“You’ve come a long way!”
And it’s not all good.
That comes to mind when I read this section on Solomon. Saul had no organized government to speak of. David had certainly more organization, but Solomon, as the saying goes, “takes the cake.”
The first readers of Kings were exiles in Babylon and this look back at Solomon and the glory days of their nation had to be a bittersweet experience. As “numerous as the sands of the sea,” “happy,” part of a huge empire that reached north and east to the Euphrates and south and west to Egypt. “Now look at us” they could think. “Prisoners in a foreign land, subjugated to pagans.”
But Kings wasn’t written just to look back on the glory days. It was written to tell how the glory days were lost. Though Solomon’s empire is portrayed as magnificent, within the portrayal are signs of decline.
Solomon not only worships the Lord, but also worships at the centers for Canaanite worship (3:3). Note that while Solomon has divided the land into twelve districts, these do not correspond to the twelve tribes and their allotment of land. Solomon collects for himself twelve thousand horses – an action prohibited by the law (Deuteronomy 17:16). He taxed his own people heavily in order to pay for his monarchy and enslaved his own people to accomplish his building projects. Israel had been warned this would happen (1 Samuel 8:16). He spent seven years building the temple, and nearly twice that building his own palace.
What you are supposed to see is something great, grand, and wonderful – at least in the eyes of mankind. Look at the number of people who sing his praises! But in our hearts, we know that something is wrong with the heart of Solomon. Success in the eyes of men is not necessarily the same as success in the eyes of God.