This article contains an exposition of 1 Kings 10:1-3 and 1 Kings 11:1-13, as well as questions and discussion points for Bible study.

5 pages.

1 Kings 10:1-13 and 11:1-13 – Solomon’s Glory: Shining and Sinking

Sometimes, high points and low points, soaring and plunging, shining and sinking, lie very close together, also in Biblical history. Chapter 10 describes the climax of Solomon’s kingship. One chapter further and we have arrived at the low point. It is a very sharp contrast.

The author of the books 1 and 2 Kings shows clearly that most of the kings who come later did not display the style of king David. The same is the case for this son of David. Chapter 11 leaves nothing to be desired with regards to clarity. Solomon did a lot of good things and his glory was great, but his was definitely not the Son of David. Concerning the latter it was later written that he was faithful to the end. See John 13:1.

1. Chapter 10:1-5🔗

The Queen of Sheba was not the only one who was drawn to Solomon’s wisdom. See chapter 4:34. However, her visit and her accolades are described as the climax of Solomon’s glorious reign. In connection with this, take a look at the prayer of David in Psalm 72:9-11.

Solomon’s fame was connected to the LORD’s name (v. 1). At least at the outset, Solomon himself did not separate his kingship and its glory from the LORD. He wanted to honour the LORD with the fame he had obtained.  Apparently, this is how surrounding nations perceived it too. Thus, Solomon’s fame had a positive effect on the LORD’s fame (see also v. 9).

Question 1: To what extent can the manner in which people speak about us (or about you) serve the LORD’s reputation?

Question 2: Is it possible that a church member has a good reputation (for instance, he is such a wise man, or, she cares so well for her household) without the name of the LORD being honoured on account of it?

The Queen of Sheba came to test Solomon with difficult questions. These questions were like the riddle, which Samson told the Philistines (Judg 14:14). Apparently, these questions were sayings with hidden meanings, which the other party had to solve. In those times, people enjoyed putting these ‘intellectual tournaments’ in order to test each other’s wisdom. Thus, the question our passage answers is whether or not Solomon’s wisdom, to which the LORD connected his Name, can measure up to wisdom which does not come from the LORD. The conclusion is definitely positive.

The queen hears and sees a lot during her visit to Solomon. Not only does his wisdom make a deep impression on her, but also his wealth, the organization of his officials and attendants, and his devotion to the LORD, which was clear from the burnt offerings which he sacrificed. In this context, think of verse 1, “and his relation to the name of the LORD”!

2. Chapter 10:6-13🔗

You should not conclude that we are dealing here with a conversion story simply because the queen uses the name of the LORD. The homage she pays to Jahweh must be seen in the context of her pagan polytheism. Nevertheless, the LORD receives the honour which he deserves. When this queen recognizes the goodwill of the LORD in Solomon’s reign and glory, then she has hit the nail right on the head!  Also see Jeremiah 31:3, which speaks about the everlasting love of the LORD for his people, as referred to by the queen.

Question 3: If the LORD loves his people eternally, why does he not always give them a king who reigns with justice and righteousness?

The queen clearly noticed that Solomon put great emphasis on ruling Israel with justice and righteousness. See chapter 3:9!

Notice the plentiful ‘superlatives’ in this passage. Everything is ‘super-special’; for example, the wisdom and prosperity about which the queen remarked to Solomon (v. 7), the spices that she presented to him, and the almug wood that was shipped in (mentioned here because it was just as special as those spices. Compare verse 10b with verse 12b). The gift which Solomon bestowed on her is special also; it is more than normally would be given (v. 13), and more than royal (= befitting a king). The Lord Jesus probably had this event in mind when he spoke about Solomon arrayed in all his glory (Matt 6:29).

3. The work of the LORD in this account🔗

God shows how glorious Israel’s kingship can be if it indeed is a messianic kingship, a kingship according to his will. Other nations and rulers look up to the kingdom of God and to his anointed king. The glory that radiates from this kingdom and its king holds a great attraction for them. Here we have arrived at the pinnacle of this glory: a queen from the far south who pays tribute to Israel’s king and Israel’s God.

