The Fading Glory of Solomon
September 17th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM
1 Kings 11:11
THE FADING GLORY OF SOLOMON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 11
9-17-61 7:30 p.m.
The title of the sermon tonight is The Fading Glory of Solomon. In the Bible turn to Deuteronomy chapter 17. We shall read together verses 14 to the end of the chapter; Deuteronomy chapter 17. In this chapter and in this passage we are going to read together, there are seven qualifications for God’s king, and the sermon tonight will be a display of how Solomon violated six of those seven qualifications God wrote out for a king. It was as if Solomon was lifted up and presented as an example of what a king ought not to be. Now let us read together beginning at verse 14 in Deuteronomy 17, the seventeenth chapter, beginning at the fourteenth verse. Deuteronomy 17:14, now together:
When thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;
Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.
But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses; forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.
Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
Now if you want to follow the sermon, we shall take each one of the seven precepts that God had written down here in the law as qualifications for the king who shall rule over His people, and we shall see how Solomon violated all of those laws except one. That was the first one, and he had nothing to do about that one [Deuteronomy 17:14-15]. The first qualification was that he would be a member of the household and family of the faith, and being born a son of David, he was thereby a brother among his people. He belonged to the Jewish family and the Hebrew faith. So he qualified in the first one. We shall now take the rest of them, the following six, and follow the life of Solomon as he declined and as the glory in his life faded away. The reign of Solomon passed like an unsubstantial dream, like a midsummer night’s vision. It’s a strange thing that in the prophets and in the apostles you will not find Solomon mentioned. The only reference to him will be from our Lord, who then said that the lilies of the field excelled him [Matthew 7:28-29; Luke 11:27]. That’s one of the strangest things in the Bible. I picked up and copied to read for you a midrash, a commentary of the rabbinical Jew, from his Talmud on Ecclesiastes 2:10. This will be a very typical way that they interpret the Word of God. Listen to this midrash, this commentary from the Talmud. I quote, “At first, before he married strange women, Solomon reigned over the angels. He sat on the throne of the Lord” 1 Chronicles 29:23; then only over those below, “over all the kingdoms” 1 Kings 4:21; “then only over Israel” Ecclesiastes 1:12; “then only over Jerusalem” Ecclesiastes 1:1; “at last he reigned only over his staff” [Ecclesiastes 2:10]. As it is said, Ecclesiastes 2:10, “And this was my portion of my labor.” For by the word “this,” he meant the staff which was in his hand and which was the only possession left to him. That is a very typical midrash, commentary from the Talmud. The life of Solomon is but the moral of all human tales. ‘Tis but the same rehearsal of the past: first freedom, and then glory. And when that fails, well, vice, corruption, barbarism at last.
Now, we are going to take the life of Solomon as it waned and died in its glory. The next qualification for the king was this: “He shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt” [Deuteronomy 17:16], that he might buy and trade in the traffic of horse flesh. I presume today you would call that: he’s not to build racetracks, and he’s not to put in parimutuel betting windows, and he’s not to give himself to those things that go with gambling and horse racing and all the bookies and parimutuels and all the degrading things that would come out of the traffic of horses and chariots. Now, if you want to turn to 1 Kings 10 and 11, you can follow this syllable- by-syllable and step-by-step, the violation of Solomon of that interdiction: 1 Kings chapter 10, verse 26, 28, and 29; 1 Kings 10:26:
And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem.
And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and the king’s merchants received an order . . . .
And a chariot went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty: and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they bring them out by their means.
[1 Kings 10:26, 28, 29]
He was a horse-trader from way back and he liked them. He liked to run them. He liked to hitch them up to the chariots and away did they go. And Josephus described it:
When Solomon appeared across the country, he had young men behind him driving in chariots,
chosen for their fine stature and their raven black hair that he plat with solid gold.
And when Solomon came, the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Syrians and the Moabites and all the rest of them looked in amazement and wonder upon this man Solomon, Solomon with his horses and his chariots [1 Kings 10:29].
All right, the second thing here in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy: “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away” [Deuteronomy 17:17]. Now, the commentary in 1 Kings 11:
But, but King Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, and the Ammonites, and the Edomites, and the Zidonians, and the Hittites;
Of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you; for surely, they will turn away your heart with their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.
