Guard Against Worldly Influences
Sunday School Lesson for April 6, 2003
Background Passage: 1 Kings 11:1-43
Solomon’s Many Foreign Wives (11:1-9)
The storyline of 1 Kings and the record of Solomon’s kingship now takes a tragic and apparently sudden turn as chapter eleven commences. The opening words of the chapter focus upon the one sin that led to Solomon’s demise as Israel’s king—“King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women.” In these first three verses the author provides the heartbreaking details:
The consequences of Solomon’s violation of the Lord’s commands regarding the marriage of foreign women are now expressed. As time passed and “Solomon grew old,” the persistent moral and spiritual influence of his many wives “turned his heart after other gods” (v. 4). That is, Yahweh “ceased to be the major factor in his life” [House, 167]. This being the case, it logically followed that “his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” Note that here we clearly see that David is the prototype king by which all the subsequent kings of Israel are to be judged. Verse 6 once again stresses that Solomon fell far short of the standard that his father had set.
In verses 5-8 the details of Solomon’s practice of idolatry are explicitly set forth. Solomon “followed” (v. 5) and even constructed altars (v. 7) for the numerous pagan deities worshipped by his wives who “burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods” (v. 8). These deities included:
In light of the tragic and detestable behavior of Solomon Paul House provides an interesting observation. He notes that Solomon’s choice of deities is not only a direct violation of the will of God, it is most illogical.
In the ancient world polytheists tended to worship the gods of nations who had conquered their armies or at least the gods of countries more powerful than their own. Ironically, Solomon worships the gods of people he has conquered and already controls. What could he possibly gain from such activity? The whole episode makes no sense, just as idolatry itself makes no sense. .
The Consequences of Idolatry (11:9-13)
In response to the king’s idolatrous ways, Yahweh “became angry with Solomon” since his “heart had turned away” from following “the God of Israel” (v. 9). That is, by his actions Solomon had effectively abandoned the worship of the one true God of the covenant—the God who had “appeared to him twice” (v. 9. cf. 3:5ff and 9:2ff). The reminder that Solomon had been the beneficiary of two theophanic revelations makes his sin all the more inexcusable before God. Despite his initial conformity to the will and decrees of the Lord in the early years of his kingship, Solomon has, in his later years, forsaken his God and rebelled against “the Lord’s command” (v. 10. To see this dramatic contrast, look once again at the Lord’s instructions to Solomon in 3:11-14 and 9:4-9).
In view of Solomon’s rejection of God’s commandments, manifested by his devotion to idol gods, the Lord announced His judgment upon the king and his people. Note that the Lord’s specific complaint against Solomon was that through his idolatrous ways he had violated the “covenant” (v. 11). That is, Solomon had failed to uphold his side of the covenantal agreement God had previously established with him. His actions had revealed a complete disregard for the word of Yahweh. Though many different sins had become evident in his life, the sin of idolatry was particularly heinous in that “no other sin has the capability of wrecking the entire covenant by itself” [House, 168].
The specific judgment pronounced upon Solomon by God is found verse 11—“I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.” With these words the future of Solomon’s reign is now fully known—he will be removed from the throne by Yahweh Himself (Note vv. 14 and 23 where the Lord’s hand is directly seen in the raising up of men to challenge the throne of Solomon).
In verses 12 and 13 the Lord provides further details of His judgment against Solomon:
Here, then, we have the tragic assurance that Israel will become a divided nation. The tribes of Benjamin and Judah will be merged into one tribe, the southern kingdom of Judah, while the ten remaining tribes will ultimately become the northern kingdom of Israel. Sadly, the sin of Solomon has caused the entire nation to “crash from the heights it has achieved. His idolatry will lead to idolatry among the people. Israel has begun the long road to exile, though they do not know yet that their actions entail such consequences” [House, 168].
Major Themes for Application and Discussion
One: God’s perfect faithfulness—How do the events of this passage display the covenant faithfulness of Yahweh? How and in what way is this important to us as New Testament believers? Also, can you find evidences of God’s mercy even in the midst of His judgment upon Solomon?
Two: Individual and corporate sin—What is the connection between the sin of an individual and the sins his/her community? Is it fair that families and even nations often experience the consequences of one man’s sin? How doe this concept of corporate solidarity relate to the gospel story? Hint: Check out Romans 5:12-21.
Three: The persistent threat of idolatry—How may believers today protect themselves from the sin of idolatry? What practical and biblical advice can you give? How does this relate to the New Testament concept of Christ’s lordship? Hint: Check out Luke 16:13 and also the parable of the rich man in Luke 12:16-21.