<< 1 Kings 11: Solomon’s Old Age >>
his Declension from God, and Death
“For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God: as was the heart of David his father. And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father, and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.”– 1 KINGS xi. 4, 43.
THE reign of Solomon during his early glorious years was the type of the early and most sacred time of the Christian Church. The reign of Solomon, spiritually, is the reign of the glorified Jesus, the reign of love, the reign of peace. When we read of the earthly Solomon, of his early soundness of judgment, of his devotion, his costly and splendid temple, and of his magnificent works, and then turn to contemplate his latter years, we cannot but sadly think how great a fall was there. Prosperity is a more dangerous tempter than adversity, more destructive because more insidious. Our strength is sapped by luxury, and we often suffer the grand promise of our youth, by the enervating influence of self-indulgence, to fade away into weakness and sensuality. So was it in Solomon’s case. So has it been with many a ruler, with many a successful merchant and tradesman whose sun of early promise shone brilliantly, but went down while it was yet noon, surrounded it may be with earthly splendour, but with wearied and famished souls: in the Lord’s sight miserable and poor, and blind and naked.
How sadly the reflection comes home to us, when we contemplate the excellence and the brightness of the early years of Solomon’s kingly life. Why could it not continue! How strange that he who ran so well for a time should become weak, and stumble and fall so strangely. Yet so it is, unless we keep constant watch, and guard against self-indulgence continually, the old, old story will repeat, itself again, and the fair young spring of immortal life with us will dissolve into a blighted autumn and a dreary winter; when all that could have warmed and blessed the heart has expired under the baleful activities of egotism and lust.
But if such reflections press sadly upon us when meditating on the glory and declension of Solomon’s life and government still more seriously do they affect us when we contemplate the early centuries of Christianity of which they were the symbol and the foreshadowing. Not less glorious spiritually than the magnificence of Solomon was the pure and beautiful condition of the Christian religion when love was its grand and central law.
The Lord Jesus was to them supremely the God of Love and the Prince of Peace. To be a Christian was to be humble wise, and good. To be a Christian was to love the Lord Jesus above all things, to love the brethren and to do God’s commandments in relation to all men under all circumstances. When brought before persecuting governors, Christians called themselves sometimes God-bearers, sometimes Christ-bearers for they said they bore Christ in their hearts. The apostles preached love, and those who were genuine and acknowledged Christians lived in love.
See how these Christians love one another, said the observers of their lives and characters, and when John, the last of the apostolic twelve, could no longer walk to the little company of brethren at Ephesus, and was carried still to be present with them in their worship, he is said, when entering and retiring, to have repeated the words, “Little children, love one another.” Love to the Lord Jesus, and the keeping His commandments, were at that time considered the all in all of Christianity.
” And above all things have fervent charity (or love) among yourselves.” “And, besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue, knowledge, and to knowledge, temperance: and to temperance, patience: and to patience, godliness: and to godliness, brotherly kindness: and to brotherly kindness, charity (or love).” “Whoso keepeth His Word, in him verily is the LOVE OF GOD PERFECTED. Hereby, know we that we are in Him. We know that we have passed from death to life, because WE LOVE THE BRETHREN.” “He that loveth not knoweth not God, for GOD IS LOVE.” “God is love, and HE THAT DWELLETH IN LOVE, DWELLETH IN GOD AND GOD IN HIM.” “There is no fear In love, but PERFECT LOVE CASTETH OUT FEAR.” ” By this we know that we love the children of God, WHEN WE LOVE GOD, AND KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: AND HIS COMMANDMENTS ARE NOT GRIEVOUS.”
Such was the universal teaching of Christianity in its warm and best days. Such were its grand principles when its real and genuine triumphs were obtained. Its progress then was that represented (Rev. vi. 1) by the rider on the white horse, with the bow in his hand who went forth conquering and to conquer. These were its golden days. It was then a real temple of the Most High, not made with hands, but formed of devoted hearts, and minds radiant with the wisdom of heaven. The Christian assemblies there were held in very humble places, but they were glorified by faithful adherence to, grand principles which were to form “a new heaven and a new earth,” principles before which Jupiter and his pantheon, and a thousand deities beside, became what they really were, mere things of nought.