And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods.
[1 Kings 11:1-4]
That is one of the most astonishing and astounding of all the things that I’ve ever read in the Word of God: he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. There were one thousand inmates in the seraglio of Solomon. And if you will dig in the history and look in those old musty volumes, you’ll find that the largest harem in recorded history, ancient or modern, belonged to Darius Codomannus, and he had one wife and three hundred fifty-nine concubines. That’s the biggest one in all recorded history, but this man Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines! [1 Kings 11:3].
Why, he made Brigham Young and Darius and all the other polygamists of all time look like peanuts compared to how he did it! That’s an astonishing thing, an amazing development! And with that violation of the interdiction of God, there came one of the worst, most dehumanizing and degrading institutions that mind can imagine. For the first time, you will find in the court of Solomon the eunuch appearing. Wherever there is polygamy, there you will find it’s inevitable, concomitant and necessary: the eunuch, the dry stick. And in those harems, those seraglios, there do you find idle and luxuriously loving women, enraging jealousy currying the royal favor. And the ennui and the weariness and the debauchery, the degrading that arises out of the multiplication of princesses, wives and concubines, the polygamist situation, such as you describe here, to us it is unimaginable! And yet, that’s the thing to which Solomon gave himself wantonly, likingly, choosingly, volitionally, “And Solomon clave unto them in love” [1 Kings 11:2]. He liked it that way: the multiplication of those strange women.
Now, the next interdiction of God: “Neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold” [Deuteronomy 17:17]. Now, look in 1 Kings 10: 21 and 27, “And all King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon [1 Kings 20:21] . . . And King Solomon made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones…” [1 Kings 10:27]. And God said, “Thou shall not greatly multiply to thyself silver and gold” [Deuteronomy 17:17]. There is something about the corrupting power of the accumulation of wealth that decays and corrodes and rusts men’s souls. There are two extremities of life that make things difficult for God: one, the accessibly, oppressively poor. It is difficult, difficult, to build a great work for God where people live in rags and in starvation and in war. That is the first one. And the second extremity is as vile and as corrupting. It is almost impossible, Jesus said, that thing about a camel going through an eye of a needle [Luke 18:22-25]. It is almost impossible to build a great work for God where men heap up to themselves vast riches.
And riches have a tendency to corrode and to corrupt. If you don’t believe that, pick out any godly man in this world, and almost inevitably his children have fallen away from the devoted humble faith of the father. “Thou shalt not,” said this Jehovah God, “Thou shalt not multiply to thyself greatly these vast accumulations of silver and gold” [Deuteronomy 17:17]. Use it for God, that’s all it is for. Dedicate it to the Lord, use it for Him.
Now, the next interdiction:
And it shall be with him that he shall write before him this book that he may read it all the days of his life.
That he may learn to love the Lord and to keep all the words of this law and keep these statutes to do them.
Now, look what Solomon did; 1 Kings 11, verses 5 through 8:
And Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom, or Molech, the abomination of the Ammonites.
And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father.
Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.
And likewise did he for all of his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.
[1 Kings 11:5-8]
That is an astonishing and an amazing development! When it speaks of the hill that is before Jerusalem, it’s talking about Mount Olivet. And on the extremity, on the southern crest of the Mount of Olives, there did Solomon erect these altars and these images. Ashtoreth was the soft queen of the night, the soft goddess of the moon; and she was worshiped in the most indescribable orgies that mind could imagine. And there on the southern crest of Olivet, did Solomon erect an image and an altar to Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians [1 Kings 11:5-8].
And there on that same mountain which is before Jerusalem, did he erect an altar to Molech, the god of the fierceness of the blazing of the noonday sun, who was worshiped by casting children into his burning and fiery arms. And there, on that southern crest of Mount Olivet, did Solomon erect an altar and an image to Chemosh, the male god who was worshiped in a phallic devotion [1 Kings 11:7].
I copied this out of Milton’s Paradise Lost, talking about Solomon,
Molech, horrid king, be smeared with blood of human sacrifice and parent’s tears, though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud, their children’s cries unheard, that passed through fire to his grim idol. Him the Ammonite worshiped in Rabba. The wisest heart of Solomon, he led by fraud to build his temple right against the temple of God on that approbrious hill and made his grave the pleasant valley of Hinnom: Topheth thence and black Gehenna called, the type of hell.
