Tyre and Sidon (another Phoenician city) provided Solomon with all the cedar and cypress timber he wanted for the temple’s construction (5:10). In return, Hiram asked for huge quantities of wheat and olive oil to feed his own royal household. This arrangement continued year after year (5:11). Solomon conducted his negotiations with Hiram in the wisdom God gave him. Instead of simply demanding what he wanted or treating Hiram as an inferior, Solomon was able to secure the wood he needed while maintaining their cordial relationship and ensuring peace between the two nations (5:12).
5:13-18 The building project required workers by the tens of thousands. So, Solomon drafted forced laborers (5:13). These laborers had to go to Tyre for one month at a time, with two months home (5:14). Not only did their project require a tremendous amount of timber (5:10-12), but it also required large quantities of stone (5:17-18). The sheer scope of Solomon’s temple project is overwhelming—even in modern terms.
6:1 This chapter begins with an important chronological statement that allows us to fix several key dates in Israel’s history. Solomon began to build the temple . . . in the four hundred eightieth year after the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of his reign over Israel. It is generally agreed that Solomon reigned from 971 to 931 BC. So, the fourth year of his reign would have been about 966 BC. Going back 480 years from this allows us to arrive at a date for the exodus: 1446 BC.
Solomon’s charge to build the temple, Israel’s house of worship, was the key feature of his reign. From this point onward, the attitude of Israel and Judah’s kings toward the temple, and by extension toward the Lord and his covenant, would be the basis for their evaluation in God’s eyes. Additionally, all of these kings, beginning with Solomon, would be compared to David to see whether any of them was the promised Son of David who would fulfill the Davidic covenant in all of its details. In other words, each king would be weighed on whether he could possibly be the messianic king.
Of course, no king would ace this test on all points, leaving the readers of 1 and 2 Kings to look to the future for their Messiah. We will see this spiritual evaluation of the various kings more in 1 and 2 Chronicles, which were written from a perspective that was more interested in how each king measured up to God’s standards than in what each did during his reign.
6:2-4 Solomon’s temple was not huge in terms of square footage, but its size was the only modest thing about it. Its outer appearance must have been stunning. It featured dressed stones, cedar, and gold. The portico in front of the temple was a large, open porch that extended out another fifteen feet (6:3)
6:5-10 Among the other descriptions of the temple’s features was the construction of a series of storage side chambers on three floors of the building (6:5-6, 8, 10). The temple’s construction used finished stones cut at the quarry so that no hammer, chisel, or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built (6:7). Making sure that each piece was precut so that it would sit perfectly in place would have required amazing skill. Just as the Lord had provided skilled workers to build the tabernacle (see Exod 31:1-11), he provided the same for the construction of his holy temple.
6:11-13 When God spoke to Solomon, he restated his promise to dwell among his people in the temple and not abandon them (6:13). But, it would require Israel’s obedience, with Solomon leading the way (6:12). In short, God wanted to remind the king and all Israel that he was more concerned about their hearts and their obedience to him than he was with the building they were working on. Yet, sadly, as history would reveal, the king would stray from the Lord and the people would follow.
6:14-20 The remainder of this chapter contains a description of the temple’s interior (6:15). The emphasis is on the temple’s most important sections, including the holy place and the inner sanctuary, the most holy place (6:16). The former was sixty feet long, while the most holy place was a thirty-foot cube (6:17, 20). In this inner sanctuary, the ark of the Lord’s covenant would rest (6:19). The ark was considered the throne of God; he was enthroned between the cherubim above its cover, the mercy seat (see 1 Sam 4:4; Isa 37:16). Solomon overlaid the most holy place with pure gold (6:20). According to 2 Chronicles 3:8, the weight of gold overlaying the most holy place was “forty-five thousand pounds”! Then, Solomon overlaid the interior of the temple with pure gold, and he added the gold overlay to the entire temple (6:21-22). The one true God deserved a temple of unequaled grandeur.
6:23-38 The two cherubim in the inner sanctuary were carved out of olive wood and overlaid . . . with gold (6:23, 28). Their wings were to stretch out and tower over the ark of the covenant (6:24-27).
