The Division and Fall of the Kingdom
By Don Ruhl
Even before the death of David, two of his sons sought his throne. However, David made Solomon king. Before David died, he reminded Solomon of the most important thing, “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn” (1Ki 2.2, 3).
Later, after Solomon became king, God offered Solomon anything he wanted, to which he requested, “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1Ki 3.9). He made such a request, because he was to some extent already a wise man, as his father David testified to him in regard to Shimei, “Now therefore, do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man and know what you ought to do to him; but bring his gray hair down to the grave with blood” (1Ki 2.9).
The wise get wiser and the foolish become more foolish.
Wisdom on Display
Two women approached Solomon with a major problem. One had rolled over onto her son during the night and killed him. She then took the other woman’s son and claimed it as her own. They argued over this matter before Solomon. First Kings 3 shows Solomon’s bold and daring wisdom for solving the issue, “And the king said, ‘The one says, “This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one”; and the other says, “No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.”’ Then the king said, ‘Bring me a sword.’ So they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, ‘Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other’” (1Ki 3.23–25).
The next two verses show that Solomon’s wisdom solved the matter, “Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, ‘O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!’ But the other said, ‘Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him.’ So the king answered and said, ‘Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother’” (1Ki 3.26, 27).
What did it take in Solomon heart and mind to utter such a resolution? He could not care whether the child lived or died. He had confidence that the truth would reveal itself.
We also know Solomon for building the temple of God. Many of Europe’s cathedral-builders had Solomon’s temple in mind. God was pleased with Solomon’s work and appeared to him a second time after the dedication (1Ki 9.1–3).
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
The queen of Sheba visited Solomon, “Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to test him with hard questions” (1Ki 10.1). The Bible says nothing of a sexual relationship between the two, yet, the story persists that such happened. People even believe the Song of Solomon tells the story of the two. In the September 10, 2001 (Pages 58–60) issue of Time magazine, an article (“Searching for Sheba”) perpetuated this myth. I wrote to Time about it and they responded, acknowledging that they overstated the matter.
The Bible does not highlight her beauty or romance with Solomon, but her quest for wisdom and the recognition of Solomon’s God-given wisdom.
Solomon and Women
Yet, women played another role in Solomon’s kingdom, as he married many women and acquired concubines probably for political alliances. However, he did become emotionally involved in those women and they turned his heart from God to idols (1Ki 11.1–8). As wise as Solomon was and how much he loved God, we wonder how the man could have done this. Nehemiah 13 shows that emotional draws can powerfully pull us away from truth, “In those days I also saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people. So I contended with them and cursed them, struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, ‘You shall not give your daughters as wives to their sons, nor take their daughters for your sons or yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin. Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?’” (Neh 13.23–27).
The Kingdom Divides
For Solomon’s sin, (from which the Book of Ecclesiastes shows he repented), God divided the kingdom, but it happened in the days of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. “So [Rehoboam] did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from the LORD, that He might fulfill His word, which the LORD had spoken by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (1Ki 12.15). Later, both kingdoms went into captivity.