1 Kings 10-11 Chapter Study
This is Israel’s Golden Age; when King Solomon’s reign is at it’s apex.
The last half of ch. 9 ends is a list of the major building projects Solomon engaged in.
Israel’s reputation as the premier kingdom of that era, along with the stories of Solomon’s wisdom & skill in governing have spread far & wide and rulers are coming from great distances to see if the reports they’ve heard are true.
Ch. 10 begins with the story of one such ruler.
1Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.
Sheba was a small but powerful nation in SW Arabia, roughly equivalent to modern Yemen.
It’s the best watered & most fertile area on the Arabian Peninsula.
AT that time it boasted a strong economy because it was a powerhouse of trade.
NowàTravel in the ancient world was a difficult affair because it took so long over iffy roads.
There were few secure places to stop along the way, & in many places bands of brigands, raiders, ruled the routes.
So chief-rulers rarely left their native lands, preferring to send ambassadors instead.
That a queen would make the difficult trip from the far end of the Arabian Peninsula all the way to Israel is a poignant comment on the extent of Solomon’s fame.
The queen of Sheba was a famous person in her own right.
Like Solomon for Israel, she’d brought her nation into it’s Golden Age.
She was fabulously wealthy & had built a highly-civilized society in her land.
Israel was Sheba’s chief competitor in bragging rights on who was greatest, so she decided to see for herself if all she’d heard about the glory & splendor of Solomon’s court was true.
V. 1 makes it clear the queen of Sheba knew Israel’s wild success was tied to the greatness of her God.
the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord
2She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels that bore spices, very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart.
One of the reasons she’d travel with a huge company was for safety’s sake.
She was attended by a large number of troops to protect both her & the treasure she was bringing.
3So Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her. 4And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, 5the food on his table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters and their apparel, his cupbearers, and his entryway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.
She’d originally set out with a patriotism to her own kingdom & culture that fired a competitiveness in her that was just itching to find something she could use to justify why Sheba was superior to Israel.
But after seeing Jerusalem & hearing Solomon, she realized there was no competition – Israel won.
6Then she said to the king: “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. 7However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard. 8Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom! 9Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” 10Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, spices in great quantity, and precious stones. There never again came such abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
These spices were those used in making the expensive perfumes Sheba was well known for.
Most ancient perfumes were simply spices & herbal extracts added to high grade oil, usually olive oil.
If they’d mixed the spices with the oil back in Sheba, transporting it would have been much more difficult because of the weight.
11Also, the ships of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought great quantities of almug wood and precious stones from Ophir. 12And the king made steps of the almug wood for the house of the Lord and for the king’s house, also harps and stringed instruments for singers. There never again came such almug wood, nor has the like been seen to this day.
Until recent times, what almug wood was remained a mystery. Now we know it’s the red sandalwood that grows in Southern India, adding more weight to the idea that Ophir was India.
Almug is a dense, strong & fragrant wood that is both antiseptic & bug-proof, a perfect choice both for the temple & musical instruments.
13Now King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired, whatever she asked, besides what Solomon had given her according to the royal generosity. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants.
While the queen of Sheba brought quite a haul to Jerusalem, she took home more than she brought as Solomon loaded her retinue up with unique gifts.
Now we get some signs of just how wealthy & powerful Solomon became at this time.
14The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was 666 talents of gold, 15besides that from the traveling merchants, from the income of traders, from all the kings of Arabia, and from the governors of the country.
Each year, Sol received a LOT of gold – 666 talents besides all he got from customs & tribute.
Since 1 talent equals about 70 lbs. 666 talents = 23.31 tons = 46,620 lbs = 745,920 oz.
For some unknown reason, the writer divides Solomon’s annual income into 2 groups; a base amount of 666 talents, & all the rest that came from tribute & customs.
There’s only one other place in Scripture where we find this odd number; Rev. 13:18, a passage which details the career of the antichrist.
So it seems the Holy Spirit wants us to draw a correlation between these 2 passages.
