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145 - A Tragic End to a Glorious Reign

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: 1 Kings 11; 2 Chronicles 9:29–31

Solomon had all the wealth and fame and power you can imagine. In his early days, he sought wisdom from the Lord. He followed the Lord’s plan and built that magnificent temple in Jerusalem. He even set the example for the nation of true worship.

But now as we come to the final years of Solomon’s life, we sadly do not witness a glorious conclusion but a tragic ending. The young king described as loving the Lord has turned away from the Lord in his later years. And you have to ask the question: How did this happen?

God does not leave it to our imagination. He tells us exactly how someone this gifted and blessed became a spiritual disaster.

Here in 1 Kings chapter 11, we’re given the details, beginning with the opening verses:

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them . . . for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And . . . when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God. (verses 1-4)

This is a sad chapter in the biography of King Solomon. But I want to point out three steps downward in Solomon’s spiritual collapse as a warning to you and me today.

First, Solomon stubbornly ignored God’s command. These marriages were no doubt motivated by political alliances; his wives were princesses, daughters of foreign kings. But we also read that Solomon “loved” these women, so this was more than politics. He was driven by a selfish passion and lust, literally, for 1,000 women—700 wives and 300 concubines. And such uncontrolled passion, as his father David learned, can lead one to resist and ignore God’s commands. In Solomon’s case, he ignored God’s command not to multiply wives or take wives from among the pagan nations.

The second step downward here is that Solomon ignored God’s warning. God had warned His people that foreign, or unbelieving, wives could turn a man’s heart away from God. And by the way, God delivered that warning in Deuteronomy 17, some 500 years before Solomon was born.

But like so many people today who love their sin, Solomon must have convinced himself that he was the exception—God’s warning was for other people. And here in verse 4, we’re told that Solomon’s wives did, in fact, turn away “his heart after other gods.”

Solomon’s third step into spiritual collapse is that he openly disregarded the character of God. God’s law was clear, and Solomon knew it. “You shall have no other gods before me” is the first of the Ten Commandments. And the Israelite people daily repeated the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Well, beloved, you can’t love God and at the same time hang on to your sin.

Now verse 6 tells us that Solomon “did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.” In other words, while he didn’t totally abandon the Lord, he justified the worship of false gods in order to appease his many 

Well, what is God going to do about that? First, verse 11 tells us, “The Lord said . . . ‘I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant.’” Yet even in judgment there is a measure of grace, as the Lord promises Solomon that this will not take place until after his death. I believe Solomon repented, by the way, and the book of Ecclesiastes is his testimony of failure and then forgiveness.

Second, God raises up enemy nations that begin to chip away at the nation of Israel. Hadad the Edomite is mentioned here in verse 14, and verse 23 names Rezon, a leader who gains control of Damascus, in the northern area of the kingdom. Verse 25 says of him, “He was an adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon, doing harm as Hadad did.”

In addition to these enemies, the Lord also raises up a man from among the people of Israel and the tribe of Ephraim by the name of Jeroboam. Verse 26 tells us that this man “lifted up his hand against the king.” We’re told here through the rest of chapter 11 that this young man actually had helped Solomon on some of the building projects in Jerusalem. In fact, Jeroboam had done such a great job that Solomon promoted him over the entire construction crew from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.

But that is not his last promotion. We are told here in verse 29 that God sends the prophet Ahijah to inform Jeroboam that the kingdom of Israel will be divided; and Jeroboam will rule over ten of Israel’s tribes, while only two tribes will be ruled by Solomon’s son.

Here’s what God says through Ahijah:

“I will take the kingdom out of [Solomon’s] son’s hand and will give it to you, ten tribes. Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name.” (verses 35-36)

Jeroboam will not rule over Judah or the small tribe of Benjamin, which together are spoken of here as “one tribe.”

The Lord says in verse 39 that He will “afflict the offspring of David because of this [apostasy], but not forever.” Those words “not forever” tell us that God’s promise to the house of David will still be fulfilled later on. We know that will happen one day yet in the future, in the millennial kingdom, when the Son of David, Jesus Christ our Lord, sits upon David’s throne.

The Lord makes a very gracious offer to Jeroboam here in verse 38: If he will follow the Lord and obey His word, God says, “I will be with you and will build you a sure house”; that is, a secure kingdom. But we will learn later that Jeroboam has no interest in following the Lord.

Now what is Solomon going to do when he discovers the prophet of God has promised half his kingdom to another man because of Solomon’s rebellion? Well, he should have repented on the spot. But instead, we’re told in verse 40; “Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam.” Does that sound familiar? Solomon is going to start acting like King Saul, who tried to kill David.

Eventually, Solomon’s forty-year reign ends when he dies and is succeeded by his son Rehoboam.

Solomon’s great beginning has come to a tragic end. Beloved, here is the warning: Obedience to God in the past does not guarantee obedience to God in the future. Our testimony for Christ should begin fresh every day. PQ Before your feet hit the ground running, make a fresh commitment to follow the Lord, obey His Word, and put Him first in your life. And do that every single day.