1 Kings 11: The Downfall of Solomon

There is an interesting contrast between 1 Kings 10 and 11. In 1 Kings 10, a pagan, an unbeliever, meets Solomon and comes away as a believer, saying “Blessed be the LORD your God who delighted in you…” (1 Kings 10:9). Now in 1 Kings 11, we see King Solomon depart from the LORD in his old age. He moves from wisdom into folly, from obedience to rebellion. Deuteronomy 17:17 forbids the king from marrying many women, but this is precisely what Solomon does. His heart is led away from the LORD, and he pursues other gods.

Disobedience and Diminishment

When we consider Solomon’s wisdom, it can be difficult to understand how he turned away from the LORD. How can a man who wrote many wonderful proverbs, a man who wrote that the most important thing is to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13), ultimately fall away? Solomon understood the brevity of life. He understood what mattered. He seemed to understand much about God. Yet, he turned his heart away from Him. How could such a thing happen?

There were presumably years of diminishment until his heart finally turned away from the LORD in his old age. It could be that Solomon’s station, prestige, and accomplishments contributed to this diminishment. He became comfortable and did not see a need to depend on the LORD. By then he had multiplied for himself gold and silver, riches beyond imagination. He had multiplied for himself horses and chariots, a mighty military force. He had multiplied for himself wives. All of these things were forbidden for the king, precisely because they would cause him to depend on his own possessions and might rather than on God. Not only did Solomon do those very acts he was forbidden to do (cf. Deuteronomy 17:16–17), but he also failed to do what he was commanded to do:

Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18–20)

The king was supposed to write for himself a copy of the law. He was to read it and be educated in the fear of the LORD so that his heart may not be lifted up and he may not turn aside from the commandment. Solomon did things he was forbidden to do, and he did not do what he was commanded to do. As a result, we see his diminishment, and the legacy of his rule is cut short.

Our Response

The lesson we learn from Solomon is that no one is immune to the allures of the world. If even one of the wisest men to walk the earth can fall away from the LORD, then so can we. We must be vigilant to guard our hearts and minds. We must be steadfast to abide in Jesus, lest we fall away. As He says in John 15, Jesus is the true vine, and we are the branches who draw life from Him. If we do not abide in Jesus, we will become anemic and long for things that don’t matter. We will lose our power and passion for the things of God and be diminished as Solomon was diminished. Our impact and usefulness for the kingdom of God will be cut short. So let us abide in Jesus, loving one another as He has loved us. Let us cling to Him who gives life, obeying Him in all things. 

This teaching is based on Ken Boa’s Handbook to Scripture.

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1 Kings 11: The Downfall of Solomon

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