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The Bible In A Year: Day 144

Readings:
1 Kings 11-12
Ecclesiastes 3
Acts 26

1 Kings 11-12

Now, after seeing the pinnacle of Solomon’s success and the success of his kingdom, we will start to see his unraveling and fall from grace. This will effect him both personally and his kingdom as a whole. Solomon will be the last king of a united Israel, after his reign the kingdom will split, but that’s getting a little ahead of ourselves here.

For Solomon personally, he doesn’t hold to that one caveat that God placed in his promises to Solomon. He promised him great fame, wisdom, a long life, and everlasting dynasty, a peaceful and prosperous kingdom, but the caveat was he could not turn away and go after other gods. He had to remain faithful to the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.

Solomon’s life from this point forward is a case study in the old saying “you lay with dogs, you get up with flees” or “bad company corrupts good character.” Solomon’s first mistake was a marriage treaty with the Egyptians, then he compounds this mistake by marrying 699 more women, and taking on 300 concubines. Those numbers are just mind blowing on their own, but then add to that the fact that a great number of them (possibly a majority of them) were from other nations and so they served other gods.

The opening of chapter 11 makes note of this, that the Israelites were specifically told not to marry into these pagan peoples because it would draw them into paganism. So do that hundreds of times and what’s going to happen?

But it wasn’t just the fact that most of his 1000 wives/concubines were worshipping these foreign gods, it’s also the number of women themselves. Polygamy is a given in those days, especially among the rulers and powerful, but all the times in the Bible where someone is in polygamous relationships it’s never portrayed positively. Even David had problems when his first wife got jealous.

Polygamy is not the ideal, even back then when it was common. It led to problems almost 100% of the time, and wasn’t what God intended, but he allowed them to continue in it because he was slowly working the culture of the surrounding nations out of them and making them a distinct and moral people.

Then along comes Solomon with 1000 women and guess what happens? He is led astray and doesn’t keep up his side of the bargain, so God doesn’t either. That was the deal, and in all his wisdom, Solomon defaulted on it.

The prophet Ahijah symbolically tears his cloak into 12 pieces and gives 10 to Jeroboam who was an Ephraimite, and says this means he’ll rule over the ten northern tribes when the kingdom is split in two. God makes sure to tell them that Jerusalem will always have a son of David on the throne, because that was promised to David and he was a loyal servant of God. But Solomon has brought all this on himself through his apostasy.

Jeroboam had fled to Egypt after the prophet pronounced what was tantamount to a future treason, although sanctioned by God, against the ruling family. But now that Solomon died he comes home in time for the coronation of his son Rehoboam. This coronation is in the northern city of Shechem, an important cultural and religious center in that part of the country.

At this coronation the people, before pledging fealty to the new king, ask if he’ll reduce some of their forced labor levies that Solomon had placed on the nation for his ambitious building projects.

First he asks the elder advisors, men that had been part of Solomon’s administration of Israel, they recommend he win the support of the people by agreeing to go a little lighter on them. Then he asks his young friends, men that hadn’t been part of governing before, and they show youthful foolishness when they advise that he double down and tell the people if they though Solomon was harsh, they’ll really think his son is.

Advice like this is what leads to revolts and revolutions, and that’s exactly what happened this time too. Instead of garnering the support of the people,

So the northern tribes secede from the souther tribes and become their own kingdom with Jeroboam as their king. Rehoboam goes back to Jerusalem and rallies an army to put down the rebellion in the north, as you would expect any king to do when his authority is so blatantly challenged, but a prophet named Shemaiah comes and tells them all to go home because he has a message from God saying this is just how things are going to be because of Solomon’s sin. So the northern tribes break away without any kind of civil war.

Not long after the national divorce, Jeroboam gets thinking that the people will want to return to the descendants of king David and then he’ll be overthrown, if they keep going down south to Jerusalem to sacrifice. So he takes a page out of Israel’s history and casts two golden calfs. Because one wasn’t bad enough the first time, this time he makes two!

Although from what he says when he dedicates them, it doesn’t seem like he’s trying to introduce a new god or new religion. He says “behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” So these are supposed to be physical manifestations of the God of Israel, but this corrupt and denigrates the entire essence of the One True God. In one action, Jeroboam has made the national religion of Israel completely indistinguishable from the polytheists around them.

Acts 26

Paul makes his final defense speech before the Roman Festus and the Jewish Agrippa. He is happy that Agrippa is there because he’s familiar with the Jewish religion and that will be the basis of Paul’s defense, whereas Festus doesn’t know what to make of the allegations against Paul except that he seems to be innocent of any violation of Roman law.

He tells of his upbringing as a Pharisee and his strict observance of the law, and then goes into his conversion story again. He gets to the part about the resurrection and Festus interrupts him. He probably had a rudimentary understanding of Christianity, but this either seemed a ridiculous claim of resurrection that he rejected or maybe it was his first time hearing this central Christian tenet. The Greek philosophy and religion, that Rome borrowed so heavily, from rejected a bodily resurrection and was this same line that made the philosophers begin to mock him while preaching in Athens.

Agrippa seems convinced but doesn’t want to anger his subjects. They leave the room and both Agrippa and Festus agree that Paul is innocent of all charges, but an appeal to Caesar must be honored and they can’t throw out his charges now. Paul must go to Rome.

Tomorrow’s Readings:
1 Kings 13
Ecclesiastes 4-6

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