1 Kings 12-14

The preceding chapters chronicle the decline in Solomon’s reign, but this was not a decline by the world’s standards. His kingdom continued to grow in riches and fame, but Solomon sowed the seeds of Judah’s eventual apostasy and decline. Solomon imposed an unfair system of taxation on the northern tribes; he gave away 20 towns in Galilee to the King of Tyre, calling them good for nothing. This violated their tribal lands and installed foreign rulers over the Israelites. Solomon fulfilled the Temple obligations, but his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD. He acquired great wealth and loved many foreign women who he allowed to lead his away from the LORD.

Here begins the pattern where God raises up people and nations that will threaten the throne of David’s descendants. The first is Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s tax collectors for the northern kingdom. The Prophet Ahijah delivers the message that 10 northern tribes will be torn away from his kingdom and Judah will be left with just two tribes to rule. Jeroboam will rule the Northern Kingdom and Solomon’s son Rehoboam will rule in Judah. God promises to build an enduring dynasty in the north, “If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statues and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you.”

However both Solomon and Jeroboam did not act in the ways of King David, Solomon attempts to kill Jeroboam like Saul did with David. And Jeroboam attempts to seize the throne from Solomon instead of honoring God’s anointed King, allowing God to work according to His timing, also unlike King David. Jeroboam flees to Egypt for his safety and Solomon dies.

Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, travels to Shechem to be crowned king of the Northern tribes. There he is met by Jeroboam, called back from Egypt to represent the northern tribes. They request reforms from Rehoboam, the work and tax imposed on them is too high, if you lighten our work and taxes we will serve you, meaning that they will acknowledge him as King. Rehoboam asks for three days to consult with his advisors; Solomon’s advisors say “if you show a willingness to help these people and grant their request, they will be your servants from this time forward.” But Rehoboam rejects their wise advice and went the bad advice of his cronies, thus setting in place all events to fulfill the prophecy of Ahijah. If fact we are told that “The king refused to listen to the people, because the LORD was instigating this turn of events so that he might bring to pass the prophetic announcement he had made through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam son of Nebat”.

The northern tribes reject Rehoboam as their king and summoned Jeroboam and made him king over the 10 northern tribes of Israel. Rehoboam prepares to attack the north, but the prophet Shemaiah intervenes to warn Judah against attacking Israel and they obeyed the LORD.

1 Kings continues with the account of Jeroboam’s reign, Jeroboam could have been an instrument of blessing for Israel. He was divinely chosen and given promises that his dynasty would continue and prosper if he obeyed the Lord. He chose Shechem as his capital, a politically and spiritually significant spot. Then out of fear that the northern tribes might switch their loyalty to the house of David if they went to Jerusalem to worship he set up alternative worship sites for Israel. Jeroboam placed golden calves in Bethel and Dan and built temples on the high places, and removed the Levites as priests. He designated alternative festival dates for Israel, and then offered up sacrifices to the calves he had made. Jeroboam adopted the style and sites of pagan worship and entangled them with the worship of the LORD.

Just as Jeroboam is offering up his sacrifices a prophet from Judah arrives to deliver a message from the LORD. In 300 years, King Josiah will be born; he will sacrifice the priests of the high places on this altar. Then he announced a sign that confirmed that his message is from God. The altar will be split open and the ashes will fall on the ground and at that moment the altar spit in two. Remember that signs are given to prove that the prophet came with God’s authority, this was a clear sign of God’s condemnation of the altars and worship that Jeroboam built.

This is followed quickly by two more signs that confirm God’s message. First Jeroboam attempts to seize the prophet, but the hand he extended is shriveled up and he could not pull it back. He pleads with the prophet to heal his hand, the prophet prays to the LORD and the king’s hand is restored. The third sign is embedded in a long strange story, the king invites the prophet to stay with him and eat at his table. But we learn that God was very clear with the prophet, he was told not to stop and eat or drink in Israel but to return to Judah without stopping.

