1 Kings 11:1-13
1 Kings 11:1-13 was written about a specific time during the monarchy in ancient Israel, which places it under the genre of history or narrative. The original audience of this passage were the Hebrews after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 or 586 B.C. God’s people, during this time, were in exile and both books of Kings record the events that led up to their circumstances. 1 Kings 11:1-13 gives the account of Solomon’s failure to uphold the divine covenant, which was originally made between God and his father David (2 Sam. 7:9-16). This passage must be understood with the Davidic covenant in mind, which was extended to Solomon (1 Kg. 3:14; 1 Kg. 9:4-9). Considering this, then, the original intended meaning of this passage to the Hebrews was that because their king, Solomon, turned away from the Lord and began worshiping other gods the kingdom split, which eventually led to their exile. In other words, because of their unfaithfulness, the Hebrews were experiencing the curses of the covenant and not the blessings.
Although this passage speaks of a time during Solomon’s kingship it was written centuries later when God’s Kingdom on earth was seemingly dismantled by the Babylonians. God’s chosen people were dispersed throughout a foreign land and to make matters worse, God’s temple, the holy dwelling that Solomon built for God, was destroyed. Realizing this will greatly affect this passage’s contemporary meaning because it is clearly a situation that Christians today will never experience. This portion of the message must remain in the ancient world. Furthermore, one must also keep in mind that although the people were in exile, God did not annul the covenant and His people were still under oath to worship Him as the one and only true God. This too is equally important in interpretation and it is precisely where the bridge from the ancient world to the contemporary world can be built.
Solomon’s main folly is stated where the author writes, “the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods” (1 Kg. 11:9-10). This, of course, is God’s first commandment that “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). Christians today are to honor and uphold this great commandment, which Christ affirms in all three synoptic gospels. Christians are surrounded by false gods, some of which are obvious while others are not so obvious. When Christians fall prey to these false gods they are initially committing the same treason against God as Solomon did. The extent may not be as extreme as Solomon’s and it may not lead to an entire nation’s exile but nevertheless, the principle is the same, that is, Christians, first and foremost, must love the Lord God with their entire beings because He is the only God.
God’s Kingdom, since the days of Solomon is much more widespread across the earth than it was then. In Solomon’s time, or in the days of the Old Testament Scriptures, the Kingdom was confined to a specific nation. However, since then, the gentiles, through the work of Jesus Christ, have been, “grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree” (Rom. 11:17 ESV). Yet, much remains the same as is depicted in this passage. For example, Solomon fell prey and began worshiping other gods (1 Kg. 11:4) much like many do today; although, not in the same exact manner. Also, like then, God’s first commandment that “you shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3) is equally applicable to God’s people today. This is significant because it still plays a prominent role in the future Kingdom of God as well. Those that worship God through the Son and the Holy Spirit will be part of God’s future Kingdom, whereas the same cannot be proclaimed for those who worship other gods. This, of course, is the contemporary message for Christians today.
Notwithstanding Solomon’s sin, which eventually resulted in the Kingdom being torn away (1 Kg. 11:11), God kept his promises for the sake of David and for Jerusalem (1 Kg. 11:12-13), which is a true testament of His undying love for us. Ultimately, as with all of the Old Testament Scriptures, God’s promise is fully realized in Jesus Christ, who, unlike His ancestor Solomon, was obedient in every way to God, and not only obedient with His life but also with His death (Phil. 2:8). In Christ, we have inherited this very Kingdom that passed through the ancestral line of King David and then down through his son, Solomon; only now, the Kingdom is represented through Christ’s Church. Therefore, this passage foretells and highlights God’s promises of reconciliation for His people through the work of Jesus Christ, which was only made possible through His complete obedience to His Father. However, how does all of this lead up to personal application for Christians and their daily walk?
This passage not only reveals Solomon’s disobedience to God but it also reveals our sins as well. Recall that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Yes, Solomon worshipped both God and false gods, but if we are honest, we too have placed the things of this world in front of God, and reflecting on this passage is a reminder of our shortcomings. Additionally, this passage should deepen our emotional response to God because through Jesus Christ, God has given us a share in this very Kingdom that was originally promised through the line of David and for this Christians are to be forever grateful, which is hard to express in words alone. Finally, this passage calls for our obedience to the Trinity. The consequences of Solomon’s disobedience were severe and not only did he suffer for his sins but others did as well. The same is true for all people. Sin affects everyone. A proper response to this passage would be a life devoted to complete obedience to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In other words, complete surrender to His will. Unfortunately, this is something all Christians fall short of daily; however, it is something that we should all continually strive for.
. English Standard Version, Study Bible, 586.
. Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27.
. Jeff M. Brannon, “The Kingdom of God,” Third Millennium Ministries RPM 17, no. 30 (July 2015): 4, accessed April 19, 2017, http://thirdmill.org/magazine/article.asp/link/http:^^thirdmill.org^articles^jef_%20brannon^jef_brannon.KingdomofGod.pdf/at/The%20Kingdom%20of%20God.