Idolatry is never without its consequences, and this was particularly true when the king of Israel was guilty of following other gods. We will see this again and again in the months ahead as we study the kings who followed Solomon. But Solomon was the first monarch to introduce idolatry into Israel at an institutional level, building high places—elevated altars—for the gods of his foreign wives. Consequently, the ramifications of his actions were particularly grave for the nation.
Solomon’s idolatry angered the Lord, which meant disaster for the nation. God would divide the kingdom between Solomon’s son and one of his servants. The Lord, because of His love for David, would not let this division occur during the reign of Solomon. Moreover, He would keep Solomon’s son on the throne in Jerusalem, ruling over one tribe—the tribe of Benjamin, which would be effectively absorbed by the southern kingdom of Judah after the division occurred (1 Kings 11:9–13). Essentially, the tribe of Judah would remain a kingdom, but the only other tribe it would control was Benjamin.
Although the division did not happen in Solomon’s day, conflict characterized the rest of Solomon’s reign. The king faced trouble both within and without. First, God raised up Hadad the Edomite to fight against Solomon’s kingdom. Hadad held a grudge dating back to David’s rule over the nation, when David struck down eighteen thousand Edomites and stationed Israelite soldiers throughout Edom (2 Sam. 8:13–14). Hadad, a successor to the king of Edom, escaped to Egypt as a child, eventually marrying Pharaoh’s sister-in-law. He left Egypt to war against Israel. One commentator points out the irony that Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh to achieve peace with Egypt, but Egypt, perhaps unwittingly, unleashed war on Solomon when Pharaoh permitted Hadad to depart Egypt (1 Kings 11:14–22).
God also raised up Rezon, an enemy of Hadadezer king of Zobah, who was one of David’s old enemies. Rezon became king of Damascus and led the Syrians against Israel (vv. 23–25; see 2 Sam. 8:1–12; 10).
Finally, Jeroboam, from the tribe of Ephraim, rose up against Solomon. He had been elevated to a high position over the forced labor of the house of Joseph (the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh), but the prophet Ahijah revealed to him that he would receive ten tribes of Israel to rule. Upon hearing this news, Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam but died without succeeding (1 Kings 11:26–43).