I KINGS – SOLOMON: THE THIRD KING IN ISRAEL; JEROBOAM, AND REHOBOAM,THE FIRST KINGS OF A DIVIDED ISRAEL
"Thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel. return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the Lord, and returned to depart, according to the word of the Lord (I Kings 12.23)."
IN keeping with our theme, the predestination of all things, we call the reader's attention to the expression found in the text, "for this thing is from me." With but a little examination it may be seen that this thing is in reference to the division of the twelve tribes of Israel into two distinct, antagonistic camps; the ten tribes of the North and the tribe of Judah, along with a portion of the tribe of Benjamin, to the South. After about 500 years of unity and solidarity, the spirit of division and strife rent asunder the families of this peculiar and chosen nation. Saul first served the tribes as king for 40 years followed by David for another 40 years. These periods were not without disagreement and lack of unity but not until the reign of Solomon, David's son, did the seeds of discord mature and grow a crop of hostile resentment between the tribes sufficient to engender a full disruption of relations.
Jeroboam, the king of the northern tribes, and Rehoboam, king in Judah, following the division, will be the principal subjects of additional articles, with Solomon, the predominate subject now. Solomon was a leading figure in Israel and was, in many ways, a type of Christ. He was more well known than his son, Rehoboam and His counterpart to the north, Jeroboam, although they were also directly involved in the division of the twelve tribes. After a review of Solomon, specific attention shall be given to the many, seeming incidental, details of the lives and conduct of these two contemporaneous kings, with the expression, this thing is from me, as our focal point. May God's blessed sovereignty shine forth on our efforts as a consoling beacon from first to last. A guiding text throughout this study should be as follows: "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1.11)."
The observant reader will easily notice that the purpose of God was visibly displayed in the raising up of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and, following that, of the 12 sons of Jacob as heads of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. Next came the deliverance of the twelve tribes into Egypt, there to sojourn for over four centuries. Following that period of Israel's development came their exodus from Egypt, the forty years wandering in the wilderness, their crossing the Jordan into the land of promise and the parceling out the land to the tribes. After the death of Joshua came the advent of the Judges to rule over the populace and finally, God gave them a king in His displeasure, Saul of Kish, a Benjamite.
Saul is replaced by David, of the tribe of Judah. From thence the extent of God's embracing the descendants of Abraham was essentially focused on this one tribe. It would be through the tribe of Judah that God would preserve the visible kingdom until such time the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus of Nazareth, would come to His people. This is an element of profound significance! The focus of God was thus limited, from the whole of the families of Israel, until one tribe only remained in His royal favor. Everything that transpired during the reigns of David, Solomon, Rehoboam, and even Jeroboam, was calculated by divine wisdom to converge our focus upon the sublime purpose of salvation in the King to come, Jesus our Lord, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. If we see only Solomon, Jeroboam or Rehoboam in these lines, we have missed the glory of the whole history, from first to last.
Although Solomon was peculiarly unrivaled in all the history of Israel's kings, his ascent to power and supremacy was as much the appointment of God as was the ascent of those who came before. Saul, the first king, was selected immediately by the direction of God.
David, the second king, Solomon's father, was selected also by God to replace Saul, who had grievously disobeyed the Lord and thus squandered his royal position. From a natural perspective it may reasonably be said that Solomon was born to the robes of royalty and power. Viewing Solomon from the record of Scriptures, in all his qualifications and as king, it will be seen he was the product of God's eternal will.
Solomon was one of four sons of David to be born in Jerusalem by Bathsheba (see I Chronicles 3.5 where Bathsheba is called Bathshua and the other sons are named). Six other brothers were all born in Hebron and at least five of the six had different mothers. Solomon's mother, Bathsheba, was a heathen from the Hittite tribes, yet was by far the most beloved of the wives of David. Of the birth of Solomon it is recorded: "And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the Lord love him. And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet: and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord (II Samuel 12.24, 25)."