As if the magnificence of the temple wasn’t enough, Solomon then overlaid even the temple floor with gold (6:30). The splendor of Solomon’s temple staggers the imagination. Everything about it spoke of the majesty of God.
The project was completed in the eleventh year of Solomon’s reign. Thus, the temple took seven years to build (6:38).
7:1-8 It took Solomon almost twice as long to build his entire palace complex (7:1) as it took to build the temple. The palace was without question a grand structure. The House of the Forest of Lebanon (7:2) was probably so named because cedar from Lebanon was used extensively in its construction (see 5:6). Within the larger complex was also the Hall of the Throne, which was explained as the place where Solomon would judge; thus, it is further described as the Hall of Judgment (7:7). Mention of the house for Pharaoh’s daughter, [Solomon’s] wife finished the insights we get into Solomon’s royal residence (7:8).
7:9-12 The author emphasizes how grand the entire complex was by repeating the costly nature of the materials (7:9-11). As with the Lord’s temple, Solomon spared no expense in the construction of his palace.
7:13-14 Solomon brought a man named Hiram to Jerusalem to do the extensive bronze work needed for the temple (7:13). This man was not the king of Tyre (see 5:1-12) but a widow’s son from the tribe of Naphtali. His father was a man of Tyre and a bronze craftsman. That he was brought in suggests his skill was beyond anything Solomon could find locally. Hiram set right to work.
7:15-22 Hiram cast two bronze pillars, which were incredibly elaborate pieces, each free-standing, with ornate capitals of cast bronze on top of each (7:15-17). When these pillars were ready and in place on the portico of the temple, Solomon actually named them: he set up the right pillar and named it Jachin; then he set up the left pillar and named it Boaz (7:21). These names, meaning, “He Will Establish” and “In Him Is Strength,” respectively, were a testimony to the security and strength that the Lord offered to his people.
7:23-39 Hiram also made a huge metal water basin with elaborate decorations. It rested on the backs of twelve oxen he had sculpted (7:23-25). The basin was so large that it held eleven thousand gallons of water (7:26); it would be used by the priests to wash themselves (see 2 Chr 4:6).
Even though they had wheels and were movable, the ten bronze water carts were also awesome in size and very elaborate (7:27, 32). Ten bronze basins were made and placed on the ten water carts (7:38). These could be taken wherever they were needed to supply water for rinsing the burnt offerings (see 2 Chr 4:6).
7:40-47 Hiram’s work was catalogued without attempt to summarize the amount of bronze used (7:40-46). Instead, all the utensils were left unweighed because there were so many; the weight of the bronze was not determined (7:47).
7:48-51 The gold work completed on the temple and its furnishings was summarized briefly (7:48-50). And, once everything was in its place, the temple was ready for its dedication and use in worship (7:51).
8:1-5 The temple dedication began with the transport and installation of the ark of the Lord’s covenant from its place on Mount Zion (8:1; see 2 Sam 6:17). This was to be a great ceremony to which Solomon called all the men of Israel, from leaders to representatives of every family (8:1-2). The procession of the ark to the new temple was elaborate and tremendous in scale. They sacrificed so many sheep, goats, and cattle that they could not be counted or numbered (8:5), suggesting that, once again, Solomon spared no expense.
8:6-8 In contrast with David’s first attempt to move the ark as recorded in 2 Samuel 6:1-10, the ark was carried the proper way this time, by the priests using poles attached through rings on the sides of the ark so that no one would touch it (see Exod 25:12-15; Deut 10:8). The ark’s journey was complete when the priests set it down in the most holy place beneath the wings of the cherubim, which covered the ark (8:6-7). They spread their wings over the ark from above (8:7). The author even mentions the way the ark’s carrying poles extended beyond the holy place, as if no detail about the ark was unimportant (8:8).
