So Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD--and unlike his father David, he did not follow the LORD completely.
Nehemiah 13:26). This moral royalty is open to all. The prize is nobler than that of the most glittering "corruptible crown." From this kingship Solomon fell, though he retained the throne of the nation. The rascal often lurks in the heart that is under an anointed face. Let us consider -
I. THE OCCASION OF THIS DELINQUENCY.
1. Solomon had many wives.
(1) This was an invasion of God's order. That order was exhibited in Eden, when Eve stood singly by the side of Adam. Lamech was the first polygamist (Genesis 4:19). He was, ominously, the fifth in descent from the fratricide Cain.
(2) Moses tolerated polygamy, as he also suffered divorcements, not with approval of these customs, but rather in judgment upon the people for the hardness of their hearts (see Matthew 19:8-9).
(3) This principle will explain many Mosaic ordinations the observance of which was a burdensome yoke, and from which, by the mercy of Christ, we are happily released (Acts 15:10, 11). Note: God's order cannot be invaded with impunity. It is our duty carefully to ascertain it, and faithfully to keep it.
2. His wives were strange women.
(1) Not only were they foreigners, they. were also idolaters. There is no proof that even Pharaoh's daughter was a proselyte. Solomon could have no spiritual sympathy with these without compromising his loyalty to Jehovah.
(3) The spirit of this inhibition still binds (see 1 Corinthians 7:39; 2 Corinthians 6:14). The reason for it is in the nature of things and must abide. Note: Many a man has had his heart pierced and his head broken by his own rib.
3. David had too many wives.
(1) The example of David may have injuriously influenced Solomon. A large harem may have been a sign of grandeur; but these kings ought to have been superior to such fashions (see Deuteronomy 17:17).
(2) The evils in the examples of good men are especially mischievous, for they are liable to be condoned into harmlessness; the more readily so when to follow them is agreeable to natural inclination.
(3) They are liable to be carried farther. If David had many wives, Solomon had very many. David's wives were chiefly daughters of Israel, but Solomon's were daughters of foreign idolaters. Amongst his 700 wives and 300 concubines, not one was good (see Ecclesiastes 7:28). Note: Good men should be especially watchful over their influence - parents, ministers, Sunday school teachers, professors of religion.
II. THE PROGRESS OF THE EVIL.
1. First the heart is set against the head.
(1) The earliest record here is that Solomon's heart was turned away. His head at first seems to have been clear, as Adam's also was, who, though in the transgression, yet was "not deceived" (1 Timothy 2:14). But his heart, like that of Adam, was fatally susceptible to female influence.
(2) It is a foolish thing in a wise man to trust his head when he gives his heart to evil. "Man at his best is vanity."
2. Then the heart rules the head.
(1) This is the next stage and inevitable. This may be disputed long, but will assert itself in time. Observe well that when Solomon was "old" he so far yielded to the influence of his wives as to encourage and join in their idolatry.
(2) Probably his vices made him prematurely old. Calmer supposes him to have been eighteen years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned forty years (ver. 42). Thus he could be only fifty-eight at his death.
3. Finally the wise man becomes a fool.
(1) Behold this wisest of men trying to solve the impossible problem of serving Jehovah and Ashtaroth! He went not fully after the Lord his God as did David his father.
(2) David indeed fell into grievous sin, but his offence was more directly against man; indirectly against God. Even then the offence as against God was the venom of his crimes (Psalm 51:4). But the sin of Solomon was against God directly. Note: Offences against society are denounced without mercy by men, while the mental rebellion of the unbeliever against God is even glorified as "honest doubt!" but the Bible is explicit that "He that believeth not shall be damned."
(3) Behold this wise man further building a temple to Molech, the murderer, the devil, on the Mount of Olives, over against the temple of the Lord, the glorious work of his royal youth! Could folly go farther?
(4) The mischief of Solomon's idolatry remained to the times of Josiah (see 2 Kings 23:13). Who can say that it terminated even then? Eternity will declare. - M.
I. NEITHER AGE NOR EXPERIENCE BRINGS ANY RELEASE TO A MAN FROM HIS EXPOSURE TO SIN. "For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods." There is no fool worse than an old fool. Wise man it was who said, "Count no one safe or happy till he dies."
Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord.
1. First, then, the superior endowments of Solomon became a snare to him, as they are liable to prove to every gifted nature. Great talents involve great liabilities. Every being is subject to inexorable laws, which cannot be violated with impunity; God secures no man from the legitimate penalties of their violation. One of these laws is that which requires the improvement of talent as a necessary condition of increasing or even retaining it. When God gave Solomon that priceless largess of wisdom He did not exempt him from this law, nor take the work of preserving his character and insuring his ultimate well-being into his own hands. It is a fatal delusion that there is a mysterious gift of God, called Grace, which allows a man to sleep on the lap of some fair Delilah, without being shorn of the locks of his strength — a magic power that holds a man to the right against his own deliberate choice.
2. Another cause wrought with insidious influence to effect his overthrow. Solomon was the dupe of that prince of deceptive devils, misnamed Policy. It was from motives of policy, doubtless, that he entered into alliance with Egypt's king; it was from motives of policy that he married the daughter of that king, and took to his bosom his first heathen wife. Did ever man or woman marry from policy — political, financial, or social interest — that in the end did not find it the most miserable policy that ever mortal pursued, yielding its bitter fruits of sorrow and sin? There is but one bond that can ever bind two human hearts together in union strong and holy enough for the marriage relation; and that golden bond is Love — true, pure, uncalculating, heaven-born love.
3. In estimating the causes of Solomon's decline, we must also remember the danger that attends great worldly prosperity. Human nature is too weak to bear, unharmed, great elevation. Dazzled and blinded by the splendour of rank and honour and power and wealth, man reels and falls from the giddy height.