As the prophet is traveling home a “lying prophet” greets him and tells him that the LORD told him to come eat and stay with him. The prophet is deceived and goes with the old prophet. As the prophet is leaving a truthful word from the LORD comes through the old lying prophet. The prophet will be killed by a lion, but the lion will not eat the prophet or his donkey. This story reinforces the warning to Jeroboam, Israel should take this warning very seriously – even a prophet will be killed if he takes God’s instructions lightly. The prophet’s death is another sign that the message is from God: The donkey and the lion are also reinforcement – the donkey did not run from the Lion, nor did the Lion eat the donkey or the prophet. The old prophet then retrieves the prophet’s body and gives him a proper burial in his tomb requesting that when he dies to be buried with the prophet. Put my bones right next to his bones, “for the prophecy he announced with the LORD’s authority against the altar in Bethel and against all the temples on the high places in the cities of the north will certainly be fulfilled.” The word of the prophet’s announcement against Israel, their false worship and the prophet’s death spread throughout Israel, but Jeroboam did not change his evil ways he continued to worship in the high places with false priests. This sin caused Jeroboam’s dynasty to come to an end and to be destroyed from the face of the earth.

When Jeroboam son becomes ill, he sends his wife in disguise to the prophet Ahijah to see if he could get a different decision from God. But God warned Ahijah and he delivered the bad news to Jeroboam’s wife, this son will die and he will be the only one of Jeroboam’s descendants to be buried, no male will perpetuate his line, they will not be buried, they will be eaten by dogs. The LORD will raise up a king over Israel who will cut off Jeroboam’s dynasty. It is ready to happen! Ahijah’s prophecy provides a sad picture of ruined potential. As the first king of an independent Israel, Jeroboam had the God–given opportunity to be a ruler of great stature; instead he was responsible for setting his kingdom on the road to disaster. The discrepancy between potential and performance is a recurring theme of the books of Kings.

1 Kings now returns to the account of Judah, Rehoboam ruled for 17 years in Jerusalem. For three years Judah followed the edicts of David and Solomon, but then did evil in the sight of the LORD. Rehoboam’s mother was an Ammonite, she worshiped the detestable idol-god Molech, she was most likely influential in reviving the Canaanite paganism in Judah. They built worship centers in the high places, erecting Asherah poles on every hill and under every green tree. They installed male cultic prostitutes, committing the horrible sins that the nations surrounding them practiced. These are the detestable practices that the LORD drove out of Canaan. Then God sent a message through the prophet Shemaiah, “You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.”

Egypt invades Judah, Israel, Edom, and Philistia and gained control of 156 cities. The clear implication is that the Egyptian campaign was God’s chastisement for Judah, and particularly for Rehoboam, for it struck at the very heart of his kingdom—the temple and the royal palace. The leaders of Judah humbled themselves before the LORD, so God spared Jerusalem from destruction. But Rehoboam paid a ransom to Shishak from the treasuries of the Temple and the Palace. Rehoboam and Judah’s fortunes are reversed; they have gone vast prosperous lands, from Gold and Silver to Bronze and the small holdings surrounding Jerusalem. Rehoboam dies and is buried in the city of David and his son Abijah replaces him as king.

1 Kings 6-8

These chapters are the center piece of 1 Kings; the longest section highlighting Solomon’s building projects. We are given the exact date when Solomon began building the Temple, in the 4th year of his reign, in the 480th year after the Israelites left Egypt. This would be April-May of 966 B.C., and would set the Exodus at 1446 B.C. Here at the beginning this long detailed account of Solomon’s building projects is an equivalency of the two significant events in Israel’s history. The emphasis is that both are acts of God. It was God who by signs and wonders rescued the Israelites from slavery and made them into a nation and it is God who enables the peace, ability and prosperity so that Solomon could build the temple. God plans and purposes are worked out in history and God always keeps his promises.

