This chapter is painful to read. Solomon, the man who had received so many blessings and so much grace, returned God’s favor with idolatry. Solomon, the man who taught others about wisdom in the Proverbs, did not practice what he preached. Solomon, the smartest man in the world, was capable of unexplainable stupidity.
His weakness was women, and the size of the harem Solomon collected was absurd. It revealed the heart of a man who did not know the meaning of satisfaction. God’s design is that a man be content with serving one God and loving one woman, but the one true God was not enough for Solomon, and he could not be satisfied by a thousand women (700 wives + 300 girlfriends). (Note: a man can marry a different woman every weekend for thirteen years and still not have as many wives as Solomon!)
The indication in this passage is that it was a slow rebellion. I am sure Solomon did not decide one day, “I’m going to turn from the Lord and ruin my life.” Instead, he made little allowances for sin, little excuses that pushed back the boundaries of righteousness. “God won’t mind…I deserve this…Just once more…After all, I’m the king!” With these or similar excuses Solomon rationalized his way into pure evil and open idolatry (v.6-7). (Note: the inclusion of Molech in the list of false deities for which Solomon built temples must have really broken the Lord’s heart. Molech worship included the unthinkable wickedness of sacrificing children by throwing . Whether that happened on Solomon’s watch we do not know, but verse 8 says that his wives, including the ones who worshiped Molech, “sacrificed to their gods”.)
What the king of Israel tolerated, the King of kings hated. The Lord did not hide His anger: Solomon had violated the conditions of the promise He made to him (see 9:4-9), and the kingdom would be torn away. The Lord also raised up three enemies to aggravate Solomon and to disturb the peace he could have enjoyed: Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam. Solomon discovered that he could not kill the consequences of his sin (v.40).
I think what disturbs me most about this chapter is that Solomon was so much wiser than I am, and yet he couldn’t outsmart his lust and his discontentment. In the tragic downfall of the great king I hear God’s warning (from Solomon’s pen, Proverbs 4:23) to “guard your heart”. I see my own weakness and wickedness exposed. And I feel the depth of my need for the sin-covering grace of God and the sin-crushing power of Christ.