Starting well is easy; ending well is much more difficult. A young man or woman rockets to fame and fortune in sports, in the arts, in business, or in politics. Yet as fast as this rise occurs, the person plummets into obscurity, brought low by scandal. Sadly, these meteoric rises and falls are not limited to the secular world. We have seen too many pastors and other Christian leaders build thriving, impactful ministries only to see adultery or another scandal take them out.
This is not only a modern phenomenon. It goes back at least to the old covenant monarchy. We have already seen it somewhat in what happened to David as a result of his adultery. But the fall of David pales in comparison to the fall of Solomon. As we see in today’s passage, Solomon did not end well.
During the reign of Solomon, Israel and her king enjoyed unprecedented wealth and influence. Early on, Solomon obeyed the Lord, building a temple to honor Him. Yet, we have seen cracks in the facade of an otherwise successful reign. Solomon drafted some Israelites into forced labor and spent more time on his palace than on the temple (1 Kings 5:13–17; 6:37–7:1). In today’s passage, we read again about his numerous horses and chariots, with the added information that these horses came from Egypt. This clearly violated the rules for kings found in Deuteronomy 17:16 and provides another indication that not everything was well during Solomon’s reign.
But the worst of Solomon’s sins are recorded in 1 Kings 11:1–13. Apparently, Solomon had a weakness for forbidden women, for he married seven hundred women and had another three hundred concubines, many from the nations God had prohibited the Israelites from marrying into because they would lead God’s people to worship other deities (vv. 1–3; see Deut. 7:1–4). Doubtless many of these marriages were politically expedient, designed to cement alliances between Israel and other nations. Nevertheless, God’s warning—unsurprisingly—turned out to be prescient, for these foreign women led Solomon into the worship of other gods (1 Kings 11:4–8). As great as Solomon was, his devotion did not match David’s (v. 6).
Solomon’s sins had grave national consequences, as we will see. They also show us the dangers of placing our confidence in mere human leaders. As Augustine of Hippo writes, Solomon’s fall proves that “no hope must be placed in any [mere] human being.”