King Solomon proceeds to build God’s temple according to the plans and preparations made by his father King David. It is about twice the size of the Tabernacle but in the same layout. The total length is about 90’, with a new porch 15’ added outside the entrance. Inside the Holy of Holies is a perfect 30’ square, the Holy Place is 45’ rectangular with 45’ high walls with clerestory windows high up to let in light. On the outside of the Temple, but not protruding into the Temple are 3 floors of storage rooms and accommodations for priests all accessed by outside stairway. The Temple faces east; it is made out of white limestone with the roof made from cedar beams, rafters, and boards.

Solomon built a magnificent dwelling place for the LORD, but there were conditions attached. The LORD said to Solomon: “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my rules, observe my regulations, and obey all my commandments, I will fulfill through you the promise I made to your father David. I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.” Building the temple would not guarantee God’s presence among his people; God cannot be tamed and kept in a box, however magnificent the box might be.

After Solomon finished the exterior of the temple, he began on the interior. The entire inside from floor to ceiling was paneled with cedar and he built a cedar wall to separate the holy place from the most holy place. Everything was cedar wood, no stone were visible, with carvings of flowers that decorated the walls. Then all of the wood was plated with pure gold. Solomon commissioned two 15’ tall angels (cherubim) with 15’ wing span; they were identical in shape and measurement. Their wings touch the walls and each other over the span of the room, they were plated with gold. Underneath the angels the Ark would be placed as they stood guard their wings touching the walls and each other.

The doors to the temple main hall was carved out of olive wood, decorated with cherubs, palm trees and flowers then plated in gold. This magnificent temple must have been a glorious sight, pure white stone with shining gold accents seen from far off when the rising sun would strikes its walls. The temple was completed in 7 years; October-November of 959 B.C.

After this glorious accomplishment we are told of Solomon’s other building projects which lasted for 13 years, twice as long as the temple. He built a massive Palace complex, next to the temple. He built the Palace of the Lebanon Forest which was 4 times the size of the temple, a throne room called the Hall of Judgment, a palace for Pharaoh’s daughter, a great courtyard that connected all the buildings together with a colonnade with pillars and a roof. Surrounding the palace complex was a 45’ wall set on a large foundation wedged into the hillside.

The next verses record the temple furnishings that Solomon commissioned from Hiram of Tyre a craftsman in bronze. First, two bronze pillars 27’ high and 18’ round, with intricate tops 7 ½’ high of lattice work, wreaths, chains and lilies and pomegranate decorations. These pillars were placed on the porch of the temple and Solomon named them Jakin meaning “he establishes” and Boaz meaning “in strength”. They would always be a reminder that God is the one that establishes Israel and that their strength is found in their relationship with the LORD.

Next, a large bronze basin called The Sea, 15’ from rim to rim, 7 ½’ high, 45’ round the basin was 4 fingers thick and held 12,000 gallons of water. The Sea set on top of 12 bronze bulls all facing outward, 3 pointed north, 3 west, 3 south and 3 east. To go with The Sea were ten identical movable basins used for the butchering of sacrificial animals stationed on the south and the north side of the temple.

Solomon also had the items made for inside the temple the gold altar, the gold table, 10 lampstands, bowls, censers even the sockets for the door were gold. Note that the Tabernacle had one lampstand; the temple now has 10, everything larger, brighter and more costly.

Then Solomon calls all the leaders of Israel from every tribe and family to witness the transfer of the Ark of the Covenant from the Tabernacle into the Temple. The priests and Levites lifted the ark and carried it along with all the holy items from the Tabernacle. King Solomon and all the Israelites assembled went ahead of the ark and sacrificed more sheep and cattle than could be counted or numbered. The priests brought the ark to its assigned place in the holy of holies under the wings of the cherubs. Once the priests left the holy place, a cloud filled the LORD’s temple. The priests could not carry out their duties because of the cloud; the LORD’s glory filled his temple. This is the same manifestation that took place when the Tabernacle was dedicated, indicating God’s acceptance and approval of what Solomon had done. It was a visible sign that God’s glory had taken up residence in His Temple.