These, then, were the days. Represented by the glorious years of the reign of Solomon. The Lord Jesus was their King, their Judge, their law-giver. The life of His religion was to do good. For nearly three hundred years this pure and blessed state of Christianity existed and spread, but some time before, Constantine blended it with the pagan world and gave it political power and patronage. It had been losing its faithful and spiritual character, and exchanging the spirit that giveth life for the letter that killeth. In gaining external influence and; dominion, the disciples of the Saviour lost in purity and love. The Lord Jesus, in their minds, was no longer the pure God Man, the actual God manifest in the flesh, who had lived a real life on earth, who loved us, died for us, and redeemed us from the powers of darkness, that He might regenerate us, and make us as His angels on the earth, but strange delusions of the wildest kind were. Entertained.
Some declared that He was not the same Divine Being as Jehovah, but that He came to put Him down. Some declared He had had no-proper body, but that His appearance was only a shadowy phantom life. Others maintained He had no real proper Divinity or Divine Humanity, but that distinct spirit at His baptism entered into Him for a time, and then left Him before His crucifixion.
These phantasies, and many others, adjoined to the doctrine of the Lord, like the strange women of Solomon, quite altered the Church’s view of her Saviour; they began to make Him in imagination what their false philosophers dreamed over, long before the real incarnation of the Lord.
They were the strange wives spiritually, and to professed Christians, that turned away Solomon’s heart, and made Him to the Church no longer what He had been, the God of love, the God of peace, regeneration, and progress; but the God of wrangling, of dispute, and of battles, and since that time the wars waged by Christians and in the name of Christ have been as murderous, as cruel, as vindictive, and as revengeful as ever were those of ancient Babylon, Nineveh Greece or Rome.
The very vision of the cross by which Constantine, as it was pretended, was converted, was a vision which he understood to mean, that by the power of the Lord Jesus he would overcome the other tyrant Maxentius, against whom he was at war, and would thenceforward be sale ruler of the Roman Empire.
Shortly afterwards the doctrine of three divine persons was set up, and the real divine power in the Church passed away from the Saviour, and was awarded to the first Person of the Trinity separate from Him, and a God as terrible as ever the Jews had thought Him, or clothed with attributes still more transcendently dreadful. Thus was the time changed from being a reign of peace, wisdom, purity, and the glory of being good, to a condition little better than heathenism once more but heathenism clothed with Christian names. It was in all respects like the early happiness of the government of Solomon, transformed into the disturbed condition of his later years.
Why should we ever lose the truly Christian state, or turn it to anything of a contrary character? Why should Solomon be degraded and die, and give place to the fierce Rehoboam? Jesus, our Divine Creator and Saviour, has made us to be orderly and blessed, and formed the world to be our happy training place, preparatory to our blissful everlasting home. He has given. His Word to guide and delight us, and all things around contribute to our comfort and delight if we conform to the just and kind requirements of heavenly order. While industry, virtue, and kindness reign, all things go well. Life is golden; and hope gilds the future with hues still more lovely. Life’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace. Why should it not always be so? We are not suffering privation unendurable by being good. We are but living rationally. It is life in its truest sense. Could it but continue, our graceful and noble youth would be perfected to a more noble and maturely graceful middle age, and our after years but ripen us for heaven. Then could it be said of each of us, and “all that Solomon did, and his Wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon.” Our whole life would be a life of wisdom, and the book of our lives written by ourselves on the pages of our affections and thoughts, would be a book whose opening in the eternal world would not make us ashamed, but grateful to Him who had made us images and likenesses of His own eternal wisdom and love. When Solomon had declined from God, the state of peace no longer fully existed. He was harassed by Hadad the king of the Edomites (ver. 14), by Rezon king of the Syrians, who reigned at Damascus (ver. 25), and by Jeroboam, who afterwards, in the days of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, became king of the separated kingdom of Israel (ver. 40).