8:9 The ark was the centerpiece of the temple. God had promised Moses that he would meet with his people above the mercy seat on top of the ark (see Exod 25:22). The contents of the ark were the two stone tablets that Moses had put there at Horeb (Mount Sinai). These pointed to the fact that the primary concern for Israel was to obey the law of their divine King. (Previously, the covenant that God made with Israel at Sinai had often been neglected and disobeyed by the people.) The purpose of the dedication ceremony described was to reiterate that Solomon and Israel still saw themselves as bound to the Lord’s covenant, as indeed they were.
8:10-11 Once the ark was in place in the inner sanctuary, the cloud filled the Lord’s temple; this was a visible symbol of the Lord’s presence (8:10). What an awe-inspiring sight that must have been! Interestingly, the same thing had happened when the tabernacle was dedicated in Moses’s day (see Exod 40:34). And, just as Moses was unable to enter the tent because the cloud of God’s glory filled it, so, too, the priests were not able to continue ministering, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple (8:11). When God manifests his glory, all activity must cease. Israel’s great King had come to dwell with his people.
8:12-19 Solomon broke the silence by blessing the Lord and the people of Israel. He explained that God’s presence was a confirmation that he had fulfilled his promises to David by his power (8:15). During David’s reign, God had not chosen a city to build a temple in (8:16). David’s desire to build a temple for God was good (8:17-18), but God intended that David’s son would do the work (8:19).
8:20 Everything God had spoken had come to pass. Notice how Solomon articulated it: The Lord has fulfilled what he promised. . . . I have built the temple for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. Importantly, Solomon didn’t take all of the credit for himself; the construction of the temple had been planned and promised by God. Nevertheless, God didn’t miraculously cause the temple to appear out of thin air; its existence required careful obedience from Solomon. This is divine sovereignty and human responsibility in action.
8:21 The purpose of the temple was to serve as a home for the ark. The Lord had intended this end hundreds of years earlier when he brought Israel out of the land of Egypt. The great moment had finally arrived. Thus, Solomon reminded the people that God had been true to his word of so long ago.
We often expect or even demand God to act immediately. But, God brings about his promises and plans in his perfect timing. He knows what we need; he also knows when we need it.
8:22 After reviewing God’s faithfulness, Solomon offered a long prayer of intercession for himself and the people (8:22-53). He dramatically stood before the altar . . . in front of the entire congregation . . . and spread out his hands toward heaven. What he said next became one of the greatest affirmations of the person and work of God in Scripture.
8:23 Solomon began by acknowledging the Lord’s uniqueness among the false gods that surrounded Israel. He said, There is no God like you. The nations beyond Israel’s borders boasted of their powerful gods, but those pretenders were all talk and no action. The Lord, by contrast, demonstrated that he alone is God because he kept the gracious covenant that he had made with the children of Israel. So, not only did he make promises, he also acted to keep them.
8:24-26 One of the promises God had made to David was that he would never fail to have a man . . . on the throne of Israel. Solomon was living proof that God had begun to fulfill that promise. But, in order for that promise to continue, it would require that David’s sons take care to walk before the Lord in faithfulness (8:25). Unfortunately, as the books of 1–2 Kings and 1–2 Chronicles bear witness, the sons of David who reigned on his throne after him frequently failed.
Ultimately, God himself would fulfill the requirements in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. As a descendent of David, he would qualify to sit on the throne (see Matt 1:1; Rom 1:3; Rev 22:16). And, as the sinless and eternal Son of God, he alone can fulfill God’s promise to “establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam 7:13).
8:27 Next, Solomon extolled the transcendence of God—the truth that God is beyond creation and cannot be contained by it. He asked, Will God indeed live on earth? In spite of the fact that Solomon had built a temple for God to “dwell” in, the king was not so naïve as to think that the Lord of heaven and earth actually needed a home and could be confined to it. Not even heaven itself can contain him! Solomon knew that when the transcendent Creator manifested his presence to his people in the cloud of glory (8:10-11), it was a demonstration of his grace to them.
8:28-30 Understanding that God could not be contained by the temple, Solomon prayed that God would nevertheless fulfill his promise to make his name (8:29)—a synonym for his presence and character—dwell there. He asked that the Lord would hear the prayers of his people, which they would pray in the direction of the structure, and that he would forgive them (8:30). Solomon’s prayer thus established the custom that subsequent Jews would follow of turning toward Jerusalem when they prayed (see 8:48; Dan 6:10).
