Israel and the Promised Land VII

December 17, 2010

The reign of King Solomon is a classic biblical cautionary tale, in a sense a spiritual microcosm of the entire nation.  He began so well, humbly seeking God’s wisdom (1 Ki. 3) and overseeing the building of the temple (chs. 5-6).  In addition, the expansion of the land controlled by the people of Israel was greater under Solomon than at any other time in recorded biblical history (4:21), closely approximating the borders promised to Abraham in Gen. 15:18-21.

But, even before the dedication of the temple is recorded in 1 Kings 8, the writer makes it very clear that, in spite of his gift of wisdom from the Lord, Solomon’s prioirites were much in the process of getting seriously out of whack.  Why do I say that?  Because in the very next verse after the reader is told that it took seven years for Solomon to have the temple built (6:38), it is recorded that Solomon spent 13 years building his palace complex (7:1).

In other words, Solomon gave almost twice as much time/energy to his own palace as to God’s place of residence!  And, piled on top of that serious act of pride, we read of his unsurpassed (at least, in the ancient world) multiplying of gold and silver, wives and horses (10:23-11:3a, in utter and complete disregard to the Lord’s clear prohibitions to the kings of His people on all three fronts in Deut. 17:16-17.  Of his many wives/concubines (11:3a) in particular, it is tragically stated “… they turned his heart away from the Lord” (11:b).

As a result, the Lord was not a happy camper!  His anger was especially in regard to Solomon following other gods (11: 9-10).  Solomon had even built high places for the worship of a number of the false gods his various wives worshiped outside the city of Jerusalem (11:4-8).

The discipline the Lord chose in this case was to “tear the kingdom away from” Solomon (11:11), but not “the entire kingdom” (11:13).  One tribe, Judah, would remain under the rule of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, but not because of Solomon.  In words that almost echo God’s loyalty to Abraham in regard to his desecendants, the fractional continuation of Judah was “because of my servant David and because of Jerusalem that I chose” (11:13).

This passage makes it fairly clear that the Lord’s discipline–even when the land comes into play–can happen fairly quickly, when He sees fit.  In this case, Solomon’s heart drifted away from the Lord to the false gods over what appears to be about a 25-year period.  And, in this case, though there were undoubedly many in the nation who followed Solomon’s example of false worship, he is directly held responsible for the judgment of the tearing away of the bulk of the tribes of Israel and over half the promised land.

This is a very important observation to make: in regard to the presence in/control of the promised land by the entire people of Israel, sometimes the obedience or disobedience of one individual leader can be decisive in regard to very broad consequences.  (This same broader principle will be seen from a positive standpoint in regard to the actions of Daniel and Nehemiah after the Babylonian Captivity.)

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