Half-hearted, or even less

Seventeenth in the Solomon Series

One meaning of the word prayer is "to estimate, assess," for when we pray, we reflect on our lives and how we may bring our behavior or decisions in line with God's laws. Praying helps us build our relationship with the Lord and keep to his narrow way that leads to eternal life.

Evidently, Solomon had not prayed to "judge self" as his harem increased, though he may have said general prayers of praise and rote intercessory prayers for his people. He had lost touch with God's will for his own life.

As we covered in the 15th post on Solomon, his 700 wives (all of them, princesses!) turned his heart away from God, even though the Lord had warned him about this very thing, and he built high places for their pagan gods. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as [did] David his father. (1 Ki 11:6)

That the writer of these Bible passages noted that Solomon's heart was not wholly devoted is significant. Even in his worst days, Solomon was not completely turned away from the Lord. David had warned his son:

Now therefore in the sight of all Israel the congregation of the LORD, and in the audience of our God, keep and seek for all the commandments of the LORD your God: that ye may possess this good land, and leave [it] for an inheritance for your children after you for ever. And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever. (1 Ch 28:8, 9)

Solomon did not forsake the Lord, however, he nearly did.

Three adversaries were raised up by God to oppose Solomon: Hadad, an Edomite (Esau's progeny), Rezon, a Syrian leader, and Jeroboam, an Ephraimite and engineering foreman whom Solomon had put in charge of the house of Joseph.

Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam, so he fled to Egypt until Solomon died. Egypt was also the protector of Hadad who had been taken there as a boy when Joab assailed Edom. This brings to mind the uselessness of alliances with our former slavemasters. Solomon had made an important contract with Egypt, which nevertheless gave sanctuary to his enemies. Don't expect any favors from the spiritually blind — particularly when the Lord has determined to discipline you.

On behalf of David, God planned to tear the kingdom away from Solomon during his son's reign, leaving one tribe for David and for Jerusalem's sake. (1 Ki 11)

The dividing of Israel was pictured in the prophecy of Abijah when he tore his garment into 12 pieces and told Jeroboam to take ten, "for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: (But he shall have one tribe for my servant David's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:) (1Ki 11:31) (Whether Abijah tore his own garment or Jeroboam's is unclear. Only 11 are accounted for, since the tribe of the Levites served in worship and lived throughout the kingdom.)

In John Gill's commentary on Ecclesiastes, he states that Hebrew scholars explained:

"when Solomon, king of Israel, saw, by the spirit of prophecy, that the kingdom of Rehoboam his son would be divided with Jeroboam, the son of Nebat; and that Jerusalem, and the house of the sanctuary, would be destroyed, and the people of the children of Israel would be carried captive; he said, by his word, Vanity of vanities in this world, vanity of vanities; all that I and my father David have laboured for, all is vanity!''

Yes, only the Spirit can reveal to our hearts what our minds already know. Solomon's anguish showed he had begun to understand that he was undone.

Beware your Egyptian contracts

Sixteenth in the Solomon Series

Before we study how the Lord punished Solomon, let us consider the backdrop of his demise.

Was it "OK" for Solomon to marry Pharaoh's daughter? Would there be any reason he should not have?

In Deuteronomy 17:16 God instructed Israel not to multiply horses to have increased concourse with Egypt, considering the mighty deliverance that had set her free from Pharaoh and slavery. That miracle was to be held in honor forever. But would bringing an Egyptian wife to Israel run counter to that command?

David had a foreign wife. Absalom's grandfather was Talmai, king of Geshur. (1 Ch 3:2). Kings of that epoch were expected to have harems, and Israel had been built by polygamy, wives and concubines; but those were not patterns God intended.

These facts help to explain why Solomon's liaison with the Egyptian was accepted, but our lives must not be guided by family practices or cultural norms that do not reflect God's highest and best, and that do not uphold his law.

Israel had been told not to take foreign wives. In Deuteronomy 7:3-4, Moses instructs the Israelites regarding the Canaanite nations, "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.

Perhaps there was some leniency in the days of the kings, since not all foreign tribes were Canaanites, nor much beyond Israel's borders. As well, did not Joseph marry an Egyptian and were not Ephraim and Manasseh of this line?

But the principle of marrying within the family was begun with Isaac. (Gen 24:3); Esau caused his parents grief by marrying Hittite women. The principle carried over to New Testament teachings: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Cor 6:14)

Was Solomon's marriage to the Egyptian a "state" matter? As covered in a previous post, the alliance came about because Pharaoh helped to secure Israel's borders by driving Canaanites out of Gezur. That victory provided her dowry. It seems that Pharaoh had a goal to ally with Israel now that she had become great.