However, comparing this account with Israel’s ensuing history will leave no other impression except shame. The books 1 and 2 Kings have been written, or at least have been completed, around the time of the exile. At that time, glorious events, such as those described in our passage, were out of the question. There was no monarch who brought treasures to Jerusalem and to Israel’s king. There was, instead, a ruler who stripped Jerusalem of its treasures and carried its king away. The glory did not remain because king and subjects did not stay on that messianic track. Therefore, this beautiful account described in our passage serves as an indictment of Israel.

Later, the Lord Jesus uses these events to lodge a complaint against (the leaders of) his people. He warns the Jews that the queen of Sheba will testify against them during the judgment of God. In Matthew 12:42 you can read the about the reason for this.

Question 4: In connection with the above I read somewhere this sentence, ‘While the queen of the South came from afar in order to see the morning light, the Jews turn their backs on the afternoon sun.’ Can you explain this sentence?

Question 5: In what way can people ‘from outside’, who come to the knowledge of the LORD, put us to shame?

Yet, this account is not written solely to lodge complaints against future generations. It also holds a promise. Here, God gives a preview of what is going to come. In the Jerusalem of the Old Testament, God demonstrates what will happen in the New Jerusalem. Nations and rulers will enter the gates of that New Jerusalem, paying homage to the King of kings. See Isaiah 60:3,5 and 6 (Sheba), as well as Revelation 21:24-26. In this way our passage maintains our longing for the future!

4. Chapter 11:1-8🔗

There is a stark contrast between the climax of the previous passage and the anticlimax that follows. Yet, we were not completely taken by surprise either. The LORD had already warned Solomon (9:6 ff.; and question 9) about the danger of abusing his position.

During Solomon’s time, a harem was a status symbol. Foreign women were used to maintain diplomatic and economic relationships.  The large size of the harem is part and parcel of the large wealth that Solomon accumulated (most of these women are even from the upper-class, too!). However, his riches become his downfall. Solomon has brought the world into his palace. His love for these heathen women makes him more tolerant than the LORD can tolerate. Instead of using the clear law of the LORD (v. 2) he employs the ‘law of equal treatment’. The women receive the same rights as Israelite women.  Their gods enjoy the same rights as Israel’s God. Not only does Solomon provide all facilities necessary for their idolatry, he even participates in these idolatries himself (v. 5). With that, Solomon’s relationship with the LORD has been affected to the core. The antithesis between the service of the one true God and heathen polytheism has been broken.

Question 6: To what extent may you use these events to warn against mixed engagements or marriages?

Consider the law of the king in Deuteronomy 17:17a. Solomon does not carry a copy of God’s law with him anymore (cf. Deut 19:19a). He is no longer a king according to God’s will.

Question 7: Is the only cause of Solomon’s derailment the size of his harem? Or do you detect in chapter 10:14-29 certain elements that comprise a source of danger to Solomon’s spiritual well-being? Think again of the prescriptions in Deuteronomy 17.

Like a chorus, the words of verse 6a are repeated with regard to future kings. Solomon sets the trend for many years ahead. See 2 Kings 23:13.

5. Chapter 11:9-13🔗

God reacts to the derailment of Solomon exactly as he had spoken before (remember what he had said to David in 2 Samuel 7:14). The LORD amplifies his reproach by the words of verse 9b: God had even appeared to him on two separate occasions. Such an appearance was a very direct form of revelation; it was a special favour. Yet, despite these special favours, Solomon runs after these other gods.

During Solomon’s reign, the covenant of the LORD gained a concrete status in the building and dedication of the temple. Solomon’s kingship was used in the service of that covenant. He ruled over Israel in solidarity with Jahweh. Now, none of that connection is apparent anymore.

