We're making big changes. Please try out the beta site at beta.ccel.org and send us feedback. Thank you!
« Prev Chapter XXIII. The Wind and the Whirlwind. Next »




1 Kings xi. 14-41.

"He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption."—Gal. vi. 8.

Such degeneracy could not show itself in the king without danger to his people. "Delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi." In the disintegration of Solomon's power and the general disenchantment from the glamour of his magnificence, the land became full of corruption and discontent. The wisdom and experience of the aged were contemptuously hissed off the seat of judgment by the irreverent folly of the young. The existence of a corrupt aristocracy is always a bad symptom of national disease. These "lisping hawthorn-buds" of fashion only bourgeon in tainted soil. The advice given by the "young men" who had "grown up with Rehoboam and stood before him" shows the insolence preceding doom which had been bred by the idolism of tyranny in the hearts of silly youths who had ceased to care for the wrongs of the people or to know anything about their condition. Violence, oppression, and commercial dishonesty, as we see in the Book of Proverbs, had been bred by the mad desire for gain; and even in the streets of holy251 Jerusalem, and under the shadow of its Temple, "strange women," introduced by the commerce with heathen countries and the attendants on heathen princesses, lured to their destruction the souls of simple and God-forgetting youths.419419   See Prov. ii. 10-22, v. 1-14, vi. 24-35, etc. (contrast Psalm cxliv. 12-15). The simple and joyous agricultural prosperity in which the sons of the people grew up as young plants and their daughters as the polished corners of the Temple was replaced by struggling discontent and straining competition. And amid all these evils the voices of the courtly priests were silent, and for a long time, under the menacing and irresponsible dominance of an oracular royalty, there was no prophet more.

Early in Solomon's reign two adversaries had declared their existence, but only became of much account in the darker and later days of its decline.420420   In 1 Kings xi. 9-25 the mischief inflicted by Rezon and Hadad is represented as a punishment for Solomon's apostasy. It has been said that here "the pragmatism belongs to the redactor," because these enemies sprang into existence when he came to the throne. But, as I have here represented it, nothing seems more probable than that Rezon and Hadad were practically impotent to inflict much damage before the period of Solomon's decline. (Verse 23 is omitted in some MSS. of the LXX.)

One of these was Hadad, Prince of Edom. Upon the Edomites in the days of David the prowess of Joab had inflicted an overwhelming and all but exterminating reverse. Joab had remained six months in the conquered district to bury his comrades who had been slain in the terrible encounter, and to extirpate as far as possible the detested race. But the king's servants had been able to save Hadad, then but a little child, from the indiscriminate massacre, as the sole survivor252 of his house.421421   An isolated anecdote of the exterminating war is preserved in 1 Chron. xi. 22, 23, from which it would seem that Egypt had interfered in favour of Edom. The young Edomite prince was conveyed by them through Midian and the desert of Paran into Egypt, and there, for political reasons, had been kindly received by the Pharaoh of the day, probably Pinotem I. of the Tanite dynasty, the father of Psinaces whose alliance Solomon had secured by marriage with his daughter. Pinotem not only welcomed the fugitive Edomite as the last scion of a kingly race, but even deigned to bestow on him the hand of the sister of Tahpenes, his own Gebira or queen-mother.422422   Renan conjectures that the real Egyptian name is Ahotepnes. The LXX. wrongly calls this Pharaoh Sheshonk (Σουσακείμ), who came later, and whose queen's name was Karaäma (not Thekemina, as the LXX. says). Their son Genubath was brought up among the Egyptian princes. But amid the luxurious splendours of Pharaoh's palace Hadad carried in his heart an undying thirst for vengeance on the destroyer of his family and race. The names of David and Joab inspired a terror which made rebellion impossible for a time; but when Hadad heard, with grim satisfaction, of Joab's judicial murder, and that David had been succeeded by a peaceful son, no charm of an Egyptian palace and royal bride could weigh in the balance against the fierce passion of an avenger of blood. Better the wild freedom of Idumea than the sluggish ease of Egypt. He asked the Pharaoh's leave to return to his own country, and, braving the reproach of ingratitude, made his way back to the desolated fields and cities of his unfortunate people.423423   Canon Rawlinson (Speaker's Commentary, ad loc.) points out that fugitives once received at Eastern courts found it very difficult to get away, e.g., Democedes, Herod., iii. 132-37. Histiæus, in leaving the court of Persia, has expressly to say that he had lacked nothing—τεῦ δὲ ἐνδεὴς ὤν; Herod., v. 106; comp. 1 Kings xi. 22. He developed their resources, and nursed253 their hopes of the coming day of vengeance. If he could do nothing else he could at least act as a desperate marauder, and prove himself a "satan" to the successor of his foe.424424   1 Kings xi. 14: "The Lord stirred up an adversary" (שָׂטָן). Solomon was strong enough to keep open the road to Ezion-Gebir, but Hadad was probably master of Sela and Maon.425425   Stade, i. 302. In 1 Kings xi. 22, 25 the text is corrupt. Verse 25 should partly be transferred to the end of verse 22, and should run, "And Hadad returned to his own land," i.e., to Edom. (Edom has been confused with "Aram.")