In Rev. 13:18 we read -
Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
Using the interpretive principle of comparing Scripture with Scripture, we’re moved to draw a link between the Antichrist & Solomon. What might that be?
Well, Solomon was a world-renowned ruler who began as a good guy but went horribly, terribly wrong.
We know the Antichrist is the last day’s world ruler.
It may be that he starts out good & innocent but goes bad.
Solomon started out honoring God but fell to the very worst idolatry.
The Antichrist will promote the greatest idolatry of all-time – the worship of himself as God.
Solomon placed numerous idols in the temple.
The antichrist will set up the abomination of desolation in the rebuilt temple.
Solomon was gifted with supernatural wisdom.
The antichrist will possess supernatural wisdom & power, bestowed on him by satan.
Solomon controlled world economy & wielded vast military might.
So will the antichrist.
The rulers of the world came to honor Solomon.
So will the last days’ rulers in their devotion to the antichrist & his system.
16And King Solomon made 200 large shields of hammered gold; 600 shekels of gold went into each shield. 17He also made 300 shields of hammered gold; 3 minas of gold went into each shield. The king put them in the House of the Forest of Lebanon.
A total of 500 gold shields were fashioned;
200 were full-size & shaped like a small door. These were carried by the heavy infantry.
300 more were half-sized, round shields & were carried by archers.
These shields were made of wood, but instead of being covered with the usual leather, they were covered with a thin sheet of gold, 7½ lbs for the large shields & 3 ¾ lbs. for the smaller.
Of course, Israel’s army had a lot more than 500 men in it; these were just the shields for the ceremonial royal palace guard in Jerusalem.
These shields were kept in the House of the Forest of Lebanon which gives us the clue it was the armory & military headquarters in Jerusalem. Israel’s Pentagon, if you will.
18Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with pure gold. 19The throne had 6 steps, and the top of the throne was round at the back; there were armrests on either side of the place of the seat, and 2 lions stood beside the armrests. 2012 lions stood there, 1 on each side of the six steps; nothing like this had been made for any other kingdom.
Why make the throne of ivory if you’re going to cover it in gold?
Because you can carve all kinds of intricate shapes into ivory, which is what they did with Solomon’s throne.
With all these lions at Solomon’s feet, it would look like he was not only a lord among men but of the animal kingdom as well.
21All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Not one was silver, for this was accounted as nothing in the days of Solomon. 22For the king had merchant ships at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every 3 years the merchant ships came bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and monkeys.
A couple of quick translation notes here –
1) “Merchant ships” is literally in Hebrew ‘ships of Tarshish.’
Bible Scholars remain baffled by exactly where Tarshish was.
Some think it’s the island of Cypress.
Others think it refers to Spain.
Some think it’s a reference to England, & others think it refers to Turkey.
The way the word is used here means that the writer did not mean these ships as belonging TO Tarshish.
They were Solomon’s ships but they were built after the fashion of the Tarshish navy; in other words, they were deep sea vessels capable of sailing long distances through the open sea.
2) “Monkeys” at the end of v. 22 is translated as peacocks in older versions of the Bible.
We now know that the ancient word referred to monkeys.
Both apes & monkeys were exotic creatures that provided endless entertainment, so they were a much sought after commodity in royal courts.
Modern entertainment is still largely conducted by apes & monkeys, only of the less hairy kind.
23So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. 24Now all the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart. 25Each man brought his present: articles of silver and gold, garments, armor, spices, horses, and mules, at a set rate year by year.
Solomon’s court became the ultimate destination everyone who was anyone had to see.
This now brings to an end the positives of Solomon’s reign. Since he’s at the zenith, there’s only one direction to go from here – Down. And down he goes!
26And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen; he had 1400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem. 27The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar trees as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowland. 28Also Solomon had horses imported from Egypt and Keveh; the king’s merchants bought them in Keveh at the current price.
Keveh was probably Cilicia, up where northern Lebanon met Turkey. This area was famous for its horses.
