6 June 2016

1 Kings 11:4-13

“... and his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel.” (v. 9)

Psalm: Psalm 97


When David's reign came to an end in around 970BC Solomon inherited the foundation of a kingdom that was united. The political and religious climates were at first helpful, enabling Solomon to build the temple at Jerusalem, as well as establishing Israel's financial prosperity. The agricultural-based nation of David was transformed into a mixed economy that included copper and other minerals being traded across the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Solomon's four characteristics - Worship, Wealth, Wives and Wisdom - seemed to have assured him of a stable kingdom. However, Solomon's wisdom in trading did not extend to other aspects of kingship. His vast harem was probably as much a result of trading alliances as of sexual appetite; but his crippling levying of taxes and forced labour, notably on the northern provinces of Israel, caused real resentment. Clearly Solomon liked living in luxury, as well as needing to pay for the vast temple venture, but the strains on his people were clear. Unity was being severely tested.

Verse 9 makes it clear that Solomon "had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel". The final straw for God seems to have been not just that his wives and concubines followed other gods, but that Solomon willingly built shrines for these gods in prominent places. Verse 11 makes God's displeasure plain. Solomon's attitude and disobedience resulted in a disunited kingdom. The northern states of Israel would be separated from the southern tribe of Judah - although this would not happen in Solomon's lifetime. Rebellion had consequences.

Anywhere in the world, at any time, nation-building is not easy. Enabling different groups of people to feel united depends on such things as sound values clearly expressed, a sense of justice for all, seeking the common good. For the people of Israel, these were enshrined in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).

For Christians, wherever they are found, the two foundation stones of community living are "Love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and [love] your neighbour as yourself" (Luke 10:27).

To Ponder

  • What values would you like to see expressed in public life in the country where you live?
  • How will you demonstrate 'love your neighbour as yourself' today in a practical way?

Bible notes author

Michael King

Michael King is a Methodist local preacher. From 2000-2011, he was leader of the Methodist Church's World Church Relationships team, and was the vice-president of the Methodist Conference in 2012/2013.