Another enemy was Rezon, of whom but little is known. David had won a great victory, the most remarkable of all his successes, over Hadadezer, King of Zobah, and had then signalised his conquest by placing garrisons in Syria of Damascus. On this occasion Rezon, the son of Eli, who is perhaps identical with Hezion, the grandfather of Benhadad, King of Syria in the days of Asa, fled from the host of Hadadezer with some of the Syrian forces. With these and all whom he could collect about him, he became a guerilla captain. After a successful period of predatory warfare he found himself strong enough to seize Damascus, where, to all appearance, he founded a powerful hereditary kingdom. Thus with Hadad in the south to plunder his commercial caravans, and Rezon on the north to threaten his communication with Tiphsah, and alarm his excursions to his pleasances in Lebanon, Solomon was made keenly to feel that his power was rather an unsubstantial pageant than a solid dominion.

The enmity of these powerful Emirs of Edom and254 Syria was an hereditary legacy from the wars of David and the ruthless savagery of Joab. A third adversary was far more terrible, and he was called into existence by the conduct of Solomon himself. This was Jeroboam, the son of Nebat. In himself he was of no account, being a man of isolated position and obscure origin. He was the son of a widow named Zeruah,426426   The additions to the LXX. call her Sarira. But the names "Sarira," "Enlamite," "Ano" are all suspicious; and possibly the LXX. additions may be only part of some Alexandrian Haggadah. who lived at Zarthan in the Jordan valley. The position of a widow in the ancient world was one of feebleness and difficulty; and if we may trust the apocryphal additions to the Septuagint, Zeruah was not only a widow but a harlot. But Jeroboam, whose name perhaps indicates that he was born in the golden days of Solomon's prosperity, was a youth of vigour and capacity. He made his way from the wretched clay fields of Zeredah to Jerusalem, and there became one of the vast undistinguished gang who were known as "slaves of Solomon." The corvée of many thousands from all parts of Palestine was then engaged in building the Millo and the huge walls and causeway in the valley between Zion and Moriah, which was afterwards known as the Valley of the Cheesemongers (Tyropœon). Here the unknown youth distinguished himself by his strenuousness, and by the influence which he rapidly acquired. Solomon knew the value of a man "diligent in his business," and therefore worthy to stand before kings. Untrammelled by any rules of seniority, and able to make and unmake as he thought fit, Solomon promoted him while still young, and at one bound, to a position of great rank and influence. Jeroboam was an Ephraimite, and255 Solomon therefore "gave him charge over all the compulsory levies (Mas) of the tribe of the house of Joseph"—that is, of the proud and powerful tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, who practically represented all Israel except Judah, Benjamin, and the almost nominal Simeon.

The spark of ambition was now kindled in the youth's heart, and as he toiled among the workmen he became aware of two secrets of deadly import to the master who had lifted him out of the dust—secrets which he well knew how to use. One was that a deep undercurrent of tribal jealousy was setting in with the force of a tide. Solomon had unduly favoured his own tribe by exemptions from the general requisition, and Ephraim fretted under a sense of wrong. That proud tribe, the heir of Joseph's pre-eminence, had never acquiesced in the loss of the hegemony which it so long had held. From Ephraim had sprung Joshua, the mighty successor of Moses, the conqueror of the Promised Land, and his sepulchre was still among them at Timnath-Serah. From their kith had sprung the princely Gideon, the greatest of the judges, who might, had he so chosen, have anticipated the foundation of royalty in Israel. Shiloh, which God had chosen for His inheritance, was in their domains. It required very little at any time to make the Ephraimites second the cry of the insurgents who followed Sheba, the son of Bichri,—

"We have no part in David,
Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse.
Every man to his tents, O Israel."

Jeroboam, who was now by Solomon's favour a chief ruler over his fellow-tribesmen, had many opportunities to foment this jealousy, and to win for himself by256 personal graciousness the popularity of Solomon which had so long begun to wane.

