Assessing Solomon’s Golden Age (1 Kings)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project
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Samuel's prophecy about the dangers of a king is fulfilled in Solomon’s time.

These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons...he will take your daughters...he will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards...he will take one-tenth of your grain and vineyards...he will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys... he will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the Lord will not answer you in that day. (1 Sam. 8:11-18)

On the surface, Solomon's administration and building campaigns appear to have been very successful. The people are happy to make the required sacrifices in order to build the Temple (1 Kings 8:65-66), a place where all can go to receive God’s justice (1 Kings 8:12-21), forgiveness (1 Kings 8:33-36), healing (1 Kings 8:37-40), and mercy (1 Kings 8:46-53).

But after the Temple is completed, Solomon builds a palace of the same scale and magnificence as the Temple (1 Kings 9:1, 10). As he becomes accustomed to power and wealth, he becomes self-serving, arrogant, and unfaithful. He appropriates a large portion of the nation's productive capacity for his personal benefit. His already-impressive throne of ivory is overlaid with gold (2 Chronicles 9:17). He entertains lavishly (1 Kings 10:5). He reneges on agreements with allies (1 Kings 9:12), and he keeps a consort of "seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines" (1 Kings 11:3). This last is his ultimate undoing, for "he loved many foreign women" (1 Kings 11:1) with the result that "when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God" (1 Kings 11:4). He builds shrines to Astarte, Milcom, Chemosh and Molech (1 Kings 11:5-7). Given the covenant requirement that the faithfulness of the king to the Lord would be the key to the prosperity of the nation, Israel would soon descend rapidly from its peak. God, it seems, cares deeply whether we do our work for his purposes or against them. Amazing feats are possible when we work according to God’s plans, but our work rapidly disintegrates when we don’t.