King Solomon is one of the most well-known figures in the Bible. As the son of King David and Bathsheba, Solomon was chosen by God to build the first temple in Jerusalem. Under Solomon’s rule, the kingdom of Israel prospered and expanded. Solomon is also known for his great wisdom, wealth, and writings such as the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.
However, towards the end of his reign, Solomon strayed from following God’s laws and began worshipping idols. The Bible records Solomon’s life and eventual downfall due to his turning away from God. In examining Solomon’s later years, we can gain insight into how this once wise and blessed king died as recorded in 1 Kings chapter 11.
King Solomon’s death is not described in detail in the Bible. However, 1 Kings 11 provides an account of Solomon’s demise in his older years as he turned away from wholeheartedly following God. This chapter describes how Solomon’s heart was turned after many foreign wives turned it to follow other gods. As judgment for Solomon’s unfaithfulness, God declared that the kingdom would be torn from Solomon’s rule. While the kingdom remained intact during Solomon’s lifetime, this was the beginning of the downfall, division, and exile of Israel and Judah seen in the books of Kings and Chronicles.
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Understanding the context, spiritual decline, and God’s judgment provides a picture of Solomon’s situation at death. Though the exact events are not given, Solomon’s choices to disobey God’s commands led to consequences that no doubt affected how he died and left the kingdom. As we examine what the Bible records about the end of Solomon’s life, we gain important spiritual warnings against idolatry and leaving our devotion to the one true God.
- Solomon’s heart was turned away from fully following God in his later years due to many foreign wives.
- God was angry with Solomon and declared judgment that the kingdom would be torn from him.
- Spiritual compromise and idolatry marked the end of Solomon’s reign.
- The division of the kingdom after Solomon’s death had long-lasting repercussions.
- Solomon’s failure to finish well provides a sober warning about the importance of enduring faithfulness.
Solomon’s Foreign Wives Turned His Heart from God
1 Kings 11 documents Solomon’s tragic turn from wholehearted devotion to God in his later years as king over Israel. The chapter begins by stating:
But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. (1 Kings 11:1-2 NKJV)
Despite God’s clear commands not to intermarry with pagan nations, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines from the very nations God had forbidden. Many were from places where idol worship was practiced. Sadly, the passage records that these women did indeed turn Solomon’s heart away:
For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. (1 Kings 11:4 NKJV)
The scripture makes clear that as Solomon grew older, he was led astray by his many foreign wives to follow other gods. His heart was no longer fully devoted to the Lord as his father David’s had been.
This unfaithfulness to God in his later years stands in stark contrast to the way Solomon’s reign began. Early on, Solomon loved the Lord and walked in obedience by only marrying Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kings 3:1). The Lord was pleased with Solomon and granted his request for wisdom to lead the people. But tragically, as time went on, Solomon disobeyed God’s commands regarding marriage to pagan nations. He allowed this to happen on a massive scale with 700 royal wives leading him to worship their gods.
Solomon’s Idolatry Angered God
Solomon’s drift into idolatry understandably invoked God’s anger. The passage describes how Solomon built high places, pillars, and Asherah poles used in the worship of false gods such as Ashtoreth, Milcom, and Chemosh. Verse 9 states:
So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice (1 Kings 11:9 NKJV)
After previously appearing to Solomon twice, once in a dream and another time answering his prayer at Gibeon (1 Kings 3:5-15, 9:1-9), it was unthinkable that Solomon would then turn from following God with all his heart. Yet he blatantly disobeyed and practiced idolatry over many years.
Therefore, God raised up adversaries against Solomon as the Bible records:
Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.” (1 Kings 11:11-13 NKJV)
While the full judgment would not happen until after Solomon died, tearing the kingdom from the rule of his son, God began to raise adversaries during Solomon’s reign. The prophet Ahijah pronounced God’s judgment that Jeroboam would take rule over 10 tribes of Israel (1 Kings 11:29-39). This prophesy began to be fulfilled after Solomon died.
Spiritual Compromise and Idolatry at Solomon’s Death
Though the exact circumstances of Solomon’s death are not described, clearly his last years marked a time of spiritual decline, idol worship, and consequences from God’s promised judgment. The glorious early years of Solomon’s reign faded due to his failure to obey God’s commands.
1 Kings 11:41-43 simply states:
Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon? And the period that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. Then Solomon rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.
Based on the previous context, we can conclude that Solomon died an unfaithful and idolatrous king who provoked God to anger and set in motion the division of the kingdom. Though Solomon began with pure devotion to God, he failed to finish well. The consequences of his sinful choices influenced how his reign ended and impacted events after his death.
The good news is that we see God’s mercy to David’s descendants in preserving the kingdom in Solomon’s lifetime and allowing his son to rule Judah after the kingdom divided. Yet the stage was set for the kingdom’s fracture. Spiritual compromise and idolatry marked the latter years of Solomon’s reign. This provides a sober warning about the importance of enduring faithfulness.
The Division of the Kingdom
After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam became king. Unfortunately, Rehoboam forsook wise advice and further alienated the people (1 Kings 12). As Ahijah had prophesied, Jeroboam became king over the 10 tribes of Israel in the north, while Rehoboam ruled over Judah in the south. The once unified kingdom under David and Solomon divided and never reunited.
This division led to great strife, idolatry, and eventual exile for both Israel and Judah as extensively recorded in 1 & 2 Kings. The kingdom declined until Judah was finally conquered and exiled to Babylon in 586 BC. Israel had already been exiled by Assyria in 722 BC after centuries of idolatry.
Solomon’s compromise opened the door for these disastrous consequences in Israel’s history. If he had heeded God’s commands and turned from idolatry when it first started, perhaps the kingdom could have avoided division and exile. But Solomon’s choices late in life aligned with God’s judgment, allowing the kingdom to fracture after his death. The effects were felt for hundreds of years.
While Solomon remains well known for his early wisdom, the end of his story provides a sobering lesson. His life illustrates how even the wisest man can drift from God over time. Gradually Solomon’s heart was turned by direct disobedience to God’s word. His compromise led to God’s discipline and paved the way for lasting national decline.
As Christians today, Solomon’s negative example urges us to examine our own walk with God. Are we fully devoted to the Lord with undivided hearts? Are we heeding God’s commands in His word? Or have we begun drifting from pure sincere faith, perhaps due to worldly influences or temptations?
Solomon’s life reminds us that our hearts can slowly turn from God when we cease clinging to Him wholeheartedly. We must not assume past devotion guarantees future faithfulness. Instead, Scripture urges us to endure in pursuing God daily, keeping our hearts soft and moldable under His hand.
The Apostle Paul warned: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12). Proverbs also cautions: “Take heed and guard your life diligently” (Prov 4:23). Therefore, we must not drift unaware or let ourselves be deceived. But through God’s grace, we can choose faithfulness by continually turning to Jesus.
Though Solomon failed to finish well, we can learn from his mistakes. By pursuing Christ daily and obeying God’s Word, our hearts remain devoted to Him. May we endure in faith as we reflect on how leaders like Solomon fell away – and let us cling to Jesus, our faithful King forever.