Several noteworthy elements are at once manifest from this text. Beyond any delight this new born son brought David and the child's mother is the unavoidable fact the Lord loved him. This essential fact, combined with the history of this son of David and Bathsheba, at once tells us this child was an eternal darling of God; that is, God had chosen him unto Himself before the world was formed, or the dust of the mountains had been raised. Poor Arminians and assorted other Conditionalists, with considerable loathing, acknowledge God was sufficiently wise to know what Solomon would do throughout his reign, but it is a source of considerable annoyance to them when it is suggested God wisely ordained the whole of the life of Solomon. If God loved Solomon from the beginning did God also know what Solomon would do as king? "Please do not go over this ground of God's foreknowledge again" the free-willer will lament and plea. We respond, why not? If what we say is the truth about the knowledge of God, then admit it. If what we say is not the truth, then expose it as any lover of truth would.
The fact is, it will be almost universally admitted, if only by a grunt or guttural "Yes, I suppose God knew it all." Is not then this fact established, whatever God knew about the life of Solomon (and all others, as well, for that matter) was as certain as God's infinite knowledge? Can we really worship a God of limited intellect? Properly, the engagement is not about what God has predestinated. It is respecting the wisdom of God! If God knows all from all eternity, then all from eternity is sure; no matter the avenue or channel that brings it to pass. This is either a foundational truth or it is a foundational lie. Which view do you prefer, reader? Is God omniscient or not? Or, is God deficient in knowledge? Where your sentiment goes here requires the honest and consistent Bible student to be either an ardent Arminian or a devoted Absoluter. Brethren, do not run to error due to prejudice. Example: did not Moses, by faith, choose to suffer with the despised people of God (the true Israel, who were no doubt, spoken of to him in a very prejudicial tone) rather than continue in the popular path?
As for this writer, it is preferable, far more delightful too, to stand resolutely alone, surrounded by a rancorous world of religion, and contend for the absolute omniscience and sovereignty of God, than to have a place among deluded millions who love and embrace a lie.
Returning now to II Samuel 12.24, 25, another unique expression is given us to behold. "And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord." Jedidiah means word meanings. David would call his son, Solomon, meaning "peaceful" but the Lord directed Nathan to call him Jedidiah, God's darling. Whatever else may be said of Solomon, it is a truth indisputable that this unique man who served as king over Israel was retained in great affection by God.
The kingdom of Israel during the reign of Solomon expanded greatly. Peace abounded. Prosperity was beyond anything that might have been imagined. The king ruled absolutely and firmly, but with wisdom such as was never known before or after. Except for an aborted effort by Solomon's brother, Adonijah, to acquire the throne (I Kings 1.5ff), he was never rivaled. Zadoc the priest, along with Nathan the prophet and Benaiah, a warrior, stood with Solomon during this coup and afterwards served him faithfully, even to the extermination of many old foes of David, Solomon's father.
Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh, bringing the powerful empire of Egypt into alliance with Israel. He ruled from the Red Sea to the Euphrates, thus fulfilling Jehovah's ancient prophecy to Abraham, recorded in Genesis 15.18. Jehovah bestowed upon Solomon understanding and wisdom so extensive that travelers came from afar (from the uttermost parts of the earth, Matthew 12.42) to marvel at this wise king. The construction of the private house of Solomon and the erection of the temple, in conjunction with other magnificent buildings, took at least 20 years to complete (I Kings 9.10). It seems everything Solomon did was carried out in a lavish scale. It is worth mention as well, all of this was accomplished before Solomon was forty years of age.
SOLOMON IN LATER YEARS
It is just here that Solomon's desires appear to take a strange turn. Seemingly, Solomon had all any man could desire. He had the blessed favor of God. He ruled an empire. Fame spread his name to the outermost regions. Untold wealth secured his every desire (I Kings 10.23). Yet for all this, Solomon was a lustful sinner! God raised him up, provided for him every instrument for the accomplishment of each purpose, but Solomon, despite all this, could not rise above his carnal passions. "But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, "divine darling" according to reliable sources of Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites (I Kings 11.1ff)." "Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin (Nehemiah 13.26)."
