It must have been spectacular. After centuries of nomadic life, slavery, and more nomadic life, the children of Abraham were living in their own land. Their king had built a lavish temple to the God who had sustained the nation through every difficulty. With a long, eloquent prayer, King Solomon sacrificed an abundant number of animals, cementing his fervor and dedication to the LORD. There was truly a bright future for the nation of Israel!
But only a short time later, God was angry - angry enough to divide the people He had provided for and led through years of hardship and wandering. Why? What happened between the nearly-idyllic dedication of the temple to this catastrophic ripping apart of God's chosen people?
Solomon had it all going for him. He was the heir of a godly king of a country blessed by God. He built an impressive temple for God and sacrificed great numbers of animals, as the Israelites were supposed to do. His father, King David, is often referred to as a "man after God's own heart," but Solomon is not remembered that way. Instead we read:
"Now King Solomon loved many foreign women...from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, 'You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.”'Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father..." (1 Kings 11:1-5).
Did you catch that? Solomon's "heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God." As God had told Samuel when Solomon's father was crowned king, "'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature...For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart'" (1 Samuel 16:7). And Solomon's heart had a problem.
Here was a man who had it all. Or so it seemed. As we read the story of Solomon, it's hard to imagine a man with so much potential or a story with so much disappointment. Imagine having so much silver that it was considered worthless (1 Kings 10:21) and welcoming visiting world leaders who simply came to hear his wisdom (1 Kings 10:24).
But in the end, it didn't last. The kingdom who had welcomed their second king with fanfare and pomp rejected their third, Solomon's son, Rehoboam. The great nation of Israel was ripped in two, with two tribes remaining loyal to Rehoboam and ten tribes seceding from the country. Eventually, the ten northern tribes would be carried to captivity and disappear.
Israel would never again have that kind of wealth, that kind of international recognition.
It was just as God told Solomon it would happen. Before Rehoboam even came to the throne, while Solomon still reigned in Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob warned 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...I will tear it out of the hand of your son'" (1 Kings 11:11-12).
The close relationship David enjoyed with his God did not transfer to his son. Solomon was visited more than once by God, and he enjoyed blessings we can't even fathom today. But his heart didn't follow God like his father's had.
So maybe Solomon never did have it all. How could earthly treasure ever compare to walking with God? "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:26).
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