Summary: For all his wisdom, Solomon acted foolishly so that his heart was turned away form God and so were the hearts of his people.
I’m not a betting man. In fact, I hate the way gambling usually takes from the poor and gives to the rich. But if you were talking odds, you’d have to say that Solomon was a sure bet. Solomon was a winner. Solomon the wise ruler;Solomon the great temple builder;Solomon the famous king.
1 Kings tells us that when the Queen of Sheba had observed all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his valets, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the LORD, there was no more spirit in her. So she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your accomplishments and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. Not even half had been told me; your wisdom and prosperity far surpass the report that I had heard. Happy are your wives! Happy are these your servants, who continually attend you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king to execute justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:4-9)
How could something so right go so wrong? When we first read the history of Solomon’s failure it seems almost unbelievable. How could the king who decided so wisely bring disaster upon his family and his country? I believe we can only really understand Solomon’s fall if we understand ourselves and our own weaknesses. In chapter 11 we discover that despite all his wisdom, power, and fame, Solomon had a fatal weakness. He had 700 wives and 300 mistresses (v. 3). Surprisingly, the number of Solomon’s marriages is not condemned. In the ancient world it was common practice for a king to have arranged marriages to create political alliances. (Not that I am suggesting that it’s okay for us to have 700 husbands or wives, even if we could afford them during the Global Financial Crisis!) Solomon’s marriages are condemned because they led him into idolatry.
Solomon’s offences (v. 1-8) In chapter 11 we see how Solomon’s weakness caused his idolatry. v. 1: “King Solomon loved many foreign women”v. 2: “Solomon clung to these in love”v. 3, 4: “his wives turned away his heart” after other godsv. 5: “For Solomon followed” idolsv. 7: “Then Solomon built a high place [=a place of worship]” for idolsv. 8: “He did the same for all his foreign wives”
It seems to me that verse 2 tells us something very important. “Solomon clung to these in love”. The language here is strong. God had warned Solomon of the danger. But Solomon stubbornly kept up his relationships with women who worshipped other gods. Of course, none of us have ever made foolish decisions because of our feelings for a member of the opposite sex, have we? And none of us have stubbornly pursued that relationship even though we knew it was wrong for us, have we? We can be very stubborn, about pursuing things we really want for ourselves. Often we persist even when we have been warned that consequences may not be good for us and for others!
Today’s reading shows that Solomon’s heart ruled over his head: v. 2: “for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods"v. 3: “and his wives turned away his heart”v. 4: “his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the LORD his God”v. 9: “Then the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD” I think there is a deliberate contrast being made here. The author of Kings is intentionally contrasting Solomon’s unfaithfulness with the faithfulness of God.
We see this contrast in the section of chapter 9 which was read to us: The LORD said to Solomon, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you made before me; I have consecrated this house that you have built, and put my name there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time.” (1 Kings 9:3) God’s eyes and God’s heart were on Solomon. But Solomon “turned away his heart after other gods” (v. 4)!
I think that we are meant to pay careful attention to the way that Solomon turns away from God. It doesn’t happen overnight. Solomon does not make a deliberate decision to exclude God from his life. But he does make a decision to let other gods into his life. And over time he allows them more and more space in his life. There is no instant rejection of God. But in the end Solomon turns his heart away from the God of his father David and towards the false gods of his foreign wives.