Comments on the First Book of Kings
From Family Hour
The two books of Samuel deal with the establishing, gradually, of the kingdom in Israel by war and conquest. Saul, the first king, pictures government in the hands of mere fleshly man (though head and shoulders above his contemporaries), beginning well but ending in failure and disgrace. David followed him, and was called the man after God's heart, for he is a type of Christ, gaining His ascendancy by war and bloodshed, as will be the case when the Lord Jesus, through the horrors of the Great Tribulation, will triumph over every enemy and bring settled peace to Israel.
1 Kings then records the transfer of authority from David to Solomon while David was yet alive, thus indicating no break in the government of Israel Solomon (his name meaning "peaceableness") pictures the Lord Jesus establishing the kingdom in a state of settled peace in the Millennium. His reign was the most illustrious that Israel's history has ever seen. Yet, just as David (though a type of Christ) failed badly in his personal life, Solomon failed more badly still, showing that authority put in the hand of even the most godly of men, will always be abused.
Because of Solomon's serious failure, when he passed off the scene, the kingdom was broken into two parts, with ten tribes separating from Judah and Benjamin (ch.12). Solomon's son continued to reign only over the two tribes, and his descendants succeeded him, while Israel had no such succession of kings, but were under the domination of whatever king could gain power enough to displace one who reigned before him.
Appropriately, therefore, God introduced the prophets Elijah and Elishah (ch.17-21), to rebuke the wickedness of Israel's kings, yet to show how His grace could overrule their evil to bring blessing to at least some of the people who suffered under such evil regimes. Other prophets also arose, such as Michaiah (ch.22:7-28), to confirm such witness, and more still are found in 2 Kings. But 1 Kings, after the separation of the 12 tribes from the 2, deals more emphatically with the 12 tribes, while 2 Kings more emphasizes the two tribes.
The New King James Version is generally used in this commentary: any variation from this will be noted when used.
David's death 1 Kings 1 - 2 1015 B.C.
Solomon's Reign 1 Kings 3 - 11
Solomon prayer for wisdom; ch.3 - 4 1014
Temple building; ch.5 - 8 1012 - 1005
Solomon's fame; ch.9 - 10 1004
Solomon's shame and death; ch.11 992
Kingdom division 1 Kings 12 - 2 Kings 16 984 - 742
Assyria captures Isreal 2 Kings 17
Babylon captures Judah 2 Kings 18 - 25 721 - 588
1st KINGS -- CHAPTER 1
ADONIJAH EXALTS HIMSELF
Being 70 years old, David was near to death. He complained of the cold, though well covered with blankets. His servants thought that a young girl, a virgin, would help to warm him. Why could not one of his wives do this? But they found a beautiful young woman, Abishag, and brought her to the king (v.2). She ministered to the king's needs, but he did not cohabit with her (v.4). Men will employ any available means of dealing with problems instead of committing the problem to the Lord.
David's son by Haggith, Adonijah, realizing his father's death was imminent, took advantage of the situation, deciding he was going to be king. He prepared chariots and horsemen and 50 men to run before him (v.5). He was imitating the pride of his brother Absalom, who had tried to dethrone his father David and came to an end in shame and disgrace (2 Sam.18). This ought to have been sufficient warning to Adonijah, but caution was overshadowed by his pride.
David had not restrained the pride of his son (v.6), perhaps because of his handsome appearance (v.6), as was true of Absalom also. David loved his sons, but neglected the discipline that love should have exercised, and our sinful flesh will always take advantage of lax government.
Adonijah enlisted Joab, David's army general, to seek his support in making himself king. Joab had not supported Absalom because David was then an energetic king and Joab knew it would not serve his own best interests to desert David. But now that David was dying, Joab's natural thoughts inclined him to follow Adonijah, who was David's oldest living son. Adonijah recognized Joab to be a key man in his gaining his object. Another key man was Abiathar the priest, whom Adonijah also found willing to support him (v.7).
His plans were well thought out, for wanting to include God as one supporting him, he sacrificed sheep, oxen and fatted cattle near to Jerusalem, in the Kidron valley (v.7). Having Abiathar as priest, he could consider these sacrifices appropriate for his purpose. Also, he invited all his brothers, the kings' sons and many servants of David. He marshaled all the support he could possibly find.
However, he did not invite Nathan the prophet, a faithful man of God, nor Benaiah, a fully devoted servant of David, nor other mighty men similar to Benaiah, nor Solomon his brother (v.10). Why did he not invite these? Because he knew he could not count on their support. In fact, it was common knowledge that David had purposed that Solomon was to be king, but Adonijah seemed to think that David was now too old to enforce this choice, and that popular opinion would favor him. Sad blunder!
When Adonijah made the bold move of proclaiming himself as king, Nathan the prophet took a wise course. He advised Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, to immediately inform David that Adonijah had proclaimed himself king, in spite of the fact that David had sworn to Bathsheba that Solomon would be king (vs.11-13). Then, to confirm this to David, Nathan would come in with the same message (v.14), so that the urgency of the situation would be apparent to David.
Bathsheba then went into David's bedroom where Abishag was serving as a nurse to David Bathsheba bowed to him, thus showing the humility of her subjection to the king, though he was her husband. In answer to David's question, she reminded him that he had sworn by the Lord to her that Solomon should succeed him as king, but that Adonijah had taken the place of king without David being aware of it (vs.17-18), that he had sacrificed many animals and invited the king's sons as well as Abiathar and Joab, but had not invited Solomon (v.19).
She told David also that the eyes of all Israel were on David, interested to find what he would do in view of this turn of events. For if he allowed the crowning of Adonijah to stand, then Bathsheba and Solomon would be counted as offenders, for which they would be killed (v.21).
As she was speaking, Nathan also came in, bowing also in subjection before the king and asking him if he had said Adonijah should reign. He repeated what Bathsheba had said and added that the King's son, Abiathar and the commanders of the army were celebrating, saying, "Long live King Adonijah!" "But," said Nathan, "he has not invited me -- one of your servants -- nor Zadok the priest, nor Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, nor your servant Solomon" (vs.24-26).
Notice that it was those who were willing to be at a distance from David who were moved to follow Adonijah. They were not near to David as were Bathsheba and Nathan. What a lesson for every believer! Only in being near to the Lord shall we be preserved from the danger of dishonoring Him by following what seems to be appealing, but is actually disobedience.
Nathan certainly knew that David had nothing to do with the appointing of Adonijah as king, but he asked David nevertheless if he had ordered this matter without informing Nathan (v.27). This was intended by Nathan to stir David to action, and it was effective.
SOLOMON SUCCEEDS DAVID AS KING
Bathsheba was summoned back to David's presence (v.28), and David swore to her by the Lord who had redeemed him from all his troubles, that, just as he had before sworn by the Lord God of Israel, so he would carry out what he had sworn, and do so "this day" (v.30), making Solomon king in David's place.
David then called for Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah, the trusted military leader (v.32), and gave orders that they were to take the servants of David (the Cherethites and Pelethites) and have Solomon ride on David's mule down to Gihon. This was the same valley in which Adonijah had proclaimed himself king, that is, in the Kidron Valley, but east of Jerusalem rather than south. Thus, Zadok and Nathan were to anoint Solomon king over Israel, with the blowing of the trumpets and the announcement, "Long live King Solomon!"
Adonijah had thought David was too old and depleted in strength that he would have no more power as king, but the God who had brought David through all his adversities was still God, and He could enable David to still use the moral and spiritual power that had before carried him through much opposition. God always backs up what is His own work.
After being anointed, Solomon was to come up and sit on David's throne, for, as David said, he had appointed Solomon as king in his place. Benaiah answered the king with positive approval (v.36) and added the desire that Solomon's kingdom would become greater than David's. In one respect, this proved to be true, for the peace that prevailed in Solomon's day contributed to make his kingdom wonderfully prosperous. However, that prosperity was marred by the personal disobedience of Solomon that led to the breakup of the kingdom after he died (ch.12).
Such a celebration was a startling interruption to the celebration of Adonijah's claim to the throne of Israel. Adonijah and his followers had only finished their meal of celebration when this noise erupted in Jerusalem. Joab asked: "Why is the city in such a noisy uproar?"
At that moment Jonathan the son of Abiathar came in. Though his father was already present, it seems Jonathan did not follow his father's example. Jonathan had shown himself devoted to David at the time of Absalom's revolt (2 Sam.17:17-21). Adonijah thought Jonathan was bringing good news, but it was not good for Adonijah. Jonathan was just as aware of the coronation of Solomon as he was of what Adonijah was doing, and it seems he was not taking sides with Adonijah (vs.42-43). He told him plainly that "our lord King David has made Solomon king."
Jonathan made no suggestion that Adonijah should resist the crowning of Solomon as king, but rather gave him a full account of what had taken place so that it left no loophole of opportunity for Adonijah to change it. David had sent Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah to military leader, together with the Cherethites and the Pelethites, David's bodyguard, having Solomon ride on the king's mule, and at Gihon they had anointed Solomon king, so that the whole city was rejoicing (vs.44-45).
But Jonathan did not stop there. He said that Solomon sat on the throne of the kingdom and David's servants had gone to bless King David with the desire that God would make the name of Solomon better than the name of David and his throne greater than David's throne. Thus Jonathan added that the king was bowed with thanksgiving before God, blessing Him for having given David a successor to sit on his throne while he was yet alive (vs.46-48). It seems that Jonathan would not have added these things if he had at all favored Adonijah. He spoke as though the matter had been totally settled by David.
Fear took possession of all the guests of Adonijah, and they immediately left the scene of their unholy celebration, each going his own way (v.49). Adonijah, in mortal fear, went and took hold of the horns of the altar, just as ungodly men today try to find refuge in Christian ritual, outwardly acknowledging the sacrifice of Christ as the place of safety, yet with no love for Christ at all (v.50).
Solomon was told that Adonijah had done this with the desire that Solomon would swear to him by God that he would not put him to death. Solomon was not vengeful toward his brother, but he was guarded in the way he answered. If Adonijah would prove himself dependable, he would not die, but if there was subsequent wickedness found in him, he would not be spared (v.52). At Solomon's word, he was brought from the altar and bowed to Solomon, who told him simply, "Go to your house." In other words, he was told to confine himself to private life rather than public.
DAVID'S LAST WORDS TO SOLOMON
As David was about to die, his words to Solomon have serious significance. Just as Paul (2 Tim.4:1-6) and Peter (2 Pet.1:12-15) were concerned about the testimony of the Lord after their decease, so was David, for they were not moved by selfish motives, but by concern for God's glory among His people.
David therefore urged Solomon, "be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man" (v.2). If he was to do this, he would have to keep the charge of the Lord, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments and His testimonies written in the Law of Moses. Only by heeding this law would Solomon prosper (v.3).
The Lord had told David that if his sons would be diligent to walk before the Lord in truth with all their heart and soul, then there would be no lack of a descendant to sit on David's throne. David reminded Solomon of this conditional promise (v.4). Sad to say, David's sons did not fulfill the conditions. Solomon began well, but very soon departed from the truth of scripture, and his sons departed farther still (1 Ki.11:1-9; 12:1-15).
David was concerned that Solomon's throne was to be established in righteousness, a picture of the righteousness of the coming reign of the Lord Jesus in the millennium. He will purge out of His kingdom all things that offend. Therefore David speaks first of Joab, who had been for many years the general of David's army. He had been outwardly loyal to David, but had deliberately defied the law of God in seeking his own ends. David reminds Solomon that Joab had, in cold blood, murdered both Abner and Amasa (2 Sam.3:27; 2 Sam.20:10). He did not mention Joab's killing Absalom (2 Sam.18:14), though Joab did this while Absalom was helpless and ought to have been taken prisoner rather than killed. Yet David avoided any suggestion that his personal feelings were involved in requiring that Joab should suffer the consequences of his crimes. But he made it clear to Solomon that Joab must not be left to die a natural death (vs.5-6).
In lovely contrast to this, David speaks most appreciatively of Barzillai, who had in old age come to David with food when David was in exile (2 Sam.17:27-29). David therefore asks Solomon to show special kindness to the sons of Barzillai in allowing them to eat at his table. Just so, every act of devotion toward the Lord Jesus will be fully rewarded in His coming kingdom.
However, there is another class of people represented by Shimei, who had maliciously cursed David at the same time Barzillai had helped him (2 Sam.16:5-8). When it seemed to Shimei that David was losing to Absalom, then he felt safe in cursing him, But when David regained his authority in Israel, Shimei changed his attitude and came to David to apologize (2 Sam.19:1-20). The apology was made out of fear for his own safety, but David accepted it and swore to him by the Lord that he would not kill him (2 Sam.19:23).
Though Shimei had cursed David, David would not trust himself to take vengeance on his own behalf. How important it is that we should observe such a principle as this! However, David knew that Shimei's apology was lacking in sincerity, so he told Solomon to act wisely in seeing to it that Shimei would be put to death for this evil that had really been against the Lord (vs.8-9). David told Solomon that his wisdom would find means to do this, as was proved later (vs.36-46). Thus, Solomon's kingdom illustrates the future kingdom of the Lord Jesus, which will not allow the admission of those who have before proven treacherous and cannot be trusted.
THE DEATH OF DAVID
2 Samuel 5:4 tells us that David was 30 year old when he began to reign, and reigned 40 years over Israel. Thus he died at 70 years of age and was buried in Jerusalem. For seven years he reigned in Hebron and for 33 years in Jerusalem (v.11). By the time David died, Solomon was already reigning and his kingdom was firmly established. Solomon also reigned for forty years (1 Ki.11:42). How short indeed is the span of earthly glory! The last days of Paul in prison were much more bright with rejoicing than were the last days of either David or Solomon! (2 Tim.4:6-8).
Adonijah was not a changed man in spite of his having submitted to Solomon. After David's death he came to Bathsheba (v.13). She was on her guard, wondering if he came peaceably, but she was not sufficiently on guard. Adonijah was like many religious people today, who choose to pray to Mary the mother of the Lord Jesus, to seek her influence with the Lord. He was too cautious to approach Solomon himself. But he told Bathsheba that she knew the kingdom was his and that all Israel had set their expectations on him. This was only pride, for how did he know that all Israel favored him? Natural thought might have expected the eldest son to succeed his father, but Adonijah knew that the Lord had chosen Solomon as king (v.15). Yet he had thought he might defeat the Lord's choice by gathering people after him. His words to Bathsheba show that he had not in heart submitted to Solomon and therefore could not be trusted.
He asked Bathsheba to intercede for him to ask Solomon that he would allow Adonijah to take Abishag as his wife. He thought Bathsheba's intercession would be effective with Solomon (vs.16-17). Bathsheba did not discern the dangers of such a suggestion, and was led more by a sympathetic nature than by cautious wisdom to agree to intercede for him (v.18) She ought to have simply reported to Solomon what Adonijah had said, rather than telling him she had only a small petition to make, urging him not to deny her request (vs.19-20). But Solomon also was too quick to assure his mother before hearing her request, that he would not refuse it.
When she made her request, he positively refused it, for he recognized that Adonijah was still desirous of having the kingdom. Bathsheba had thought it was a small matter, but Solomon discerned the spirit behind the request, which was a deeply significant matter. He found he could not keep his word to his mother, and instead decided that Adonijah must die, so that he would pose no threat to Solomon's authority (vs.23-24). He appointed Benaiah as the executioner, who immediately killed Adonijah.
This may remind us that after the antichrist exalts himself above all that is called God, the Lord Jesus will be exalted by God and will consume this proud enemy with the breath of His mouth and destroy him with the brightness of His coming (2 Thes.2:3-8). As Adonijah was a handsome man, so the antichrist will be very appealing to the fleshly desires of ungodly people, but his popularity will be short-lived, as was that of Adonijah.
ABIATHAR DEPOSED: JOAB EXECUTED
Abiathar the priest had before seemed true to David (2 Sam.15:24-29), but his being tested by the defection of Adonijah had proved him deficient, so that he was no longer to be trusted as a faithful priest. Solomon did not put him to death, though he told him he was worthy of death (v.26), but he banished him from Jerusalem, sending him to Anathoth, his home. Verse 27 tells us that this fulfilled the word of the Lord spoken to Eli (1 Sam.2:31-34) because Eli had failed to faithfully function for God in the priesthood.
When news came to Joab of Adonijah's execution and of Abiathar's banishment, Joab knew he could not escape punishment since he had defected to Adonijah. He went to the tabernacle and took hold of the horns of the altar (v.28) as Adonijah had done at first (ch.1:51). This was the desperate act of a man clinging to religious ritual, but having no knowledge of God. Solomon sent Benaiah to execute Joab, which Benaiah was hesitant to do while Joab was clinging to the horns of the altar, but at Solomon's word, since Joab would not leave the altar, Benaiah carried out this unpleasant task, and Joab was buried in his wilderness house.
It was necessary for the establishment of Solomon's kingdom that the innocent blood of Abner and Amasa should be avenged on Joab, blood that Joab had shed without the knowledge of David (vs.32-33). Joab had stood by David until his defection to Adonijah, but his defection manifested the fact that his motives were not truly those of love for David, but rather of seeking his own advantage. His motives in killing Abner and Amasa were selfish too. Joab's execution symbolizes the fact that the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus will be established in righteousness, which brings peace.
Benaiah therefore killed Joab, "and he was buried in his own house in the wilderness" (v.34). Solomon then made Benaiah general of the army in Joab's place, and Zadok replaced Abiathar as priest.
SHIMEI TESTED AND EXECUTED
Shimei was a still different character. Though he had so viciously cursed David, yet he had apologized for this and David had then spared his life (2 Sam.19:18-23), but he was not changed in heart, and Solomon told him in effect that he could not trust him our of sight, ordering him to live in Jerusalem with the warning that if he went elsewhere at any time he would be put to death (vs.36-37). Shimei fully agreed to this and promised to do as Solomon said.
However, three years later two of Shimei's slaves escaped from his service and went to Gath, about 25 miles from Jerusalem. When Shimei was told his servants were there, he took a trip by donkey to look for them (v.40). Surely he had not forgotten Solomon's warning and his own promise! Perhaps he thought that three years was enough to change Solomon's thoughts, but he wanted slaves to rule over, though he would not be content to be ruled himself!
Shimei's trip was reported to Solomon, who called for Shimei and reminded him of his promise to remain in Jerusalem, and of Solomon's promise to have him killed if he did not (vs.41-42). Though Shimei did not keep his promise, yet Solomon would keep his. Solomon also reminded him of the wickedness of his attitude toward David and that this wickedness would come back on his own head. David had not killed Shimei so as to avoid any appearance of personal retaliation, but justice must be carried out though David was no longer alive. Shimei's case is a warning to us not to speak evil of dignities (Jude 8-9). Again Benaiah was appointed executioner, and Shimei was put to death (v.46).
Thus, when the evil was fully judged, "the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon." There was a transitional period of three years before the kingdom is said to be fully established, just as there is a transitional period between Israel's being set aside and the Church fully established in the book of Acts. So also, when Christ takes His kingdom, there will be brief period during which God and Magog from the uttermost north will come down to attack Israel, a land brought back from war and dwelling in peace, but will be judged unsparingly, that Christ's kingdom may be established in unchallenged supremacy (Ezek.38).