8:31-32 As was fitting in launching this new era in Israel’s history, Solomon presented a number of specific requests to the Lord as part of his prayer. Each request was tied directly to the people’s response to the Lord and his temple (8:31-51). Because taking an oath before God at his altar there was a serious matter (8:31), Solomon asked that God would condemn the wicked and reward the righteous. He also prayed that justice between individual Israelites would be done when they brought their disputes to the Lord there (8:32).
8:33-34 The temple was also to be the place where Israel would seek God’s forgiveness for sins that caused them to be defeated in battle (8:33). Such defeats could cause Israel to lose a part of the land that God gave their ancestors. Solomon thus asked that God would restore such land when the people repented (8:34). (The readers of 1–2 Kings would have felt a special pain in reading these verses, because they knew God had taken away all the land and sent his people into exile for their disobedience.)
8:35-40 Another form of punishment on sin was drought (8:35). For an agricultural society, adequate rain was not simply refreshing, but was also an absolute necessity for survival (8:36). The land, crops, and people were also subject to other disasters that God might send to awaken Israel to sin, such as pestilence, blight, locust, and plague (8:37).
Solomon knew the Lord would hear and restore those who were truly repentant because God alone knows every human heart (8:39). By disciplining them for their sin and forgiving them when they repent, God leads his people to take him seriously—to fear (that is, to honor and respect) him (8:40).
8:41-43 Solomon’s prayer list even included the foreigner (8:41), the non-Israelite who attached himself to Israel because of his faith in the Lord. If God would hear such devout followers from other nations and answer their prayers toward the temple, then all peoples of earth would know and fear God (8:42-43).
8:44-45 Though Solomon’s empire had become vast and powerful, he knew that victory over enemies depended on the blessing and presence of the Lord (8:44). So, he asked that prayers offered by Israelite soldiers in the direction of Jerusalem would be answered with success (8:44-45). The idea of facing Jerusalem in prayer was not a mere magic formula. Instead, it represented Israel’s acknowledgement that the God who alone could deliver them dwelled in his temple just as promised.
8:46-51 Solomon’s final petition was prophetic. To be driven from the land and deported to an enemy’s country was the worst fate they could imagine (8:46). At the time, the prospect of this sort of disaster must have seemed completely alien. Yet, this was a real danger that loomed large over Israel’s future. Thus, Solomon left Israel with a word of hope that, even in the most disastrous circumstance possible, the God whose temple was in Jerusalem would hear and answer his people’s genuine prayers of repentance (8:47-50)—because he had done it before when he brought them out of captivity in Egypt (8:51). This same God stands ready to hear your prayers of repentance, as well.
8:52-66 Solomon’s benediction restated the heart of his prayer—that the God who set them apart as his inheritance would hear his people’s prayers. After this, the king blessed the people and the Lord (8:53-56). He asked that God would remember his prayer and be glorified among all the people of the earth (8:57-61). Then, the people offered sacrifices in the thousands and thus dedicated the Lord’s temple (8:62-63). The festival that followed ran for two weeks (8:65). When the celebration was complete, the people blessed the king, and Solomon sent everyone home with happy hearts for all the goodness that the Lord had done (8:66).
The worship and joy that Israel experienced in the Lord’s presence that day is a picture of what the church should experience on a regular basis. It is also a foretaste of the tremendous joy that we will experience in the ages to come with Jesus Christ as our King.
D. Solomon’s Kingdom, Wealth, and Downfall (9:1–11:43)
9:1-5 Once again, God spoke to Solomon in a dream (9:1-2; see 3:1-15). He responded to the king’s prayers with a promise and a solemn warning. In the first dream, God had promised Solomon wisdom and wealth. This time, he promised to establish Solomon’s royal throne and the kingly line of David forever—provided that the king would walk before God with a heart of integrity (9:4-5).