But a yet deeper feeling was at work against Solomon. The men of Ephraim and all the northern tribes had not only begun to ask why Judah was to monopolise the king's partiality, but the much more dangerous question, What right has the king to enforce on us these dreary and interminable labours, in making a city of palaces and an impregnable fortress of a capital which is to overshadow our glory and command our subjection? With consummate astuteness, by a word here and a word there, Jeroboam was able to pose before Solomon as the enforcer of a stern yoke, and before his countrymen as one who hated the hard necessity and would fain be their deliverer from it.

And while he was already in heart a rebel against the House of David, he received what he regarded as a Divine sanction to his career of ambition.

The prophets, as we have seen, had sunk to silence before the oracular autocrat who so frequently impressed on the people that there is "a Divine sentence on the lips of kings." No special inspiration seemed to be needed either to correct or to corroborate so infallible a wisdom. But the heaven-enkindled spark of inspiration can never be permanently suffocated. Priests as a body have often proved amenable to royal seductions, but individual prophets are irrepressible.

What were the priests doing in the face of so fearful an apostasy? Apparently nothing. They seem to have sunk into comfortable acquiescence, satisfied with the augmentation of rank and revenue which the Temple and its offerings brought to them. They offered no opposition to the extravagances of the king, his violations of the theocratic ideal, or even his monstrous257 tolerance for the worship of idols. That prophets as a body existed in Judah during the early years of this reign there is no proof. The atmosphere was ill-suited to their vocation. Nathan probably had died long before Solomon reached his zenith.427427   In 2 Chron. ix. 29 the LXX. reads "Joel." He wrote "visions" against Jeroboam, a life of Ahijah, and a book "on (or after the manner of) genealogies" (2 Chron. ix. 29, xii. 15, xiii. 22). Jerome (on 2 Chron. xv. 1) identifies him with Oded. Of Iddo we know almost nothing. Two prophets are mentioned, but only towards the close of the reign—Ahijah of Shiloh,428428   2 Chron. ix. 29. Perhaps 1 Kings xi. may be borrowed from the historic records of Ahijah. and Shemaiah; and there seems to have been some confusion in the rôles respectively assigned to them429429   For in the LXX. 1 Kings xi. 29-39 is absent in some MSS., as well as 1 Kings xiv. (Ahijah and Abijah), which has been added from the Greek version of Aquila. In verse 29, for "Ahijah the Shilonite" we have in some MSS. of the LXX. "Shemaiah the Elamite" or "Eulamite." by later tradition.

But the hour had now struck for a prophet to speak the word of the Lord. If the king, surrounded by formidable guards and a glittering court, was too exalted to be reached by a humble son of the people, it was time for Ahijah to follow the precedent of Samuel. He obeyed a divine intimation in selecting the successor who should punish the great king's rebellion against God, and inaugurate a rule of purer obedience than now existed under the upas-shadow of the throne. He was the Mazkîr, the annalist or historiographer of Solomon's court (2 Chron. ix. 29); but loyalty to a backsliding king had come to mean disloyalty to God. There was but one man who seemed marked out for the perilous honour of a throne. It was the brave, vigorous, ambitious youth of Ephraim who had risen to258 high promotion and had won the hearts of his people, though Solomon had made him the task-master of their forced labour. On one occasion Jeroboam left Jerusalem, perhaps to visit his native Zeredah and his widowed mother.430430   1 Kings xi. 29, addition of LXX. Ahijah intentionally met him on the road. He drew him aside from the public path into a solitary place. There, seen by none, he took off his own shoulders the new stately abba431431   The square cloth worn over the other dress, and now called abba, seems to represent the salemâh (שַׂלְמָה) here mentioned. in which he had clad himself, and proceeded to give to Jeroboam one of those object-lessons in the form of an acted parable, which to the Eastern mind are more effective than any words.432432   The story is usually made to apply to Jeroboam's new robe; but in the addition to the LXX., where the action is ascribed to Shemaiah, the word of the Lord says to him, λάβε σεαυτῷ ἱμάτιον καινὸν τὸ οὐκ εἰσεληλυθὸς εἰς ὕδωρ κ. τ. λ. The method of "acted parables" was common among the Hebrew prophets (See Jer. xiii., xix., xxvii.; Ezek. iii., iv., v., etc.); but this is the earliest recorded instance of the kind. Rending the new garment into twelve pieces, he gave ten to Jeroboam, telling him that Jehovah would thus rend the kingdom from the hands of Solomon because of his unfaithfulness, leaving his son but one tribe433433   Not "two tribes," as the LXX. says. But neither the number 1 nor the number 2 are literally exact, for certainly Jeroboam did not command the territory of Simeon, south of Judah. The adherence of Benjamin, or part of Benjamin, to Judah was mainly a geographical accident, due to the fact that Jerusalem lay in both tribes (Josh. xv. 8, xviii. 16; Jer. xx. 2). Late in David's reign a Benjamite (Sheba, son of Bichri) had headed a revolt against David (2 Sam. xx. 1). that the lamp of David might not be utterly extinguished. Jeroboam should be king over Israel; to the House of David should be left but an insignificant fragment. God would build a sure house for Jeroboam as He had done for David, if he would keep His commandments,259 though the House of David "should not be afflicted for ever."434434   1 Kings xi. 34-39.