SOLOMON RECEIVES WISDOM FROM GOD
However, early in Solomon's reign he slipped into the snare of making a treaty with the king of Egypt. Israel had before escaped from the bondage of Egypt, a type of the world in its independence of God. Believers are warned not to be friends with the world (Jas.4:4), for such friendship is actually enmity against God. This friendship of Solomon then went farther still in his being married to a daughter of Pharaoh. Such laxity of conscience did not end there, however, as we shall see in chapter 11:1-8. Once we embark on a wrong course, we shall continue a downward slide unless the grace of God intervenes to lead us to seriously judge ourselves and return to the Lord.
Before the temple was built the people sacrificed at the high places. These were idolatrous shrines which people thought would be sanctified by introducing the worship of God there, but this is a mixture that cannot have God's approval (v.2).
Yet Solomon was a believer. He loved the Lord and sought to walk in the ways of David, except for his worship in high places. He evidently thought, because he wanted to worship the Lord, that he should do it in the most prominent places, so because Gibeon had a great high place, he went there to offer 1000 burnt offerings (v.4), just as people today often think that the most beautiful church is where they ought to worship. In Solomon's case, the Lord bore with this though. He did not approve it, for God did appreciate the desire of Solomon's heart to be a worshiper.
Therefore He could appear to Solomon in a dream to give him the privilege of asking what he desired God to give him (v.5). We may well ask ourselves how we would respond to an opportunity like this. What do we desire more than anything else? This is a matter that should deeply exercise our hearts.
When God asked Solomon what he desired, Solomon was careful and considerate in his request, for he first, commendably, showed his appreciation of God's great mercy to his father David, recognizing the integrity of his father, and appreciating the kindness of God now in making Solomon king. At the same time, he felt as a little child, not knowing how to go out or come in (v.7). It is a good sign that he felt his inadequacy for the task of ruling the great nation Israel, and that he confessed this before the Lord.
He asked then for an understanding heart to administer justice to the people, to discern between good and evil. 2 Chronicles tells us that his request also included "wisdom and knowledge." God was pleased with Solomon's request (v.10), specially since he did not ask for things totally selfish, such as long life, riches or the destruction of his enemies (v.11), but for wisdom to discern justice, thereby expressing a desire to see the people of Israel prosper.
Therefore God gave him a wise and understanding heart which would excel the wisdom of anyone before or after him. Besides this God promised to give him riches and honor greater than all the kings of his day (v.13). Then God added a conditional promise that, if Solomon walked in God's ways, keeping His statutes and commandments, as David had, then God would lengthen his days.
Very likely Solomon thought that wisdom and knowledge would enable him to please God in all he did, but sadly, he failed miserably in keeping God's commandments, for he married 700 wives and had 300 concubines who turned away his heart from the Lord, so that he eventually became an idol worshiper (ch.11:1-8). While his request was good, it was not good enough, for wisdom and knowledge is never enough to keep us walking with God. Solomon did not pray to be preserved from evil in his own life. Had he read Deuteronomy 17:14-20? If so, did he not realize he needed more than an understanding heart, but a submissive heart obedient to the Word of God? Only by this could he have been preserved from the evils into which he fell.
When Solomon awoke from his dream, he stood before the ark of the covenant and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, making a feast also for his servants. The proper place for offerings was before the ark rather than in high places. Thus Solomon showed his appreciation to God by giving Him honor and showing kindness to the people. If only Solomon had continued as he began, how much more refreshing would his history have been, and how much more honoring to God!
JUDGMENT BETWEEN TWO MOTHERS
The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are witnesses to the wisdom of Solomon, Proverbs being the best book on psychology in existence, and Ecclesiastes the best on philosophy. In this section we are given an example of Solomon's wisdom in practice. Two women who were prostitutes came to Solomon to have him judge a controversy between them (v.1-16). The complainant stated her case first, claiming that after she had given birth to a child, the other woman had smothered her own child by lying on him at night, then had changed the babies while the first mother was sleeping. When she awoke in the morning, she said, she found the child dead, but in examining him, found this was not her child (vs.17-21).
The accused woman denied the accusation, claiming that the live child was actually hers (v.22). They had brought the babies with them, but there were no witnesses, though we should think that someone else must have seen the child that was born first. However, Solomon did not need other witnesses. He called for a sword (v.24), and commanded that the living child should be cut in half, with each mother having a half. Of course this would not be a satisfactory arrangement, but Solomon knew who he was dealing with. The actual mother of the child strongly protested, saying she would rather have the other woman take her child that to have the child killed. The other woman was agreeable to having the child divided, knowing that neither of them would have the child (v.26). It was not love for the child that moved her; but jealousy toward the other woman. Solomon knew that if she was dishonest enough to steal the child, her motives would be revealed by the test he gave her.
Solomon took advantage of the fact that God has implanted within a mother an instinct of deepest attachment to her own child, which is not likely to be found where there is no direct vital relationship. Thus, there remained not the slightest doubt that the first woman was the mother of the child, and the king gave orders that the child should be given to her (v.27).
A case of this kind was of course reported widely, so that all Israel was made aware of the wisdom of Solomon, and people realized it would but be easy for them to get away with wrong doing by deception. They recognized that it was God's wisdom that was in Solomon (v.28).
1st KINGS -- CHAPTER 4
In Solomon's time peace was established in a way not seen in David's day, for there was continual turmoil while David reigned. Now Solomon was undisputed king over all Israel, and the unity of peace prevailed, for this is typical of the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. However, Solomon's reign was not itself millennial, so that he had only eleven princes (vs.2-6), rather than twelve, which is the number of governmental completeness.
Azariah is the first official mentioned. He is said to be the son of Zadok the priest (v.2), which likely means he was the grandson, that is, probably the direct son of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok (1 Chron.6:9). It is good to see the priest mentioned first, then the scribes and the recorder before the officers of the army, but again the two priests, Zadok and Abiathar (v.4), showing that the relationship of the kingdom to the Lord was paramount. Yet the armed forces were necessary, as is true in Christianity if we are to "fight the good fight of faith," and the household is not to be neglected either, as is true in "the house of God" today (Eph. 2:19). Though last mentioned, the labor force is very necessary in its place. It does not have the prominent place, as priesthood does, but we should be content to labor for the Lord without having undue attention directed toward ourselves, for the Lord will reward all labor for Himself in a coming day.
Solomon did have 12 governors over Israel, each in a different area. It is not said that these were benefactors of the people, but rather that each one in turn provided food for Solomon and his household, one each month of the year (v.7). This pictures the response of Israel toward the Lord Jesus in a coming day, when they give full allegiance to Him. We may be sure these governors also attended to the needs of the people, just as those who give the Lord the first place will not fail in showing kindness to others.
The names of the 12 governors are told us in verses 8-19 and the areas over which they ruled. There is surely profitable instruction and blessing in such scripture for those who seek and receive discernment from God to search it out.
SOLOMON'S PROSPERITY AND WISDOM
If verses 1-19 show the wise administrative order of Solomon's kingdom, these following verses dwell on the bountiful prosperity that characterized his reign, and the wisdom attending this. Judah and Israel had not been divided yet as they were in the reign of Solomon's son Rehoboam, and the unity of the people was beautifully displayed. Numerous as they were, yet they were rejoicing together (v.20). While this pictures the great prosperity, unity and blessing of Israel in the Millennium, yet it is only a brief and fleeting picture, for such things cannot last until the true King of Israel, the Lord Jesus, reigns.
Verse 21 indicates that Solomon reigned over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the border of Egypt. This foreshadows the blessing of Israel in the Millennium, but it does not mean that all in that area were Solomon's people. There were still kingdoms that were distinct from Israel, but they had been subdued so as to render tribute to Solomon so long as he lived. Even the Philistines were still a distinct people, just as today the Palestinians maintain their independent character though living in Israelitish territory.
Solomon's provision for one day is recorded as about 150 bushels of fine flour, 300 bushels of meal, ten fatted oxen, 100 sheep, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and fatted fowl. This is a reminder that in the Millennium Israel will be abundantly blessed by the provision the Lord Jesus makes for His redeemed people. Good government does not only keep order, but provides for the welfare of the people. This beneficent reign of Solomon worked for "peace on every side" (v.24).
Also Judah and Israel dwelt safely in their land, "each man under his vine and his fig tree" (v.25). This quiet contentment will be emphasized in the millennial age. There will be no robbing, no fighting to amass fortunes and to gain ascendancy over others, but rather the calm faith of dependence on the well-proven goodness of God, for all in Israel will be born again.
As well as provision for his kingdom, Solomon was concerned for its protection, having 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots and 12,000 horsemen (v.26). This pictures the protection of Israel by the government of the Lord Jesus in the Millennium, but it is only a picture, for Israel will not need chariots and horses for their protection then. Rather, they will say, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God" (Ps.20:7). In fact, it is not told us here, but Solomon disobeyed God by importing horses from Egypt (1 Ki.10:29), which God had warned against in Deuteronomy 17:16. God well knew what the special temptations of a king would be, and in this scripture made them very clear. In fact, whatever king reigned, he was to have copy of the law (the Pentateuch) written for him, to acquaint himself with it.
Solomon's twelve governors (one from each tribe) brought provisions also for Solomon, one in each month of the year, thus leaving no lack of supply. The administration was well organized (v.27), reflecting the orderly administration of the millennial kingdom. This included barley and straw for the horses (v.28).
Solomon's wisdom was a gift directly from God, excelling all the wisdom of men of the east and of Egypt, for there were men of outstanding wisdom in these places (v.30). Four men are mentioned whose wisdom must have been great, but all inferior to Solomon. Ethan the Ezrahite wrote Psalm 89, and Heman the Ezrahite wrote Psalm 88. There is great wisdom in both of these Psalms, Psalm 88 portraying the agonizing grief of one who feels the shame and sorrow of Israel's guilt before God and cries out for mercy. Psalm 89 however shows rather the wonder of the grace of God in lifting up and blessing Israel beyond their fondest dreams after years of wandering and guilt.
As to the other two men, Chalcol and Darda, we find no record of anything they did or wrote, though they were evidently well known in the time of Solomon, whose wisdom excelied all of these. The Book of Proverbs, inspired by God, is a wonderful witness to his wisdom, though he wrote many more than these, 3000 altogether (v.32). He also wrote 1005 songs, only one of which is recorded in scripture, - "The Song of Songs."
Solomon's wisdom was not confined along certain lines, for he spoke of trees, from the greatest to the lowest, of animals, birds, creeping things and fish (v.33). The fame of his wisdom spread throughout the world, so that from all nations people came with the one object of hearing the wisdom of Solomon (v.34). How much greater will be the attraction awakened in the nations when the Lord Jesus, the King of kings, takes His great power and reigns in His millennial kingdom! Jerusalem will be the center to which the nations will come to worship Him and learn the wonders of His unexcelled wisdom (Zech.14:16).
PREPARATIONS FOR THE TEMPLE
God had told David that Solomon would build a house for Him (2 Sam.7:12-13), and David therefore prepared many materials for this. We read now of Solomon making further preparations for this. Hiram king of Tyre, who had been friendly with David, sent his servants to express the same friendliness to Solomon (v.1). Solomon was encouraged by this to send word to Hiram, reminding him that David was not permitted by God to build a house for the name of the Lord because of his being constantly embroiled in warfare (vs.2-3). However, the Lord now had given Solomon rest, so that his kingdom was at peace (v.4).
Therefore, he told Hiram it was his purpose to build a house for the name of the Lord God, in accordance with God's word that David's son should do this work (v.5). He requested of Hiram that he should give orders to his men to cut down cedars in Lebanon to provide timber for building. Solomon would send servants to unite with Hiram's servants in this work, and Solomon would pay the wages of all of these according to the decision of Hiram. He reminded Hiram that it was well known that the Sidonians (who were connected with Tyre) were skillful lumbermen, and Solomon was fully willing to pay wages such as skillful workmen deserved.
There were no snags whatever in this arrangement. All was done in thorough concord. Huram rejoiced greatly at the message of Solomon, showing no envy, but joy in the Lord's having given a wise king to rule over Israel (v.7). He responded favorably to Solomon's request, willing to provide cedar and cypress logs for him. Hiram's servants would cut them down, then float them by the sea-coast in rafts (or what we may call "booms") to the port in Israel closest to Jerusalem, where the logs would be separated for transport by land to Jerusalem (vs.8-9). He accepted Solomon's word too that he would provide food for Hiram's household.
This arrangement proceeded well, with cedar and cypress logs being sent by Hiram and Solomon responding with 20,000 kors of wheat and 20 kors of pressed oil every year (v.11) for seven years (ch.6:37-38).
This friendliness between Solomon and Hiram pictures the peace established between Israel and the Gentile nations in the millennium. Gentiles will come to Israel's light and the wealth of the Gentiles will come to Israel (Isa.60:3-5). God knew how to dispose Hiram favorably toward Solomon, and He knows how to change the hearts of other Gentiles from enmity to friendliness toward Israel, as He will in the latter days. Solomon and Hiram made a treaty together. The labor force that Solomon raised from Israel to send to Lebanon was large indeed, involving 30,000 men. The men labored only for one month out of three, for 10,000 went each month and returned for two months. This was wise consideration for the laborers (vs.13-14).
For the building of the temple, Solomon designated 70,000 workers to carry burdens, which would include the transporting of logs from the sea coast to Jerusalem. Also 80,000 were engaged in quarrying stone in the mountains (v.15). It is understood that the caverns from which the stone was quarried are still in existence in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
There is good spiritual instruction for us in all this organization. God knows how to organize His work today without man's organization involved. The workers in the mountains of Lebanon, using axes to cut down trees, speak of evangelists sent by God to cut down the pride of men and thus save them from their sins, so that they might be fit for use in His house. The logs being then committed to the water picture the exercise of faith that is necessary for every convert. The logs may seem heavy enough to sink, but they do not: they float.
The burden bearers had the important work of carrying the logs up to Jerusalem, symbolizing the work of believers who care for the need of new converts, that they might be brought to realize their place in the house of God.
Those who quarried stone had hard underground work in gradually shaping stones that were then built into the temple with no tools being necessary, and no noise (ch.6:7). Typically this is the work of bringing souls from the darkness of their sins, dealing with them to shape their character so as to be fitted in perfectly with the rest of believers as a holy temple in the Lord. This is God's workmanship, but He uses believers to carry out His work.
There were also 3,300 supervisors of the work, which reminds us that God has provided in the Church today, elder men of experience and dependability to help and encourage His saints in the work God appoints.
Large, costly, hewn stones are specially mentioned in verse 17, used in laying the foundation of the building. These do not speak of Christ Himself, for He is the Rock, the bedrock as the foundation of the Church of God (Mt.16:18; 1 Cor.3:11). He was not "hewn," for He is perfect as He is. The hewn stones therefore picture the work of apostles and prophets at the beginning of the Church's history, as Paul says, believers "have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Eph.2:20). God did a special work with these, as Paul's conversion and after-life illustrate. The hewing speaks of His cutting off what was extraneous to make them fit for the use God had for them. They were "costly," for they were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (1 Pet.1:18-19). They were "large," for they were given a place of prime importance in the building of the Church.
As well as Solomon's and Hiram's builders, verse 18 speaks of the Gebalites quarrying stones. There were Gebalites in connection with Edom, Ammon and Moab (Ps.83:6-7), but the Gebalites (or Giblites) in our chapter are more likely those spoken of in Joshua 13:4-5, closer to the Sidonians and to Lebanon.
THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE
The date of the beginning of the temple is given specifically in verse 1 as the 480th year after Israel had left Egypt, which was the 4th year of Solomon's reign, in the month Ziv, the second month of the year (v.1). All that time was required before Israel attained the zenith of their power and splendor. Sadly, it did not last very long - yet it was a fulfillment of God's promise to Israel that He would take Israel from Egypt and establish them in great blessing in the land of promise. The permanent fulfillment of this promise awaits the coming of the Messiah in power and glory, when He will establish Israel in millennial blessing.
The size of the temple was comparatively small, though its splendor was unsurpassed. The temple was 60 by 20 cubits and 30 cubits high (v.2). The vestibule at the front was additional to this, spanning the 20 cubits width and extending ten cubits outward (v.3). The cubit is understood to be between 18 and 22 inches. Surrounding the main building on all sides except the front there were chambers built three stories high, the lower rooms only 5 cubits wide, the middle six cubits and the upper seven cubits (vs.5-6). Their other dimensions are not given.
There was nothing like this in the tabernacle, for the tabernacle symbolizes God's dwelling among a pilgrim people on earth, who had tents rather than any settled dwelling place. The temple pictures the Father's house in heaven. In the temple, however, there could only be a limited number of rooms used by the priests, who were serving in the temple at a given time. But the Lord Jesus says, "In My Father's house are many mansions" (Jn.14:2). Thus the type is only a faint picture of the reality. The Lord is virtually saying there is room for all His redeemed people there. The word for "mansions" is better translated "abodes," permanent dwelling places. All believers will have their place there, for all are priests of God and in glory will function in the full capacity of priests, mainly in offering up spiritual sacrifices to God.
Verse 7 informs us that when the stones were quarried they were completely finished at the quarry, formed to exact size to fit in place, so that no hammer, chisel or other tool was heard in the actual building. This required remarkable skill. It pictures the skill of the Lord Jesus in hewing out sinners from the caverns of sin and fitting them perfectly for use in the house of God He is building today, the Church. The work goes on quietly but effectively, with no fanfare or ostentation. The world over the Lord is adding to the Church daily those who are being saved.
The doorway for the stairs up to the second and third floors was on the right side (v.8). Since no other door for the upstairs is mentioned, it seems that there must have been a hallway on the three sides, connecting all the rooms. Each of the rooms was 5 cubits high (v.10), though their length is not mentioned.
The temple inside was paneled with beams and boards of cedar (v.9). The tabernacle was built of acacia boards (Ex.26:15). Acacia is a hard, desert wood and speaks of humanity in temporary circumstances of desert experience. Those boards picture believers as they are seen even now "in Christ" for they were covered with gold. But the cedar of the temple, a specially enduring wood, speaks of believers in glory, in the Father's house, also clothed with gold, the symbol of divine glory, reflecting the beauty of Christ for eternity, not only on earth.
While the temple was still in building, God spoke to Solomon, telling him seriously that God's dwelling in the temple would be conditional upon Solomon's obedience to God's statutes, his executing God's judgments and keeping His commandments (vs.11-13). How different this is to the fact that the Church of God is now established as "a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Eph.2:21-22). God's presence in the Church is not conditional on our obedience, but is based upon the permanent value of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, a divine work, with no condition of man's work involved at all.
Neither Solomon personally nor his family nor his subjects fulfilled the conditions God set down, so that eventually God withdrew from the temple. Ezekiel records the glory departing in stages (Ezek.8:4; 9:3; 10:18; 11:23). God did bear long with Israel's disobedience, but eventually, as the Lord Jesus said, "Your house is left to you desolate" (Mt.23:38). This was solemnly finalized when the Lord Jesus, the Son over God's house, was rejected and crucified. What could the temple be without its Lord?
The inside walls of the temple were built of cedar from the floor to the ceiling, and the floor with planks of cypress (v.15). Cypress is a hard, durable wood of fragrant smell. Cedar is not so hard but just as durable.