Solomon then offers up a prayer of dedication, renewing the covenant with God. He proclaims a blessing over Israel, praises God for all the fulfilled promises made to King David and Solomon. Solomon pleads with God to answer his desperate prayer today, watch over this temple, and answer your servant’s prayers from your heavenly dwelling place. Note Solomon realizes that God in not confined to the temple. Then Solomon prophetically lists all the sins, suffering and judgment that Israel will commit and asks God to listen from heaven, forgive the sin of your people, act favorably toward each one and make a just decision. Solomon includes foreigners in his prayers, saying listen to them so that they will acknowledge your reputation and realize this temple belongs to you.

Over a two week period Solomon offered up to the LORD 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep, this festival included all the people from all over the land of Israel. When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the LORD’s splendor filled the temple.

1 Kings 2:12 – 5:18

The first twelve chapters of 1 Kings is the record of Solomon’s reign, it is important to note that this is a very purposeful selection of narratives using a device called a literary inversion. A-Solomon’s succession to the throne, B-the consolidation of his throne, C-Solomon’s wisdom and D-his reign characterized followed by the center piece E-Solomon’s building projects. The inverse is D-Solomon’s reign characterized, C- Solomon’s folly, B- his throne threatened and A-Rehoboam’s succession to the throne.

Solomon assumed his father’s throne and his royal authority was firmly solidified, there was no question who was the rightful king by God’s selection. The wisdom that made Solomon famous can be seen clearly in these next sections. His wise decisions at the beginning of his reign resulted in 40 years of peace and prosperity for Israel.

Once again Adonijah begins his maneuvers to seize the throne. He visits Bathsheba with the purpose of manipulating a marriage with King David’s concubine Abishag. Adonijah convinces Bathsheba that his intentions are peaceful so she agrees to press his case with her son Solomon. We sense the tension; this is the young man that put Bathsheba’s life at risk when he attempted his previous coup. In the ancient world taking possession of the King’s harem was the equivalent of establishing a claim to the throne. King Solomon has the wisdom to discern the scheme; he sees the implication of Adonijah’s moves and quickly deals with the traitors. Adonijah and Joab are killed the same day, Solomon spares Abiathar the priest life, because “he carried the Ark of the Sovereign Lord before King David” but restricts him to his hometown in the north, never to come to Jerusalem again.

The final person that King David warned Solomon about was Shimei, Solomon restricted Shimei to Jerusalem, keeping him away from his kinsmen, King Saul’s family. “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and live there, but you may not leave there to go anywhere! If you ever do leave and cross the Kidron Valley, know for sure that you will certainly die! You will be responsible for your own death.” Shimei complied with the restrictions for three years, until two servants ran away, then he ignored Solomon’s warning and left to retrieve his runaway servants. Solomon confronts Shimei, “Why then have you broken the oath you made before the LORD and disobeyed the order I gave you?” Then the king said to Shimei, “You are well aware of the way you mistreated my father David. The LORD will punish you for what you did. But King Solomon will be empowered and David’s dynasty will endure permanently before the LORD.” The king then gave the order to Benaiah son of Jehoiada who went and executed Shimei.

1 Kings 3 contains stories that confirm Solomon’s wisdom, but also give hints of what will come later in Solomon’s reign. Solomon makes an alliance with Pharaoh of Egypt by marrying his daughter; this will secure peace for Israel’s southern border allowing for great prosperity. However, we see the seeds of Solomon’s eventual downfall, even while he is being described as wise.

“Now the people were offering sacrifices at the high places, because in those days a temple had not yet been built to honor the LORD. Solomon demonstrated his loyalty to the LORD by following the practices of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places”. 1 Kings 3:1-3

King Solomon went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices; it was the most prominent high place altar at that time. He offered up a thousand burnt sacrifices on the altar there, these were thanksgiving offerings to the LORD, but were not done in the prescribed way of God’s Law. While in Gibeon, the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream, God asks Solomon, “Tell me what I should give you.” Solomon asks for a discerning mind (wisdom) sometimes called a hearing heart so that he can make wise decisions for God’s people, with the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.

