“And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore, the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.”
(1 Kings 11:9-13)
As we have gone through these Thoughts for Advent, time and time again we have seen glimmers of hope that God’s promises are about to be fulfilled, only to see them apparently come to nought. Nowhere is this truer than with King Solomon. Everything about Solomon would no doubt have led the children of Israel to believe that the fullness of times had come, and God’s promises were all being fulfilled. Israel was in the land and finally had rest from her enemies. God had made a covenant with his anointed one, David, saying: “I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations” (Psalm 89:3-4). And now his offspring, endowed with wisdom, was on the throne, ruling in wisdom and righteousness, and the kings of the earth were coming to pay homage to him.
Not only this, but just as God had promised, Solomon had built the Temple – God’s throne room on earth – in Jerusalem. And so with king and kingdom established, and with God’s presence established in the royal city, surely this was the time when the Psalm 72 king would cause the name of God to be glorified and the “whole earth to be filled with God’s glory!” (Psalm 72:19).
Yet it was not to be. Despite being endowed with great wisdom Solomon – as king – disobeys God on four counts. Back in Deuteronomy 17, God had given these three laws concerning kings:
- The king must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses
- He shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away
- He shall not acquire for himself excessive silver and gold
What is the point of the horse law? Horses were of course used in warfare, and so this rule is basically about the king not acquiring more means of warfare. This especially applies to Egypt, because Israel and its king are meant to trust in Yahweh for protection, and not seek battle horses from Egypt, where God had formerly rescued them from slavery. Yet 1 Kings 10:26-29 tells us that Solomon did indeed gather a multitude of horses and chariots from Egypt.
He was also not meant to have many wives. And yet famously Solomon is the all-time World Record holder for the largest number of wives, with 700, not to mention 300 concubines.
And thirdly, he acquired excessive silver and gold into the royal treasury, with silver becoming as common as stone (1 Kings 10:27), and with the weight of gold coming to him in one year equalling 666 talents. For those of you who think that this number seems familiar, it is, being the Number of the Sea Beast of Revelation 13 (Emperor Nero). Is there a connection between these two numbers? Probably, since the mention of this number in the reign of Solomon marks the end of the high point in his reign, and the beginning of his fall into outright apostasy where he acts more like a beast than a royal king.
Which brings us onto the fourth law for the king. He was meant to:
“Write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”
We can see how his disobedience in the laws concerning horses, wives and gold, must have started with disobedience to this law. Had he read the book of the law, and learned to keep its statutes, he would have known what a king was not to do. But in failing to do this, his heart was turned away from Yahweh, and the same Solomon who built God’s throne room on earth – The Temple at Jerusalem – went on to worship a plethora of idols, including Molech, the “deity” who demanded child sacrifice, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.
And so Solomon – the Psalm 72 king – falls. Like his father, he commits adultery. With David it was physical adultery; with Solomon, it was spiritual, departing from the true God to worship false gods. So too does the Psalm 72 kingdom fall with the king. Though it had peace, and stretched “from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt”, in the days of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, it was rent in two – the Israelite kingdom in the north, and Judah in the south, just as it was in the years between the death of Saul and Ish-bosheth, before being united under David.
And yet the promises had not failed. Solomon was never the true Psalm 72 king, but only a type or a shadow. But the fullness of times had not yet come for the real Psalm 72 king to appear.