I Kings 3-11
Solomon inherited the Kingdom from his father David.
His task was to maintain and control a peaceful territory established by his father.
Solomon prayed to God for divine wisdom in the execution of his duties as a result he made many achievements.
King Solomon’s achievements
- He built a Temple for God in Jerusalem as a fulfillment of God’s promises to David. (I Kings 5, 6)
- He collected and composed thousands of proverbs and songs which were used in teaching and worship (3,000 Proverbs 1,005 songs) (Prov. 1:1 – 5)
- He established and developed trade links with other countries which led to economic prosperity in Israel/ He was a successful merchant.
- Solomon initiated industrial activities and exploited copper deposits in the area of Edom which had been conquered by David.
- He developed diplomatic relations with foreign countries by marrying the daughters of the Kings of those countries e.g. Married the daughters of the Kings of Egypt, Moab, Edom, Tyre and many others I Kings 3:1, 1:1) He remained at peace with those countries.
- He built up a professional army equipped with horse drawn chariots, Had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen I Kings 10:26.
- He had government officials who assisted Solomon in his administrative duties. (I Kings 4)
- He was a great wise man e.g.
- He was able to judge difficult cases and settle disputes fairly ( in the story of two women (I Kings 3:16 – 28)
- His wisdom is seen in the way he organized trade with other countries.
- The queen of Sheba (Ethiopia travelled all the way to test Solomon’s wisdom. (I Kings 10:1 – 9)
9. Solomon brought the Ark of the Covenant to the Temple of Jerusalem which represented God’s presence among his people (I Kings 8).
10. He built himself a palace that took 13 years to be completed (1 Kings 7).
11. Solomon divided the kingdom into administrative districts in order to exploit the resources effectively.
12. Solomon initiated an ambitious building programme in which he fortified Jerusalem and other cities.
King Solomon’s failuresAlthough Solomon was a successful King, he had many failures. These include;
- He married many foreign wives who brought with them the worship of foreign gods to Israel. Ex 34:16.
- He allowed his foreign wives to worship their gods in Israel.
- He built high places of worship/temples for the gods of his wives. Ex 20:4 – 5.
- Solomon worshiped the gods of his wives alongside the God of Israel thus broke the covenant with God.
- He imposed heavy taxation on his subjects and his districts in order to raise part of the government revenue.
- Solomon overspend and misused the wealth of the Kingdom by building a huge palace.
- He overtaxed his subjects to maintain high standard of living in his royal court/ was extravagant.
- He introduced forced labour to carry on his building programmes. E.g. palace and temple, therefore breaking the covenant rule of brotherhood.
- He gave King Hiram of Tyre an area of Israel’s land to pay off his debts thus treating the nation’s land as his own personal property.
- He killed his half brother Adonijah (1Kings 2) because he suspected that Adonijah could be his rival to the throne thus committing murder.
- He practiced nepotism by exempting his own people from taxation and forced labour i.e. tribes of Judah and Benjamin exempted from forced labour and payment of taxes.
- He hired the skills of pagan craftsmen in the construction of the Temple and his palace.
- He made treaties with foreign Nations/neighbouring nations against the covenant requirements.
Lessons Christians learn from King Solomon’s reign
- Be sexually pure.
- Be Monogamous. Solomon’s seven hundred wives led him into worshipping their foreign gods.
- Be just and fair.
- Respect and honour God.
- Not misuse national resources.
- Put God above everything else.
THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL (I Kings 12.)
The death of Solomon and the Division of the Kingdom
After the death of King Solomon, his son Rehoboam succeeded him.
Not all tribes of Israel accepted him as their King and therefore it split into two.
The Northern 10 tribes formed Israel while the 2 Southern tribes formed Judah. Judah retained Jerusalem as the capital city.
Factors that led to the division/reasons for the rise of schism in Israel
- Solomon practiced idolatry which made God to punish him by splitting the kingdom.
- Solomon built high places for idols.
- The introduction of forced labour and heavy taxation led to discontentment among the Israelites and this made them rebellious.
- Solomon had many foreign wives who brought with them the worship of foreign gods to Israel.
- Rehoboam’s failure to heed to the elders wise counsel to rule the Israelites less harshly.
- Rehoboam’s acceptance of the foolish advice given by the youth to rule the people more harshly than his father had angered the people.
- Long standing feuds in David’s house.
- Jeroboam was ready to lead the rebellious groups against Rehoboam.