4. But finally Solomon fell, a willing victim to the seductive charms of pleasure and carnal indulgence. One sentence of the Inspired Volume reveals to us this fatal cause: "Solomon loved many strange women:... his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God." Of all the insidious, corrupting, dangerous influences that ever wrought the ruin of man, the influence of a bad woman is the most fatal and irremediable. How powerless are reason and learning to preserve character in the light of such a history as this! How weak is human nature in its best and strongest estate! Who can trust his own heart when such as Solomon fall? Can you, young man? Are you stronger, safer than he, leaning on that broken staff? Let us learn to beware of the beginnings of sin. Not suddenly did this mighty prince fall. Young man, take care that no worm secretly gnaws at the staff of support on which you lean. What of Solomon's final state? Saved or lost? The good God only knows. In the series of frescoes on the walls of the Campo Santo, at Pisa, he is represented, in the resurrection, as looking doubtfully to the right and to the left, not knowing on which side his lot will be east. If he wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes, as it is probable he did, he saw at least the folly of his sins. Let us listen to the deep-toned voice of warning that comes to us from his inspired wisdom — sadly illustrated by his uninspired life — "Fear God, and keep His commandments."
(C. H. Payne, D. D.)
II. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR EVEN A DEVOUT MAN TO BECOME A PRACTICAL IDOLATER IN HIS SECRET HEART. "For Solomon went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians." We are solemnly warned against idols in our hearts, three times in one chapter, by a prophet. Idolatry is still a possible sin to dread.
III. PROGRESS BY STEPS OF PERSISTENT ADVANCE INTO DEEPER SIN MAY ALWAYS BE EXPECTED WHEN ONE HAS TAKEN QUICK START AWAY FROM THE RIGHT AND TOWARDS WRONG. "Then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab," etc. There is nothing more to be feared than the unperceived inroad of what might be termed a little sin. The old parable relates that the trees of the forest once held a solemn parliament, wherein they consulted concerning the innumerable wrongs which the axe, first and last, had done unto them and their neighbours. They insisted that this dangerous implement of steel had no power of its own; and they therefore instantly passed an enactment that no tree should hereafter be allowed to furnish any blade with a helve on pain of being itself cut down to the root. So the axe journeyed through the forests, begging but a bit of wood from the oak, from the ash, from the cedar, from the elm, from even the willow and the poplar; but a stern denial met it at each turn; not one would lend it so much as a splinter from its branches. At last, it desired just this small indulgence: give it but a chip — a mere handle with which it could trim away useless boughs, or cut off briers and bushes, for such suckers, as was well known, only used up the juices of the ground; they always hindered the growth of any thrifty tree and obscured its fairness and beauty. The forest win, impressed with such moderation in the argument; it agreed that the axe in this instance might be supplied with one fragment which a storm had riven from an unfortunate sapling — a mere little stick, lying there, which no one prized and no one dreaded. But the instant that keen edge of steel was fitted with any sort of a handle, it struck off the branch of a sturdy oak at a stroke, then hewed itself a new helve at its will; and down went the elms, over toppled the cedars, and the hills grew bare as never before. The time for all defence was passed when the forest surrendered.
IV. THE GUILT OF ALL TRANSGRESSION IS IN THE SIGHT OF A HOLY GOD AGGRAVATED BY PAST WARNINGS GIVEN. "And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel," etc.
V. RETRIBUTION GATHERS UP THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE SINNER, EVEN IF IT IS DISCHARGED IN ONE ACT. "Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou has not kept My covenant and My statutes which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant." Henceforward it would do no good for this rejected monarch to awake himself to paternal zeal, and try to build up the fortunes of his shattered realm for his children. It is often worth while to attempt to avert a great catastrophe; but one of the punishments sometimes inflicted for sin is the denial to the sinners of all success in after usefulness.
VI. IT MAY BE POSSIBLE TO MISUNDERSTAND AND EVEN PERVERT GOD'S FORBEARANCE INTO EXCUSE FOR FURTHER SIN. "Notwithstanding, in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy sore Howbeit, I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son, for David My servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen." On the shore of eternal history stands this beacon-light for human warning. The wisest man in the world lived to behave like a fool!
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Homilist.I. THE CO-EXISTENCE OF GOOD AND EVIL IN THE SAME HUMAN SOUL. So long as we are in this world, this is more or less the case with the best of us; evil is not perhaps entirely subdued, until this "mortal puts on immortality." In heaven evil is not found in alliance with good in any heart, nor in hell is good found in alliance with evil. Their co-existence is only in the human heart, whilst here. This fact should always be recognised by us in estimating the characters of our fellow-men. A man is not to be pronounced utterly bad because he has committed a wrong, nor completely good because he has performed some virtuous deeds. "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse Thou us from secret faults."
II. THE ENERGY OF THE DEGENERATING TENDENCY IN HUMAN NATURE. There seems to be in all men a something, call it original sin, depravity, or what you like, which urges to the wrong; a law in the members warring against the laws of the Spirit. You see this force in the case of Solomon. It was in him stronger than three things.
1. It was stronger than the influence of parental piety.
2. The degenerating force within him proved stronger even than his own religious convictions.
3. It proved stronger, moreover, than his own clearest conceptions of duty.
III. THE UTTER INSUFFICIENCY OF ALL EARTHLY GOOD TO SATISFY THE MIND. "I said in my heart, go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and behold this also is vanity."
IV. THE SUPERIORITY OF TRUE THOUGHTS TO ALL THE OTHER PRODUCTIONS OF MAN. Solomon was an active man, and accomplished many material works while here; but what were they all compared with his thoughts contained in the Book of Proverbs?
1. What are they as to their utility?
2. What are they as to their duration? Where now is his throne of "ivory and gold"? etc.
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