True devotion to our Lord Jesus, the Divine Saviour, the meek and blessed one, who is also the Everlasting Father, keeps everything in its place. A peace unspeakable possesses the soul that is at peace with Him.
When, however, we no longer are right with God, we find ourselves wrong in many other ways, We are out of harmony with creation. Troubles of various kinds arise, and we are at peace with nothing, We are divided from the Lord Himself, and we are out of joint with His world, which is His servant, and will not freely serve His rebels. A world of trouble comes when we quit the orderly sphere of the Prince of Peace.
The enmity of Hadad arose from the former severity of Joab, who abode in Edam six months, and slew every male who had not fled. Hadad and certain others took refuge with the Egyptians, and in time, when they found Solomon’s power waning, they returned to assert the rights of their country, and to do mischief to the subjects of Solomon.
The Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau, represent the affections of the natural man. The attempt to slay all the male inhabitants of Edom represents the endeavour of those who are in narrow conceptions of the letter rather than in the spirit of religion, to do away with the natural man altogether. They would have no husbands and wives, they would not eat if they could help it, they are under the mistaken persuasion that nature is not equally with spirit a child of the Divine Being, but is His enemy: hence they strive to destroy every male in Edom. Happily, however it cannot be done. Enormous mischief arises from the attempt, and both Solomon and the Edomites suffer, religion is made sour and bitter, and the world defiant, repulsive, and contemptuous. The truth however is, that nature has her claims and her rights, as proper to be granted in their own sphere as those of religion in the higher duties of life. The impulses, instincts, and pleasures of our lower affections are not to be stifled or destroyed, but to be purified, directed and kept healthy. The pleasures of the world are to be kept in subordination to the Lord’s divine laws, and that secures their orderly life and enjoyment, and prevents their declining into pain. And thus is fulfilled the blessing pronounced upon Esau, ,”Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and’ of the dew of heaven from above” (Gen.ixxvii. 39). The Saviour shall come upon Mount Zion, to judge the mount of Esau: and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.
When Christianity had ceased to a considerable extent to be the loving, wise, and peaceful kingdom of the Lord Jesus, the religion of simple goodness and truth, a strange fanaticism began to trouble the Church, rude extravagant minds determined if possible to banish, all natural delight, under, the delusion that they would thus become more spiritual. For this object, they went into deserts to live apart from human kind. They eschewed the sweet relation of society, and lived in strange uncouth ways, until they became like animals. Thinking they could become more, they became less than men. They became brutish, irrational, covered with hair, and fearfully ferocious. Some lived in dens, and on pillars for years, filthy saints, fed by the charity and ignorant superstition of the honest and industrious but mistaken people of the neighbourhood. They were continually degenerating into wild and inhuman excesses, and gave terrible illustrations of the truth, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Orders of monks and nuns were formed which were constantly degenerating into hotbeds of luxury and vice. Industry and social life are the divine safeguards of virtue. This state of things was what in the spiritual sense was represented by Joab’s attempt to destroy every male in Edom, and subsequently of Hadad the Edomite and his subjects harassing the latter days of Solomon.
There will be no persistent enmity if the world, on the one hand, has its claims allowed and blest; and religion, on the other, is exercised as a benign and holy influence uniting earth and heaven, time and eternity, in sacred links of order and well being.