- Solomon’s favor extended towards the Southern tribes making the northern tribes to rebel/Solomon practiced nepotism and tribalism making northern tribes rebel.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TEMPLE IN ISRAEL
The Temple of Jerusalem played important roles in religious, social and economic lives of the Israelites.
- It symbolized God’s presence among his people through the Ark of the Covenant which was kept in the Temple.
- It was a dwelling place for God. I Kings 8:12 – 13.
- It was a centre/house of worship and prayer for the Jews/ priests offered sacrifices, burnt incense and prayers to God in the Temple.
- All the Jewish Religious festivals/feasts such as Passover, Pentecost and New Year were celebrated in the Temple.
- The Temple was a symbol of national security because the Jews believed that the Temple would never be destroyed.
- Religious rites were performed in the Temple e.g. Purification and dedication rites, naming, circumcision of baby boys and lepers were cleansed in the temple.
- It was a place for pilgrimage for the Jews living in Palestine and the Jews of the Diaspora
- It was a commercial centre and housed the Jewish treasury where currencies were exchanged and animals for sacrifices sold.
- It was a centre for Jewish learning where the teaching of the law was conducted
- It was used as a law court where social and religious issues could be solved by the Sanhedrin/council of Jewish religious leader.
- 11. It was a symbol of Jewish unity. It united the Jews as the people of God, since it was built and maintained by Kings. It was a royal sanctuary thus providing stability for the monarch.
- It was the residence for the religious leaders and the place where priests and prophets Lived, e.g. prophetess Anna, Luke 2:36 – 38.
- The Jews believed that the Messiah would appear in the Temple.
- The Temple was the only place where sacrifices to God were offered by the priests.
- God revealed himself to many in the Temple e.g. Hannah, Isaiah etc.
LOYALTY TO GOD ELIJAH
Elijah means “Yahweh is my God”
Factors that led to spread of idolatry in Israel
Idolatry refers to worship of idols.
An idol is an image representing a god usually made using materials such as bronze, stone or hard wood.
The images of these gods would be kept in the places of worship where the worshipers went to ask for whatever needs they had.
The 2nd commandment Ex. 20:4 forbids making of images of anything “In the heavens above or the earth below…”
The Israelites were forbidden from bowing down to /worshipping these images. (Deut 5:8 – 10 and Lev 26:1)
To guard against the temptations to turn to the worship of the Canaanite gods, Yahweh through Moses had forewarned the Israelites that when they enter Canaan, they were supposed to destroy all the worshipping places e.g. temples/shrines and cultic objects (Ex .34:13).
The Israelites were not supposed to:
- Make any agreement/treaties with the foreigners.
- Not to intermarry with the foreigners.
- Practice polytheism /worship of many gods.
- Copy the way other nations were ruled and governed.
- Compromise the worship of Yahweh with that of Canaanites.
However, when the Israelites settled in Canaan the Canaanite influence on them was great and they started to fall away from the worship of Yahweh.
The following contributed to this:
1.The local Canaanite religion
The Canaanite religion had the following features/ qualities;
- It was predominantly a nature religion related to forces of nature e.g. rain and drought. They were a means of maintaining the ordered harmony of nature and the life of the community/it was cyclic they repeated seasons.
- It was polytheistic/ comprised of many gods and goddesses’ e.g.
- El – The high god, the king and father
- Asherah – the “wife” of El, a goddess of fertility.-Baal – the storm god also referred to as the god of rain and fertility. He was sometimes called Baal Hadad which means god of storm. He was represented in the form of a bull, a symbol of strength and fertility.
- Baalath – female partner of Baal. Baalath means lady, her personal name was
- Mot – was the god of drought, famine and death.
- Anat – “sister” of Baal, a goddess of war and love.
Symbols/idols/images were made to represent each god/goddess e.g.
- Baal was represented in the form of a bull and stone pillar.
- Asherah by a sacred pole.
- Temple prostitution was part of the worship of gods and goddesses.
- The man identified himself with Baal while the woman identified herself with Astarte the wife of Baal. It was believed that if a barren couple imitated Baal and Astarte when having sex, they would be able to bear children.
- Human/animal sacrifices were made to gods/goddesses.
- Festivals and feasts were celebrated in honour of the gods and goddesses e.g.
- Feast of unleavened Bread which was carried out at the beginning of the barely harvest. —–Feast of weeks celebrated during the wheat harvest.
- Feast of in-gathering celebrated at the beginning of the agricultural year.
- Rituals were performed to ensure continued fertility/well being of the community.
- There were prophets and prophetess for each god and goddess.
- Each god and goddess played a specific role in the community e.g.