Was not the princess a proselyte to Judaism? But if so, why did Solomon say: My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because [the places are] holy, whereunto the ark of the LORD hath come. (2 Ch 8:11)? She was removed to dwell outside of Jerusalem, not within the city of David.

Yet to say that Solomon should never have married Pharaoh's daughter presents theological problems. Why is the Song of Solomon the only one of his songs to be preserved as well as included in holy Scripture? Does that not give a stamp of approval to this marriage? Or, might it be only a story presented for our edification, like the story of Samson and Delilah? We appreciate its meaning when we have read further to understand its ramifications.

Unlike Delilah, the Egyptian princess was a gracious creature, truly in love with her lover; but Solomon's desire for her and his other foreign wives had an echo from the past, "Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well — " spoken by Samson, though his father and mother had pleaded: "Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?" (Judges 14:3)

Did Solomon ever wonder if he should have paid Pharaoh in gold for Gezur rather than by marriage contract?

If we accept the Song of Solomon as a wedding song for a marriage NOT made in heaven, we would see the need to compare Scripture with Scripture for meaning and context. As we go beyond Songs to Ecclesiastes and read about Solomon in 1 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, we realize a context for warning and not rejoicing.

However, many much wiser than I have seen the Song of Solomon as a divine allegory of Christ's love for the church, so I will not refute that, but only say, Young person, be certain of your marriage plans. Love is strong as death.

Overreaching leads to failure

Fifteenth in the Solomon Series

Early in his reign, Solomon had asked: "Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" (1 Ki 3:9)

The Lord had replied,

"Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for--both riches and honor--so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life." (1 Ki 3:11-14)

Did the promises of the Lord fail? The Lord did promise to give Solomon a wise and discerning heart. What happened?

The promises of God never fail. God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? (Num 23:19)

God's promise of wisdom was in respect to judging Israel, and Solomon never lacked that ability. He states in Ecclesiastes 2:9, So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.

He was also highly intelligent and had unusual knowledge of natural phenomena.

With respect to the promises of God (1 Ki 3:13, 14), Solomon gained immense riches and honor during his lifetime, which was not as long as his father's, since he strayed from walking in God's ways.

God did not promise that Solomon would never fall into deception or temptation. On the contrary, the Lord warned him, after he had completed the temple, his own palace and all he desired to do:

And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, [and] wilt keep my statutes and my judgments:
Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.
[But] if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments [and] my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them:
Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people:
And at this house, [which] is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and to this house?
And they shall answer, Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have taken hold upon other gods, and have worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath the LORD brought upon them all this evil.
1Ki 9:4-9

God always keeps his promises.

Following these verses, the Bible presents Solomon's many building projects, and that he levied taxes on the people and built a navy, married and entertained foreigners, was very rich, did much trading, gathered chariots and horsemen, horses; and then… loved many strange women.

What comes to mind in this sequence is that Solomon overreached.

A colloquial way of stating this is, "If the devil can't make you bad, he will get you busy." Then, of course, he can "make you bad." An overabundance of responsibilities can result in poor decisions.

Another insight is that even we, the beloved of the Lord, can be deceived. This is stressed in War On The Saints, a book written to expose how Satan took advantage of a revival in Wales in the early 20th century. This book is online. If we humbly acknowledge that we can be deceived, perhaps we can avoid it.

Some Christians advocate being "accountable" to other specific Christians. Perhaps if we are in a good church and have Christian friends, this is enough. Anything beyond may be overreaching.

At the start of his reign, we know that Solomon had good influences: Nathan (the prophet), Zadok, Benaiah, and Nathan's sons served him and were his friends. (1 Ki:4:5) But at the end of his life, did he still have these good influences? He did have the Torah, the first five books of our Bible, and he understood that he ought not to multiply wives.

In past generations, God permitted some practices in deference to man's hardness of heart and ignorance — and still does, if we would think deeply about our own lives. However, Solomon himself taught, [It is] not good to have respect of persons in judgment (Proverbs 24:23) [Also taught by Moses (Deuteronomy 1:17), Jehoshaphat (2 Ch 19:7), Paul (Rom 2:11), Peter (1 Pe 1:17), James (James 2:1)]

Solomon had turned the grace of our God into lasciviousness (Jude 1:4) There would be no respect of persons.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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