The Syrians equally waged war against the Israelites in the latter years of Solomon. “Rezon (the lean) gathered men unto him, and became captain over a band, when David slew them of Zobah: and they went to Damascus, and dwelt therein, and reigned in Damascus. And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, beside the mischief that Hadad did: and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.” Syria was an ancient kingdom having: “Damascus for its capital, one of the oldest cities of the East, renowned for its refinement, its skill in the fine, arts; and the elegancies of life, as well as for its literary treasures, as Egypt was for its science. Syria was the land of trade and knowledge. “Tyre and Sidon were its great ports, and through these Spain and Britain and all the great and busy states which clustered round the Mediterranean, ministered to the Syrians, frequently called “the children of the East.” Balaam was a Syrian, and evidently had a knowledge of correspondences, of the true God, and of divine things, which shewed that ancient wisdom still existed there. The wise men of the East that followed the star which guided to the new-born Saviour exhibited again the possession in Syria of knowledge lost in nany other lands. Syria then is the type of the region of literature, of the knowledge of religious, social, and moral life.
When religion has lost its true character of love to God and man, and has become superstition, literary men become scoffers, Syria is an adversary to Israel all the (degenerate) days of Solomon. Let religion, the daughter of heaven, be pure, humble, holy, and true, and, there is no antagonism between knowledge and religion. Literature rejoices, in illustrating and enforcing, in her own domain, whatever tends to make homes elegant and amiable, to embellish, purify and dignify society, and elevate the characters of men. To have antagonism between religion and philosophy is disastrous to both. But it is inevitable, when religion has become impure and superstitious. “The very keystone of the social arch then crumbled into corruption, and everything becomes disjointed.
Philosophy disdains a religion of fear, or a religion of folly. It sneers. and laughs at the God of crouching terror and wild fanaticism. And this war between the two will continue until religion is restored to that sacred condition which the apostle James so well describes, as the “wisdom which is from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown of peace of them that make peace.”
Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, was the third great opponent which troubled the declining years of Solomon, and ultimately established Israel as a separate kingdom, formed of ten tribes; leaving only two to form the kingdom of Judah.
The reason of this division was that Solomon’s strange wives had led him and his kingdom to forsake the Lord, and follow Ashtaroth, the goddess of the Zidonians; Chemosh, the god of the Moabites; and Milcom, or Moloch, the god of the children of Ammon (ver. 33).
Ashtaroth, the moon-goddess, or queen of heaven, as she was called (Jer. vii. 18), was woman-worship, which extended over many countries, as far as Spain, where it was especially prevalent, and where it was introduced into the Christian religion. It continues to the present day, only the queen of heaven, anciently called Ashtaroth, is now called the Virgin Mary. The outward worship of this female phantasy is symbolic of the Church worshipping herself and forsaking her Saviour.
Chemosh, the god of the Moabites, was a Baal, or sun-god; and the Moabites in the Church are those who make religion a ceremonial ritualism, to the neglect of love, justice, and wisdom.
Moloch, or Milcom, of the Ammonites, the burning god, to whom children were destroyed, represented the infernal lusts and passions which exist, and strengthen, in a perverted church, to the destruction of pure and innocent feelings, and sentiments. When the Church of the Lord Jesus was thus bereft of its pure order and character, and a semi-heathenism defiled and weakened it, destroying its genuine and heaven-derived authority, then division came, and unity was destroyed. “To your tents, O Israel!” was cried by leaders and people, and a separate nation was formed by Jeroboam and his successors.
In the corrupt Christian Church “To your tents, O Israel!” has again been cried, and continues to be cried, by those who have protested against the corruptions which have been introduced into the once pure, spotless, and peaceful Church of the Saviour. And now, another city is placed before those who wish to be saved, both from the corruptions of corrupt Judah and of rebellious Israel, a city of gold, a new Jerusalem. Again the laws of divine order are given, again the Word is unfolded, and a greater than Solomon is here. Let us enter this glorious city, and walk in its light. Let us avoid for ever all strange and curious superstitions of every kind, remembering only what divine truth reveals to us, and that its sure, its grand, its ever-recurring lesson, both for earth and heaven, is this: “What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Let our only struggles be the fight against self, against bad tempers, passions, and lusts. O Jesus, Saviour, Divine Solomon, restore Thy government of golden peace within us, and let Thy throne be established for ever and ever!
Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)