Queen of Sheba; Solomon’s Pagan Wives

1 Kings 9-11

The beginning of chapter 9 includes words from the Lord when He appeared to Solomon a second time. I haven’t kept track, but it is rare that we read, “the Lord appeared…” to anyone. The Lord speaks to prophets through visions, but rarely do we read about direct interaction.

The Lord said to him, “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” 1 Kings 9:3

The Lord is pleased with the temple and Solomon’s prayers from the last chapter. The people have assurance that God is with them, his eyes and heart are there in the temple. I’m trying to imagine the effort it takes to make the journey from whatever distance to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices of the best at the temple. Step by step the journey would be a pleasure knowing that God is pleased.

The Lord assures Solomon that “if…and…and…” there will be a “successor on the throne” from his household. We have a lot of kings to account for and the conditions of “if you walk before me faithfully,” etc., is pretty easy for Solomon, but the other half is not so simple. “But if your descendants turn away…” well, that’s a recipe for disaster and a prophetic word to remember.

This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 1 Kings 9:8

The concept that such a magnificent place could become a heap of rubble would have incited a riot. Thousands were conscripted over the course of 20 years of construction. The kingdom invested heavily and offered 20 cities to Hiram as collateral. Surprisingly, this big business didn’t always go as well as planned. The story here is brief, but Hiram has a look at the cities Solomon offered and was not so impressed:

“What king of towns are these you have given me, my brother?” he asked. And he called them the Land of Kabul, a name they have to this day. 1 Kings 9:13

We have to look in 2 Chronicles 8 for a hint of how this gets resolved, but apparently the big business deal between Jerusalem and Tyre was not all smooth sailing.

Add to this an interesting fact, “But Solomon did not make slaves of any of the Israelites” (1 Kings 9:22). All those conscripted into service were among the people captured during wars, but not exterminated. The concept makes my head hurt! I can only imagine this embeds animosity and contempt toward the Israelites.

Chapter 10 focuses on the Queen of Sheba. She was impressed with his wisdom, “you have far exceeded the report I heard” (1 Kings 10:7). She offered words of praise for the Lord and for Solomon’s people. More than that, she balanced his account with Hiram by giving Solomon “120 talents of gold” (1 Kings 10:10) that would certainly cool Hiram’s concerns (1 Kings 9:14).

As I read about all the gold that was traded, I’m in awe about the mining operations of these ancient days. Machinery was extremely limited, yet they produced huge amounts of refined gold for covering shields and furnishings. The effort was enormous. It’s hard to get my mind around these little details that just slip through the narrative.

King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. 1 Kings 10:23

Then we see the word, “however.”

King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” 1 Kings 11:1-2

The stats here are often quoted in sermons: 700 wives, 300 concubines, etc. Really? Crazy stuff to be sure. Whatever the number and logistics involved, the sad reality is this:

his wives turned his heart after other dogs, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God…1 Kings 11:4

Solomon did what it took to please these women for his own pleasure. He built places for them to worship their gods. With all his wisdom, it’s incredible that he didn’t see that coming. God is not pleased. “I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates” (1 Kings 11:11).

All this time, we’ve heard nothing about war. No battles, no statements about “when kings go off to war,” or any such thing. That is about to change. The remainder of chapter 11 (vv 14-40) details Solomon’s adversaries and rebellion. Most sadly, though, we read how God implements his words, he divides the kingdom.

Jeroboam is a principle leader of Solomon’s regime. On a journey out into the country, he is visited by a prophet (Ahijah) who reveals God’s plan: ten of the twelve tribes will be under Jeroboam’s authority, he will be king over Israel (the Northern kingdom) and Solomon’s descendants will have two tribes to rule (the Southern kingdom). Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but that didn’t work out well. Division. Sad.

The end of this chapter quietly pronounces the death of Solomon. His son Rehoboam becomes king.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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