And the amazing thing in this story, all of the priests and all of the Levites there on Mount Moriah, day-by-day—with perfect precision and with thoughtless perfection, offering the sacrifices to God: the two kidneys along with the fat—and no Levite and no priest raised his voice against the counter-smoke that was rising to Chemosh and to Molech and to Ashtoreth on the hill across the Kidron Valley.
And another thing: and God took the spirit of prophecy away from the kingdom of Solomon. No prophet arose. The flame and the baptism and the fire of the Spirit of God never fell! Nathan died. Gad had died, and there was no prophet in the reign of Solomon until the end time when Ahijah from Shiloh came to announce the dissolution and the destruction of the kingdom [1 Kings 11:30-32]. Solomon, Solomon.
Now the next interdiction, “Let his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment” [Deuteronomy 17:20]. Now, you turn over here to the twelfth chapter of the Book of Kings and see the superior personal ephemera of the court of Solomon as it ground down and crushed the people. By and by, as the days passed, you would expect that the nobles and the princes and their houses would emulate the great king. And however Solomon was, and however his presence, and his majesty, and his attitude, that same thing you’d find reflected in his princes and in his nobles. Now I want you to look at these young men who grew up with Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. And Rehoboam said to the young men [1 Kings 12:8]:
What shall I say to these people who say they refuse any longer to be ground to death by the grievous burdens of taxation and the scorn and the whiplash of forced labor? What shall I say to them? And, the young men spake unto Rehoboam—
the young men who were grown up with him, and they said—
You tell them that my little finger shall be heavier than my father’s loins, and whereas my father lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. And where my father chastised you with whips, I will chastise you with scorpions.
[1 Kings 12:9-11]
Such insensible pride, such wont and empty ostentation; but that was the court of Solomon. And those are the young men who grow up with Rehoboam, Solomon’s son; they were without understanding, and they loved vanity and cheap display and parade.
And finally, to the end that he may prolong his days in the kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel, twice God appeared to Solomon. And God said to him, “Solomon, keep My laws and follow in My statutes, and I will add length of days to thy life and establish thy kingdom and thy throne forever” [1 Kings 3:14, 9:5]. Now look, 1 Kings chapter 11; now look, look at verse 9:
And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord…
Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou has not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.
[1 Kings 11:9- 11]
And Solomon died in the very apex of the strength of his life, a weary old man when he was sixty years of age [1 Kings 11:42-43]. Remember how long Moses lived? At one hundred twenty: his eye was not dim nor his natural strength abated [Deuteronomy 34:7]. But Solomon was worn out and through and aged when he was sixty years old. And God took the kingdom away from him and just for David’s sake, left him a small part, one tribe: Benjamin had meshed with Judah [1 Kings 11:36]. Ah, how the glory has vanished!
A brief summary: he began as Nathan the prophet called him, Jedidiah, beloved of God, and the Lord loved him [2 Samuel 12:24-25]. Every princely promise crowned the life of this beautiful young prince. When he was young, he loved the Lord [1 Kings 3:3], and Nathan called him Jedidiah, beloved of Jehovah, favored of God. The second part of his life: a life of glory and splendor beyond compare. God gave him wisdom, and he understood, and he ferreted out the answers to what God had wrought in the earth [1 Kings 4:29-34]: things above and things around and things underneath. He built the glorious temple [1 Kings 6:14]. He built the cities of Israel, and he raised the glory of Israel to a zenith, to an apex, to a height that it had never known before, climaxed by the visit of the queen of Sheba, who, when she saw the wisdom and the glory of Solomon said, “And the half has never been told,” never been told [1 Kings 10:7]: the glory, and the majesty, and the presence, and the wisdom, and the riches, and the honor of Solomon.
And then the decline and the fading away: the young man, so glorious, has become a weary, old, worn-out carcass and shell. And a beautiful prince has turned into a tyrant with whips and scorpions driving the people [1 Kings 12:11]. And the magnificent leader is laden with debt.