The words ‘tearing away’ are central to the judgment given. It is the same word that was used in respect to king Saul (1 Sam 15:28). The situation does not appear any brighter than at that time, except for one thing -- after Saul, God made a new beginning with David. And to David he gave his promise that the kingship would remain in his house. (See 2 Sam 7:15,16). On the basis of that promise (and thus on the basis of the coming Christ!) is the judgment over Solomon less radical compared to Saul’s i.e. not the whole kingdom is torn away from him.

The limitations of the judgment mentioned in verse 12 and 13 must not lead you to conclude that the situation wasn’t all that bad.  Many things do happen. The much-praised king of Israel (the most revered king of that time) finds out that his kingdom will be given to his servant. What a humiliation! And what a paltry little bit remains of that once-prosperous kingdom, one tribe with one city! Everything continues along a very small track. Yet, God’s promise to David is fulfilled, and this promise stays connected to the city that God chose as his habitation: Jerusalem. In other words, the house of God and the house of David remain united. You also notice that the LORD wants to maintain the name of David, the man after his own heart. David will not - posthumously - bear the shame of losing the kingdom by the hands of his own son.

Question 8: Can you mention other historical examples that God, as a result of sin, continues with his Church along a small track?

6. The work of the LORD in this account🔗

The devil appears to be capable of many things. However, God controls all events. He demonstrates the human inability to maintain the messianic kingdom as a perfect and enduring kingdom. Thus, the collapse of Solomon’s reign calls loudly for the establishment of the Messiah’s reign. God keeps that way to the Messiah open. Via a small track, David’s house still continues to Bethlehem, to the coming of David’s great Son. A King will come whose heart will never wander away from the LORD (cf. v. 10). He will be the Saviour of a great nation, the Sovereign of a magnificent and enduring kingdom. With him our glory will always shine and never drown.

For the introduction🔗

  1. In connection with Matthew 12:42 you can point out that the Jews wanted to put the Lord Jesus to the test, the same way the Queen of Sheba put Solomon to the test. They wanted to see a sign (v. 38). However, the difference must be clear - the Jews clearly acted out of unbelief. The Queen of Sheba was wildly enthusiastic; the Jews certainly weren’t, despite the fact that Jesus is not just a little more important than Solomon!
  2. You could possibly deal in more detail with the texts from Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21, which were previously referred to.  While reading various commentaries dealing with these passages, you will notice that interpretations vary widely. It is not necessary to go into those explanations now. However, what does become clear and what does receive special emphasis is that, from all corners of the world, contributions are made to the glory of the New Jerusalem and homage is paid to the King.
  3. In the NKJV chapter 10:5b does not speak about burnt offerings but about an “entryway by which he went up to the house of the LORD”. Maybe the translators found it strange that the queen was so delighted with the sacrificing of those burnt offerings. In a commentary I came across one such comment. However, the translation “entryway…up to” is not very likely. As a matter of fact, it is very fitting that this queen is impressed with Solomon’s dedication to the LORD!
  4. Chapter 11:4. The Hebrew text reveals a play on words on the name Solomon. Solomon’s name has a lot of connotations: rich in peace, rich in salvation. God wants to bring salvation and peace (shaloom) to his people by means of Solomon’s kingship. However, Solomon’s heart is no longer shaleem: sincere and undivided (i.e. in his dedication to the LORD). God does not want the heart of his children to be divided in that he gets a piece and sin or idols get another piece. The kingship of the messianic king stands or falls with this dedication. In English, this play on words could be: for the sake of his people, Solomon has to ensure that he leads an unblemished lifestyle, but his heart is no longer unblemished.
  5. Solomon’s kingdom is a kingdom with open borders. The windows are opened to the world (remember his political and economic dealings). In itself, there is nothing wrong with that. But it is in this sphere that things go wrong. At first, a lot of good enters the world from the church (ch 10:1). The result is that the world does not blaspheme, but honours and praises the LORD (cf. HC, LD. 47). Afterwards, however, a lot of bad enters the church from the world (ch 11:1-8). The result is that Solomon does not contribute to the hallowing of God’s Name in the world anymore. King and nation have ceased to be a light to the world.

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