29Now a chariot that was imported from Egypt cost 600 shekels of silver, and a horse 150; and thus, through their agents, they exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.
In order to understand why the writer shares this information with us, we need to read Deut 17 & the instructions God gave the kings of Israel.
16[The king] shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ 17Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.
There were 3 things the kings of Israel were not to do:
1) Multiply horses; & specially by trading with Egypt.
2) Multiply silver & gold.
3) Multiply wives.
Solomon not only violated all 3 of these prohibitions, he did so with gusto.
The writer records the violation of all 3 commands in just a few versus.
We’ve already seen his amassing of gold & silver in mind-numbing abundance.
Then we read of his collecting of horses & going to Egypt to do so.
Now we read of his violation of the prohibition against amassing women.
1But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— 2from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3And he had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.
It’s interesting to see how some commentators explain this.
They say because Sol’s wives are called ‘princesses’ we need to understand he married them as political alliances.
Sure, that was a practice of kings in the ancient world, but come on; there weren’t 700 tribes, let alone nations in that region at that time.
Other commentators say Sol was just enlarging the size of his harem as a mark of his wealth & power; another practice of ancient oriental kings.
Okay, maybe there was some of that which motivated Sol, but the real reason for taking so many women is spelled out in vs. 1 & 2: He desired these women!
Whatever rationalizations he may have used to talk himself into it, the real reason he took so many women was simply because he wanted them.
Like most man who’ve ever lived, Sol had an eye problem.
When he saw a beautiful gal, he lusted for her.
Because he was a wealthy & powerful man he was able to take whatever he wanted & to be frank, these women were happy to be included in his harem.
Solomon tells us what drove him at this time in Ecclesiastes 2:10.
“Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.”
What made it worse is that Solomon not only knew of the prohibition against accumulating wives, he knew WHY – God said they would turn his heart form the Lord.
Added to that was God’s prohibition that any of the people of Israel would marry into this list of nations given in v. 1.
A couple of important lessons can be gleaned at this point –
First à Men, learn a valuable lesson from Solomon’s negative example here.
Lust is never satisfied. The eye is never sated.
If you let lust drive you it will never, ever be quieted, but it will surely consume YOU!
Solomon had a thousand of the world’s most beautiful women in his bed before he realized he’d never be satisfied.
If you’re a someone who struggles with lust & find yourself failing again & again, realize that it’s a lie to think that there’s some picture, some image, some video, or some person that once you feast your eyes on that – that you’ll be satisfied.
Every image you use to satisfy lust is only gas on its fire that burns hotter & demands more.
If you don’t stop, it will burn YOU!
So, how do you silence the longings of lust – realize that lust is nothing but desire, a soul-hunger that can ONLY BE SATISFIED BY INTIMACY WITH GOD.
Second à God warned His people not to marry unbelievers because they would turn their hearts from Him
It may appear noble when a believer says he/she is marrying an unbeliever as a means of winning them to faith but it’s not à It’s disobedience.
Marriage is a commitment of total intimacy, involving body, soul, & spirit.
But spiritual intimacy is impossible between a believer & unbeliever.
And because of that, the believer will fail to experience the oneness with their mate their spirit craves.
Rare is the person, the believer, who can maintain solid intimacy with God while married to an unbeliever.
What happens far more often is that the believer’s affection for & devotion to God cools & ends up compromised because their mate is pulling them in the other direction & there’s a strong desire to please that mate.
Listen, every one of us knows the struggle we face just dealing with our own tendency to wander from the Lord.
Add a covenant with another person who isn’t interested in following the Lord to the mix and it’s triply hard.
As the Body of Christ, we ought to urge the singles among us to be wise in the selection of who they pair up with romantically.
They ought to not only limit the field to believers but to those who’ve demonstrated a quality of spiritual life that’s real & growing.
4For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. 5For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David.
Recognize this for the tragedy it is! Here’s the world’s wisest man – he becomes a complete fool.
His maturity in years did not translate into spiritual maturity.
As he grew older, he grew colder, because his heart moved from God to women.