The inner sanctuary also had walls of cedar and was 20 cubits in all three dimensions (vs.16, 20). This was 10 cubits less in height than the temple proper, but nothing is said as to what was done with the other ten cubits. The outer sanctuary was twice the size of the inner, being 40 cubits long and the same width and height. These are the same proportions as are seen in the tabernacle (Ex.26:15-32).
The cedar walls were carved with ornamental buds and open flowers (v.18). Of course these would be visible through the overlaying gold. These buds and flowers are a reminder of resurrection life, just as in eternity the Father's house will portray the wonderful joy and beauty of the resurrection of Christ, a life vibrant and eternal.
Then the inner sanctuary was prepared as a place for the ark. This was the only article of furniture inside the holiest of all. It speaks of Christ as the Sustainer of the throne of God, for the mercy-seat covering the ark symbolizes God's throne, which is not only a throne of justice and authority, but a throne of grace or of mercy, from which God's mercy is dispensed to those in need (Heb.4:16).
The inner sanctuary was a cube, 20 cubits in length, breadth and height (v.20). This is beautifully symbolic of the Trinity. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The unity and equality of each member of the Trinity is pictured in this. We cannot say that the Father is part of God, nor the Son or the Spirit are part of God. The cube tells us that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God; for it could not be said that the length is part of the cube, the width also a part and the height a part. Every point within the cube is comprehended in the length, also in the width and in the height. If one dimension is taken away, nothing is left. Thus, while God is a triune Being, the oneness of the Godhead is also emphasized.
The sanctuary was overlaid with pure gold, and the cedar altar also (v.20). This was evidently the same altar as mentioned in verse 22 which was placed in the outer sanctuary next to the inner sanctuary. This altar was for offering incense. It pictures Christ as the Sustainer of the worship of His people. The altar of burnt offering was outside, for on this were offered the many animals, all of them speaking of the value of the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary for us. Now, being raised from the dead, He "dieth no more," but He receives worship.
Having overlaid the inside of the temple with pure gold, Solomon also had gold chains stretched across the front of the inner sanctuary. The gold chains were evidently in addition to the doors (v.31). The veil also was in place there, for chapter 8:4 tells us that all the holy furnishings of the tabernacle were brought to the temple; and of course at the time of the death of the Lord Jesus, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. Gold speaks of the beauty of the glory of God, for the temple was His dwelling.
Also, in the inner sanctuary were two cherubim carved from olive wood. The olive is symbolic of Christ from whom the Spirit of God (the oil) is sent from the Father (Jn.15:26). These were also covered with gold (v.28). Their size was large, with their wings stretched sideways, each measuring 10 cubits from wing tip to wing tip. Being side by side, their inside wings touched each other and the outside wings touched the wall on either side, thus spanning the whole width of 20 cubits. The cherubim symbolize the government of God. Since there were two this reminds us of the perfect balance of God's government, involving both justice and grace which are equally important (vs.22-27).
Besides this all the walls of both the inner and outer sanctuary were carved with figures of cherubim, palm trees and open flowers. The number of these is not mentioned, nor the size of the cherubim. Likely they were smaller than the first two mentioned. But God was thus insisting on His government of grace and truth, which people too easily forget. The palm trees speak of Christ who bears fruit with unfailing consistency. The open flowers picture the mature beauty (not buds) of the Lord Jesus. Thus we see the four principles that are of paramount importance if God was to dwell there - grace, truth, fruitfulness and beauty.
Doors of olive wood were made for the entrance to the inner sanctuary (v.31). There were two of these doors and they also had carvings of figures of cherubim, palm trees and open flowers (v.32). In the tabernacle there were no doors, but only a veil, because the tabernacle was temporary as God's dwelling while Israel were journeying in the wilderness; but in the temple there were evidently doors as well as the veil.
There were also doors by which to enter into the outer sanctuary The posts for these were made of olive wood (v.33), but the doors themselves of cypress (v.34). These two had carvings of cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, all overlaid with gold (v.35).
The court surrounding the temple was fenced with three rows of hewn stone and a row of cedar beams (v.36). It may be difficult to envision just what is meant by this, and the spiritual significance of it may be just as difficult to discern.
Seven years were required for the building to be completed. This may seem a long time when so large a number of workmen were engaged in the work, but there had to be painstaking labor involved in the great detail of the work, for the temple pictures the Father's house in glory.
THREE MORE HOUSES
Only one verse speaks of Solomon's own house, which took 13 years to build. However, the order of that house is seen in chapter 10:4-5. This is typical of the Church of God today, of which the Lord says, "On this Rock I will build My Church" (Mt.16:18). It is interesting that when Solomon's house is spoken of in 1 Kings 10:4-5, there is special mention made of "his ascent by which he went up to the house of the Lord" (KJV). This speaks symbolically of the Rapture, when the Lord will take the Church from her present circumstances in "the house of God" to the Father's house in glory.
However, "the house of the forest of Lebanon" is described for us in detail. It was much larger than the temple, though not as elaborate and costly. This house was the place of judgment and administration of Solomon's kingdom. It therefore speaks of the administration of the earthly kingdom of the Lord Jesus in the millennium, the 1000 years of His reign of righteousness and peace.
This building was not overlaid with gold, for gold speaks of the nature of God, and the house of the forest of Lebanon speaks of the government of God. Thus, cedar wood was prominent in this (vs.2-3) for cedar is an enduring wood, telling us therefore that the government of the Lord Jesus will be stable and enduring throughout the entire 1000 years. Many pillars were in this house, though only 2 are seen at the entrance of the temple.
There were windows in this building (vs.4-5), though not in the temple, for government looks out to consider the welfare of the people, while in the temple everything speaks of God's glory, with no outward vision at all. In this house of the forest of Lebanon a hall called the Hall of Judgment was built, where Solomon's throne was set (v.7). This was totally paneled with cedar.
It is briefly mentioned in verse 8 that the house Solomon had built for himself to dwell in had a court inside the hall similar to that in the house of the forest of Lebanon. If government is emphasized in the house of the forest of Lebanon as applying to the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus, there is also government necessary in connection with the house of God, the Church, today. Thus, 1 Peter 4:17 tells us, "The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
Another house also is mentioned in verse 8. Solomon made this for Pharaoh's daughter whom he married. This was the beginning of Solomon's downfall as regards his relationship with women, for he soon married many others (ch.11:1-3). Yet God used even Solomon's failure to illustrate the blessing of Gentiles in the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus. The house built for Pharaoh's daughter reminds us that in that kingdom the submissive Gentile nations will have dwelling too.
All of these houses were built of costly stones (v.9), illustrating the great cost to the Lord Jesus to bring Gentiles to Himself as well as Israel, by means of His great sacrifice at Calvary. The foundation was of hewn stones and the court was enclosed with these also. Being hewn speaks of the work of the Spirit of God in separating people from the caverns of sin in which they were in bondage and cutting them down to a suitable size to fit into God's building. We today need this purging work of the Spirit of God; Israel and believing Gentiles in the Millennium will need it too.
THE MASTER CRAFTSMAN
The Lord had prepared an appropriate overseer for the work Solomon required. His father was of Tyre, but he was the son of an Israelitish woman of the tribe of Naphtali. King Solomon sent and brought this man, Huram, from Tyre (v.13). His name was the same as the King of Tyre. In verse 24 we are told only that he was a skilled worker in bronze, or copper. In 2 Chronicles 2:13-14 much more is said about him as being "skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, purple and blue, fine linen and crimson, and to make any engraving and to accomplish any plan that may be given him."
We sometimes hear of a man who is "a jack of all trades, master of none," but here was a man who was a master of all trades. Certainly there would be nobody else who could approach his capabilities. God had specially prepared him for the purpose of building the temple. We surely see in him a picture of the Holy Spirit of God who is perfectly skilled in every detail of the work of building God's house.
TWO COPPER PILLARS
The magnificence of the temple was enhanced by two great pillars of copper at the entrance, each measuring 18 cubits (27 feet) high and 12 cubits (18 feet) in circumference (v.15). If these were solid copper their weight must have been tremendous. In fact, they would be remarkably strong if they were hollow with only 4 inch thick walls. But nothing is said concerning this. Even the capitals placed on top of the pillars were 5 cubits (7.5 feet) high, and these were ornamented with a lattice network of chains (v.17). Besides this two rows of pomegranates formed of copper were used as ornaments, and the capitals were in the shape of lilies. The pomegranates (full of seeds) speak of the abundant fruitfulness of the work of God, while the lilies speak of the beauty of God's work (vs.18-20).
The pillars were named Jachin (on the right) and Boaz (on the left) of the entry (v.21). Jachin means "He shall establish." This is a promise that God will eventually establish His house for it was not to be established then. Indeed, that house was later destroyed because of Israel's unfaithfulness, but God's promise as to the future remains. Boaz means "in Him is strength." If the weakness of Israel led to ruin and failure, the Lord Jesus is still the strong One who will accomplish the will of God in perfection. This work of erecting the pillars was no small project, and must have occupied some time.
THE COPPER SEA
The Sea was a large pool made of cast copper, ten cubits (15 feet) in diameter. This took the place of the laver in the tabernacle service (Ex.30:17-21). It was 5 cubits high as well as being placed on 12 oxen, evidently of copper also, three facing in each direction, with their backs pointed inwards (vs.23-25). Thus, if the oxen were 4 or 5 feet in height, the top of the sea would be 11 or 12 feet high. This was placed outside the temple between the large copper altar and the temple door. It contained 3000 baths (about 8000 gallons) of water (2 Chron.4:5), and was used by the priests for washing in (2 Chron.4:6). There must have been steps up to the Sea, but nothing is said about this.
The copper altar tells us there must be cleansing by the blood of Christ from the guilt of sin before one can enter the temple; but the Sea adds to this the cleansing by water, speaking of moral cleansing by the application of God's Word to our hearts and consciences.
CARTS AND LAVERS
The priests washed their hands and feet in the Sea, but there were also ten carts which each sustained a laver for washing the animals of sacrifice. These could be moved around, but five carts were on the right side of the temple and live on the left side. The carts were made of copper also, thus the holiness of God being emphasized in all the outside furnishings, while the inside emphasized the glory of God (the gold).
On the panels of the carts were lions, oxen and cherubim (v.29). In Revelation 4:7 we read of four living creatures, one like a lion, another like a calf (or ox), one having the face of a man and the last like a flying eagle. In our chapter the cherubim takes the place of man and the flying eagle is omitted. This is likely because the eagle speaks of the swift execution of God's judgment, and there will be no such thing in the millennial kingdom. The lion speaks of strength, the ox, of service and the cherubim of intelligent government, all of these being important in the future kingdom of Christ.
The number of carts with these lavers (10) was necessary for the large number of animals that must be washed before being offered. At the dedication of the temple, 22,000 bulls and 120,000 sheep were offered! (ch.8:63). How good it is to know that the offering of the Lord Jesus has canceled all those Old Testament offerings (Heb.10:1-14). But those many offerings do draw attention to the fact that an infinitely great sacrifice must eventually be offered if the sins of mankind were to be atoned for.
The number 10 speaks of human responsibility (as the 10 commandments), and man's ability or responsibility is today set aside by God's sovereign work in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The four wheels on each cart (v.30) speak of what is earthly and transitory, four being the number of earth's directions, north, east, west and south.
All the sacrificial animals needed washing to symbolize the purity of the Lord Jesus. He was absolutely pure in His nature and needed no washing. He "offered Himself without spot to God" (Heb.9:14). Wonderful sacrifice indeed!
RECAP OF TEMPLE FURNISHINGS
In 2 Chronicles, though Hiram is said to be an expert in all manner of work, it is Solomon, not Hiram, who is given the credit for all the building of the temple. Here in 2 Kings 7:40-45 the work is said to be that of Hiram, at least all the bronze (or copper) work. Whether this is implied from verse 48 to 51 does not seem clear, but the summary of all the copper work in verses 40-47 impresses us with the great value of all this. The weight of the copper was not even determined because it was so great (v.47). Indeed) who can put any estimation on the holiness of God?
From verse 48 to 50 the inner furnishings are spoken of, all of which were either pure gold or covered with gold. The incense altar and the table were evidently the same as in the tabernacle, but instead of only one lampstand with seven lamps on the left side of the outer sanctuary, there were five lampstands on the right and five on the left. How many lamps each of these held we are not told. But at least this signifies that the light will be greatly multiplied in the Father's house.
When the work was finished, then Solomon had the many things David had dedicated brought into the treasuries of the house of the Lord (v.51). David had been a sufferer, reminding us of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus before the day of His reigning in glory. The remembrance of those days of His suffering will never be forgotten when we enjoy the glorious circumstances of the Father's house. We shall always have fond remembrance of the entire path of the Lord Jesus on earth and of His marvelous sacrifice of Calvary.
THE ARK AND TABERNACLE FURNITURE
The temple being completed, there was one matter of importance remaining. Thus, for the bringing of the ark to the temple Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and the heads of tribes (v.1). The ark is the symbol of Christ as the Sustainer of the throne of God (the mercy seat), and it had dwelt in tents for many years, speaking of Christ being a Sojourner with His people until the day when He will take His rightful throne in the millennial kingdom.
It was at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh month that the ark was carried by the priests into the temple (vs.2-3). This feast itself pictures the peace of the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus. Together with the ark, all the tabernacle furnishings were brought to the temple (v.4). This teaches us that all the lessons of the tabernacle are incorporated into the advanced teachings of the temple. Nothing was to be lost. The veil is not mentioned here, but 2 Chronicles 3:14 speaks of the veil being made of the same materials as the veil in the tabernacle, though of course the veil in the temple would be larger.
The occasion of the ark being brought into the temple is the last we read of the ark in the Old Testament except in Jeremiah 3:16, "They will say no more, 'the ark of the covenant of the Lord.' It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall it be made any more." Thus, the ark, though it was of greatest significance in Israel when it was made, was only symbolical of Christ, and the symbol must vanish away while the One of whom it speaks remains eternally in all the excellence of His beauty and glory.
At this time Solomon, together with the people, offered sheep and oxen in such great numbers that they could not be counted (v.5). This seems amazing, but it is typical of the great work of grace that God will accomplish among His redeemed people when the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus is established, for it pictures the appreciation of the people in remembering the one great sacrifice of the Lord Jesus at Calvary Their praise will be virtually unceasing.
The priests then brought the ark into the holiest of all, placing it under the wings of the cherubim that were engraved on the wall (v.6). Thus the cherubim, with their wings, overshadowed the ark and its poles (v.7). The poles were permanently placed so as to be seen in the holy place as a permanent reminder of the Lord Jesus having been a Sojourner with His people until the day of His reigning in glory (v.8).
At this time only the two tablets of stone were in the ark (v.9). The Lord Jesus has said, "Your law is within My heart" (Ps.40:8). In His heart the law was safely kept. The golden pot of manna and Aaron's rod that budded were put in the ark as a provision of grace when Israel failed to keep the law. But the New Covenant (Jer.31:3134) will have nothing to do with Israel's obedience or disobedience, for it will be God's sovereign work in blessing to Israel. Thus the provision for cases of disobedience will 110 longer be emphasized, but the sovereign work of God in grace. In Christ Israel will see the covenant perfectly kept.
Having placed the ark in the holiest of all, the priests came out, and immediately the cloud of God's glory filled the house of the Lord (v.10). Thus God was indicating His presence in approving of the temple as His dwelling place among Israel. At that time the priests could not minister in the temple (v.11). The glory of the Lord was paramount, and man's work must then cease.
Solomon's words, however confirmed the truth of God's dwelling. He said "The Lord said He would dwell in the dark cloud. I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever" (vs.12-13). How good for us to learn well the lesson that since Israel was still under law, God dwelt in thick darkness. Though in very nature "God is light," yet Israel did not see Him revealed in light. In the New Testament we are told that "He is in the light" (1 Jn.1:7), for He is now revealed in the person of His Son. How wonderful is the difference for us!
SOLOMON'S ADDRESS TO ISRAEL
In dedicating the temple Solomon addressed the people briefly before praying publicly at length to God. He blessed the people (v.14) and ascribed to God the blessedness of fulfilling His word to David in giving David's son the wisdom and ability to accomplish the work of building the temple (v.15). Solomon realized that it was God who put into David's heart a desire to build the temple, but though God approved of David's desire, He did not allow him to do this (vs.15-19), but told him his son would do the building.
Solomon took pleasure in recognizing that God had both promised and carried out His promise in having Solomon build the temple. Solomon had not conceived this project, but God had, and Solomon simply obeyed the Word of the Lord in building the temple and thus providing a place for the ark which contained the covenant the Lord had made with Israel when He brought them out of Egypt (vs.20-21).
Solomon's prayer at this time is fully quoted, for it was to be kept always in Israel's memory. He spoke in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and addressed God as "the Lord God of Israel." How much more full and precious are the prayers of the New Testament epistles, such as Ephesians 1:17, addressed to "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory." Such a prayer goes far beyond the scope of the one nation, Israel, so that it centers our thoughts, not on the blessing of a nation, but on the one great source of blessing, the Lord Jesus Christ.
"But," Solomon adds, "will God indeed dwell on the earth?" David realized that God's dwelling in the darkness of the holy place did not by any means infer that God was confined there. In fact, "heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You" (v.27). God is infinite (unlimited) and omnipresent (present everywhere), yet in pure grace He specially signified the temple as the place of His dwelling in order to concentrate Israel's thoughts on Him as the Center of all Israel's interests.
Solomon pleads with God to regard his prayer and supplication, which is voiced particularly on behalf of Israel whose interests were centered in the temple in Jerusalem (v.28), the place in which God had said He would place His name (v.29).
The first thing he prays for, both as to himself and the people, is forgiveness (v.30). He knew they were not worthy of God's consideration and unless God forgave them for their sin they would be left desolate. If one sinned against his neighbor and there was any question about the matter, so that the accused offender was put on oath as regards this guilt or innocence, then Solomon asks that God would hear and intervene, absolving the innocent and condemning the guilty (vs.31-32). Because people may be guilty of swearing falsely, Solomon prayed that God would intervene to settle such cases.
Solomon entertained no false hopes that Israel would never be defeated by enemies. He does not say "If," but "When Your people are defeated before an enemy because they have sinned against You, and they burn back to You and confess Your name, and pray and make supplication to You in this temple" (v.33). Many times it was true that Israel was defeated by their enemies because they had sinned against God, so that Solomon's prayer is really prophetic. He asked that God would hear Israel's repentant prayer and restore them by His grace (v.34).
Withholding rain would be another infliction sent by God because of Israel's sin. Again, if this discipline resulted in the repentance of Israel, Solomon prayed that God would hear their prayer, forgive their sin and send rain (vs.35-36).
There would also be occasions of famine, pestilence, blight or mildew, infestations of locusts or grasshoppers. God would send these to draw attention to the plague of sin in the hearts of individuals (vs.37-38), and if this produced self-judgment so that people would pray toward the temple, recognizing God's glory, then Solomon would expect the Lord to hear in heaven and forgive and act in grace toward each individual as He discerned their need (v.39). This forgiveness would instill in hearts a wholesome fear of God (v.40).
Solomon considers also a foreigner in his prayer. If the foreigner had come to Israel because of hearing of the greatness of the God of Israel, then Solomon considered him entitled to be heard when he prayed toward the temple, and asked that God would answer the foreigner's prayer (vs.41-43).