And Hiram in disgust—king of Tyre turns away [1 Kings 9:11-13], and the Pharaoh of Egypt gives refuge to his servant who supplants him in the kingdom [1 Kings 11:40]. And there’s not a great man named in the court of Solomon. David walked among prophets, and poets, and great warriors, and mighty men. There’s not a one of them named in the entire court and reign of King Solomon. He lived alone in his tyranny and in his luxurious, dissolute, uxorious, dissipated, degraded, corroded life.
Solomon: he found the people free, he left them enslaved. He found a people unburdened, he left them oppressed. He found a people of simple tastes; he left them luxury-loving. He found a people who had a tendency to follow God; he left them indifferent to the abomination of the heathen. And he left behind a weak and a worthless son who divided the kingdom and who disgraced the name.
In the Camposanto in Florence, Italy, the great artist Orcagna has pictured Solomon, when the trumpet of the archangel has sounded and he is painfully struggling from the sepulcher, and in his ignorance and in his despair, and in his confusion, Solomon knows not whether to turn to the right or to the left, whether he’s going to be numbered among the saved or the damned, whether his lot is with the worshipers of Jehovah or the idolatrous worshipers of Chemosh and Ashteroth and Molech, whether he belongs to the people of Jehovah or belongs to the condemned people of the damned. And do you notice, when you turn to the genealogy of our Lord, Matthew writes the genealogy from David and to Solomon, because the kingly reign came down through him [Matthew 1:1-17]. But when Luke wrote the actual genealogy of the bloodline of the Lord Jesus Christ, he followed it through Solomon’s brother Nathan and down to Mary [Luke 3:23]. And the line that came in its fruit and its glory in the gift of our Savior to the world never followed the line of Solomon. God set him aside and chose the line of his brother Nathan, through whom our Savior was given to the world. What a shame, what a tragedy, what a pity; and the glory faded away.
Ah! It is so easy for that to characterize the life of any man, and especially the young. So fine and so strong, so beautiful and so princely, so gifted and endowed with every glorious promise, and then dissipated and wasted, and sell it for a mess of pottage, and trade it for nothing in exchange. And the life so full of beauty, and glory, and promise falls into decay, corruption, and disappointment, and hurt, into the abyss of those who fail the great, the high purposes of God. Oh, oh, oh! How infinitely better, when the Lord calls, to offer Him heart, and life, and hand. How much the sweeter to answer the great, great, heavenly vision, true to it to the end of our days, from grace-to-grace and glory-to-glory and blessing-to-blessing, following the will of our Savior.
And there’s an assignment for you and a call from God, just as there was for Solomon. He had a place, and a time, and a mission, and an assignment, and a task, and God said, if you will be true to My elective purpose and call in your life, I will give you every rich gift from above.
That’s with us and you; God has a purpose, and an assignment, and a task, and a calling for each one. And when we follow the precepts of the Lord, true like Paul to the heavenly vision [Acts 26:19], every day is a triumph and a glory and a blessing. But when like Solomon, our hearts are lifted up and we turn aside from the commandments and the statutes of the Lord, our lives are written in tears, and in agedness, and in disappointment, in sorrow, in all of those unhappinesses that follow those who turn from the path and the call and the will of God.
While we sing this song tonight, God has a call for you. If you’ve never given Him in faith your heart and your soul, make it tonight. Make it tonight. Turning aside from all of the things that keep you from God, come. Come. Come. If the Lord has spoken to your heart in a special appeal for a special assignment, come. Come. Come. If the Lord bids, give your life in a new way to the devoted service of our Master, come. Come. Come, as He shall open the door, shall lead the way, shall whisper the appeal for your heart and your life. Make it tonight. Make it tonight.
As we sing this hymn, as our people prayerfully wait upon the moving Spirit of the Lord, as God shall say the word of invitation and appeal, make it tonight. “Here I come, Lord. Here I am. I feel in my soul, God has a work for me, and here I am. Here I come. I offer Him my highest best.” Would you, would you make it tonight, while we stand and while we sing?
THE FADING GLORY OF SOLOMON
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 11:11
I. Seven precepts for king
II. Solomon violated six of the seven precepts
III. Set up idol worship after marrying hundreds of idol worshiping wives
IV. People feel burdened supporting Solomon’s opulence
V. Three parts of Solomon’s life
1. Youth and early reign
2. In all his glory
3. Fading glory, decline