The LORD was pleased with Solomon’s request and gave him the ability to make wise decisions; He also gave him riches and honor so that you will be the greatest king of your generation and a long life. Notice that when Solomon woke up and realized this was a dream, he immediately went up to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant, to offered up burnt sacrifices, presented peace offerings, and held a feast for all his servants. Solomon realized the gracious gift God gave him and obeyed the rules and regulations, just as his father David did.

Wisdom received from God now we will see wisdom demonstrated in this famous bible story of Solomon’s wise actions in a dispute between two mothers. The first thing to notice in this account is that the two women involved are named as prostitutes, this identifies them as the poor and despised of the world, yet Solomon in his God-given wisdom hears their complaint and administers justice. Speaking of the coming Messiah, Solomon’s direct descendant, Isaiah records, “Out of Jesse’s root stock, the LORD spirit was on him that would give him extraordinary wisdom, the ability to execute plans, that produces loyalty to the LORD, he will not judge by appearances or make decisions on the basis of hearsay, he will treat the poor fairly and make the right decision for the downtrodden, he will execute the wicked – he will be known for integrity and justice”.

Both women birthed babies a few days apart, one baby dies in his sleep, so his mother switches the babies and claims the live one as her own. When the other mother examines the dead baby she quickly realizes it was not her child. They appear before Solomon and each claim the child as their own, at which point Solomon dramatically calls for a sword so he can cut the child in two. The real mother is revealed by declaring, “My master, give her the living child! Whatever you do, don’t kill him!” Solomon’s wisdom is demonstrated resulting in all of Israel hearing about his judicial decision commanding respect because they acknowledge he possessed supernatural (God-given) wisdom.

Wisdom received from God, wisdom demonstrated in just decisions, now wisdom administered. King David conquered the land to establish the kingdom, now his son Solomon will put in place the governmental organization to strengthen and secure the empire. First thing he does is establish twelve governors to collect taxes, he appointed people to record the edicts, to negotiate trade agreements and build his military to secure the peace. This seems like the simple administrative organization needed to secure and build the kingdom, but buried in these verses are the seeds of the kingdom’s downfall. All of these governors were placed in northern Israel, none in the south Judah; it abandoned the traditional tribal boundaries and imposed an unequal demand on the northern tribes. When we read these verses in the light of later events it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the extravagance of Solomon’s court, and the burden which it placed on the northern tribes, were the seeds of the discontent which eventually splits the kingdom.

However, in spite of these uneven burdens we are told that “The people of Judah and Israel were as innumerable as the sand on the seashore; they had plenty to eat and drink and were happy. Solomon ruled all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These kingdoms paid tribute as Solomon’s subjects throughout his lifetime. His royal court was so large because he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River from Tiphsah to Gaza; he was at peace with all his neighbors. All the people of Judah and Israel had security; everyone from Dan to Beer Sheba enjoyed the produce of their vines and fig trees throughout Solomon’s lifetime.”

Wisdom received from God, wisdom demonstrated with justice, wisdom administrated and now wisdom manifested. God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment; the breadth of his understanding was as infinite as the sand on the seashore. “Solomon was wiser than all the men of the east and all the sages of Egypt. He was famous in all the neighboring nations. He composed 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. He produced manuals on botany, describing every kind of plant, from the cedars of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows on walls. He also produced manuals on biology, describing animals, birds, insects, and fish”. God ushered in Israel’s ”Golden Age” of building, poetry, science and art by giving Solomon great wisdom.

Chapter 5 begins the long account of Solomon’s building projects including the Temple of the LORD according to the plans God gave Solomon’s father David. First Solomon makes a trade agreement with King Hiram of Tyre in exchange for cedars from Lebanon Israel will supply food for Hiram’s royal court. This almost doubled the grain tax for Israel, but secured the peace and provided the building materials needed. Solomon conscripted laborers from the northern kingdom that would work one month for Solomon then had two months at home to tend their own fields. The scale of work and taxes was massive and God continued to bless Israel with peace and good harvest, so that each man was able to “enjoy the produce of their vines and fig trees throughout Solomon’s lifetime”.