Could anyone have dreamed this precipitous fall of so favored an individual?
At that time Solomon "...had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart (I Kings 11.3)." The question must be asked, why would any man on earth need, or want, much less acquire, 1000 fair ladies for his possession except for reasons of excessive vanity and worldly show? Especially troubling is the situation of Solomon, for wisdom was his paramount gift. Yet it was so; Solomon succumbed to carnal passions. Did God somehow select the wrong man for the leadership of Israel?
Remember, it was Jehovah that raised up Solomon, endowing him with an array of talents, at the same time securing his kingdom from the river to the seas. What then could have happened? Why would Solomon fail his God? And fail he did! A better question to ask might be, would Solomon not fail God? Despite his lofty attainments and gifts, was Solomon more able to rise above sin than any other son of Adam? "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one (Romans 3.10)."
There can be no doubt Solomon turned from the holy commandments of God and went a whoring after strange gods. (Poor, self-infatuated man, who thinks he may stand firm in the day of trial apart from the grace of God.) Look upon Solomon; wise, rich, powerful, yet seeming helpless to follow the cunning enticements of many outlandish women. "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. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites (I Kings 11.4, 5ff)." This chronicle of Solomon's wickedness is solemn indeed! Can it be imagined that after building the temple for the God of Israel he then built high places for the gods of the heathens, as Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon? Not only for these leading heathen deities did Solomon erect places of worship. So did he for all his strange wives (Verse 8).
Here develops what many would consider a conflict in doctrines. There are those who feel certain Solomon's deeds were not involved in, or restricted by, the wise purposes of God. "God did not have anything to do with Solomon's terrible sins" we are informed. Though there are many Scriptures concerning the wise government of God, one shall be sufficient at this time for this feeble argument. "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (Isaiah 46.9, 10)." All the vain attempts of devils or men cannot blunt the force of these plain and precious words.
Whatever end, or ends, there may be; whatever beginning, or beginnings, may prompt those ends, we may be sure God, God alone, has declared it or them. Solomon had a very good beginning. Few deny his beginning was eternally purposed. Then, why should we be fearful or reluctant to find comfort knowing the end of Solomon was equally purposed as was his beginning? Did God raise up Solomon or not? Read I Kings 3 concerning the prayer for wisdom by Solomon and see if God did not raise him up. Should it be a thing incredible that God had a purpose in this son of David and God would surely bring that purpose to pass?
That there was a judicious purpose in the failure of Solomon should not be doubted. This was by no means the only time God had dealt so with a powerful ruler. Consider: "For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Romans 9.17, 18)." Behold the contrast. God raised up Pharaoh! By raised up we understand it to include the will of God for this ruler to be born, survive to maturity, gain authority, resist Moses and Aaron, and a multitude of other things for Jehovah to display His glory and power in overthrowing all the devices in the heart of Pharaoh, including his implacability, and rout Pharaoh's mighty armies in the process. In short, the Potter formed the clay, then exercised His eternal will over it to accomplish His wise plan for the deliverance of Israel. If then God assumed the control of the heart of this wicked king to show forth His power, how much more would He do so in raising up Solomon?
Whenever predestination is proclaimed by the servants of God there always seems to be those, wiser than Solomon, at least in their opinion, who decry the thought that God could be anywhere near, or remotely involved with, the universe where the sin occurred, lest He be the "author of sin." We resist the temptation to take up that subject while saying, it is impossible to separate the wicked conduct of the lives of God's children from the righteous conduct of God's children. Did not David say, "My times are in thy hand"? Shall we then say he only meant the good times and not the evil? May the Lord deliver us from such foolishness! Moreover, Solomon himself said, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3.1ff)." With such positive declarations from the Word of God, how dare any son of Adam question God had a wise purpose in all the events of the life of Solomon, including the folly of his later years? Has not God fully and positively declared, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (Isaiah 46.10)?" There can really be no question that God raised up Solomon to enlarge and secure His great nation, Israel, then, in His wise counsel, He brought Solomon's rule to a terminus at the appointed time, and finally, He divided his kingdom. The divided kingdom is exactly what is meant by the expression in our text, "For this thing is from me!"
