In 1 Kings 10-11, the author describes Solomon’s final days. Like so many leaders in the history of God’s people, he did not finish as he had begun. While he enjoyed the Lord’s blessings of wisdom and wealth nearly all his days (1 Kgs 3:10-14), the Lord censured the unfaithful behavior that characterized the later portion of his life, and that of Israel (1 Kgs 11:33).
As Solomon’s days increased, so did his international fame. Earlier the author recorded, “People came from everywhere, sent by every king on earth who had heard of his wisdom, to listen to Solomon’s wisdom” (1 Kgs 4:34). The visit of the Queen of Sheba, recorded in 1 Kgs 10:1-13, confirmed that Solomon’s reputation continued to attract international attention. The queen was on mission to scrutinize for herself the reports of Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kgs 10:1, 2b), and “when Solomon answered, nothing was too difficult for the king to explain to her” (1 Kgs 10:3). Further still, when she saw all the buildings constructed under his administration, “it took her breath away” (1 Kgs 10:5). In time she confessed that she had not heard the half of what she had seen and exclaimed, “May the LORD your God be praised! He delighted in you and put you on the throne of Israel, because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel” (1 Kgs 10:9). Solomon and the Queen exchanged gifts (1 Kgs 10:10, 13), which prompted the biblical author to reflect again on Solomon’s wealth and wisdom (1 Kgs 10:14-29). The author noted, “The whole world wanted an audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom that God had put in his heart. Every man would bring his annual tribute: items of silver and gold, clothing, weapons, spices, and horses and mules” (1 Kgs 10:23-25).
Yet Solomon had lost his spiritual sensitivity. In 1 Kings 11 the author arranged a succession of Solomon’s sins. Disregarding the instruction in Proverbs 5-7, “King Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to Pharaoh’s daughter: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women from the nations that the LORD had told the Israelites about, ‘Do not intermarry with them…because they will turn you away from Me to their gods’” (1 Kgs 11:1-2). These wives enticed Solomon to worship other gods and Solomon’s heart was turned away from sincere devotion to the Lord. This was the same man who built the temple and enjoyed the Lord’s presence there. The Lord’s anger burned against Solomon; He said, “Since you have done this and did not keep My covenant and My statutes, which I commanded you, I will tear the kingdom away from you” (1 Kgs 11:11). The remainder of 1 Kings 11 records Jeroboam’s rebellion and the political turmoil that characterized Solomon’s latter days.
Solomon was remembered as the wisest and wealthiest of Israel’s kings. Solomon’s greatness forms a cohesive link in the macro-narrative of the Bible. The Lord promised Abraham that he would become a great people and that kings would come from his descendants (Gen 17:6). This promise was confirmed as international leaders paid homage to Solomon as the king of the people dwelling securely in Canaan. But Solomon’s idolatry established a pattern of life in Israel, ultimately fracturing the covenant God made with Moses and Israel at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20). And when Jesus came proclaiming His deity and the kingdom of God among men, He indicted Israel’s leaders for demanding signs from Him, testing Him. Jesus said that no sign would be given to those who sneered at Him instead of bowing themselves to God’s presence among them. Noting His supremacy over Solomon, Jesus said that at the judgement the queen of Sheba, who traveled a great distance to hear the mere wisdom of Solomon, will condemn those who heard Jesus speak to them and did not heed His word (Matt 12:42//Luke 11:31).