Bible Commentary: 1 Kings 7:1-22 and Related

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1 Kings 7:1-22 and Related

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Solomon Builds His Palace

Solomon also built the main administrative centers of Israel’s government. The massive House of the Forest of Lebanon probably served as Solomon’s armory. Measuring about 150 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall, it obtained its name from the white fragrant cedar wood with which it was paneled—no doubt taken from Lebanon’s famous Mount Lebanus—and from its 45 pillars, which must have looked like the trees of a forest. Around the building ran a three-course row of windows, beveled on the inside to maximize the dispersion of daylight. The doors were similarly beveled on the exterior, for aesthetics, and arranged in groups of three, providing quick access to the interior. Before the building was also a colonnade of pillars supporting an exterior roof.

Solomon’s court was seated in the Hall of Judgment. Here Solomon sat as the Supreme Justice of Israel under God. Under Israel’s system of justice, a citizen could appeal directly to the king in matters of law or equity and, if the king agreed to hear the case, the proceedings were held in the Hall of Judgment. Once again, the hall was paneled with Lebanon cedar. Here also was perhaps the main chamber for what some have described as Israel’s national Assembly of Elders, a sort of House of Lords or Senate for Israel, which, in the opinion of some modern examiners, assisted the king in the government over which he presided. We’ll see further mention of this in a few days.

Solomon’s personal residence was modeled on the Hall of Judgment, although little information is given about its own features. If Solomon followed the typical pattern of Middle Eastern monarchs, his personal residence was at one extreme of the complex, the House of the Forest of Lebanon and the Hall of Judgment in the center, and the residence of the daughter of Pharaoh was at the opposite extreme (along with the residence of Solomon’s harem).

A Foolish Strategy for Peace and Security 

In mentioning Solomon’s personal residence, Scripture adds that Solomon built a similar residence for his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh. It was not the practice of sovereigns to dwell with their spouses, and thus a second residence was provided for the daughter of Pharaoh. But this note also raises some questions we have not yet looked at. When had Solomon taken the daughter of Pharaoh? Was it before or after his father’s death? And why was such a pairing permitted, especially given the prohibitions against marrying a non-Israelite (Exodus 23:31-33 Exodus 23:31-33 [31] And I will set your bounds from the Red sea even to the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert to the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and you shall drive them out before you. [32] You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. [33] They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me: for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.
American King James Version×
; Exodus 34:12-16 Exodus 34:12-16 [12] Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you go, lest it be for a snare in the middle of you: [13] But you shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: [14] For you shall worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: [15] Lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice to their gods, and one call you, and you eat of his sacrifice; [16] And you take of their daughters to your sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make your sons go a whoring after their gods.
American King James Version×
; Deuteronomy 7:1-4 Deuteronomy 7:1-4 [1] When the LORD your God shall bring you into the land where you go to possess it, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you; [2] And when the LORD your God shall deliver them before you; you shall smite them, and utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, nor show mercy to them: [3] Neither shall you make marriages with them; your daughter you shall not give to his son, nor his daughter shall you take to your son. [4] For they will turn away your son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy you suddenly.
American King James Version×
)? It would appear that she was his first wife, given her mention here and in 1 Kings 11 (even though Solomon’s heir, Rehoboam, was not her son but the son of an Ammonite, 1 Kings 14:21 1 Kings 14:21And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. And his mother’s name was Naamah an Ammonitess.
American King James Version×
).

First of all, it should be noted that the prohibitions just cited were against marrying Canaanites, not Egyptians. And in 1 Kings 3, the fact that Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh (verse 1) was immediately followed by the fact that he at that time generally walked in obedience to God (verse 3)—that is, his marriage was not referred as something wrong. Still, we can see in it the seeds of what later became a huge problem.

Generally speaking, as mentioned in our earlier highlights on 1 Kings 3 and 2 Chronicles 1, the marriages of Middle Eastern sovereigns often were the seals of political alliances made with foreign potentates. Solomon’s marriage to the daughter of Pharaoh was most likely the sealing of an alliance with Egypt. Josephus, the Jewish historian, states that Solomon took the daughter of Pharaoh after David’s death (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 8, chap. 2, sec. 1). And it does follow that way in 1 Kings. Did Solomon undertake the alliance with Egypt on the death of David in an effort to forestall a possible war with Israel’s powerful southern neighbor—who might seek to take advantage of a new king suspected of lacking the military acumen of his father? It would appear that one of Solomon’s strategies for maintaining peace and the stability of his kingdom was to enter into marriage and trading alliances with the major nations and many trading sheiks of the eastern deserts surrounding Israel. Thus Solomon’s 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3 1 Kings 11:3And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
American King James Version×
) were not so much wives as tokens of international covenants, most of them probably never being seen more than once by Solomon—though there were a number that he clearly did love (verse 2).

Whatever the reason for Solomon’s marriage to the daughter of Pharaoh, it began a trend that obviously got out of hand. Indeed, this multiplying of pagan wives was clearly in disobedience to God (Deuteronomy 17:17 Deuteronomy 17:17Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
American King James Version×
)—as was marrying women from nations that God had certainly forbidden (see 1 Kings 11:2 1 Kings 11:2Of the nations concerning which the LORD said to the children of Israel, You shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in to you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon joined to these in love.
American King James Version×
). And it eventually proved to be the undoing of his kingdom for, as recorded in 1 Kings 11, his foreign wives eventually led him into idolatry. The result was the rebellion of the northern 10 tribes after his death, and the voiding of the conditional covenant God made with him concerning the perpetuity of his seed upon the throne of Israel. Solomon had failed to learn the lesson of Psalms 75:6-7 Psalms 75:6-7 [6] For promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. [7] But God is the judge: he puts down one, and sets up another.
American King James Version×
: “For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.” While alliances with other kingdoms did serve to strengthen Israel for a while, the true exaltation of Israel would not come from these alliances with temporary rulers of this earth but from God. And so would abasement for disobedience. It is never prudent or wise to contravene the commands of God. War, instability and schism—whether personal or national—are the result.

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