1 Kings 11:4 MEANING

1 Kings 11:4
(4) When Solomon was old.--It is clearly implied that the evil influence belonged to the time of senile feebleness, possibly the premature result of a life of indulgence; for he could not have been very old, if he was "but a child" at the time of his accession. But, as it is not at all likely that Solomon forsook the worship of God (see 1 Kings 11:5-6; 1 Kings 9:25), it would seem that his idolatry was rather the inclination to an eclectic adoption of various forms of faith and worship, as simply various phases of reverence to the One Supreme Power, each having its own peculiar significance and beauty. Such a spirit, holding itself superior to the old laws and principles of the faith of Israel, was the natural fruit of an overweening confidence in his own wisdom--the philosophic spirit, "holding no creed, but contemplating" and condescending to "all." Whatever it may have owed to the baser female influence, so well known in the countries where woman is held a mere toy, it seems likely to have been, still more naturally, the demoralising effect of an absolutely despotic power, of a world-wide fame for wisdom, and of an over-luxurious magnificence. It may have even had a kind of harmony with the weary and hopeless conviction that "all things were vanity:" for there is something of kinship between the belief that all worships are true, and that all worships are false. It may also have been thought good policy to conciliate the subject races, by doing honour to their religions, much as the Roman Empire delighted to do, when faith in its own religion had died out. How absolutely incompatible such a spirit is with the faith in the One only God of Israel, and in itself even more monstrous than avowed devotion to false gods, is indignantly declared by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:3-4; Ezekiel 20:39). How utter the practical incongruity, is obvious on the slightest consideration of the contrast between the impure and bloody worship of the false gods, and the lofty spiritual worship of the God of Israel.

Verse 4. - For it came to pass, when Solomon was old [As he was but sixty at the time of his death, "old" is here a relative term, and must mean "toward the close of his life," i.e., when he was about 50 or 55], that his wives turned away his heart after other gods [The text does not limit Solomon's polygamy to the time of old age, but his idolatrous leanings. I say leanings, for it is doubtful to what extent Solomon himself took part in actual idolatry. Both Bahr and Keil - the latter in opposition to the views he held in 1846 - not to speak of others, deny that he shared the idolatries of his wives, and the former labours hard, and on the whole, it seems to me, successfully, to prove that he was only guilty of sanctioning idolatrous worship in the vicinity of Jerusalem. His arguments, briefly stated, are these:

(1) It is nowhere said that he "served" (עָבַד) other gods - the expression constantly used of the idolatrous kings; cf. 16:31; 22:53; 2 Kings 16:3, etc.

(2) Neither the son of Sirach nor the Talmud nor the Rabbins know anything of his personal idolatry.

(3) Had he formally worshipped idols, his sin would have been greater than that of Jeroboam as to which, however, see on 1 Kings 12:29 sqq. (The "sin of Jeroboam" lay in "making Israel to sin," i.e., in forcing his people into schismatic and unauthorized worship, rather than in any practices of his own.)

(4) The expressions "his heart was not perfect," below, and "he went not fully" (ver. 6) are inconsistent with the idea of idolatry. Similarly Ewald says, "There is no evidence from ancient authorities that Solomon, even in advanced life, ever left the religion of Jahveh, and with his own hand sacrificed to heathen gods. All traces of contemporary history extant testify to the contrary" (vol. 3. p. 297). See, however, on ver. 5]: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God [It is instructive to compare with this the words of 1 Kings 8:61, "Let your heart be perfect," etc. Wordsworth remarks that "the defection even of Solomon from God through the influence of his strange wives is one of the best justifications" of the commands of Exodus 34:12-16; Deuteronomy 7:2-4, etc.], as was the heart of David his father.

11:1-8 There is not a more melancholy and astonishing instance of human depravity in the sacred Scriptures, than that here recorded. Solomon became a public worshipper of abominable idols! Probably he by degrees gave way to pride and luxury, and thus lost his relish for true wisdom. Nothing forms in itself a security against the deceitfulness and depravity of the human heart. Nor will old age cure the heart of any evil propensity. If our sinful passions are not crucified and mortified by the grace of God, they never will die of themselves, but will last even when opportunities to gratify them are taken away. Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. We see how weak we are of ourselves, without the grace of God; let us therefore live in constant dependence on that grace. Let us watch and be sober: ours is a dangerous warfare, and in an enemy's country, while our worst foes are the traitors in our own hearts.And it came to pass, when Solomon was old,.... Toward the latter end of his reign, when he might be near sixty years of age; for Rehoboam his son and successor was forty one when he began to reign, 1 Kings 14:21 which is observed either as an aggravation of the sin of Solomon, that in his old age, when by long experience he might have been thought to be still wiser, and less lustful: and yet

that his wives turned away his heart after other gods; or as pointing at the advantage his wives took of his age:

and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father; who, though guilty of many sins, never inclined to idolatry; his heart was always right in that point, and sincere in his worship, see Psalm 18:20.

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