9:6-9 If Solomon and those who came after him failed to keep God’s commands, if they served and worshiped false gods instead of the one true God, the Lord would reject the temple and cut off Israel from the land (9:6-7). The newly finished structure that stood in all its glory would be decimated (9:8). But, if so, God would make sure that all of the surrounding nations knew why it happened. Ruin would come on Israel because they had abandoned their God (9:8-9).
Was it really possible that Israel could fall into idolatry after God had manifested his glorious presence? Tragically, it had happened before. The generation that Moses led out of the wilderness, in fact, witnessed the Lord’s spectacular signs and wonders over and over again. Yet, they rejected him—over and over again. Sure enough, then, not only would Israel bow down to other gods in the future, but King Solomon himself would do so.
9:10 The remainder of this chapter and the next emphasize the vastness of Solomon’s kingdom, his fame, and his tremendous wealth. Solomon ruled forty years. So, when he completed the temple and his palace at the end of twenty years, he had reached the midpoint of his reign.
9:11-14 King Hiram of Tyre, who had been a friend of David, supplied Solomon with abundant cedar and cypress logs and gold for his building projects. But, Solomon was not as generous toward Hiram. He gave Hiram twenty towns in the land of Galilee in northwest Israel, not far from Tyre (9:11). But, Hiram wasn’t happy with his gift, calling the towns the Land of Cabul, a Hebrew word meaning “Like Nothing” (9:13). In other words, though Hiram had given Solomon nine thousand pounds of gold (9:14), Solomon gave him “nothing” in response. In providing this insight, it seems the author was indicating that Solomon’s character was beginning to crack.
9:15-23 The record of Solomon’s forced labor (9:15) shows how he acquired the workers needed to complete the temple and his palace complex. Some of the workers came from his father-in-law, Pharaoh king of Egypt, who captured Gezer (located about twenty miles west of Jerusalem) and gave it as a dowry to his daughter (9:16). Solomon then rebuilt Gezer, as well as a number of other cities throughout the land (9:17-19). The slaves he used for all of his construction projects came from the peoples who remained of Israel’s enemies, that is, their descendants (9:20-21). And, while the Israelites weren’t consigned to slavery, that doesn’t mean Solomon didn’t put them to work. They served as his soldiers and his servants (9:22-23). This heavy burden of labor would prove to be a problem for Solomon’s successor (see 12:2-4).
9:24-25 Even though the first seeds of Solomon’s downfall were being planted, he was faithful in his early years to offer the required sacrifices three times a year (9:25) in obedience to the Lord’s command that all males come to Jerusalem annually for the festivals (see Exod 23:14-16).
9:26-28 Interestingly, Solomon was also famous for his navy, for which he needed the expertise of Hiram’s sailors, who helped the Israelite seamen on their voyages to acquire gold (9:28).
10:1-5 Earlier, we read that Solomon’s fame had spread widely (4:34). The story in 10:1-13 serves to illustrate that point. It also shows that God was blessing the peoples of the world through his people, just as he had promised Abraham (Gen 12:3). This was only a small foretaste, though. Ultimately, Israel would fail at this task. True spiritual blessings for all peoples of the earth would eventually come through the true seed (descendent) of Abraham, Jesus Christ (see Gal 3:14, 16, 29).
The queen of Sheba visited Solomon’s court. She was from an Arabian kingdom that was located in what is modern-day Yemen; her country lay about 1,200 miles from Jerusalem. The queen visited Solomon because of his fame connected with the name of the Lord, which is probably a reference to the wisdom that the Lord had given him. She came to test him with riddles to see for herself if his abilities lived up to his reputation (10:1). She wasn’t exactly a pauper herself, bringing with her a very large entourage of expensive and exotic gifts (10:2). But, Solomon’s wisdom and wealth were far beyond what she could fathom. By the time she had heard his explanations and seen his glorious kingdom, it took her breath away (10:3-5).
10:6-13 The visiting queen admitted that she hadn’t believed the reports she had heard about Solomon. But, she’d seen that he was the real deal (10:6-7). She then blessed the Lord for putting Solomon on his throne for Israel’s sake (10:9). She also gave Solomon a mind-boggling treasure of gifts (10:10), and he apparently returned the favor (10:13).