In his desire to please them he followed their counsel & installed idols & pagan altars in Jerusalem.
What’s amazing is the comparison here to his father David.
David had a weakness for women too – but after stumbling, he always came back to the Lord in sincere repentance.
We never read that God appeared to David. But he appeared to Sol à twice!
This ought to prove once & for all that faith is not about proofs or evidence – it’s a matter of the heart.
If it were about proofs, Solomon should been have twice as devoted as David.
Solomon’s youth was marked by a passion for & devotion to the Lord.
It was his elder years that witnessed his decline.
May Solomon serve as a lesson to senior saints.
Just as we say it’s never too late to turn to God, it’s never too late to fall away either!
In Pilgrim’s Progress, as Christian & Hopeful are drawing close to the Celestial City, they pass a hill in which there’s a door. When they open it, smoke rolls out. Inside it’s dark & hot.
They hear the cry of anguished souls from deep below.
It’s an opening to hell, & though they’re close to heaven’s gate, there is still the chance that some would turn aside to destruction.
Never grow slack or lazy in your pursuit of God. Never grow complacent in following after the Lord.
Never sit back & take your spiritual leisure, thinking you’ve gone far enough in the Kingdom.
7Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. 8And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
This is the Mt. of Olives, which sits just across the little Kidron Valley form the Temple.
Now – there’s debate among Bible students if Solomon ever repented & came back to the Lord before his death.
These idols on Mt. of Olives would seem to indicate he never did repent.
Because they were still there years later when King Josiah began his reforms.
One of the things he did was tear down these idols & their altars.
9So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. 11Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”
God declares His judgment on Solomon’s apostasy.
The kingdom would be divided in the reign of Solomon's son.
In the midst of this announcement of judgment, God shows mercy – all because of David’s heart for God.
I wonder how much of a delay in God's judgment we’re seeing because of the love for God of the saints of prior generations right here in our country.
God only knows how much we deserve His wrath and judgment
Could He be delaying it, not because we’re so worthy, but because of their godly influence which stays the hand of God
Knowing the mercy of God, if Solomon had repented & given all of his heart to the Lord, God would have relented from this judgment. But Solomon didn’t repent! He continued in his sin.
So it turned out exactly as God forecasted.
Up to this point, Israel had been untroubled by foreign adversaries.
All of that changed when Sol turned from the Lord.
14Now the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was a descendant of the king in Edom. 15For it happened, when David was in Edom, and Joab the commander of the army had gone up to bury the slain, after he had killed every male in Edom 16(because for six months Joab remained there with all Israel, until he had cut down every male in Edom), 17that Hadad fled to go to Egypt, he and certain Edomites of his father’s servants with him. Hadad was still a little child. 18Then they arose from Midian and came to Paran; and they took men with them from Paran and came to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house, apportioned food for him, and gave him land. 19And Hadad found great favor in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him as wife the sister of his own wife, that is, the sister of Queen Tahpenes. 20Then the sister of Tahpenes bore him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh’s house. And Genubath was in Pharaoh’s household among the sons of Pharaoh. 21So when Hadad heard in Egypt that David rested with his fathers, and that Joab the commander of the army was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, “Let me depart, that I may go to my own country.” 22Then Pharaoh said to him, “But what have you lacked with me, that suddenly you seek to go to your own country?” So he answered, “Nothing, but do let me go anyway.”
There was constant enmity between Edom & Israel.
David sent Joab to defeat the Edomites, which he did by wiping out all the males except those who managed to escape the genocide – like Hadad, who was a relative of the King of Edom.
The slaughter took place when he was just a boy.
Hadad took refuge in Egypt and grew up in the court of Pharaoh who realized he could take advantage of the situation by attaching Hadad to his throne through marriage to his sister in law.
When Hadad heard that David & Joab were dead, he returned to Edom to claim what was left of his family’s royal dynasty.
He was eventually able to raise enough of an army among the Edomites that he began harassing Israel’s southeastern border & trades routes, which remember, was a major part of Solomon’s success & wealth.
