Sunday, April 15, 2018

Daily bread for Apr 16, 1 Kgs 10-11

Today's readings are 1 Kings 10-11.

1 Kings 10:1 introduces the Queen of Sheba. Sheba is usually associated with Southern Arabia, a region that controlled the shipping lanes between the Far East and the West.

The challenge she poses to Solomon is, according to the historian Josephus, similar to the approach Hiram used in sealing an alliance with Israel. The extravagant gifts signal a pending trade agreement (1 Kgs 10:2). The queen is on a diplomatic trip to Israel to form another trade agreement. The importance is that fame in Sheba would mean notoriety throughout the world. The Queen pays high honor to Solomon, and to his God (1 Kgs 10:6-10), spreading his fame and fortune throughout the world. Solomon seals the deal with the queen (1 Kgs 10:13).

Solomon's wealth and power make him the most powerful king on earth (1 Kgs 10:14-29). He has 666 talents, about 22 tons, of gold, not counting the gold used to build the Temple. We don't want to make too much of the "666". It most likely represents an annual income based on Solomon's various enterprises and would carry no ominous overtones to the Jews. In support of this idea, Solomon attributes all he has to the wisdom God gave him.

The picture we get is of extravagant, lavish splendor and opulence. Solomon’s wisdom is now legendary, and his wealth is nearly incalculable. The world is beating a path to his door, and his success knows no bounds (1 Kgs 10:24-25). However, there are clouds on the horizon. 1 Kgs 10:28 tells us that he is importing horses and chariots from Egypt which was prohibited by Mosaic law (Dt 17:16).

In 1 Kgs 11:1, Solomon’s worldwide fame and unbridled lust for women led him to wed foreign wives, some from sworn enemies of Israel. God had expressly prohibited this practice (Ex 34:16).

Solomon’s love for ungodly women became greater than his love for obeying God's commandments. Unlike David, who sinned as well, Solomon fell into idolatry and the worship of other gods, defeated by his own success and wealth (1 Kgs 11:4-7). Notice that the gods Solomon follows after are the gods of the wives he’s taken. God warned against inter-marrying for this very reason (Dt:7:3-5).

As an example of how far Solomon has fallen, the altar he builds for the god of Moab, Chemosh (Num 21:29) and the god of Ammon, Molech (Lev 18:21; 20;2-4), is less than a mile from and in clear sight of the temple mount. It is also a higher elevation. Here’s a photo of the mountain, which sits adjacent to the Mount of Olives, taken from the southern steps of the temple mount.

Solomon’s altar is a clear statement that he has replaced God with idols!

Solomon does evil in the sight of the Lord, who begins to raise adversaries from some nations historically at odds with Israel (1 Kgs 11:25).

The enemies come from within as well. In an ominous prophecy, God promises Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, that he will have ten tribes and become king of Israel. Jeroboam receives the same warning to be diligent to follow after God with all his heart, and God will bless his kingdom (1 Kgs 11:26-38).

God presents Jeroboam with the same choice Joshua Gave Israel at Shechem (Jos 24:15). Jeroboam is God’s chosen man. He must now choose between blessing by being a godly king and leading in a godly manner, or hardship by doing evil as Solomon is doing. Jeroboam is about to witness Solomon’s fall. Indeed, he will be a key element it. We’ll see if Jeroboam learns anything about God’s promises and warnings. Will he learn from Solomon’s mistakes? Or will his success lead him down the same tragic path?

Even so, by His grace, God will reserve one tribe for David and Solomon’s offspring (1 Kgs 11:32). God will be faithful to His promise to keep a descendant of David on the throne and preserve Jerusalem despite Solomon’s spectacular fall!

Solomon dies after forty years of reigning. Not much is mentioned about his death other than Rehoboam, his son, assuming the throne (1 Kgs 11:41-43). Significantly, Rehoboam’s mother is Naamah, an Ammonite (Kgs14:21). The Ammonites are a perennial stumbling block for the Jews (Num 21:24; Dt 23:3; Jdg 3:13; 10:16 and many more).

The results of Solomon's reign are a total reversal of the peace and prosperity Israel has been enjoying. The kingdom begins to divide. Jeroboam will be leading the ten northern tribes with Rehoboam, Solomon's son, ruling over the two remaining in the south.

Even the best and brightest of us need to be cautious. The seduction of the world can make wrong things look right, lead us to compromise, and take our eyes off the Lord. 

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