Later, Jesus mentioned the queen of Sheba (also called “the queen of the south”) in his condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt 12:42). She was willing to travel hundreds of miles to hear Solomon’s wisdom. But, while the Son of God far exceeded Solomon in wisdom and glory, the Jewish religious leaders only scoffed at him. According to Jesus, at the final judgment, the queen of Sheba will point her finger at them in condemnation. They will have no excuse for having rejected the Messiah.
10:14-22 The wealth that Solomon acquired annually was astounding. Aside from what he obtained through merchants and traders, he received twenty-five tons of gold every year (10:14-15). With this, he made two hundred large shields . . . [and] three hundred small shields of hammered gold (10:16-17), which were kept in storage and evidently used for ceremonial purposes only. No expense was spared in making Solomon’s impressive throne (10:18-20), and even his drinking cups were gold (1:21). The king’s wealth in gold was so vast that nothing was made of silver, since it was considered as nothing in Solomon’s time (10:21, see 10:27). Such splendor is hard to imagine.
10:23-29 God kept his promise to make Solomon the wisest and richest man who ever lived (see 3:11-13). He surpassed all the kings of the world in riches and in wisdom, and people from all over the world wanted to come to Solomon’s court to hear the wisdom that God had put in his heart (10:23-24).
Solomon also made Israel a military power by importing chariots (10:26), the most advanced weapon of the day. He also imported horses from Egypt (10:28). With these mentions, the careful Bible reader will note a hint of the creeping pride and inattention to the Lord’s commands that would soon bring Solomon down. The Lord had told Moses that when God appointed a king for his people, the king was not to “acquire many horses for himself or send the people back to Egypt to acquire many horses” (Deut 17:16). Moreover, he was also not to “acquire very large amounts of silver and gold for himself” (Deut 17:17). Descriptions like these make us wonder at what point Solomon began putting his trust in his wealth, his chariots, and his horses instead of in the Lord.
11:1-3 The opening verses in this chapter are some of the saddest in Scripture. No one else in the Bible rose as high as Solomon, and few fell as hard and as low. Solomon began to accumulate many foreign women as wives and concubines (11:1, 3). First, this was a problem because it was contrary to God’s original design of one man and one woman being united together (see Gen 1:22-25). Second, marrying women from the surrounding nations was clearly forbidden, for God had warned that such women would turn the Israelites’ heart away to follow their gods (11:2; see Deut 7:3-4). And third, as God had told Moses, the king in particular was “not [to] acquire many wives for himself, so that his heart [wouldn’t] go astray” (Deut 17:17). Tragically, Solomon hadn’t overlooked these truths merely once or twice but hundreds of times. He had seven hundred wives and three hundred . . . concubines. And, indeed, they turned his heart away (11:3).
11:4 The very next verse repeats the indictment: Solomon’s wives turned his heart away to follow other gods. Interestingly, this happened when he was old, suggesting that decades of marrying foreign wives and providing for their false worship had drained Solomon’s life of spiritual vitality. Yet, that was no excuse for his sin. He was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord, as his father David had been.
The comparison to David was inevitable because Solomon was the heir of God’s promise to give David an everlasting throne. While David had sinned greatly, too, he had repented. Solomon, however, only continued in his downward slide.
11:5-8 The list of false gods and goddesses that Solomon followed and for which he built high places is shocking: Ashtoreth, Milcom, and Chemosh (11:5, 7) were the gods of the surrounding nations. And, Scripture pulls no punches. What the king did was evil in the Lord’s sight (11:6) because such idols were abhorrent (11:7). But, because all his foreign wives burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods (11:8), Solomon built them places of worship. How ironic that the king who had built the magnificent temple for the one true God was now constructing sites of devotion and veneration for idols! Saying that he did not remain loyal to the Lord (11:6) is a major understatement.
