1 Kings 10-11
We meet the Queen of Sheba, who visits to check Solomon out. She has heard so much about his wealth and wisdom, she just has to meet him in person! The rest of the chapter is an anthology of extravagance, as it lists Solomon’s vast amounts of gold and other precious commodities. His yearly accrual of gold was 666 talents (there’s a creepy number), worth about $1.5 Billion in recent US dollars. In addition, the queen brings him even more ($200 million or so)! Which gets me to thinking… the Middle East has been dug up over the years by various archeological expeditions and traveled by religious scholars of every stripe. Did any of them ever find evidence of this much gold?? Or is this an exaggerated tale and Solomon got richer with every retelling…
This is a long chapter. The gist of it is that Solomon takes 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of them foreign woman who worship other gods. To accommodate his wives’ preferences, he builds shrines some of these gods for his wives to use. This angers Yahweh, who vows to take away Solomon’s kingdom as punishment. But get this: Yahweh says “But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son.” (v 12 – see also v 39) How stupid and unfair is that? Stupid, because David is already dead, so he cannot know or care. Unfair, because here we go again, punishing the innocent for the sins of others. So Yahweh raises up adversaries to rebel against Solomon. One of them, Jeroboam, is told by a prophet that he will take over 10 of the 12 tribes, leaving only 1 tribe for Solomon (v 30-32). Haha What kind of math is this??? Jeroboam hides from Solomon until the end of the chapter, when Solomon dies and his son Rehoboam becomes king. Bet that won’t last long.
I just have to comment on a couple of issues raised in this chapter. First, god doesn’t seem to care how many women Solomon cavorts with, or whether he marries them or not. He only objects to them being foreign and worshipping other gods. Second, if Solomon was so wise, couldn’t he have foreseen that he would be in trouble with Yahweh for his idolatry? And lastly, I find it disturbing that god favors David over Solomon. David committed atrocity after atrocity, but none of that matters because he is loyal to Yahweh. Solomon, whose reign seems to have been mainly peaceful and was a wise and fair ruler, is condemned solely because of his wavering loyalty. This is the ‘salvation by faith alone or by works’ argument – and faith is all that counts here.