After years of unfazed peace & prosperity, Hadad became a nasty thorn in Solomon’s side. But Sol didn’t repent. SO God raised the stakes . . .
23And God raised up another adversary against him, Rezon the son of Eliadah, who had fled from his lord, Hadadezer king of Zobah. 24So he gathered men to him and became captain over a band of raiders, when David killed those of Zobah. And they went to Damascus and dwelt there, and reigned in Damascus. 25He was an adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon (besides the trouble that Hadad caused); and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.
Zobah was a minor kingdom of southern Syria David had subdued.
Like Hadad, Rezon had fled the decimation of his people and took refuge in Damascus, the capital of Syria which at that time was in political upheaval; so Rezon took over.
Okay, Israel’s being harassed from 2 direction now. Still Sol didn’t wise up and repent.
So God turned up the heat a bit more . . .
26Then Solomon’s servant, Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite from Zereda, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow, also rebelled against the king. 27And this is what caused him to rebel against the king: Solomon had built the Millo and repaired the damages to the City of David his father. 28The man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valor; and Solomon, seeing that the young man was industrious, made him the officer over all the labor force of the house of Joseph.
Jeroboam was an industrious & sharp guy, so Sol promoted him as foreman over all the workers of the tribes of Ephraim & Manasseh, the sons of Joseph.
29Now it happened at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite [from Shiloh] met him on the way; and he had clothed himself with a new garment, and the two were alone in the field. 30Then Ahijah took hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into 12 pieces. 31And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself 10 pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give 10 tribes to you 32(but he shall have 1 tribe for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), 33because they have forsaken Me, and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the people of Ammon, and have not walked in My ways to do what is right in My eyes and keep My statutes and My judgments, as did his father David. 34However I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, because I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of My servant David, whom I chose because he kept My commandments and My statutes. 35But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand and give it to you—10 tribes. 36And to his son I will give 1 tribe, that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for Myself, to put My name there.
Note that last part, it’s going to be important later.
37So I will take you, and you shall reign over all your heart desires, and you shall be king over Israel. 38Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you. 39And I will afflict the descendants of David because of this, but not forever.’ ”
So there it is. God raised up Hadad & Rezon to harass Israel. After years of unruffled peace, the trouble caused by these 2 didn’t move Solomon to repent.
So God brought internal dissent & turmoil to the nation. Will Sol wise up now?
40Solomon therefore sought to kill Jeroboam. But Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.
Sol didn’t repent, he attacked Jeroboam who’d done nothing wrong.
On the contrary, he was God’s selection to rule over the northern tribes.
Sol had proven himself an unfit king for the people of God so God gave the kingdom to another.
Instead of responding to this as he ought to have, as soon as Sol heard of the prophet’s message to Jeroboam, he set out to execute him.
This is classic behavior for a rebel: Don’t heed God’s message – kill the messenger instead.
Jeroboam followed Hadad’s lead & fled to Egypt.
Why did Egypt prove a sanctuary to both Hadad & Jeroboam; aren’t Egypt & Israel in an alliance at this time?
Supposedly, but Pharaoh sees Israel as a threat to her generations old hegemony over this area.
Shishak was the 1st king of the 22nd Dynasty & was doing whatever he could to be on peaceful terms with Israel while at the same time maneuvering to make Solomon’s kingdom unsteady.
Their alliance wasn’t friendly; it was a mutual non-aggression pact.
Shishak had witnessed Egypt’s decline for the past few decades & saw in Jeroboam someone who could assist him in destabilizing Israel & restoring Egypt’s position
As we end, let’s not miss the lesson that Hadad, Rezon, & Jeroboam can teach us.
God raised these guys up to distress Solomon, all so that he’d come to his sense & repent.
When we’re distressed & trouble is needling us, nibbling at our heels, bugging us – prayerfully consider whether or not God’s trying to get through to you.
It might not just be the enemy hassling you – it might be trouble stirred up by God to awaken you to your need to repent.