A scene so memorable, a prophecy of such grave significance, could hardly remain a secret. Ahijah may have hinted it among his sympathisers. Jeroboam would hardly be able to conceal from his friends the immense hopes which it excited; and as his position probably gave him the command of troops he became dangerous. His designs reached the ears of Solomon, and he sought to put Jeroboam to death. The young man, who had probably betrayed his secret ambition, and may even have attempted some premature and abortive insurrection, escaped from Jerusalem, and took refuge in Egypt. There the Bubastite dynasty had displaced the Tanite, and from Shishak I., the earliest Pharaoh whose individuality eclipsed the common dynastic name, he received so warm a welcome that, according to one story, Shishak gave him in marriage Ano, the elder sister of his Queen Tahpanes (or Thekemina, LXX.) and of Hadad's wife.435435   The story occurs in the additions to the LXX., and is highly improbable. Shishak came to the throne, according to R. S. Poole, about b.c. 972; others date his accession in 975 or 988. No such name as Tahpanes or Thekemina is found in the Egyptian records, and the wife of Shishak was Karaämat. He stayed in Egypt till the death of Solomon, and then returned to Zeredah, either in consequence of the summons of his countrymen, or that he might be ready for any turn of events.

Under such melancholy circumstances the last great king of the united kingdom passed away. Of the circumstances of his death we are told nothing, but the clouds had gathered thickly round his declining years.260 "The power to which he had elevated Israel," says the Jewish historian Grätz, "resembled that of a magic world built up by spirits. The spell was broken at his death." It must not, however, be imagined that no abiding results had followed from so remarkable a rule. The nation which he left behind him at his death was very different from the nation to whose throne he had succeeded as a youth. It had sprung from immature boyhood to the full-grown stature of manhood. If the purity of its spiritual ideal had been somewhat corrupted, its intellectual growth and its material power had been immensely stimulated. It had tasted the sweets of commerce, and never forgot the richness of that intoxicating draught which was destined in later ages to transform its entire nature. Tribal distinctions, if not obliterated, had been subordinated to a central organisation. The knowledge of writing had been more widely spread, and this had led to the dawn of that literature which saved Israel from oblivion, and uplifted her to a place of supreme influence among the nations. Manners had been considerably softened from their old wild ferocity. The more childish forms of ancient superstition, such as the use of ephods and teraphim, had fallen into desuetude. The worship of Jehovah, and the sense of His unique supremacy over the whole world, was fostered in many hearts, and men began to feel the unfitness of giving to Him that name of "Baal" which began henceforth to be confined to the Syrian sun-god.436436   Compare the names Eshbaal, Meribaal, Jerubbaal, Baaljada, with Ishjo (LXX. 1 Sam. xiv. 49, Heb.), Mephibosheth Eliada. In later days Baal was changed into the nickname Bosheth, "shame": hence Ishbosheth, Jerubesheth, Mephibosheth. See Kittel, ii. 87. Amid many aberrations the sense of religion was deepened among the faithful of261 Israel, and the ground was prepared for the more spiritual religion which in later reigns found its immortal expositors in those Hebrew prophets who rank foremost among the teachers of mankind.437437   See Kittel, Gesch. der Hebr., ii. 169-76.

But as for Solomon himself it is a melancholy thought that he is one of the three or four of whose salvation the Fathers and others have openly ventured to doubt.438438   See Buddæus, Hist. Eccl., ii. 237. The discussion of such a question is, indeed, wholly absurd and profitless, and is only here alluded to in order to illustrate the completeness of Solomon's fall. As the book of Ecclesiastes is certainly not by him it can throw no light on the moods of his latter days, unless it be conceivable that it represents some faint breath of olden tradition. The early commentators acquitted or condemned him as though they sat on the judgment-seat of the Almighty. They would have shown more wisdom if they had admitted that such decisions are—fortunately for all men—beyond the scope of human judges. Happily for us God, not man, is the judge, and He looks down on earth

"With larger other eyes than ours

To make allowance for us all."

Orcagna was wiser when, in his great picture in the Campo Santo at Pisa and in the Strozzi Chapel at Florence, he represented Solomon rising out of his sepulchre in robe and crown at the trump of the archangel, uncertain whether he is to turn to the right hand or to the left.