In cases where Israel went out to battle and they prayed to the Lord toward Jerusalem and the temple, then Solomon also asks the Lord to hear their prayer and maintain their cause (vs.44-45).
Again, in verse 46, Solomon says, "When they sin against You," not "If" and God in anger delivers them into an enemy's hand, so that they are carried captive, then they repent and supplicate the Lord, he asked that God may hear in heaven and forgive them. This section (vs.46-53) has direct bearing on Israel's condition at the present time, having grievously sinned against God in rejecting His beloved Son, and therefore carried away into other lands. Solomon likely did not realize that a dispersion would last for centuries, as it has.
One captivity of Judah lasted for 70 years, but in answer to prayer when many were brought down to repentance, God restored them to their land (2 Chron.36:20-23). But their present dispersion has lasted for nearly 2000 years, which shows the stubbornness of the human heart, but God will yet work in the hearts of at least a remnant of Israel to cause them to be broken down in repentance and pray earnestly for His restoring mercy. Then He will answer according to the goodness of His heart.
God will indeed then grant them compassion before their enemies who will show compassion to those they have previously persecuted. Solomon pled with God on the basis that the children of Israel were God's people, God's inheritance, whom He had brought out of Egypt (v.51). Though Israel's failures were great, yet Solomon had confidence that God would not give them up. He had in fact separated them from all the peoples of the earth as His inheritance, and this sanctification would not be allowed to come to nothing (v.53). God had spoken of this to Moses, and God's Word will certainly be fulfilled.
SOLOMON BLESSES ISRAEL
After interceding with God, Solomon is free to bless the people, for their blessing is dependent on the pure grace of God for which Solomon had prayed. He spoke with a loud voice so the people would hear (vs.54-55). But he begins by blessing the Lord who had given rest to Israel from all their wars, acknowledging that "There has not failed one word of all His great promise which He promised through His servant Moses" (v.56). How good that the people were reminded of the perfect faithfulness of God to His word, and if we too remember that He has proven Himself true to us in all our history on earth.
In verses 57-58 Solomon expresses the desire the Lord would be with Israel as He had been with their fathers, inclining their hearts to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments. He desired too that the Lord might well remember the words of Solomon's prayer, that Israel might be blessed and that all nations on earth might have this witness that the Lord is God, the only God (vs.59-60).
He concludes his blessing by pleading with Israel to be loyal to the Lord God, walking in His statutes and keeping His commandments. Such exhortations are multiplied throughout the Old Testament, but these did not keep Israel from disobedience. They needed what is revealed in the New Testament - a true knowledge of Christ and the value of His sacrifice.
THE DEDICATION OF THE TEMPLE
The dedication of the temple required sacrifice, just as anything dedicated to the Lord must be accompanied by sacrifice, as was true even in the case of the Lord Jesus when consecrated to God soon after His birth (Lk.2:22-24). The sacrifice then spoke of His own sacrifice, which is infinitely more valuable than 22,000 bulls and 120,000 sheep. These were peace offerings, speaking of the fellowship between God and the people accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ, making the way clear for God to dwell with mankind, as the temple illustrates. When these were offered, the house was dedicated (v.63). At the same tune Solomon consecrated the middle of the court for the offering of these sacrifices, because they were too many to offer on the copper altar.
Following the dedication Solomon held a feast for the blessing of Israel, apparently announced for seven days, but increased to fourteen days. Thus their joy at this time was remarkably sustained, and when the people were sent away, they blessed the king and returned home with joyful hearts, thankful for the goodness of the Lord to Israel. This was the high point of Israel's splendor and glory, for that glory soon deteriorated and will never be regained until the Lord Jesus takes His place as King Of Israel, then the latter glory of this house will be greater than the former (Hag. 2:9).
GOD APPEARING AGAIN TO SOLOMON
The Lord had appeared to Solomon before he built the temple (ch.3:5), now at its completion the Lord appears again to him. There was a danger of Solomon's being puffed up with pride because he was so greatly blessed as the king of the most illustrious nation on earth and had built the most magnificent building that has ever been built. Thus, the appearance of the Lord to him was necessary to give him a sober and subdued realization that he was only a servant of the God of Israel.
God assured Solomon that He had heard his prayer (v.3) and had consecrated the temple as His earthly dwelling, so that His eyes and His heart would be there perpetually. The significance of this consecration of the temple is tremendous. Jerusalem was established as the center of all God's dealings on earth because the temple there is the dwelling of God. Though at the present time the temple is no longer standing, yet the Lord's eyes remain there in perpetuity. He will eventually restore the temple.
The Lord's promise to Solomon at this time is however conditional on Solomon's walking before the Lord in integrity of heart, keeping God's commandments, His statutes and judgments. If Solomon did so, then God would establish his kingdom over Israel forever, and he would not fail to have a descendant to sit on the throne of Israel.
If Solomon or his sons turned from God's commandments, however, and descended to the level of worshiping false gods, God promised just as firmly that He would cut off Israel from the land He had given them and would bring the temple down to nothing, so that other nations would consider Israel with contempt, asking why the Lord had done such a thing to His people. The answer would be given them that Israel was guilty of forsaking the Lord after having been so greatly blessed by Him. Turning away to serve other gods, they brought such a calamity on themselves (vs.6-9).
These verses (6-9) are clearly prophetic of what would happen to Israel, to Jerusalem and the temple. For centuries now Israel has continued in a condition of disobedience to God and have forfeited all right to ever have a king descended from Solomon. In fact, though Solomon is in the official genealogy of Christ (Mt.1:6-7), yet Christ actually descended through Nathan, the son of David (1 Ki.3:31). Thus God's promise to Israel stands, but apart from Solomon's line, except that officially Christ is Messiah through Joseph, who was not actually His father. The wisdom of God is clearly and beautifully seen in considering the genealogy of Matthew which begins with Abraham and ends with Christ's being the official son of Joseph; and comparing this with the genealogy in Luke which proceeds backward from Joseph to Adam. In this the genealogy is different, indicating that Joseph is only mentioned because he was the husband of Mary, the genealogy therefore being actually that of Mary.
GIFTS BETWEEN SOLOMON AND HIRAM
Solomon finished building his houses in 20 years, and in appreciation of Hiram's great help in furnishing lumber and gold for the temple, Solomon gave Hiram 20 cities in the land of Galilee (vs.10-11). These cities were not pleasing to Hiram., however (v.12), and he let Solomon know that they were less than pleasing, though he did not apparently refuse them, but only asked, "What kind of cities are these which you have given me, my brother?" (vs.11-12). He named them "Cabul" which means "good for nothing."
Solomon certainly did not have God's approval in giving away these cities, for the Lord had said before, "The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me" (Lev.25:23). Solomon had no right to give away the least part of the land, for it did not belong to him: it belongs to God. Can we today give away any part of the inheritance God has given to believers "in heavenly places"? Primarily the inheritance belongs to the Lord Jesus, who graciously shares it with us (Eph.1:9-11). We have no liberty to dispense with any part of it.
Hiram's displeasure with the cities illustrates the fact that unbelievers cannot understand nor appreciate the preciousness of the spiritual blessings with which believers are blessed "in heavenly places in Christ." The religious world will use such truths from the Word of God in order to boast about their religious character, but they do not value them as vital and necessary for proper living.
Hiram however, being the head of a prosperous maritime nation, could afford to be generous, just as the United States has in past years been lavish in giving or lending to other nations. Hiram gave Solomon 120 talents of gold (v.14). Of course Solomon had paid well for all the help Israel had received from Hiram in their building program. But unbelievers do not want to appear under any obligation to believers, just as believers should not put themselves under obligation to unbelievers.
FURTHER ADMINISTRATIVE DEALINGS
In verse 15 we are told of a labor force that Solomon raised for building the temple, his own house, the Millo (a citadel, possibly a tower in the fortifications of Jerusalem), the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. These were areas that evidently needed repair, for Gezer is specially mentioned as having been captured from the Canaanites by Pharaoh king of Egypt, giving the city as a dowry to his daughter, whom Solomon married (v.16). Added to Gezer were Lower Beth Horon, Baalath and Tadmore, spoken of as a storage cities for Solomon's chariots, his cavalry and other branches of his wealthy administration (vs.17-18).
Israel had not expelled all the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites from the land, and those who were left Solomon conscripted as forced labor (vs.20-21). Thus he had full control of the country. When the Lord Jesus takes His kingdom, there will be those from the nations who will submit to Him in spite of not having genuine faith (Ps.18:43-45).
Israelites, on the other hand, were free men, not forced laborers (v.22), just as believers today serve the Lord in willing-hearted obedience, whether in conflict or whatever service. Some of Solomon's servants were men of war, officers or captains, commanders of his chariots and of his cavalry. 550 others were officials over Solomon's work.
Why was Solomon not satisfied to have his Egyptian wife come to stay with him in his house? Instead he built a house for her. The reason he gives for this is seen in 2 Chronicles 8:11, "My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places to which the ark of the Lord has come are holy." This was formally correct, for she was a foreigner, but it shows clearly that Solomon was not morally correct in marrying her, for they could not live a normal married life.
The Millo then is spoken of as being built. This was evidently a citadel, a tower in the fortifications of Jerusalem. Solomon fortified his kingdom against the possible attacks of enemies, but he had already entertained the enemy in his kingdom by marrying an Egyptian woman!
Solomon did not at first leave God out, in fact he offered burnt offerings and peace offerings three times a year and burned incense (v.25). It is sadly true that he gradually became more and more uncaring as regards the commandments of the Lord, for his great wisdom did not protect him from evil. Yet his kingdom prospered tremendously. He built a fleet of ships near Elath on the shores of the Red Sea that he might transport valuable goods from other countries to Israel (v.26). Hiram joined him in this project by sending experienced seamen, since Tyre was a prominent sea trading country. It was not a long distance to go to Ophir, in Saudi Arabia, where, at that time, there was much gold, though now, it is reported, no gold is to be fond there at all. Perhaps Solomon obtained all the gold that was there, the amount being 420 talents, which amounts to 55,000 pounds! Having such wealth, why did he tax the people so heavily? (1 Ki.12:4).
THE VISIT OF THE QUEEN OF SHEBA
News of Solomon's greatness spread through the nations. It was not however his greatness itself that impressed the Queen of Sheba, but his fame concerning the name of the Lord (v.1). Solomon pictures the Lord Jesus in His great splendor of reigning in the millennium, and the Queen of Sheba indicates the interest of at least some nations awakened at that time to come to inquire of One so renowned for His wisdom.
At the same time the Queen of Sheba is a picture of any stranger at any time who is awakened to desire to learn more of the Lord Jesus. When she heard the report, then she came to test Solomon with hard questions. There are many hard questions of a spiritual nature that trouble people, and their wisest course is to bring them directly to the Lord Jesus who knows the answer to any question worth asking.
Being a wealthy woman, she came with a great entourage which included spices, gold and precious stones (v.2). This reminds us of Isaiah's prophecy that in the millennium the wealth of the Gentiles will be willingly brought to the Lord Jesus (Isa.60:5-7).
She spoke with Solomon about all that was in her heart. This was frank, open-hearted communion. if there is such simple honesty in seeking the Lord's presence and His counsel, the results for us will be fully as satisfying as the results were for the Queen of Sheba. Solomon answered all of her questions, for there was nothing too difficult for him (v.3). In this he pictures the Lord Jesus, though his wisdom was far inferior to that of the Lord, who can answer far deeper questions than the Queen of Sheba asked, such as, how to be sure our sins are forgiven, how to deal with our inherent sinful nature, and many other questions that are raised in the New Testament, which Solomon did not have and could not have answered in his day.
Only when the Queen of Sheba had come and communed with Solomon was she privileged to "see" his wisdom. If people object to the things of God by saying, "I don't see that," all they need to do is come to the Lord and they wilt see. The Queen of Sheba saw Solomon's wisdom particularly in the house he had built. Today the Lord is not building a material house, but "a spiritual house" (1 Pet.2:5) composed of all believers of the present age, and we might all well be impressed by the wisdom of His great love in fitting each believer into the Church of God. We are God's workmanship individually (Eph.2:10), but also collectively, as the Lord Jesus says, "On this Rock I will build My Church" (Mt.16:18).
What the Queen of Sheba saw inside the house was equally impressive: "the food of his table." His provision for one day is told us in chapter 4:22-23 - an amazing amount. The provision of the Lord Jesus for His Church is also more than sufficient, not only in quantity, but in its wonderful quality, for Christ Himself is "the bread of life" to fully satisfy every hungry heart.
"The seating of his servants" is mentioned before service, for the Lord first seats us in godly order to receive instruction before serving. Then "the service of his waiters" is noticed. The order in this service must have been wisely planned too, and believers today will serve well when they do so in subjection to the authority of the Lord Jesus.
"Their apparel" was fitting for the presence of the king. Scripture tells us what is the clothing of believers: "Of Him are you in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God - and righteousness and sanctification and redemption" (1 Cor.1:30). This is a lovely answer to the prayer of the Psalmist, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us" (Ps.90:17).
Also impressive to the Queen of Sheba was "his entryway (or ascent) by which he (Solomon) went up to the house of the Lord" (v.5). We know of no record of what this ascent was like, but its spiritual significance is more important, for it speaks of the truth of the Lord's ascension to glory and connected with this the coming of the Lord to transfer His saints to their heavenly home. Solomon's own house speaks of the Church in its order on earth, but the temple (the house of the Lord) symbolizes the Father's house (Jn.14:2).
When we understand all these things connected with the order of the Church of God while on earth and also the marvelous truth of the Rapture so near now to be accomplished, we might well be overwelmed with wonder, just as was true of the Queen of Sheba: "there was no more spirit in her" (v.5).
Appropriately therefore her lips were opened in a lovely confession of faith, "It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. However, I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame of which I heard" (vs.6-7). If we have had any true contact with the Lord Jesus, surely we shall be similarly affected to respond to Him in adoring appreciation.
Adding to her appreciation of Solomon's wisdom, the Queen of Sheba expressed her unselfish appreciation of the happiness of Solomon's servants in being privileged to stand continually in his presence to hear his wisdom (v.8). She shows no envy in her speaking of the Lord delighting in Solomon and setting him on the throne of Israel. She expressed her genuine joy in Solomon and in Israel (v.9). This will be the attitude of those nations in the millennium who have been born again. Through the ages the Gentile nations have been resentful against Israel because God has chosen them as His earthly people, but there is no doubt that the Queen of Sheba had actually been born of God, so that her attitude was beautifully affected by this.
Besides her words of appreciation, she expressed this by giving to Solomon 120 talents of gold, spices in great quantity and precious stones (v.10). She was not paying Solomon for anything, but voluntarily giving which is a picture of a believer giving to the Lord the willing worship of his heart. The gold, amounting of 15,700 pounds'. speaks of the glory of God, that which is the first consideration in worship. The spices, also a great amount, picture the fragrances of the Lord Jesus, whose entire life, His death and resurrection were wonderfully fragrant to the nostrils of God. The precious stones symbolize the fruit of the Spirit with their many colors reflected by the light that shines upon them. Thus our worship is simply our thankful, glad response to the working of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in our hearts.
Verses 11 and 12 are a parenthesis, showing both a comparison and a contrast to the gifts of the Queen of Sheba. Her gifts showed lovely personal affection, a most valuable presentation. But the ships of Hiram brought great amounts of almug trees and precious stones from Ophir. The almug trees were used to make steps (or a balustrade) both for the house of the Lord and the king's house, and also for making harps and other stringed instruments. Servants of Solomon brought this wood, used for the support (the balustrades) and the joy (the music) of the people. Thus Israel will be supported and rejoicing in the coming kingdom of the Lord Jesus. They will surely thank God for His sustaining grace and for the joy He gives them. But what the Queen of Sheba gave speaks more of the joy that is given to the Lord from devoted hearts. The precious stones, speaking of the fruit of the Spirit of God, will not be lacking in the servants of God in the millennial kingdom, even in those who are not as fully devoted as some others are.
The Queen of Sheba did not lose by giving so much to Solomon, for his grace exceeded hers, just as the grace of the Lord Jesus is exceedingly abundant (1 Tim.1:14). Solomon gave her all she desired of him, and much more (v.13). How true are the words of Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart."
With a full and satisfied heart the Queen of Sheba returned to her own country. Thus, one who has learned of Christ returns to his own circumstances, but surely with a changed attitude that desires to tell others of Him.
SOLOMON'S WEALTH AND WISDOM
We are told now of the amazing wealth of the kingdom of Solomon simply because this is symbolical of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus in the millennium. Every year 666 talents of gold came to him, that is 87,245 pounds! (v.14). This did not include the gold brought in by traveling merchants and traders and that which was sent by the kings of Arabia and from the governors of the country (v.15). Solomon made 200 large shields of hammered gold, each weighing 3 minas of gold (6 pounds) and put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon. This was symbolical of the protection of his kingdom in its administration.
Also in the same place was his amazingly unique throne, made of ivory and overlaid with gold (v.18). Six steps led up to the throne, which was rounded at the back and having arm rests on either side, while beside the arm rests were two lions. But added to this were two lions on each of the six steps, that is, 12 lions (v.20). These were included as part of the throne, because we are told the throne had six steps, therefore all of these steps and lions were overlaid with gold. Nothing like this was true of any other kingdom. The gold speaks of the glory of God which will indeed be paramount in the glorious high throne of the Lord Jesus in His kingdom. His reign of great prosperity will be altogether for God's glory.
All of Solomon's drinking vessels and all the vessels in the House of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold (v.21). Not only will Christ's authority be for God's glory, but the provision He makes for the people in the kingdom will also glorify God, even in regard to what they drink. Silver was not used because of its relatively less value. Silver speaks of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, putting emphasis on the great work He has accomplished for us. But Christ personally is greater than His work.
The friendship of Hiram was valuable to Solomon, for he profited by the sea-faring knowledge of Hiram's fleet of ships which Solomon's ships accompanied on trips to bring back gold, silver, ivory, apes and monkeys (v.22). Thus Solomon's riches and wisdom surpassed that of all the kings of the earth (v.23). From every direction also people came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and they came always with gifts, silver, gold, garments, armor, spices, horses and mules. This indicates that many in the millennium will come to Israel to learn of the glory of the great King of kings and will bring gifts of homage to Him.
Solomon also gathered chariots and horsemen, 1400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, stationed in cities designated as chariot cities as well as in Jerusalem. These were for the protection of his kingdom, reminding us that the kingdom of the Lord Jesus will have more full protection than this, though with no trusting in chariots and horses. Israel's trust then will be simply in the name of the Lord (Ps.20:7).
Silver became as common as stones in Jerusalem and cedar trees as abundant as the lowly sycamores (27). Also Solomon imported chariots and horsemen from Egypt, chariots at a cost of 600 silver shekels and horses 150 shekels each. He used these in Israel, but also exported them to the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria, thus making a profit. If he had read Deuteronomy 17:15-16, then he was deliberately disobedient, for the Lord forbad a king to multiply horses or to cause the purchase of horses from Egypt. This was depending on the world (Egypt) for the protection of his kingdom, instead of on the Lord.
MANY MARRIAGES LEADING TO IDOLATRY
Solomon also disobeyed Deuteronomy 17:17 in making many marriages with foreign women, from the Moabites, Alnmonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites (v.1). But not only was Deuteronomy disobeyed, which specially forbad a king to make such marriages. All the children of Israel were warned against intermarrying with these ungodly nations (Ex.34:12-16). Did Solomon think that his superior wisdom would keep him from being badly affected by evil associations? Actually,: his wisdom ought to have warned him to keep far from the temptation, but this is a lesson for us that it requires more than wisdom to preserve us from evil. It requires the grace of God learned only in communion with Him.
Solomon had 700 wives who: were princesses and 300 concubines. What could he expect but that his wives would turn away his heart from the Lord? In contrast to this the Thessalonians "turned to God from idols" (1 Thess.1:9). Solomon turned from God to idols!
Verse 3 says "his wives turned away his heart," and verse 4, "when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods." His heart was first turned away from the Lord, so that when he became old he succumbed to the seduction of idols. Our hearts are not vacuums: if we displace the Lord from our hearts, they will soon embrace some false substitute, and these wives had many substitutes that they could persuade Solomon were attractive. Sadly, history is full of cases of intellectual men who have made shipwreck. Why? No doubt because they trusted their own wisdom rather than simply trusting God.
Thus the solemn verdict is given in verse 6, "Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David." When David sinned against the Lord he was deeply repentant when the Lord reproved him, but though Solomon was reproved by God there is no indication that he repented.
He went as far as to build high places for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites. Very likely he took the attitude of liberal minded people of today, thinking it right to be tolerant of every religion and even to patronize evil religions because of the preference of his wives. But how shameful a contradiction to Solomon's faith in building the temple was his unbelief in building these high places! In building the temple he emphasized the supreme authority of the living God, but in building the high places he was guilty of challenging God's authority! Thus in this his wisdom failed him tragically.
He built other high places also for all of his foreign wives who sacrificed to their false gods (v.8). He went so far in this kind of evil that he rendered himself impervious to correction. How could he correct the fact of having 700 foreign wives? - let alone correcting their false worship?
The Lord's anger burned against this illustrious king who turned against God in spite of the Lord appearing to him twice, commanding him specifically not to follow other gods. It seems unthinkable that a believer would sink to such a level as Solomon did, but wealth and ease can be a terrible snare even to one who is born of God. It is little wonder that Agur, whose words appear in a book written by Solomon, writes, "Give me neither poverty nor riches" (Prov.30:8). He realized he could not trust himself with such riches.
The Lord spoke directly to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant" (v.11). Yet the Lord would not do this while Solomon was living because the Lord respected Solomon's father David. But Solomon's son would suffer the humiliation of a broken kingdom (v.12), though God would leave one tribe to that son, also for the sake of David, not for Solomon's sake. Judah was that tribe, though Benjamin, very small and weak, was included with Judah. Also, this concession was for Jerusalem's sake, for God's choice of that city remained in spite of the failure and disobedience of all Israel.
TWO OUTSIDE ADVERSARIES
The Lord did not allow Solomon to have everything go his way. To speak to Solomon's conscience the Lord raised up adversaries against him. They could not dethrone Solomon, but were thorns in his side to cause unrest among the people. Hadad was an Edomite who had fled to Egypt when Joab under David had reduced the Edomites to almost nothing (vs.14-16). Hadad gained favor with Pharaoh king of Egypt even to the point of being given Pharaoh's wife's sister as his wife (v.19). Edom pictures the flesh while Egypt symbolizes the world. The world will always be friendly with the flesh, and Hadad was well off in Egypt.
Yet when he heard that David was no longer living, Hadad wanted to return to his own country (v.21). Alter returning, nothing more is said about him here, but being an adversary of Solomon, it is implied that he took up the cause of Edom in resisting the reign of Solomon. Though Solomon had married an Edomite wife, this did not lessen Hadad's enmity.
Another adversary that God raised up against Solomon was Rezon the son of Eliadah. He was the servant of Hadadezer king of Zobah whom David had decisively defeated (2 Sam.8:3-8). Rezon "abhorred Israel" (v.25), and gathered followers, so that he became a captain of a band of raiders (v.24). He and his followers went to Damascus, where he became king of Syria, and all the days of Solomon he was an adversary of Israel. Thus these two enemies, Hadad and Rezon, considered themselves right in their enmity because David had caused their nations suffering.
AN ADVERSARY WITHIN
The third enemy of Solomon was the most dangerous, for he was a servant of Solomon, a capable man whom Solomon had entrusted with a responsible position (v.28). Jereboam rebelled against the king because of a message God sent to him by the prophet Ahijah. Thus, it is plainly God who raised up such an adversary. Jereboam was from Ephraim and was set over all the labor force of the house of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh). He would be fully conversant with the administration of the affairs of Solomon's kingdom.
Ahijali met Jereboam outside of Jerusalem with no other observers present (v.29). Ahijah was clothed with a new garment, and took this garment, tearing it into twelve pieces, telling Jereboam to take ten pieces. The garment was the kingdom of Solomon, newly established. Ahijah gave Jereboam the message from God, "I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to you" (v.31). "But he (Solomon through his son Rehoboam) shall have one tribe for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel."
But God's reason for breaking up the kingdom is most clearly stated. Israel had forsaken the Lord and had sunk down to the level of worshiping various idolatrous gods and goddesses, ignoring God's statutes and judgments (v.33). God's plain abhorrence of such guilt on Israel's part, of which Solomon was the leader, ought to have deeply impressed the conscience of Jereboam to make sure he would not follow such abhorrent practices, but it was not long after being exalted as king of the ten tribes that he fell into the same evil ways (ch.12:29-33).
"However," God said, "I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand" (v.34). He would allow Solomon's son to keep the tribe of Judah (which included Benjamin) for David's sake, not for Solomon's sake. God made it plain to Jereboam that He had chosen Jerusalem to put His name there (v.36). Telling Jereboam this did not preserve Jereboam from the folly of setting up two different centers - one in Bethel and the other in Dan (ch.12:28-29).
The Lord also gave Jereboam the conditional promise that if he would heed all that God commanded, would walk in His ways, doing what is right, keeping God's statutes and commandments, as David did, then God would build Jereboam an enduring house, as He did for David, and would give Israel to Jereboam (v.38). Certainly God knew perfectly well that Jereboam would not fulfill these conditions, but that he would be an object lesson for Israel as regards the folly of choosing their own way rather than submitting to the authority of the Lord.
As regards the descendants of David, God told Jereboam that He would afflict them because of their evil, but not forever (v.39). Thus the government of God is maintained, but His grace shines out beautifully in the end.
Solomon knew that God had told Jereboam he would be king over Israel, but instead of being chastened and repentant because he himself was to blame, Solomon wanted to kill Jereboam. Thus, he was not willing to submit to God's Word in this matter. His disobedience to God led him farther and farther astray. Jereboam fled from Israel to Egypt, remaining with the king of Egypt until Solomon died.
THE DEATH OF SOLOMON
Solomon reigned the same length of time as did his father David - 40 years. However, in spite of his great wisdom and the splendor of his kingdom, he did not leave to his son a legacy nearly as profitable as David had left to him. David had left to Solomon a true regard for the living God and Solomon did not follow the path of his father in obedience to God. What kind of an example was this to Rehoboam? Why did Solomon not wisely consider that his days were numbered, just as David's had been? He wrote in Ecclesiastes 12 of the brevity of life and concluded by saying, "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil" (vs.13-14). Why did he not accept for himself the advice he gave to others?
At his death he was buried in Jerusalem, and Rehoboam took the throne (v.43). But how solemn a lesson for us is the fact that the wisest man who ever lived made shipwreck of his personal life! May God preserve us from the pride of knowledge!
THE TEN TRIBES REBEL
Rehoboam went to Shechem for his inauguration as king of Israel (v.1). Jereboam, in Egypt, received word quickly of Solomon's death, and his friends in Israel sent to have him recalled from Egypt. Thus they had a capable leader to represent the cause of the majority in Israel before Rehoboam.
Jereboam and the other representatives of Israel came to Rehoboam as soon as he had been made king. They had a serious request. They said Solomon had made their yoke heavy. How sad a comment on the character of Solomon! He was a king of great wealth, but wealthy rulers will nearly always use strong means to increase their wealth instead of using it for the alleviation of the hardships of the people. Solomon records that his mother told him to "open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy" (Prov.31:9). But he not only ignored his mother's counsel: he went so far as to oppress the poor and needy.
Jereboam and others with him requested that Rehoboam would lighten the burdensome service of Solomon, and if so they would willingly serve Rehoboam (v.4). This was certainly a reasonable request and at the time Rehoboam wisely asked that they come back again in three days to receive an answer (v.5). It was right that he should discus this suggestion with his council.
Rehoboam received good counsel from the elders who were in Solomon's court, telling him that if he would be considerate of this request of the people and would speak good words to them, they would be his servants forever (v.6). This was only sensible and he ought to have immediately accepted their advice. But he made the fatal blunder of seeking advice from young men with whom he had grown up.
These young men, having some authority in government, wanted to exert that authority as cruel overlords of the people. They counseled Rehoboam to tell the people he would be more demanding than his father, and though admitting that his father had chastised the people with whips, Rehoboam would chastise them with scourges, for his little finger would be thicker than his father's waist.
Though Solomon had been demanding, he was wiser than to speak in this cruel way to the people. But Rehoboam did not have the wisdom of his father. He and the young men ought to have realized they could not get away with such arrogant treatment of the people. Rehoboam carried out the advice of the young men when Jereboam and the people returned for his answer. He haughtily told them that he would add to the heavy yoke that Solomon had imposed on them and would chastise them with scourges (vs.14-15).
Thus the king refused to even consider the needs of the people. But we know that God in His great wisdom was directing matters in this way in order to carry out the truth of His word to Jereboam (v.15). Certainly it was not pleasing to God that Rehoboam should answer the people in the cruel way he did, but God was sovereignly working for His own glory.
Since God had told Jereboam that he would be given ten tribes, Jereboam and his followers had no difficulty in boldly answering Rehoboam by telling him, "What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents. 0 Israel! Now, see to your own house, 0 David" (v.16). They immediately announced a division among brothers. This division was accomplished with no delay, but it has continued throughout the centuries until now, and will not be healed until the Lord Jesus comes in power and glory at the end of the Great Tribulation. In the counsels of God Israel is one nation, indivisible, but in practice the nation has been totally inconsistent with God's plan for her. Such has been sadly true in the history of the Church of God on earth also. Though there is only "one body" (Eph.4:4), yet in practical testimony there are many bodies of professing Christians, which is a shameful contradiction to our perfect unity "in Christ."
Rehoboam reigned over the Israelites in Judah, and, considering it his right to exact taxes from the rest of Israel, he sent Adoram who was over the department of revenue to collect these taxes. But Israel stoned him to death. When Rehoboam heard this, he left Shechem and fled to Jerusalem (v.18).
The condition of all Israel had greatly deteriorated during the days of Solomon, which was to be expected when Solomon sunk down to the level of worshiping idols. God knew Israel's desire for a king of ability, though they were not concerned to have a man of integrity who would put the Lord first in his thoughts, such as David was. Therefore God gave Israel the kind of king they wanted, and they inaugurated Jereboam king over all Israel (v.20). Just as Israel had to learn by experience the folly of wanting a king such as Saul (1 Sam.8:11-20), so in having a king such as Jereboam they would learn by sad experience that they ought to trust the Lord rather than demand their own rights.
Rehoboam, in returning to Jerusalem, thought he could force Israel into submission, and gathered 180,000 chosen warriors with the object of attacking Israel (v.21). But the Lord directly intervened by sending the prophet Shemaiah to forbid Rehoboam to carry out this attack, telling him and the people of Judah and Benjamin not to go to fight their brethren, "For," God said, "This things is from Me" (vs.22-24). It was mercy on God's part to send this message, for otherwise there might have been a terrible slaughter with no problem resolved at all. Later than this Amaziah, a king of Judah, launched a battle against Joash king of Israel, but was badly defeated (2 Ki.14:8-12). At least Rehoboam had sense enough to listen to Shemaiah and to obey the Word of the Lord (v.24).
Jereboam had accepted the message of Ahijah the prophet that Jereboam would be ruler over ten tribes, but he ignored God's message at the same time that if Jereboam would obey the commandments of the Lord then his kingdom would be established (ch.11:38). Solomon had disobeyed, which is the reason that Jereboam was given the ten tribes.
However, Jereboam was apprehensive that, if the Israelites went to Jerusalem (God's center) to offer sacrifices, they might be inclined to return and accept the rule of Rehoboam. Because Jereboam had no real faith in the living God, he decided with the advice of his officers, to follow the dictates of human expediency, not only to establish one center for Israel's worship, but two, and both of these in opposition to God's one center. To accomplish this plan, he had two golden calves made, one set in Bethel (in the south of the land) and the other in Dan (in the north). Was he ignorant of God's judgment against Israel for making a golden calf when Moses was receiving the law in Mount Sinai? (Ex.32:19-20; 32:35). But no voice was evidently raised to warn Jereboam of the evil of his action or the danger of its consequences.
He did not tell the people that these calves were simply to remind them of God, as is usually claimed by image makers, but flatly declared, "Here are your gods, 0 Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt" (v.18). Any image made to represent God in any way will soon take the place of God in people's minds.
Thus Jereboam forsook the worship of the true God of Israel. As many religious leaders do today, he led the people to worship idols, apparently assuming that as long as one is religious he is worshiping God, though in a little different way than do others. Jereboam also made shrines in high places and made priests of any of the people he wanted, ignoring God's order of the priesthood only of the sons of Aaron (v.31).
It seems he was determined to make Israel totally separate from Judah in every way, so that he ordained a feast on the 15th day of the 8th month (v.32), a day he had devised in his own heart (v.33), ordering sacrifices to be made to the golden calves, employing the priests Jereboam had ordained for the high places. This was brazenly insulting to God, but in Christendom today similar idolatry is adopted as being quite acceptable.
A SOLEMN MESSAGE FROM GOD
God would not leave Jereboam without clear witness to God's abhorrence of the evil that Jereboam had introduced in Israel. The Lord sent a man of God from Judah to Bethel at a time that Jereboam was using his altar to burn incense (v.1). The prophet addressed the altar with a strong voice, "Thus says the Lord, Behold a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David, and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men's bones shall be burned on you" (v.2). Before Jereboam had time to speak, the man of God told him, "This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out" (v.3).
Jereboam did not like to be so rudely interrupted in his false worship and he stretched out his hand, giving the order to arrest the man of God. But God abruptly intervened, causing the king's hand to immediately wither and become so paralyzed he could not withdraw it (v.4). But not only that. The sign the man of God spoke of the took place before their eyes: the altar was split apart and the ashes poured out (v.5).
Now it was Jereboam's withered hand that most affected him. The hand would not be helped by the arrest of the man of God, and Jereboam knew that he would now be dependent on the kindness of the prophet if he was to be healed. So he asked him to entreat the Lord that his hand might be restored. The man of God did so, and the Lord graciously answered by immediately healing his hand. What a lesson was here for Jereboam, that God is both a God of truth and a God of grace!
Instead of arresting the prophet, Jereboam invited him to his own home to be refreshed and to receive a reward (v.7)! Ungodly men are often ready to give money or other gifts to God, thinking that God can be bribed to be favorable to them while they remain indifferent to the Word of God.
The man of God refused the king's hospitality, telling him that whatever the king would give him, he would not go into Jereboam's house, nor eat or drink in Bethel. The Word of the Lord had commanded him not to eat or drink in that place, and not to return by the same route he had taken into the city (vs.8-9). The Word of God that Jereboam had despised must not be ignored by the prophet. The prophet then left by a different route.
THE MAN OF GOD DECEIVED
An old prophet lived in Bethel, but he did not have the energy of faith to resist the idolatrous worship of Jereboam. His sons told him of the man of God who came from Judah, what he had done and what he had spoken for the Lord to Jereboam (v.11). These things evidently spoke to the old prophet's conscience and he thought he should have some contact with the man of God from Judah. He and his sons followed the man of God and found him sitting under an oak tree (vs.12-14). If seems, now that he had gotten away from Bethel, he thought he could idly savor the experience in which he had been faithful to God. What a mistake! If he had a proper abhorrence of the evil he prophesied against, would he not have wanted to get far from that scene?
What a lesson for us! At a time when we have done something for the Lord, we are in great danger of being deceived by our self-complacency. When David, after many victories, relaxed on his rooftop when his men went to war, he was drawn away by strong temptation and became guilty of adultery and murder (2 Sam.11). We today also are warned, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet.5:8).
The old prophet invited the man of God to go home with him for a meal, but the man of God rightly responded that he could not do so, for by the Word of the Lord he must not eat bread or drink water in that place (vs.15-17). The old prophet responded that he also was a prophet and that an angel had spoken to him by the Word of the Lord, telling him to bring the man of God back to his home to eat and drink with him. But this was a deliberate lie (v.18).
Certainly the man of God should not have been deceived by this, for God's Word to him directly was decisive: God would not change His mind. The prophet said an angel had spoken to him, but such second-hand or third-hand messages are not to be compared to the direct Word from God. We too must be careful to cling absolutely to the Word of God, and not be deceived by men who claim to be prophets, as many do today. The man of God accepted the word of the old prophet in preference to the Word of God, and returned with the old prophet to Bethel (v.19).
However, while they were eating, the Lord intervened by giving the old prophet a solemn message for the man of God. He told him, "Thus says the Lord, Because you have disobeyed the Word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but came back, ate bread and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, Eat no bread and drink no water, your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers" (vs.20-22).
At least we might expect the old prophet to apologize for lying but there is no mention of this. But after giving his solemn message to the man of God, he saddled the donkey for him, to send him on his way (v.23). He did not go far, for a lion met him on the road and killed him (v.24). Yet the lion did not try to eat the corpse, nor did it touch the donkey, and the donkey did not run away. Both the lion and the donkey remained standing by the corpse. How strange this would appear to all who saw it! Clearly God had one object in view in this incident, that His servant would be taken away in death!
People passing by witnessed this strange sight and reported it in Bethel. When the old prophet heard of it, he realized the victim must be the man of God, and he went to the spot, possibly with his sons (vs.26-28). He took up the corpse and laid it on a donkey. He evidenced unusual courage in the presence of the lion, but the lion did not interfere (v.29). Taking the body back to Bethel, he buried it in a tomb prepared for himself. The old prophet and his sons were apparently the only mourners. Likely any relatives of the man of God would know nothing of what became of him.
The old prophet instructed his sons that when he died they should bury him in the same grave beside the man of God (v.31), for he knew the prophecy of the man of God against the altar of Jereboam would be fulfilled (v.32). God's testimony remained true in spite of the failure of the messenger.
Jereboam's experience with the man of God, and the message he heard, had no lasting effect on him. He continued in his evil course of idolatry and made priests of anyone he desired, to serve Jereboam's interests in the idolatrous high places (v.33). This glaring sin would call down God's solemn judgment in exterminating the house of Jereboam from the face of the earth (v.34). After this Jereboam became known as the king who made Israel sin (ch.14:16).
JEREBOAM WARNED THROUGH HIS SON'S DEATH
Though God had sought to reach Jereboam's conscience by the message and actions of the man of God, this produced no effect. So God used another means, by the severe illness of Jereboam's son. Jereboam wanted help for the boy, and could only think of Ahijah the prophet who had told him he would be king. But his conscience so troubled him that in telling his wife to go to Ahijah, he ordered her to disguise herself (v.2). Jereboam was totally insensible of the sovereign omniscience of God. He wanted information from God and thought he could fool God into giving him the information without knowing to whom he was giving it!
Of course Jereboam thought it necessary to send a present to God's servant for the information he would give (v.3). As his wife was coming to the house of Ahijah, the Lord told Ahijah (who could not see by reason of age) that the wife of Jereboam was coming to him, pretending to be another woman (vs.4-5).
Therefore, as she came to the door, Ahijah said, "Come in, wife of Jereboam. Why do you pretend to be another person?" (v.6). He did not give her opportunity to say anything, but gave her a dreadfully solemn message from God to tell her husband. Because Jereboam had been exalted by God and made ruler over Israel, tearing the kingdom away from the house of David, yet Jereboam, in contrast to David, did more evil than anyone before him, in turning to every kind of idolatry, rejecting God's authority, therefore God would bring disaster to the house of Jereboam. He would cut off in death every male descendant of Jereboam, discarding them as though they were only garbage (vs.7-10). They would not be given a burial, for the dogs would eat those who died in the city and scavenging birds would eat those who died in the countryside. Then Ahijah added, "The Lord has spoken!" (v.11).
He further told Jereboam's wife to go to her own house and that when she entered the city her child would die. But he, in contrast to Jereboam's other sons, was an exception and would be mourned by Israel and given a burial, because in the baby there was found something good toward the Lord God of Israel (vs.12-13). This illustrates the fact that in many cases it is better for a person to die as an infant than to continue to live in an atmosphere where the Lord is dishonored.
Ahijah added more to his message, as seen in verse 14, that the Lord would raise up a king over Israel who would cut off the house of Jereboam. This was a matter absolutely decided. The Lord would so shake Israel as to uproot them from the land He had given to their fathers and scatter them beyond the river (Euphrates), because by Israel's idolatry they had provoked His fierce anger (vs.14-15). Israel would be given up because of the sins of Jereboam who made Israel sin (v.16). This message of the unsparing anger and vengeance of God against Jereboam's sin was in great contrast to Ahijah's first message to Jereboam (ch.11:28-39).
Jereboam's wife had received a shocking message indeed to carry home to her husband! She could do nothing but go home and face the fact of her child's death as soon as she arrived in the city (v.17). As Ahijah had said, the child was buried and all Israel mourned for him. Jereboam was to learn that his disobedience to God did not only affect himself, but all of his family while he was living and the welfare of his family after he died, as well as the condition of the nation over which he ruled, both at the time of his ruling, and for many years afterward. This is surely a striking illustration of the truth that none of us lives to himself and none of us dies to himself. Our influence is a far more serious matter than we generally think. The truth of this is seen in an outstanding way in the history of all the kings, for kings had a prominent place that made them more responsible than the common people.
This first ruler of the divided kingdom of Israel (Jereboam) had nothing in his reign for which God could commend him, though he reigned for 22 years, and did have a burial. It was his descendants who were not to be buried. His son Nadab succeeded him, though that succession did not continue, for various men overthrew kings in Israel in order to take the throne themselves.
REHOBOAM'S REIGN OVER JUDAH
Though David and Solomon had both reigned 40 years, Rehoboam reigned over Judah only 17 years, dying at the age of 58 (v.21). It was no advantage to him that his mother, Naamah, was an Ammonitess. She had turned away Solomon's heart from the Lord to the worship of Milcom, the idol of the Ammonites (ch.11:4-5). Having such a mother, it is not surprising that Rehoboam followed idolatrous practices also.
Judah of course did not follow Jereboam in his idol worship, for Judah continued to hold the temple worship at Jerusalem. But in spite of having the wonderful privilege of the true worship of God in God's prescribed center, Judah took the initiative in serving and worshiping idols (v.22), as an addition to the true worship of God. They had seen Solomon's example, not only in worshiping Milcom but in making high places for his many idolatrous wives and favoring all their evil religions. This is the boasted "tolerance" of our own day, which tolerates anything except the exclusive worship of the living God revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ. But Judah became worse than their fathers in provoking the Lord to jealousy by their gross evil (v.22). This scripture does not speak of their revolting crimes against other people, but of their brazenly insulting God by their false worship.
Yet wickedness in human relationships cannot but follow when people despise their Creator, as verse 24 indicates. There were perverted people in the land, those who practiced sodomy and prostitution in their religious ceremonies, the same as did the nations God had dispossessed before Israel when they came to Canaan.
Within five years after Rehoboam's taking the throne of Judah, God moved Shishak, the king of Egypt, to come against Judah (v.25), and to take away much of the wealth that Solomon had collected, including the large number of gold shields he had made (v.26). Egypt pictures the world in its independence of God. The gold is typical of the glory of God, but since Rehoboam had no regard for God's glory, the gold shields only testified to Rehoboam's hypocrisy. Thus, disobedience to God will rob from us all that is precious in the blessings of the Word of God. Our worldliness virtually invites the world to take possession of what ought to be ours.
Instead of the gold shields, Rehoboam had bronze (or copper) shields made (v.27). How vastly inferior these were! While gold speaks of God's glory, copper speaks of holiness. Christendom today has sadly copied Rehoboam's example. They have lost sight of God's glory and instead have adopted the principle of holiness, speaking plausibly about having a holy life, but leaving Christ totally out of the picture. Shields are for protection. Is there any real protection in our boasted claims of holiness as compared to a living faith in the Son of God?
There is more of the history of Rehoboam in 2 Chronicles, but with little to be commended. He strengthened himself for war, but his wars were more against Israel than against the nations (v.30). How sadly this has been the case in the history of the professing church also! Instead of waging war against the onslaughts of Satan and his hosts, Christians have too frequently contended against one another with disastrous results!
Rehoboam died and was buried in the city of David, and again it is mentioned that his mother's name was Naamah, an Ammonitess. His son Abijam succeeded him in reigning over Judah. As we can expect, Abijam's reign was no better.
ABIJAM'S MUCH SHORTER REIGN
Though Rehoboam's reign was short, that of Abijam was much shorter, only three years (v.2). His mother's name was Maacah, who must have had no good influence over him, for Abijam followed his father's example in practicing the same sins of disobedience to God (v.3).
In spite of the sins of Abijam, however, the Lord honored his great grandfather David by allowing Abijam to reign this short time in Judah (v.4). Thus, though the Lord often visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third or fourth generation (Ex.34:7), He also gives benefits to the children of godly people unto the third and fourth generation. God remembered the faithfulness of David through his lifetime, though we are reminded that David failed badly in the case of Uriah the Hittite (v.5). God takes everything into account in His actions, whether good or bad.
The wars that had taken place between Rehoboam and Jereboam continued over into the days of Abijam, who had wars with Jereboam. In fact, 2 Chronicles 13 records that in one battle 400,000 chosen men of Judah fought against 800,000 men of Israel. Judah defeated Israel, killing 500,000! No battle in history approaches this for the number of people killed. How sad that this took place between brethren! How much more proper it would have been if the battle was against the enemies of Israel! Do Christians spend more time quarreling amongst themselves than in resisting the enemy from outside and winning the lost for the Lord? But this battle in which 500,000 Israelites were killed is the one outstanding event in Abijam's reign. May God grant that we have more positive results to show in our own lives!
THE REIGN OF ASA
At Abijam's early death his son Asa took the throne over Judah (v.8). His mother's name is not mentioned, but we are reminded in verse 10 that his grandmother was Maacah the granddaughter of Abishalom (v.9). He reigned much longer than his father - 41 years, - but in contrast also to his father, he did what was right in the sight of the Lord (v.11). Though he had his father's mother as his grandmother, he did not follow his father's ways.
Since he acted rightly, he acted negatively in regard to the perverted worship of idols, that is, he banished those who practiced sodomy and prostitution in their religious ceremonies, and he removed all the idols his father had made (v.12). This was no light matter, for the idol worshipers would strongly resist him, claiming that he was dishonoring his father. But he intended to honor the Lord and would not allow natural relationships to interfere with obedience to God's Word.
Asa did not spare even his grandmother. She had made on obscene image of Asherah, so he removed her from being the queen mother and cut down and burned the image she had made. She would certainly be angered by the faith of her grandson, but Asa did not fear popular opinion that contradicted the truth of God.
However, Asa stopped short of removing the high places, so that he was not as wholehearted as Hezekiah was later (2 Ki.1:5), who surpassed all the kings in his devotedness to God. Yet Asa is still commended for his loyalty to the Lord all his days (v.14).
If, on the negative side, Asa judged the glaring evils in Judah, he did not stop with this, but did good work positively also in bringing into the house of the Lord the things his father had dedicated and the things he himself had dedicated, silver and gold and utensils (v.15). The silver symbolizes redemption, speaking therefore of Asa's appreciation of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Gold, speaking of the glory of God, shows his positive appreciation of that which brings glory to God. The utensils were containers that illustrate the faith of holding the truth in love. May we who are believers today have much concern to positively honor our God and Father. While the negative side must not be ignored, the positive is much more fruitful.
When war threatened Asa from Baasha and Israel, the faith of Asa sadly faltered. Baasha built Ramoth with the object of hindering any traffic between Judah and Israel. Why did Asa not simply commend this matter to the Lord in prayer? But he failed badly by enlisting the help of the Lord's enemies against his own brethren the Israelites. Nor only this, for he took the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the house of the Lord to pay for this help of Syria (v.18). God will not give His glory to another (Isa.42:8), but Asa virtually gave God's glory (the gold) to Ben Hadad! Thus Asa made the fatal mistake of enlisting the world's help to fight against his own brethren, the children of Israel (v.19). Instead of making a treaty with Syria, how much better if would have been for Asa to seek the restoration of Israel! But too often, in our day, believers use shocking means of fighting against other believers who have offended them. They also use things that belong to God (as Asa used the gold and silver from the house of the Lord) to accomplish their own selfish ends.
Ben Hadad agreed to be hired by such wealth as Asa offered him, and therefore attacked some cities of 'Israel, Ijon, Dan, Abel Beth Maacah and all Chinneroth and the land of Naphtali (v.20). This did accomplish what Asa desired, because Baasha had to give up the building of Ramah (v.21). Then Asa send his people to remove from Ramah the building materials Baasha had collected, and used them for building two other cities, Geba and Mizpah (v.22).
Very likely Asa considered he had made a wise move in what he did, for it worked out just as he planned. Many people will say that the end justifies the means, but this is far from the truth. We may find at the judgment seat of Christ that things that produced results that were satisfactory to us were actually "wood, hay straw" (1 Cor.3:12), and will be burned up because they were not the fruit of faith toward the Lord Jesus. Asa's lack of faith in this case did not honor God.
Other matters in Asa's history are recorded in 2 Chronicles. But verse 23 reports that Asa was diseased in his feet in his old age. Though he was a comparatively good king, yet his foot disease is a reminder that in his later years his walk was deficient. Sadly, 2 Chronicles 16:12 records that he did not seek the Lord for his disease, but the physicians. It is not that God objects to physicians, for Luke was a "beloved physician" (Col.4:14), but to seek the help of physicians (perhaps many of them), in preference to consulting the Lord, is sad lack of faith. If it is necessary for a believer to consult a physician, he should pray that the Lord will give the physician wisdom to know how to treat his case. Thus, though Asa's reign began well, he did not have a bright end to his life. When he died after reigning 41 years, his son Jehoshaphat succeeded him as king of Judah (v.24).
THE SHORT REIGN OF NADAB
Nadab, the son of Jereboam, reigned over the ten tribes of Israel only two years (v.25). He followed his father's example of refusing the Word of God and continuing the worship of idols, thereby making Israel sin as his father did (v.26). Nothing else is said about his two year reign, so that there is no suggestion of anything that was a credit to him.
Another man, Baasha, of the tribe of Issachar, conspired against Nadab and killed him at Gibbethon, a Philistine city which Nadab was besieging (v.27). Baasha was on the side of the besiegers, but used the occasion to murder his own king! Then he took Nadab's place as king. In all of this the weakness of the people of Israelis apparent. They accept the authority of a murderer. Perhaps they thought his authority was better than that of Nadab, but both were rebellious against the authority of God.
THE REIGN OF BAASHA
Baasha made sure that none of Jereboam's descendants would challenge him. He killed them all. On his part this was vicious cruelty, but by killing them he fulfilled the Word of the Lord by Abijah the prophet (v.29), who had given the message of judgment to Jereboam's wife (ch.14:10-11) to be conveyed to Jereboam. Verse 30 is a reminder that this judgment was because of Jereboam's many sins by which he made Israel sin, provoking the Lord God of Israel to anger.
War between Asa and Baasha (Judah and Israel) is a sad testimony to the weakness of both peoples, for they were brothers (v.32). Why was their time not spent rather in fighting the common enemies of Israel?
In spite of the evil life of Baasha, the Lord allowed him to reign 24 years (v.33). Thus, he was given much time to repent and change his ways, but he followed the ways of Jereboam who made Israel sin (v.34).
The Lord had another servant to bring a solemn message to Baasha. Jehu, the son of Hanani, was the messenger at this time (v.1). Though the history records that Baasha had murdered his master to take his place as king, yet God tells Baasha that He (God) had lifted him out of the dust to make him ruler over Israel. We may be sure Baasha had not considered God at all in his taking the kingdom, but now he is faced with the fact that God required something of him because God had given him the place of rule. But Baasha had walked in the same way that Jereboam had walked, the man whose descendants he killed.
Jehu then tells Baasha the Word of the Lord, that God had lifted Baasha out of the dust to make him ruler over Israel, but Baasha had followed Jereboam in his evil and idolatrous course, causing Israel to sin just as Jereboam did (v.2). Therefore God would take away the posterity of Baasha, reducing his house to the same solemn judgment as the house of Jereboam. Instead of proper burials, Baasha's descendants who died in the city would be eaten by dogs and those who died in the fields would be eaten by ravenous birds (vs.3A).
Baasha personally was buried when he died (v.6), and his son Elah took the throne, though only for a short time (2 years). Verse 7 adds that Baasha's judgment was not only because he committed the same evils as Jereboam, but because he killed Jereboam's descendants.
ELAH'S SHORT REIGN
Elah was no different than his father in his evil character. For two years he evidently reigned only for his own pleasure, for the only specific action we read of on his part is that he was "drinking himself drunk" (v.9). It is not surprising that his own servant conspired against him and killed him. Elah left himself open to any kind of assault by his drunkenness, and his own servants had reason to despise him.
Zimri followed Baasha's example by killing both Elah and all the male descendants of Baasha (v.11). More than this, he killed the friends of Baasha. The motives of Zimri were selfish and evil, but the Lord used Zimri's wickedness to accomplish the prophecy He had sent Baasha by Jehu (v.12). This slaughter of the whole house of Baasha and of Elah and his friends was because of the sins of both of these men who provoked the Lord to anger by idol worship (v.13).
ZIMRI, KING FOR SEVEN DAYS
By his treason Zimri gained the dubious honor of reigning for seven days (v.15). But he had little following. When the people of Israel heard that Zimri had killed Elah, they chose to make Omri king (v.16). He was the commander of the army, so there was little chance that Zimri could survive. Omri, with the armies of Israel, came and besieged Tirzah, where Zimri had established himself (v.17). Zimri knew his case was hopeless, so he committed suicide by burning down his house while he was inside.
Again, his death was retribution from the Lord for his own sin in walking in the way of Jereboam who caused Israel to sin against God. But the judgment in his case was more swift and abrupt than that of those who preceded him. Yet, whether the time is short or long, those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind. This history of the kings declares that God is not mocked. Whatever one sows he will also reap (Gal.6:7).
The whole history of Israel from Jereboam was marked by confusion, with kings being deposed and evil men contending for the throne. Omri was challenged by Tibni, the son of Ginath, both of them having large followings (v.21). Omri's faction prevailed, however, and Tibni died. Omri reigned then for only 12 years, six of these being in Tirzah. (v.23). Of course this was in opposition to God's decree that Jerusalem was the center of the nation Israel. Judah recognized this, but the ten tribes had given themselves up to accept any substitute.
Omri had another place in mind, so he bought the hill of Samaria from Shemer. There he built a city and called it Samaria (v.24), where he evidently reigned for the remaining six years of his life. This is similar to the energy of many people today in professing Christendom. They conceive of a plausible center of gathering that is not Christ. It may be baptism, pentacostalism, presbyterianism, catholicism or any other name that seems appropriate for their purpose. But if Christ is not our Center, we shall be exposed to dangers of the worst kind, and specially so if we are proud of a sectarian name.
Omri not only followed the wicked ways of Jereboam, but did worse than all the kings who were before him (v.25). Jereboam began the wickedness of idol worship in the ten tribes, but evil does not stand still: it progresses from bad to worse. 2 Timothy 3:13 tells us, "Evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." A man who is a deceiver will find himself deceived also.
Two things distinguished Omri. He built a city as Israel's center in opposition to God's center, Jerusalem, and his evil ways were worse than all the kings before him. He died and was buried in Samaria. He seized control of Israel for 12 years, but what of eternity? His son Ahab then reigned in Israel.
Ahab reigned over the ten tribes for 22 years, and more is written concerning him than any of the previous kings of the ten tribes. Not that he did anything commendable, for his evil was greater than that of Omri or any others before him (v.30).
Ahab was not content with following the wicked course of Jereboam, but he married an evil wife, Jezebel, who encouraged him in greater evil still, including the worship of Baal. Samaria was the center supposedly built for the worship of God, but there Ahab built a temple for Baal and an altar to go with it (v.32). Added to this, he made a wooden image, deliberately and willfully provoking the Lord to anger (v.33).
An interesting note is added in verse 34. The rebellion against God's authority in Israel gave to Hiel of Bethel the ungodly incentive to rebuild Jericho. God had warned against any rebuilding of that city of the curse, which pictures the world in its character of appealing to the flesh. But Hiel brought God's judgment on himself. When he laid the foundation of Jericho his eldest son died, and when he set up the gates his youngest son died (v.24). Joshua prophesied that this would happen (Josh. 6:34).
ELIJAH PROPHESIES A DROUGHT
Ahab was suddenly confronted by a prophet who had never been mentioned before, Elijah the Tishbite, the first prophet of God spoken of as arising from among the ten tribes. He came from Gilead and in God's name announced that for some years there would be neither dew nor rain in Israel until Elijah gave the word. James 5:17 tells us that Elijah had prayed earnestly that it might not rain. Why? Because of the gross evil of Ahab that infected all Israel. Elijah evidently realized it would require drastic measures to turn Israel back to the Lord.
But the prophet himself must suffer on account of the drought, as well as the people. The Lord told him to leave and hide himself by the Brook Cherith. He was not to remain to boast in the fact that his prophecy came true. God knows how to teach the messenger that the messenger is not important, but his message is. He provided for Elijah, however, with water from the brook and food brought by ravens. Israel was in no condition to care for a prophet of God, and God used the unclean birds for this. Ravens, as their name suggests, are ravenous, so that it was a miracle of God that they would bring food to the prophet, both in the morning and the evening. Thus Elijah learned literally not to worry about his life as to what to eat and drink (Mt.6:25).
Yet Elijah's time there was limited, for the brook dried up because of the drought. God sees fit to change our circumstances that we might learn in various ways our dependence on Him.
CARED FOR BY A WIDOW
The Lord then sent Elijah a long distance from the area of the Jordan River to Zarephath in Sidon, outside the borders of Israel (vs.8-9). Elijah would be puzzled to think that God had commanded a widow in that place to care for him. But this was because of the low spiritual state of Israel. Though there were many widows in Israel at the time (Lk.4:25), yet God sent Elijah outside of Israel to be cared for by a Gentile widow.
When Elijah came to the gate of Zarephath he saw a widow gathering sticks and asked her to get him a drink of water (v.10). She willingly went to get it and he called after her to also bring him a little bread to eat (v.11). But this was too much for the poor woman. She told him she had no bread, but only a little flour and a little oil from which she planned to make a small meal for herself and her son, before expecting to die from famine.
But God was not only caring for Elijah. He also intended to care for the widow and her son. It may sound selfish on Elijah's part that he should tell her to first make him a small cake, and afterward make this for herself and her son. But this was a test of her faith. Elijah is a type of Christ, and if we put Him first, we will have all our needs supplied. Elijah promised the widow that her store of flour would not diminish nor the jar of oil run dry until the day that the Lord would send rain.
Though the widow was a Gentile, she believed the word of an Israelite who spoke in the name of the Lord God of Israel, and her faith was fully rewarded. She and her son and Elijah were all supplied with food for many days. Thus Elijah was kept in seclusion until the Lord later sent him to announce the restoration of rain to Israel.
THE WIDOW'S SON RAISED FROM DEATH
The widow had experienced the grace of God in saving her and her son from a dreadful end. But God had another vitally important lesson to teach her, which could only come through pain and sorrow. Her child became seriously ill and was taken by death (v.17). For some reason she connected his death with Elijah and felt that God was punishing her for her sins. But God was seeking the pure blessing of her soul.
Elijah took the boy and laid him on his own bed. Then he prayed earnestly to the Lord and stretched himself on the child three times. Direct contact with the one who had life resulted in life coming back to the child. The three times speaks of resurrection. Thus it is only by direct contact with the Lord Jesus raised from the dead that we find the blessing of resurrection life. The Lord answered the prayer of Elijah and the soul of the child returned. Thus the widow learned that God was able, not only to save from dying, but to restore life after death. Mary and Martha learned this lesson in John 11. They had only thought of hoping the Lord would come to them in time to preserve Lazarus from dying. Both of them told the Lord, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died" (Jn.11:21,32). But the Lord had a more important lesson to teach them, that He can bring life out of death.
Elijah restored the boy to his mother, saying, "See, your son lives" (v.23). How appropriate was the widow's response, "Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth" (v.24). Similarly, when we have learned that the Lord Jesus has the power of resurrection life, we know He is not only a man of God, but the eternal Son of God, whose resurrection takes from us the fear of death.
ELIJAH'S RETURN TO FACE AHAB
The famine lasted three and a half years (Jas.5:17), the same length of time the Great Tribulation will last. But the rain would not be sent until Elijah gave the word. The Lord then sent Elijah to present himself to Ahab (v.1). Meanwhile Ahab was desperately occupied with finding some means to relieve the results of the famine. Obadiah was a prominent man in charge of Ahab's affairs. In contrast to Ahab, he feared the Lord greatly, so that it was inconsistent that he should be employed by a wicked man. Yet he did care for the Lord's interests too, for he had hidden 100 prophets of the Lord from the cruelty of Jezebel, Ahab's wife, when she massacred others of the prophets. He supplied them with bread and water when hiding them (vs.3-4).
Ahab gave orders to Obadiah to search the land for springs of water or brooks that might be still running, so as to keep the horses and mules alive. He was more concerned for the horses and mules than he was for the people, for the horses and mules were a means of income for him. Ahab went one way in this search and Obadiah another way.
Obadiah being alone, suddenly Elijah met him, This was a shock to Obadiah, who fell on his face and asked, "Is that you, my lord Elijah?" (v.7). He had a higher regard for Elijah than Ahab did - in fact a too exaggerated regard, for Elijah was not his lord. Still, he knew that Elijah was a true prophet of God. Elijah told him, "Go, tell your master that Elijah is here" (v.8). Obadiah was trying to serve two masters, for he knew he ought to serve the Lord, but Elijah considered that Ahab was Obadiah's master.
Obadiah protested that Ahab had sent to all the surrounding nations to hunt for Elijah and had gotten sworn statements from them that Elijah was not in any of those nations. Therefore Obadiah feared that when he reported that Elijah had come, Elijah would be transported by the Spirit of God somewhere else, and leave Obadiah to bear the consequences of falsehood, even to the point of being killed by Ahab (vs.9-12).
Obadiah pled that he had feared the Lord from his youth, and had hidden 100 of the Lord's prophets from Jezebel when she killed others of them. He asked if Elijah hadn't heard this (v.13) But if it was common knowledge, why did Jezebel not know it? More than this, the Lord knew, and that should have been sufficient for Obadiah: there was no reason for him to tell Elijah of his good deeds. We may be too inclined to think that some good things we do will be an excuse for walking in wrong company.
But Elijah simply told him, "As the Lord of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely present myself to him today" (v.15). Obadiah should not have escaped the force of these words. Elijah stood before the Lord of hosts, but Obadiah stood before Ahab!
When Obadiah returned with Ahab, Ahab's words to Elijah were bitter, "Is that you, 0 troubler of Israel?" Three and a half years of famine had not subdued Ahab to realize that it was God, not Elijah, who had withheld the rain from heaven. But Ahab had no intention of recognizing God. Elijah answered him directly to the point, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals" (v.8).
Then the prophet gave orders to the king, whether the liked it or not. Elijah told him to send for 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (who were supported by Jezebel) and gather them on Mount Carmel. This was a bold declaration indeed, but it was ordered by God. Ahab probably thought that the great number of false prophets would far outweigh the boldness of this one lone prophet of the Lord. He had no idea what would take place, but he willingly gathered the prophets. The people of Israel were present too (v.20).
GOD'S VICTORY OVER THE FALSE PROPHETS
On Mount Carmel Elijah took charge of the proceedings. Who would resist him when he was decidedly speaking for God? He addressed all the people, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him" (v.21). There was no response to this, and he added, "I alone am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal's prophets are 450 men" (v.22).
Therefore Elijah proposed a test for Israel as to who was the true God. He asked for two bulls, one to be given to Baal's prophets and the other to himself. The bulls were to be cut in pieces and laid on wood, but with no fire under (v.23). Baal's prophets could first pray to Baal and Elijah would pray to the Lord, and the God who sent fire to consume the bull would prove Himself to be God (v.24). Likely Baal's prophets would be very fearful of this test, but the people said "It is well spoken," for they all realized this was perfectly fair. What could Ahab do or say? He surely must have been as fearful as the prophets of Baal as to the outcome of such a test, but he could do nothing but submit to it.
Elijah gave the prophets of Baal plenty of time to call on their mystical god, crying, "0 Baal, hear us." When there was no answer, they jumped around the altar they had made, as though to influence their idol with their physical gyrations! After a few hours of useless energy, Elijah mocked them, telling them to cry out louder, for perhaps Baal was preoccupied or busy or on a journey or asleep, and must be awakened (v.27). They had no conception of an omniscient, omnipresent God.
These poor, deluded Baal worshipers evidently did not perceive Elijah's sarcasm, so they took his advice and cried out more loudly to Baal, also cutting themselves with knives and lances, Thus idolaters inflict injury to the flesh literally, thinking this is the self-denial that will influence their false god. How different indeed is the true self-denial of a believer! True self-denial makes no show, but involves a sober self-judgment in spiritual reality. The prophets of Baal continued this useless clamor all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice (v.29).
Then Elijah spoke to the people, "Come near to me" (v.30). What a different approach! He repaired the altar of the Lord that had been broken down through the sin of Israel. To do this he took 12 stones "according the the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob" (v.31). What a reproof to the separated 10 tribes? God was concerned for all Israel, and Elijah showed this impartial consideration for all twelve tribes.
As well as building the altar, he dug a trench around it of no small dimensions. He put the wood on the altar, cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood (v.33). Besides this he guarded carefully against anyone suspecting trickery in what he was doing. He told them to fill four waterpots with water and pour it on the sacrifice. They did this, and he told them to repeat this a second and third time, so that the water ran all around the altar and filled the trench (vs.34-35).
Elijah had given the prophets of Baal all day to plead with their idol. Now at the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah prayed simply to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel to let it be known that He is God in Israel and that Elijah had acted as directed by the word of God. His prayer was brief, ending with the words, "Hear me, 0 Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again" (v.36-37).
Immediately the Lord answered him by sending fire to consume not only the wood and the sacrifice, but also the stones, the dust and the water in the trench. Imagine the dismay in the faces of the false prophets! The people fell on their faces and declared, "The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God! (v.39).
Elijah did not waste a moment in giving orders to seize the prophets of Baal. Let not one of them escape," he said. The people were fully willing to carry out these orders. Elijah took them down to the brook Kishon and killed the false prophets there. He may not have done the executioner's work alone, for likely there were people glad to help him in this. Only the 450 prophets of Baal are mentioned here: nothing is said of the 400 prophets of Asherah (cf. v.19). But this was certainly a mass execution! These men reaped the results of their own folly in defying the God of Israel.
RETURN OF THE RAIN
Elijah then told Ahab to go and eat and drink, for God would send an abundance of rain (v.41). How Ahab was affected by the killing of the false prophets we are not told, but he could offer no resistance to this. Now that the evil was judged, God could be free to pour out His blessing on Israel. Yet God sought the exercise of Elijah in prayer as regards giving rain. How different is Elijah's attitude before God than it had been before Ahab! To Ahab he had been firm and decided, declaring the word of God, but now we see him bowed down on the ground with his face between his knees (v.42) He had before prayed earnestly that it would not rain and this had been effective for three and a half years. Now he prays for rain. He told his servant to go and look toward the sea, but he saw nothing. Seven times he told him the same, and not until the seventh time did he say there was a very small cloud, as small as a man's hand, rising out of the sea (v.44). God knows how to work when there seems to be no promise of blessing whatever. But the small cloud pictures the hand of the Man Christ Jesus, who is the one Mediator between God and man. When He intervenes, how wonderful are the results!
The small cloud was the answer to Elijah's prayer. He told his servant to tell Ahab to prepare his chariot and go down to Jezreel before the rain stopped him. The sky became black with clouds and wind with a downpour of rain. Elijah, by the power of the Spirit of God, ran to Jezreel, to arrive before Ahab's chariot! We might think that after such a day Elijah's energy would be greatly abated, but the grace of God was his sustenance, just as we too might have the encouragement of God's word, "Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isa.40:31).
ELIJAH FLEEING FROM JEZEBEL
When Ahab informed his wife Jezebel of Elijah's having brought down the fire of God to consume his sacrifice, of the slaughter of the prophets of Baal and the announcement by Elijah of the great rain, Jezebel, instead of being subdued by the evidence of God working in grace to Israel, was inflamed with bitter anger against Elijah and swore by her gods that she would kill Elijah within one day (vs.1-2). In fact, she invited her gods to kill her if she did not kill Elijah by the next day. But the issues of life are in the hand of God, and He saw that she was killed at the proper time. She could not kill Elijah without God's permission.
But Elijah's faith faltered. He could stand before Ahab with no tremor of fear, but now he was frightened by a woman! He fled from Jezreel to Beersheba (v.3). He ought to have been arrested by the very name "Beersheba," for it means "the well of the oath." Why did he not stop to think of depending on the refreshment of God's oath? God could not fail him. He did not even consult God about going away and when to go. God had led him before. Why did he not depend on Him to lead him now? But how sad it is that when one has been greatly used by God, he is in danger of failing to continue to walk with God.
Elijah left his servant at Beersheba, but he himself continued for a full day, going into the wilderness. There he sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die (v.4). Why did he ask this? Because he said he was no better than his fathers? He was utterly discouraged. Did he before think that he was better than his fathers? It seems that he thought that his faithfulness in representing God before Ahab and the people failed to accomplish the results he expected. But he had to learn that God did not depend on Elijah. How much better for Elijah to depend on God! He had done what God sent him to do. This is all that is expected of any servant. God will take care of the results in His own way and in His own time.
If Elijah wanted to die, why did he not stay in Jezreel? He could have died there as a martyr at the hand of Jezebel. But if our faith falters we shall always become inconsistent. His prayer was not the prayer of dependence on God. He had decided what he wanted and asked God for this, instead of asking God to guide him in his desires as well as in his actions. Certainly he was wrong in praying this way, for God had decided that Elijah would never die at all! He was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind, without dying! (2 Ki.2:11).
As Elijah slept the sleep of discouragement an angel touched him and said, "Arise and eat" (v.5). Miraculously, he found a cake baked on coals and a jar of water beside him. How gracious the Lord is! Instead of reproving Elijah He provided food that Elijah needed. Indeed, if we do partake of spiritual food this ought to take away our discouragement. But after Elijah had eaten, he laid down again to sleep. When we are in such a lazy state we need the words of Scripture, "Awake, you who sleep, arise from among the dead, and Christ will give you light" (Eph.5:14). Believers are not dead, but may be sleeping among the dead (who are unbelievers). However, Elijah was awakened the second time by the angel of the Lord and told, "Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you" (v.7). We too must take this to heart. Our journey through the world is too great for us if we are not sustained by the food of the Word of God.
But Elijah still did not ask the Lord to lead him: he was going in his own way, and our own way will usually take us to Horeb, the mountain where God gave the law to Israel. This was a 40 day journey that Elijah took without any more food besides what he ate at this time (v.8). Elijah's discouragement stemmed from a legal attitude, and he was only confirming that attitude by going to Horeb. He could have made the journey more quickly, but likely he stopped often to sleep on the way.
What does a legal attitude involve? It puts too much emphasis on a person's works instead of on the grace of God. Elijah was still thinking of his own works and his own reputation, therefore he lacked in the area of submitting to the work and Word of God.
He stayed the night in a cave on Mount Horeb, and in the morning the Lord in mercy came to him and asked, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" In hearing such a question, ought not Elijah to have seriously considered that his way was not right in the eyes of the Lord? He did not answer God's question, but sought to excuse himself for running away. He said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take away my life" (v.10). Was he alone left? What of the 100 prophets whom Obadiah had hidden from Jezebel?
Did Elijah think he was more zealous for God's glory than God was? He had acted for God, and God honored him for it. Why spoil it now by acting without God's guidance? He makes intercession against Israel rather than praying for Israel. Let us take such a lesson to heart.
THE "STILL SMALL VOICE"
When Elijah spoke to the Lord with such a discouraged attitude, the Lord told him, "Go and stand on the mountain before the Lord." Then the Lord passed by, going before three great manifestations of His power, first, a great and strong wind breaking the rocks of the mountain apart, "but the Lord was not in the wind." "After the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire" (vs.11-12). These three manifestations of the great power of God did not reveal God as He is. Elijah thought that since God had shown His power in sending fire to consume Elijah's offering, this ought to have had a good effect in turning Israel's hearts to Him. but these great works of God do not accomplish real results in the hearts of people.
But "after the fire a still, small voice." It is God speaking, however quietly, directly to the people's hearts that has true spiritual effect in changing them. It is by the Word of God that people are born again (1 Pet.1:23). God may use great public signs to warn or to awaken people, but such signs do not save them: they need to hear the voice of God. Some individuals will hear it, others will ignore it.
That still small voice spoke to Elijah's conscience, but rather than judging himself there and then, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out. The mantle speaks of the Spirit of God (2 Ki.2:9,13-14). The mantle was to be worn, but not intended to cover the eyes. Elijah was stubbornly taking the attitude that he had been led by the Spirit of God, as some people do today. They practically make the Spirit of God responsible for their own mistakes. This attitude blinds the eyes, for it is only honest to take the responsibility for our own wrongs.
As Elijah stood in the entrance of the cave, God's voice came again to him with the same question, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" If the Lord asks a question a second time, does this not mean that our first answer was faulty? But Elijah answered precisely the same the second time (v.14). It was not really an answer, but an attempt to excuse himself for being where he was. God had not accepted his excuse the first time, and Elijah ought to have apologized for his being where he was rather than to seek to justify himself. Why should a servant of the Lord be so stubborn? May we learn in this not to excuse ourselves for our lack of faith.
The Lord did not directly reprove Elijah, but the instructions he gave would surely serve as a serious reproof. He told Elijah to leave that place and go to the wilderness of Damascus - far to the north of where he was - and there anoint Hazael to be king over Syria (v.15). Why was this? Because Elijah had prayed against Israel and he could have his prayer answered by the vicious cruelty of Hazael against Israel! (2 Ki.8:7-13).
Also Elijah was told to anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi as king over Israel (v.16), for God would use Jehu to kill all the house of Ahab, including Jezebel and Ahab's seventy sons, and many others both of Israel and Judah (2 Ki.9 and 10). What a lesson for Elijah, that he would have been wiser to intercede for Israel rather than against them!
But also, Elijah was told to anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat to take Elijah's place as prophet! Because his faith had faltered so badly, Elijah had to give place to another. This itself was a reproof, for he had said that he was alone, but there was another prophet who could be just as useful as Elijah had been.
The words of verse 17 are also a serious reproof to Elijah's criticism of Israel. God told him that whoever escaped the sword of Hazael would be killed by Jehu, and those who escaped the sword of Jehu would be killed by Elisha. God only speaks of judgment against Israel by these three men, and says not a word of the grace that Elisha would minister. God spoke in this way because Elijah had inferred that Israel deserved judgment.
Verse 18 contains another solemn reproof for Elijah. God had reserved in Israel 7000 who had not bowed to Baal, yet Elijah spoke of being alone! If we feel alone in whatever testimony we may be able to bear for the Lord, let us remember that God has many more than ourselves who are true to Him.
THE CALL OF ELISHA
Elijah was not anxious to carry out the instructions of the Lord concerning Hazael and Jehu. There is no record of his ever anointing these two men. It was rather Elisha who solemnly told Hazael that he would be king of Syria (2 Ki. 8:8-13). Also Elisha instructed one of the sons of the prophets to go to Ramoth Gilead to find Jehu and anoint him to be king of Israel. The son of the prophet did this and told Jehu to strike down the whole house of Ahab (2 Ki. 9:1-10).
Thus, Elijah ignored God's word as to anointing Hazael and Jehu, but found Elisha who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. His plowing is typical of the spiritual work he was called to do, in plowing up the consciences of Israel in repentance toward God, in preparation for the seed of the Word of God to be sown.
In finding Elisha, Elijah threw his mantle over him (v.19). The mantle pictures the Spirit of God who invests the recipient with spiritual power. Thus Elisha was to have the same Spirit that Elijah had in reference to serving the Lord. Though Elijah said nothing, Elisha realized what was involved in this. He left his oxen and ran after Elijah, asking him to allow him to kiss his parents goodbye before following him (v.20).
Having gained this permission, he took a yoke of oxen, killed them and boiled their flesh to give to the people. This symbolized his complete break with secular employment in order to serve the Lord. The rest of the oxen were likely left with his father. When he left his employment and his relatives, he did not do this high handedly, but did so with kindness and consideration. God's call was the most important to him, and though he was considerate, his consideration of human relationships was not to interfere with the call of God.
AHAB DEFEATS SYRIA
God's care for His people Israel is still remarkably displayed in this chapter in spite of the unholy character of Ahab. Ben Hadad, king of Syria, marshaled a tremendous army, having 32 kings allied with him, and came to Samaria to besiege the city. Because he was so confident of his superior strength, he did not immediately begin battle, however, but sent messengers to Ahab to tell him, "Your silver and your gold are mine; your loveliest wives and children are mine" (v.3). Thus he was calling upon Ahab to submit to his authority.
Ahab knew his forces were no match for the formidable enemy, so he answered, in evident subservience, "My lord, 0 King, just as you say, I and all that I have are yours" (v.4). He would give in to the haughty demands of Ben Hadad.
However, Ben Hadad became still more demanding, requiring that Ahab allow Ben Had ad's servants to search the houses of Ahab and his servants and take everything they desired (vs.5-6). This was too much for Ahab (though he might have been better off if Ben Hadad had taken his wife (Jezebel)! After consultation with his court officials he sent back word to Ben Hadad that, though he would agree to the first demand, he could not agree to the second (v.9).
Ben Hadad's reply was course and arrogant. He sent word to Ahab, "The gods do so to me, and more also, if enough dust is left in Samaria for a handful for each of the people who follow me" (v.10). The haughtiness of Ben Hadad evidently emboldened Ahab to reply to him, "Let not the one who puts on his armor boast like the one who takes it off" (v.11). Of course these were fighting words just as those of Ben Hadad were, and Ben Hadad received the message as he and his cohorts were drinking in the command post, the place where sober, sound wisdom was called for. He gave orders to get ready to attack the city (v.12).
But Ben Hadad ignored the fact that the God of Israel cared for His people. In fact, Ahab himself had cause to be fearful because of his weak condition numerically and because he had little regard for the God of Israel. In spite of this, God intervened, sending a prophet to Ahab to tell him that this great multitude of the Syrians would be delivered into their hand that day. Notice however that God told him this with an object in view, - that Ahab would know that God is indeed the Lord (v.13).
Ahab seemingly wanted more direction, and God gave this, telling him that he was to use the young leaders of the provinces, while Ahab himself was to be in charge. He mustered these leaders and followed this with mustering the people, only 7000 strong.
This seemed a pathetically weak force against the formidable army of Syria, but Ben Hadad, totally self-confident, was becoming drunk together with the other 32 kings (v.16). Would a leader like that inspire his men in disciplined warfare? Certainly not! But when the young men of Israel went out of the city, Ben Hadad gave orders to take them alive, whether they had come out for peace or for war. He had no doubt of Syria's total superiority.
But God's intervention decided everything. Those who wanted to capture the young men of Israel found that they themselves were killed instead (vs.19-20). This spread confusion into Syria's ranks and they fled from Israel. While Ben Hadad was able to escape on horseback, the army of Syria was left a prey to Israel, who attacked their horses and chariots and slaughtered a great number of the enemy (v.21).
However, the Lord sent the prophet again to Ahab to tell him not to relax, but strengthen himself, because Syria would in the Spring of the year return to attack Israel. The fact of God thus intervening on behalf of Ahab ought to have driven Ahab to turn from his evil ways and trust only the Lord, but sadly, the Word of God did not really penetrate his hard heart. The patience of God is wonderful, and this foolish king might have had a different end if only he had turned to the Lord.
A SECOND VICTORY FOR ISRAEL
The Syrians had no concept of a sovereign God, but assumed that each nation had certain 'gods' of various kinds who were all subject to the weakness and failure seen in humans. Ben Hadad's servants conceived the notion that Israel's God was a God of the hills because Israel bad triumphed in the hill country (v.23). Therefore they thought they would win if they were to fight Israel in the plain. Such is the stupidity of unbelief! They made careful plans as to how they would engage in another battle, and Ben Hadad was persuaded to accept these plans (vs.24-25).
As the Lord had warned Ahab, Ben Hadad returned in the Spring of the year with another tremendous army, going to Aphek, away from the hill country. Their arms filled the countryside, while Israel's forces resembled two little flock of goats (v.27).
The Lord again intervened on behalf of Israel, sending a man of God to Ahab to tell him that because the Syrians had said that God is not a God of the valleys, therefore God would deliver the multitude of the Syrians into the hand of the small Israelitish army (v.28). Again the Lord clearly declares that He has an object in doing this, that Ahab might know that God is the Lord. How often did God bear witness to His grace and power for Ahab's benefit! Yet all this had little lasting effect on Ahab's attitude toward God.
For seven days the armies remained opposite each other, each as it were taking measure of the other. Thus there was no element of surprise involved in the battle, except that when they attacked, the Israelites were able to kill 100,000 foot soldiers of the Syrians in one day The rest fled to Aphek, but found no security there, for God caused a wall to fall on 27,000 men. Thus there was a tremendous slaughter of Syria, and the king, Ben Hadad, found a hiding place in an inner chamber.
AN ILL - ADVISED TREATY
Ben Hadad's servants then advised their master to go out to seek the leniency of Ahab, for they had heard that Israel's kings were merciful. Ben Hadad would certainly not have spared Ahab if the tables had been turned, but of course he would take advantage of any possibility to remain alive. They put on the outward signs of repentance and came to Ahab, telling him "Your servant Ben Hadad says, "Please let me live" (v.32).
Ahab, self-complacent now that he was in the driver's seat, could be magnanimous, and told them, since Ben Hadad was still alive, "He is my brother." Sadly, this attitude compares with that of many Christians who consider it gracious to act as though even unbelievers were brothers, thus identifying themselves with the enemies of the Lord under the specious plea of toleration. But this is treachery against the Lord.
Ahab invited Ben Hadad into his chariot and Ben Hadad told him that the cities his father had taken from Ahab's father he would restore, and also that Ahab could set up market places for Israel in Damascus. On this basis they made a treaty and no doubt Ahab felt he had done good work in making Ben Hadad more friendly toward him in an outward way But Ahab was ignorant of God's thoughts.
GOD'S SENTENCE AGAINST AHAB
Ahab now needed a serious lesson. The Lord chose a striking way to teach him this. He had one of the sons of the prophets ask another man to wound him by striking. The man refused this, and was told a lion would kill him because he had refused to obey the Lord. This prophecy came to pass immediately after (v.36). Then the prophet asked the same of another man, who obliged him, inflicting a visible wound (v.37).
The prophet then waited for Ahab by the roadside, disguising himself with a bandage over his face (v.38). As the king passed by, he called out to him, saying that in the battle a man had brought to him a captive, telling him to guard the captive with the stipulation that if the captive escaped, either he would die or pay a tribute of silver. Then he said that while he had been busy the captive had disappeared.
Ahab responded that the man should be judged by his own admission, but Ahab was not prepared for the message the prophet then gave him, when the prophet took off his disguise and the king recognized him. He told Ahab that because he had let slip out of his hand the king that God had appointed to destruction, therefore the Lord would require Ahab's life for the life of Ben Hadad and Ahab's people for Ben Hadad's people. Not only would Ahab die, but his people, Israel, would suffer because of Ahab's wickedness. This was fulfilled by the raging conquest of Jehu (2 Ki.9:14-10:28).
Sadly, this message to Ahab did not turn him back to the Lord, but caused him only to become sullen and displeased (v.43). Such is the attitude of foolish unbelief. Ahab is a sad witness to the truth of Proverbs 29:1, "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
THE COLD-BLOODED MURDER OF NABOTH
When one adopts a sullen, sulking character, it is likely to develop more seriously. Ahab illustrated this in his dealings with Naboth the Jezreelite. He coveted what belonged to Naboth and offered him either money or another vineyard for Naboth's vineyard, since it was near Ahab's property (v.2). But Naboth had received the vineyard as an inheritance from his father, and told Ahab that his conscience toward the Lord would not allow him to give up that inheritance (v.3).
There was certainly no right reason that this should have affected Ahab so badly, but he went home again sullen and displeased, as he had before. He laid on his bed sulking, even refusing to eat (v.4). When he told Jezebel the reason for his sulking, she immediately knew what to do, and told him she would give him the vineyard of Naboth. She had no hesitation in using Ahab's name in her heartless abuse of authority. She wrote letters in his name and sealed them with his seal. Why was Ahab's seal available to her? But he made no objection, therefore he was just as guilty as she.
The letters were blatantly bold, demanding that Naboth be apprehended and two men of low character hired to bear false witness against him, to the affect that he had blasphemed God and the king (v.10). Of course the evil men were paid for their lies. The elders of the city were just as guilty as Jezebel and Ahab, for they knew that Naboth was accused falsely, but no one would make any protest. Jezebel had already decided that Naboth must die by stoning and this horrible injustice was quickly carried out (v.13).
The cold-blooded wife of Ahab then told him to take possession of Naboth's vineyard, for Naboth was dead (v.15). Ahab's conscience should have warned him that he would have to give account to God of the murder of Naboth, but he ignored his conscience and went down to take possession of Naboth's vineyard.
GOD SENDS ELIJAH TO AHAB
At this point God intervened. He sent Elijah to meet Ahab in the vineyard of Naboth, with the message, "Have you murdered and also taken possession?" and "Thus says the Lord, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours." Ahab's response, "Have you found me, 0 my enemy?" indicates that he had tried to hide his works from the Lord but had been found out. Therefore Elijah speaks the words of the Lord to Ahab, "I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord: Behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free. I will make your house like the house of Jereboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and made Israel sin" (vs.20-22).
What could Ahab say? His kingly dignity could not intimidate Elijah, and the moral force of Elijah's words compelled Ahab to listen. More than this, Ahab was also told, "The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel" (v.23). Elijah had before run away from Jezebel because of her vicious threat (ch.19:2-3), but he delivers the announcement of her end with no fear whatever Thus God had recovered him from his fear.
As to Ahab's family, he is told that the dogs would eat any of those who died in the city and the birds would eat any who died in the field (v.24). None of them would be allowed the dignity of a burial. What a message for a king of Israel to receive!
AHAB WARNED BUT DETERMINED
Three years later the show of repentance on Ahab's part had worn off. There had been no war between Israel and Syria, but rather than leaving matters as they were, Ahab was aiixious to regain Ramoth in Gilead from the Syrians. Jehoshaphat king of Judah was a godly king, but made the serious mistake of showing friendliness toward Ahab. He went down to visit Ahab, and Ahab told him that Ramoth belonged to Israel, but Syria had taken it (v.3). He did not say that God had allowed Syria to take Ramoth because of the wickedness of Ahab. But he asked Jehoshaphat to join him in fighting against Syria (v.4).
Jehoshaphat foolishly responded, "I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses" (v.4). He committed himself without any thought of inquiring of God. Yet after this he asked Ahab to enquire as to the Word of the Lord. He evidently felt uneasy, and he had reason to.
Ahab therefore gathered his idolatrous prophets, numbering 400, and asked them if he should go up to Ramoth or not. The prophets knew that Ahab had engineered this project and they therefore all agreed that he should go through with it. This was not at all inquiring of the Lord, but inquiring from men who were pleasing to him.
Jehoshaphat saw through this vain show of the false prophets and asked Ahab if there was not just one prophet of the Lord of whom they could enquire. Ahab admitted there was one, Micaiah, the son of Imlah, but Ahab hated him because he did not prophesy with the object of pleasing Ahab, but against him. When Jehoshaphat heard this he realized that Micaiah might be a true prophet of God, and wanted to hear him.
Ahab sent a messenger to call Micaiah (v.9), as the two kings sat on thrones at the gate of Samaria. We are told also that one false prophet had made horns of iron to back up his false message that Ahab would gore the Syrians until they were destroyed (v.11). All the prophets were agreed in telling Ahab that the Lord would deliver Ramoth into Ahab's hand. But Jehoshaphat knew that these prophets were only Ahab's "yes men," with no authority to speak for the Lord at all.
The messenger who called Micaiah urged him to agree with the false prophets because they were all agreed (v.13), but Micaiah told him that whatever the Lord told him to speak he would speak (v.14).
When Ahab asked Micaiah if he should go to Ramoth or not, Micaiah answered just at the false prophets did, "Go and prosper, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king" (v.15). But Ahab knew that Micaiah spoke sarcastically, and he reproved him for not telling the truth in the name of the Lord (v.16). Why did he not tell the false prophets the same? Because they spoke by the power of evil spirits and sounded convincing. Micaiah had no such power behind what he had said, and Ahab knew the difference.
Therefore Micaiah now spoke by the power of the Spirit of God, giving a message that was far from welcome to Ahab, "I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace" (v.17). He said nothing about a battle, whether Israel or Syria would win,. but only that Israel would be left without a leader. Of course this pointed to the death of Ahab, and Ahab petulantly reminded Jehoshaphat that he had said Micaiah always prophesied evil against Ahab (v.18).
However, Micaiah had more to say, telling them, "Therefore hear the word of the Lord." He had a message from God of vital consequence. He had seen the Lord on His throne and all the host of heaven standing by. It may seem strange that this included evil spirits, but God is in perfect control of satanic powers as well as all other powers.
God had already determined that Ahab would fall at Ramoth Gilead, and God questioned the spirits as to which of them could persuade Ahab to go to Ramoth Gilead. Some spoke in different ways as to how they could accomplish this (v.20), but one said he would go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab's prophets (vs.21-22). The Lord told him, "Go out and do so," for this would persuade Ahab.
Thus God, who is in perfect control of every matter, had put a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab's prophets, and He had declared disaster against Ahab (v.23). In this prophecy we see how God can use even those who are most opposed to Him to accomplish His own ends. One of the false prophets, Zedekiah, became bitterly angry at Micaiah and struck him on the cheek, saying haughtily, "Which way did the spirit go from me to speak to you?" (v.24).
Micaiah however did not respond angrily to this injustice, but faithfully prophesied, "Indeed you shall see on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide" (v.25). Zedekiah would certainly remember these words when this prophecy was fulfilled. He would then be convinced of his own folly, whether he would repent or not.
But Ahab gave orders that Micaiah was to be put in prison on a diet of only bread and water until Ahab returned in peace (v.27). This was gross cruelty, for Ahab had asked Micaiah to give him the word of the Lord and Micaiah had done so. But even this sentence did not intimidate Micaiah. He firmly declared, "if you ever return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me." More than this, he appealed to every one present, "Take heed, all you people." Why did Jehoshaphat at least not reason with Ahab against his unjust treatment of Micaiah? Because he had already compromised righteousness by his alliance with Ahab, and evil associations will always rob us of courage of faith.
In spite of such warning as Micaiah had given, Ahab was determined in his course and wanted to make every effort to defeat Micaiah's prophecy, so in going to battle he disguised himself, yet told Jehoshaphat to wear his kingly robes (v.30)! Did Jehoshaphat not realize that Ahab wanted him to die rather than Ahab himself? The king of Syria had instructed his men to fight only with the king of Israel and with no one else. Naturally, when the soldiers saw Jehoshaphat with his kingly attire, they thought he was Ahab and came to attack him. Jehoshaphat cried out, but evidently not to Lord. The soldiers realized he was not Ahab, and left him. Thus the Lord preserved Jehoshaphat by pure grace (vs.32-33).
THE DEATH OF AHAB
While Jehoshaphat in his kingly robes was spared from death, not so Ahab in his disguise, for a man shot an arrow from a bow at random and the arrow struck Ahab, penetrating between the joints of his armor (v.34). Certainly it was God who directed that arrow. Ahab told his chariot driver to take him out of the battle, for he was wounded. Though he was propped up in his chariot, he died at evening (v.35). Israel was left without a leader, as Micaiah had prophesied.
Then a shout was heard telling every man to return to his own city or country. The battle was over without Israel gaining its objective. The king was buried in Samaria, but the blood washed from his chariot was licked up by dogs, as Elijah had prophesied to Ahab (ch.21:19). Such was the end of the most wicked king Israel ever had. Things he did during his life are mentioned in verse 39, his building an ivory house and several cities, but he is remembered for his wickedness rather than for his accomplishments. His son Ahaziah took the throne at his death.
JEHOSHAPHAT'S REIGN IN JUDAH
Not a great deal is said about Jehoshaphat in Kings, though more is recorded of him in 2 Chronicles 17-20. He became king at 35 years of age and reigned 25 years. He followed the exaniple of his father Asa, in general doing what was right before God. However, he allowed the high places of worship to remain, where the people offered sacrifices and burned incense (v.43). These high places had an idolatrous association, so the sacrifices were not really sacrificed to the Lord. They were like the present day religious show of "every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor.10:5). Hezekiah later had the spiritual energy to remove the high places (2 Ki.18:4). Yet they were brought back after this, and Josiah "defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense" (2 Ki.23:8). But Jehoshaphat did not have the same godly zeal as Josiah.
Jehoshaphat failed also in his making peace with Ahab, king of Israel. Perhaps he thought he was being gracious in this friendship, but this was a mistaken view of grace, for it ignored faithfulness to God.
Verse 45 tells us that other activities of Jehoshaphat are recorded in the book of the Chronicles. But it is added that he banished from the land those morally perverted people who had remained in the land after the death of Asa (v.46). Edom had no king, being in subjection to Israel (v.47).
Jehoshaphat evidently wanted to follow Solomon in building ships to bring gold from Ophir, but the ships were wrecked at Ezion Geber. 2 Chronicles 20:37 shows us the reason for their wreckage. Jehoshaphat had unwisely allied himself with Ahaziah the son of Ahab, who followed his father in wickedness, so God sent a prophet to Jehoshaphat to tell him that He would destroy his works. Ezion Geber means "the counsel of a man." Jehoshaphat had sought such counsel, not the counsel of God.
Even after this Ahaziah asked Jehoshaphat to let his servants go with those of Jehoshaphat in the ships, but Jehoshaphat had learned a serious lesson, so he refused (v.49). Why should he have more ships wrecked? Yet we might ask, was he more concerned about the consequences of making wrong alliances, such as having his ships wrecked, than he was about simply honoring God by abstaining from making wrong alliances? Whether we suffer for this kind of thing of not, the fact is that God has told us. "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers," and simple faith will desire obey the Word of God without questioning. But it seems Jehoshaphat was slow to learn, for he should have realized through the history of Ahab's attempt to regain Ramoth Gilead that his friendship with Ahab was foolish. Why are we so slow to learn?
Jehoshaphat's death is recorded in verse 50, his burial being in Jerusalem. In the main had had been a good king, and God fully approved of this, though we cannot ignore the blemishes that were found in him, but rather should deeply learn not to fail in the same sad ways that he did. Jehoram his son then took the throne of Judah.
AHAZIAH'S REIGN IN ISRAEL
Ahaziah began to reign in Israel in the 17th year of Jehoshaphat. But he reigned only two years in Samaria, adopting the same evil course as Ahab and Jezebel who followed Jereboam the son of Nebat who made Israel sin. He worshiped and served Baal, which provoked the Lord to anger.
Thus ends the first Book of Kings, a history that confirms the fact that authority put into the hands of men ends in general failure. How true is the word of Ezekiel 21:27, "Overthrown, Overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him." Every kingdom of man will have its turn in being overthrown. What a relief for the entire world when Christ who alone has the right of authority will take His great power and reign!