To fortify the above conclusion, that is the way things took place. Did God lose control? Did Solomon fizzle out and ruin the purpose of God by frolicking with strange wives, paying homage to their strange gods? Worse yet, did God have to change courses when Solomon fell from his lofty status and debased himself and his nation? Certainly not! May we join with Paul, saying "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen (Romans 11.33-36)."
Surely no one approves Solomon's conduct, nor their own sinfulness for that matter, but it must be admitted that by whatever name you desire to call the process, Solomon's conduct fell within the scope of God's wise plan. God, who cannot err, and who rules in the affairs of heaven and earth, is infinitely above all the speculation and vain imaginations of mortals. Some, seeking to compromise the will of God with the notions of man, say God has both a secret and a revealed will. We disagree, but we have no serious quarrel with them so long as they do not deny God's will embraced all of Solomon's activities, good and bad. Others suggest God overruled or suffered these things to come to pass. Even so, if that be the case, surely He willed to suffer or overrule. It is unthinkable that matters simply slid by God while He attended to better things. Many things were transpiring then (and so today) that were all components in shaping the outcome of the will of God for Israel in general and His elect in particular. As we shall see later, at the same time Solomon was coming into the arena of life, so too were those God would later raise up to be his foes. Forces were being forged into alliances. Opposition was building even while Solomon was growing in power. The very instruments Solomon used to bring power and fame to himself and Israel were the same instruments that drove a wedge in the twelve tribes; particularly the levies and the forced servitude employed in the building of the houses of Solomon, including the temple. Strange, that while God was blessing Solomon to gather the materials and bring to pass that which God had promised, his efforts were alienating his brethren.
An observant reader may well want to counter our views by saying that portion of our text we have emphasized, for this thing is from me, came as a result of Solomon's transgressions and for no other reason. That surely will not solve any problems for Arminians and will-worshipers, however.
Solomon's sins were only a part of the instruments employed in bringing to pass the division of the tribes. An example of this can be seen in Joseph and his brothers. They sinned against him (Genesis 37.18ff). It led to his exile in Egypt. His exile in Egypt then led to his ascension to the throne with Pharaoh, the king. In the time of famine (which God sent, not a quirk of nature) the brothers are delivered by Joseph.
Beings Arminians by nature, they believed their sin brought all this calamity upon their heads, not seeing the wise purposes of God as the ruling cause. But Joseph, wiser by far than they, being taught of God, says "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive (Genesis 50.20)." The brothers of Joseph thought one thing; God meant another!
This is exactly what is to be seen in the life of Solomon. What Solomon did was one thing. What God meant was another.
The tribes would be separated. Warfare and separation would continue until the end of the nation when God finally dispersed it. But the wondrous plan of God to preserve a family, and within that family a seed, until the birth of Jesus may be clearly seen from first to last. If the Lord enables, we hope to inquire further at another time.
In closing this article on predestination we include a brief comment from a dear and well-respected Old School Baptist minister from the past. He has said in a few words what most of us could only desire to be able to say:
"So, in regard to predestination, some who oppose that true and precious and solemn doctrine, will sometimes say, that if God purposed the wicked acts of men, then he himself does the wicked acts, and they will gravely profess to reply to us by saying that God does not work efficiently in the wicked to do evil, as he does in the righteous to do righteousness, as though we believed the contrary. Such arguments avoid the question, and create the issues to which they apply. And still they have to acknowledge that if God permitted a thing to be done, or even foreknew that it would be, and still created the world with that knowledge, then it was his purpose that it should take place. That truth a child can see, and the wisest man cannot evade it, and an angel cannot understand the full meaning of the glorious truth of God's absolute sovereignty in will and purpose and works. 'He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.' 'His judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out.'"
Elder Silas Durand, Fragments; July, 1898.
What more could be said in regard to Solomon, David, or us today? Our God is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working. Amen!
Volume 14, No. 2