And Dante, as all men know, joins Solomon in Paradise with the Four Great Schoolmen. The great mediæval poet of Latin Christianity did not side with262 St. Augustine and the Latin Fathers against the wise king, but with St. Chrysostom and the Greek Fathers for him. He did so because he accepted St. Bernard's mystical interpretation of the Song of Songs:—

"La quinta luce, ch'è tra noi più bella

Spira di tale amor, che tutto il mondo

Laggiù ne gola di saver novella.

Entro v'è l'alta mente, u' sì profondo

Saver fu messo, che si il vero è vero,

A veder tanto non surse il secondo."439439    "The fifth light shining with a beauty pure Breathes from such love that all the world below Craves to have tidings of him true and sure. Within it is the lofty mind, where so Deep knowledge dwelt, that, if the truth be true, Such insight ne'er a second rose to know." Parad., x. 109-114, and Dean Plumtre's notes.

There is a famous legend in the Qur'an about the death of Solomon.440440   Qur'an, xxxiv. 10; Chapter of Sebâ (Palmer's translation, p. 151).

"Work ye righteousness O ye family of David; for I see that which ye do. And we made the wind subject unto Solomon.... And we made a fountain of molten brass to flow for him. And some of the genii were obliged to work in his presence by the will of his Lord. They made for him whatever he pleased of palaces, and statues, and large dishes like fishponds, and caldrons standing firm on their trivets; and we said, Work righteousness, O family of David, with thanksgiving; for few of my servants are thankful. And when we had decreed that Solomon should die, nothing discovered his death unto them, except the creeping thing of the earth that gnawed his staff. And when his body fell down, the genii plainly perceived that if they had263 known that which is secret they had not continued in a vile punishment."441441   Sale's Koran, ii. 287; Palmer's Qur'an, ii. 152.

The legend briefly alluded to was that Solomon employed the genii to build his Temple, but, foreseeing that he would die before its completion, he prayed God to conceal his death from them, so that they might go on working. His prayer was heard, and the rest of the legend may best be told in the words of a poet:442442   The Earl of Lytton.

"King Solomon stood in his crown of gold,

Between the pillars, before the altar

In the House of the Lord. And the king was old,

And his strength began to falter,

So that he leaned on his ebony staff,

Sealed with the seal of the Pentegraph.

And the king stood still as a carven king,

The carven cedar beams below,

In his purple robe, with his signet-ring,

And his beard as white as snow.

And his face to the Oracle, where the hymn

Dies under the wings of the cherubim.

And it came to pass as the king stood there,

And looked on the House he had built with pride,

That the hand of the Lord came unaware

And touched him, so that he died

In his purple robe and his signet ring

And the crown wherewith they had crowned him king.

And the stream of folk that came and went

To worship the Lord with prayer and praise,

Went softly ever in wonderment,

For the king stood there always;

And it was solemn and strange to behold

The dead king crowned with a crown of gold.


So King Solomon stood up dead in the House

Of the Lord, held there by the Pentegraph,

Until out from the pillar there ran a red mouse,

And gnawed through his ebony staff;

Then flat on his face the king fell down,

And they picked from the dust a golden crown."

The legends of the East describe Solomon as tormented indeed, yet not without hope. In the romance of Vathek he is described as listening earnestly to the roar of a cataract, because when it ceases to roar his anguish will be at an end.

"The king so renowned for his wisdom was on the loftiest elevation, and placed immediately beneath the Dome. 'The thunder,' he said, 'precipitated me hither, where, however, I do not remain totally destitute of hope; for an angel of light hath revealed that, in consideration of the piety of my early youth, my woes shall come to an end. Till then I am in torments, ineffable torments; an unrelenting fire preys on my heart.' The caliph was ready to sink with terror when he heard the groans of Solomon. Having uttered this exclamation, Solomon raised his hands towards heaven, in token of supplication; and the caliph discerned through his bosom, which was transparent as crystal, his heart enveloped in flames."

So Solomon passed away—the last king of all Palestine till another king arose a thousand years later, like him in his fondness for magnificence, like him in his tamperings with idolatry, like him in being the builder of the Temple, but in all other respects a far more grievous sinner and a far more inexcusable tyrant—Herod, falsely called "The Great."


And in the same age arose another King of Solomon's descendants, whose palace was the shop of the carpenter and His throne the cross, and whose mortal body was the true Temple of the Supreme—that King whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and whose dominion endureth throughout all ages.

« Prev Chapter XXIII. The Wind and the Whirlwind. Next »

| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |