Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Solomon, the (occasionally) Unwise One

At the time Solomon became king, there was no centralized place of worship for the people of Israel. Instead, many were worshipping indiscriminately in the “high places” in the mountains. And Solomon, instead of following the practices of his father David, who worshipped at the Ark, joined them. Ultimately, his worship practice and his insatiable desire for foreign women would be the undoing of the unified kingdom of Israel.

Before that, however, Solomon would complete his greatest accomplishment, the building of the temple. Remarkably it is accomplished through an agreement with the king of Tyre, who supplies materials and craftsmen:
1 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram always loved David. 2And Solomon sent word to Hiram, 3"You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet. 4But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune. 5And so I intend to build a house for the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD said to David my father, 'Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.' 6Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. And my servants will join your servants, and I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set, for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians." (1 Kings 5:1-6
Alas, however, Solomon also makes an unwise decision:
King Solomon drafted forced labor out of all Israel, and the draft numbered 30,000 men. (1 Kings 5:13)
He enslaves (more accurately a corvée, also described as a labor “tax”—wherein people were drafted into public works labor for specified periods) his own people to build the temple. God will use the fury created over Solomon’s use of forced labor to ignite the rebellion that will lead to a divided kingdom.

The interesting thing is the multithreaded nature of God’s sovereign plan. The dividing of the kingdom after Solomon’s death is ordained—but look how it plays out:
  • Back in the book of 1 Samuel, at the end of the era of judges, when the people were clamoring for a king, the prophet Samuel warns them that, among other negative consequences of their ill-advised request, they would be enslaved by their own king (1 Sam 8:12, 17).
  • Indeed, Solomon fulfills this prophecy, using forced labor to build the temple. (See also 2 Chron. 2:17-18)
  • This unwise choice by Solomon sets the stage for a rebellion.
  • Later, Solomon turns away from God (1 Kings 11) and worships, in those “high places,” the foreign gods of his 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines!
  • God is angered, and decrees that the kingdom would be divided.
  • After Solomon’s death, God uses the simmering resentment created by Solomon’s use of the corvée, as prophesied by Samuel, as the secondary means to accomplish his decree.
Very cool indeed, how it all works together.

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