- Anat-Female deity rep. love
- Asherah-Female deity rep. motherhood
- Astarte- female deity represented war.
- There was a chief god/goddess i.e. El
- There were temples/shrines/high places of worship of the god and goddess.
- Agricultural activities were linked to appeasing Baal, the rain god.
Influence of the local Canaanite Religion
- the new situation in Canaan made the Israel compromise the worship of Yahweh with that of Canaanite duties leading to Syncretism e.g. one time the Israelites recognized Yahweh as their sole God in the time of need/crisis at other times worshipped him as a Canaanite deity at Canaanite sanctuaries and making their own at Gilgal, Bethel, Dan, Gibeon, and Shiloh
- The Israelites used the items of Canaanites, sanctuaries e.g. Altar, the stone pillar and the wooden pole belonging to the Canaanite religion in worship.
- The sacrifices and offerings of the Canaanites were taken over by the Israelites e.g.
- Peace offering for renewed communion between the deity and the worshippers.
- The burnt offering – given wholly for the deity.
- Cereal offering of the fruits.
4. Israel adopted great festivals which belonged to the structure of agriculture life in Canaan e.g.
5. Transition from pastoral life to agricultural life, they were attracted by the agricultural successes of the Canaanites and thought this was due to their religion and thus began copying their worship activities.
6. The Israelites were attracted to the visible gods of the Canaanites as opposed to the invisible Yahweh.
7. The Israelites failure to effect God’s commands to destroy all the cultic objects and temple used in the worship of Canaanite gods.
8. The Israelites failed to understand the nature of their God: They broke God’s commandments which prevented them from worshipping their gods e.g. made and worshipped the golden bull calf.
9. The change of environment from nomadic to settled and agricultural environment. The nature gods proved more relevant than Yahweh (The God of the desert.)
10. The religious schism between Judah and Israel
Schism: refers to a division within or separation from an established church/Religion.
The other factor that led to the spread of idolatry in Israel dates back to around 922 B.C. when Jeroboam became the King of Israel. He made sure that the people of his kingdom did not have any links with the people of Judah.
Ways in which King Jeroboam contributed to religious schism between
Judah and Israel. 1Kings 12:25 – 33
- He made two golden calves and placed one at Bethel and another at Dan to represent Yahweh Vs 29.
- He set up two rival places/ centers of worship and ignored Jerusalem. V.s31.
- He made the Israelites to offer sacrifices to the golden calves. V.s.32.
- He chose priests from ordinary families to serve at worship centers. Priests were supposed to come from the house of Levi. Vs. 31
- He built other places of worship/shrines on hill tops vs. 32.
- He burnt incense at altars of the idols/ made sacrifices to idols himself, thus breaking the first commandment.
- He instituted religious festivals in the months of his choice.
From the above we conclude that Jeroboam set a bad example for all the Kings who came after him in Israel.
Factors which lead people away from the worship of God today
- Materialism, love/craving for earthly possessions/wealth at the expense of spiritual development.
- Corruption which makes people mistrust God/come to the conclusion that God does not care.
- Permissiveness in society which makes people lose value especially religious values/social influence from peer groups.
- Mass media /pornography where people spend time listening and watching T.V, videos and films. They may influence people’s activities which are contrary to the true worship of God.
- Urbanization leads people to lose their identity/change values which may lead to degeneration of morals.
- Dehumanization where the value of a person is not considered but the service they can provide.
- Threats to human life/human dignity; caused by wars nuclear power/abortion which make people lose faith in God.
- Confusion arising from religious pluralism. Some people wonder which is the true religion as some religions advocate worship of idols/Satan.
- Oppression. Social/political/cultural/economics/religion suffering might make some people loose faith in God.
- Sexual immorality/adultery, fornication, prostitution, homosexuality take away some people from the community of worshippers.
- Scientific discoveries. People come to place their faith in science and technology. They believe it can solve all their problems.
- Addiction to drugs.
- Social prejudices/discrimination racism/tribalism destroys the unity of humanity.
- Poverty dehumanizes the unit of humanity.
King Ahab’s marriage with a Phoenician princess
(I Kings 16:29 – 34)
The third factor that led to idolatry in Israel was Ahab’s marriage to Queen Jezebel who promoted idolatry in the following ways:
- She imported her Baal religion to Israel.
- She asked her husband, Ahab to build high places for the idols.
- She influenced the king to make Baalism the state religion.
- She persecuted the prophets of Yahweh.
- She influenced King Ahab to worship Baal.