The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

My Notes on 1 Kings 11:4-13

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 6, 2012

Solomon’s failure stands in marked contrast to the pagan woman in today’s Gospel (Mark 7:24-30).

1Ki 11:4  And when he was now old, his heart was turned away by women to follow strange gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David, his father.

His heart was turned away by women to follow strange gods. Recalls verse 1: “And king Solomon loved many strange women, besides the daughter of Pharao, and women of Moab, and of Ammon, and of Edom, and of Sidon, and of the Hethites”. Strange (i.e., foreign) woman lead to strange (foreign) gods. This had been the warning of the Law of Moses which is cited in 1 Kings 11:2~”You shall not go in unto them, neither shall any of them come into yours: for they will most certainly turn away your hearts to follow their gods” (see Exodus 23:32-33; Deut 7:1-3). Additionally, as a careful reading of 1 Kings 10-11 will show when compared to the Law for the King in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, Solomon broke quite a number of stipulations.

And his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David, his father. The name David appears a number of times in this chapter, usually implying in some fashion that Solomon has not measured up to his stature; see 1 Kings 11:6, 12, 13, 32, 33, 34, 36, 38, 39. The repeated references to David also calls to mind God’s conditional promise to Solomon: “if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments, walking in them, I will fulfil my word to thee, which I spoke to David thy father” (1 Kings 6:11). See also 1 Kings 9:3-9.

Reference to Solomon’s heart appears 4 times in verses 3-4, recalling his initial request for an understanding heart and God’s response. Solomon: “Give therefore to thy servant an understanding heart, to judge thy people, and discern between good and evil. For who shall be able to judge this people, thy people, which is so numerous?” God: “Behold I have done for thee according to thy words, and have given thee a wise and understanding heart, in so much that there hath been no one like thee before thee, nor shall arise after thee” (see 1 Kings 3:9-12).

The text contains a word play on Solomon’s name. The heart of Solomon (שׁלמה) is not perfect (שׁלם). Both words derive ultimately from the Hebrew word shalom (שׁלם). Solomon, the man of shalom (peace, a total state of well-being), has not peace of heart with God, and he will suffer the consequences.

1Ki 11:5  But Solomon worshipped Astarthe (Astarte), the goddess of the Sidonians, and Moloch, the idol of the Ammonites.

But Solomon worshiped, &c. The Hebrew text reads But Solomon walked after Astarthe, &c. The Hebrew word וילך (walk) is used numerous times in reference to Solomon’s (and the people’s) relationship to God. Most notably in the promises and warnings God gave Solomon: 1 Kings 3:14; 1 Kings 6:12; 1 Kings 9:4. By now walking with Astarthe, Solomon has rejected the promise of the blessings and brought down upon himself the punishment he was warned of.

Astarthe. From the 1909 Catholic Dictionary: “(Phoenician: Ashtoret, Astarte) A Syro-Phoenician female deity worshipped at Sidon and Tyre, in Carthage, Cyprus, and even Britain. She has been identified with the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, the Grecian Aphrodite, and the Latin Venus, and was regarded as the goddess of love and fecundity. In 2 Kings 28, she is described as the ‘idol of the Sidonians.’”

Moloch. From the 1909 Catholic Dictionary: “(Hebrew: molech, king) A divinity worshiped by the idolatrous Israelites, his cult being supposed to have been introduced into Israel by Solomon (1 Kings 11); a form of Baal, representing the sun-god in his destructive aspect. His worship consisted of offering human sacrifices, especially children, causing them to “pass through the fire” after they had been put to death (2 Kings 16, 17).” For more on Moloch see this article in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

1Ki 11:6  And Solomon did that which was not pleasing before the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as David, his father.

Essentially reiterates what was said in verse 4. His heart turning from the Lord (verse 4) is paralleled here with he did that which was not pleasing before the Lord. But this verse also draws a contrast with Solomon’s initial request of God, that he (God) give him an understanding heart (1 Kings 3:9); “And the word was pleasing to the Lord, that Solomon had asked such a thing” (1 Kings 3:10).

1Ki 11:7  Then Solomon built a temple for Chamos (Chemos), the idol of Moab, on the hill that is over against Jerusalem, and for Moloch, the idol of the children of Ammon.

Chamos. Protestant commentators Keil and Delitzsch note that “Chemosh was a sun-god, who was worshipped as king of his people and as a god of war, and as such is depicted upon coins with a sword, lance, and shield in his hands, and with two torches by his side (see at Num 21:29).”

The Catholic Encyclopedia on Moab and Ammon (Ammonites).

1Ki 11:8  And he did in this manner for all his wives that were strangers, who burnt incense, and offered sacrifice to their gods.

All his wives. Seven hundred of them according to 1 Kings 11:3.

1Ki 11:9  And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice;
1Ki 11:10  And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not follow strange gods: but he kept not the things which the Lord commanded him.

(vs 9) And the Lord was angry with Solomon. His anger at Solomon’s idolatry recalls his anger at the people (Deut 9:8) and Aaron (Deut 9:20) for the sin of the golden calf.

(vs 9 cont.) Because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel. Literally, “his heart was bent away from the Lord.” His heart has become twisted, perverse. This situation has come about even though (vv 9-10) the God Israel… appeared to him twice; and had commanded him…that he should not follow strange gods.For God’s two appearances to Solomon see 1 Kings 3:4-15 and 1 Kings 9:2-9.

The phrase the God of Israel stands in contrast to the “the idol of Moab” and the “the idol of the children of Ammon” mentioned in verse 7. Solomon had forgotten that ancient confession of his people’s faith which begins with the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9~”Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart: And thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising. And thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be and shall move between thy eyes. And thou shalt write them in the entry, and on the doors of thy house.”

1Ki 11:11  The Lord therefore said to Solomon: Because thou hast done this, and hast not kept my covenant, and my precepts, which I have commanded thee, I will divide and rend thy kingdom, and will give it to thy servant.

Because thou hast done this, and hast not kept my covenant, and my precepts, which I have commanded thee. Recalls the conditional promise of God’s first appearance to Solomon: “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, and keep my precepts and my commandments, as thy father walked, I will lengthen thy days” (1 Kings 3:14). It also recalls the conditional promise of the second appearance: “And if thou wilt walk before me, as thy father walked, in simplicity of heart, and in uprightness: and wilt do all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my ordinances, and my judgments, I will establish the throne of thy kingdom over Israel for ever, as I promised David, thy father, saying: There shall not fail a man of thy race upon the throne of Israel”(1 Kings 9:4-5).

I will divide and rend thy kingdom, and will give it to thy servant. A reference to the prophetic sign Solomon’s servant, Jeroboam receives in 1 Kings 11:26-40, indicating that he was going to become king of most of the tribes of Israel.

1Ki 11:12  Nevertheless, in thy days I will not do it, for David thy father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son.
1Ki 11:13  Neither will I take away the whole kingdom; but I will give one tribe to thy son, for the sake of David, my servant, and Jerusalem, which I have chosen.

Note that in verse 12 David is referred to as Solomon’s father, while in verse 13 he is called God’s servant. Solomon hasn’t measure up to his father as a servant of God. As punishment, one of Solomon’s servants with gain control over most of the kingdom (verse 11).

4 Responses to “My Notes on 1 Kings 11:4-13”

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  4. […] 1 Kings 11:1-12:25. See also my posts on the first readings for Thursday (1 Kings 11:4-13) and Friday (1 Kings 11:29-32, […]

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