A divided heart

Following the Israelites’ declaration that “the LORD, he is God” and the slaughter of all the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:39-40), Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, attacked king Ahab’s capital city of Samaria. At the time, Israel’s army consisted of 7000 soldiers led by 232 “young men of the princes of the provinces” (1 Kings 20:15). The exact size of the Syrian army is unknown, but it says in 1 Kings 20:21 that the king of Israel “slew the Syrians with a great slaughter.”

The following year, the king of Syria decided to try again and came against the Israelites with an army the same size he had the previous year. It says in 1 Kings 20:27 that “the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country.” On the seventh day of the battle, “the children of Israel slew of the Syrians an hundred thousand footmen in one day” (1 Kings 20:29).

King Ahab’s defeat of the Syrians was a miraculous deliverance by God designed to increase Ahab’s dependence on the LORD (1 Kings 20:28). Ahab demonstrated obedience during the first battle when he was instructed to fight rather than surrender to king Ben-hadad (1 Kings 20:14). During the second battle, Ahab’s courage increased and he was able to endure a six-day standoff in which the Syrian army flowed into the Jordan Valley and covered the land like locusts overtaking a vineyard.

In spite of God’s deliverance, Ahab’s heart remained divided. When he had the opportunity to capture and kill Ben-hadad, Ahab chose to make a covenant with his enemy (1 Kings 20:34). Ahab was not willing to stand alone. He was too wrapped up in the world around him to disassociate himself from his secular way of life. One of the chief signs that king Ahab could not stand on his own two feet was his treatment of Ben-hadad after God annihilated his army. At a time when Ahab should have cut himself off from the king of Syria, Ahab chose instead to become his business partner.

Strength

Proverbs 31 is attributed to king Lemuel’s mother. The name translated Lemuel means “belonging to God” and is believed to be a symbolic name of Solomon (3927). If so, then the prophecy came from Bath-sheba, the woman king David had an affair with. Proverbs 31 deals with the role of women in Solomon’s life. In verses 2 – 3, Solomon’s mother warns him against having a large harem and sexual immorality. “What, my son?  and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows. Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings.” Repetition of the what question three times indicates a tone of rebuke and concern for Solomon’s awareness of his problem. Today we might say something like, What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?

Solomon’s approach to marriage was to treat it like a business transaction. Many of his wives were acquired by forming alliances with neighboring nations. In order to maintain peace, Solomon lived a double life. Three times a year, Solomon offered burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar he built for the LORD (1 Kings 9:25), but he also “went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians” (1 Kings 11:5) and built a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab (1 Kings 11:7). Solomon’s compromise resulted in the LORD taking away the majority of the kingdom from David’s descendants (1 Kings 11:11-13).

The  phrase that Solomon’s mother used, “give not thy strength unto women” (Proverbs 31:3) implies that Solomon’s wives were given power or control over the nation of Israel. In some way, they were influencing the course of Israel’s history. From an extreme perspective, Solomon’s foreign wives erased many of king David’s accomplishments. David and his army fought many years to gain control over Israel’s enemies. Solomon’s decision to worship his foreign wives’ gods made it seem as if his strength was coming from multiple sources and God was no longer calling the shots.

Compromise

Solomon’s wisdom was supernatural. His request for an understanding heart (1 Kings 3:9) was not about seeing things from a human perspective, but about seeing things from God’s perspective. Solomon’s wisdom enabled him to discern between good and evil and gave him experience in Divine things (2449). As a result of this understanding, it says in 2 Chronicles 8:11 that “Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he built for her; for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy whereunto the ark of the LORD hath come.”

Solomon’s solution of building a separate residence for his foreign wife was a compromise. Solomon didn’t want his marriage to interfere with God’s blessing on the nation of Israel, nor did he want to jeopardize his alliance with Pharaoh, so he came up with a solution that would keep everyone happy. In addition to his discernment of good and evil, Solomon also had prudence in secular matters. He was able to adapt what he knew to what he ought to do in any given situation.

The problem with Solomon’s compromise was it opened the door to secular worship practices in Israel. Solomon’s wife did not convert to Judaism, but remained an Egyptian both culturally and spiritually. She was afforded the luxury of living in God’s holy city without becoming holy herself. An example of this today is the person that goes to church every week, but never becomes a Christian. Solomon’s Egyptian wife never experienced conversion.