REIGN OF SOLOMON &
The Divisions of the Kingdom
The subject of this chapter is set forth in the first twelve chapters of First Kings, and the first ten chapters of Second Chronicles. The account begins by showing that Solomon came near losing the throne and his life through a conspiracy of his older brother Adonijah, who, being the oldest living son of David, claimed the right to the throne, and was supported in this claim by such men as Joab and the high priest Abiathar. This conspiracy was undertaken before David's death, and he was supposed to be so decrepit that he could not interfere. But he was aroused to activity by the combined efforts of the prophet Nathan and the mother of Solomon, and the conspiracy was nipped in the bud by the immediate anointing of Solomon.
The young king's choice of wisdom, when God gave him his choice as to what should be given him, is the key-note of the earlier part of his reign, and it brings into startling contrast the apostasy which characterized the last few years of his life. The chief event of his reign is the erection of the temple which replaced the old Tent of Meeting erected by Moses. This brought to an end, at least among the faithful, the irregular worship that had prevailed ever since the capture of the ark by the Philistines, and it enabled the priests to subsequently conduct the services according to all the provision of the law.
After building the temple, and also a magnificent palace for himself, Solomon proceeded to inaugurate a complete system of fortification at strategic points in his kingdom, so that one or more of these would confront an enemy from whatever point he might attempt to march an invading army toward Jerusalem. It was probably this wise precaution, together with an alliance by marriage with the reigning king of Egypt, that preserved his kingdom in peace throughout his long reign of forty years.
The literary activity which had sprung into being in the reign of David reached its culmination in that of Solomon. He himself took the lead in it, by writing many poems and proverbs, and by discoursing on nearly all subjects which are now grouped under the general title of Natural History. The Biographical writing was also cultivated, and the prophets, Nathan, Ahijah, and Iddo are mentioned as writers of this class.
Solomon was the first king of Israel to engage in commerce, and especially in the mining of the precious metals, which he found in rich abundance in a region called Ophir, whose mines were soon exhausted so that the place itself has ceased to be known. These enterprises brought him in contact with the outside world, and he became by far the most famous king who at any time reigned in Israel. His wealth bred a fondness for magnificence, and this led him to multiply wives, horses and chariots, and these again to complicity with the worship of idols.
The prosperity of the kingdom under Solomon, as it was very largely secured by oppressive levies upon the working classes of his subjects, wrought out its own destruction, as the historian proceeds to relate after Solomon's death. The people petitioned his son and successor to lessen the burdens imposed by the father; he answered them contemptuously, and ten of the tribes, under the leadership of Jeroboam, a bold man of the tribe of Ephraim, revolted and set up a rival kingdom. Once more was Israel taught that national prosperity was to be secured only by strict adherence to the will of God.1
1. The conduct of Ahijah the Prophet (I Kings 11: 29-35) in encouraging Jeroboam to revolt, indicates the feeling on the part of the prophets that the interests of true religion required a simpler form of national life than the splendors of Solomon's reign encouraged.
Questions on Chapter 6
1. How was Solomon seated on the throne?
2. What was his choice?
3. What was the chief event of his reign?
4. What were the characteristics of Solomon's reign as to (1) prosperity, (2) extent of dominion, (3) commerce, (4) court splendor, (5) taxation, (6) literary activity?
5. What was the sin of Solomon's later years?
6. What was the cause of the division of the kingdom?