11:9-10 The Lord had appeared to Solomon in dreams twice and made tremendous promises to him (see 3:5-17; 9:1-9). Despite this, the king repaid God’s kindness by turning his heart away from him. Needless to say, the Lord was angry (11:9). Though God had specifically warned him, Solomon disregarded him (11:10).
11:11-13 The Lord revealed himself to Solomon one more time—bringing a message of judgment. For his rejection of the Lord, Solomon would have his kingdom torn away and given to another. Though his kingdom no doubt seemed invincible, it would crumble. Solomon’s son would retain a portion of the kingdom—one tribe (11:13). But, Solomon’s servant would claim the rest (11:11). While God wouldn’t let the kingdom split occur until Solomon’s son was in power and would still grant him a throne, he did this not because Solomon deserved a reprieve but for the sake of . . . David and for the sake of Jerusalem (11:12-13).
How did Solomon receive this message of judgment? Scripture doesn’t tell us, but God’s judgment was final.
11:14-22 Solomon didn’t have to wonder how God was going to execute his judgment. In his own day, God raised up two foreign enemies and one domestic foe against the kingdom. Hadad the Edomite was a survivor of the slaughter of the Edomites that occurred in David’s day, led by Joab, David’s brutal army commander who did not relent until he had killed every male in Edom (11:14-16). Hadad had been a boy at the time and a member of the royal house in Edom, Israel’s ancient enemy to the southeast that was descended from Esau, Abraham’s grandson. Hadad found asylum and a whole lot more in Egypt. He gained the favor of the Pharaoh, who gave him a house, land, and a wife (11:18-19). But, despite his obvious ease there, Hadad couldn’t wait to return to his homeland once he heard that both David and Joab were gone. He was no doubt seething with hatred toward Israel and looking for revenge (11:21-22).
11:23-25 Solomon’s second foreign enemy was a man named Rezon. Notice, again, that divine sovereignty was at work: Rezon was raised up by God (11:23). He became the leader of a raiding party in David’s day that became a pain in Israel’s side throughout Solomon’s reign (1:24-25). Rezon eventually became king of Aram and loathed Israel (11:25).
11:26-28 By far, the most significant of Solomon’s enemies was the man described as his “servant” (11:11). Capable Jeroboam was from the tribe of Ephraim, the leading tribe in the north (11:26). Solomon had appointed him over the entire labor force of the house of Joseph (11:28). But, eventually, Jer-oboam rebelled against Solomon (11:27). The reader must wait until chapter 12 to understand why Jeroboam rebelled—from a human perspective. But, from the divine perspective, we learn in 11:29-40 that Jer-oboam’s rebellion was part of God’s plan to tear the kingdom apart because of Solomon’s sin.
11:29-36 Jeroboam’s rise to power was confirmed by a prophetic announcement from Ahijah, who visually demonstrated his message by tearing his cloak into twelve pieces and giving ten pieces to Jeroboam (11:29-31). God told Jeroboam through Ahijah that he would tear the kingdom from Solomon—though not during Solomon’s lifetime (11:31, 34). Jeroboam would be given ten of Israel’s tribes to rule (11:31, 35). And, for the sake of . . . David and Jerusalem, the Lord would grant one tribe to Solomon’s son (11:32, 36). (The missing tribe, that is the tribe that would bring the total to twelve, is Benjamin, who would side with Judah; see 12:21). Ahijah provided God’s justification for his judgment: they (led by King Solomon) have abandoned me and bowed down to the false gods of the nations (11:33).
11:37-39 God made a remarkable promise to Jeroboam. Solomon had appointed him over the “labor force of the house of Joseph” (11:28). But, God would appoint him as king over Israel (11:37). God even promised to build Jeroboam a lasting dynasty—if he would obey him (11:38). Unfortunately, in spite of this prospect and high hopes, Jer-oboam would fail royally.
11:40-43 Solomon apparently learned about the prophecy because he tried to kill Jer-oboam, who fled to the safety of Egypt until Solomon died (11:40). This, in fact, is the last recorded act of Solomon. He reigned forty years like his father, David (11:42), but sadly he did not remain loyal to the Lord like David had (11:6). Then, his son Rehoboam came to power (11:43).