The End of Solomon's ReignBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
If you didn’t read the last paragraph of the synopsis for chapter 10, take a look; it describes how Solomon erred by having enormous stables despite the Torah’s directive not to. Here we see Solomon’s other, larger error.
As we’ve already discussed, Solomon married the Pharaoh’s daughter in order to cement a treaty with Egypt. Here we see that Solomon married princesses from many other countries in order to forge alliances with them. The first problem was that we are forbidden to marry people from certain Canaanite nations, even if they convert. The other problem is that the Torah forbids a king from having too many wives (see Deut. 17:17). The “magic number” of wives that a king is permitted is 18. Solomon had 700! The reason, the Torah tells us, is that too many wives will turn the king’s heart away from G-d. That’s exactly what happened.
Even though they were converted, many of Solomon’s wives were not sincere converts and they continued to worship their idols. Solomon even facilitated it by building them places to perform their service, which was really wrong. As the Torah and Nach does with great people who err, he is spoken of in the strongest possible terms. In this case, the Navi speaks of Solomon as if he himself had served the idols, though of course he clearly did not do so literally.
Because Solomon allowed himself to be swayed from wholehearted devotion to G-d, G-d decided to remove the kingdom from him – but not immediately and not completely. The kingdom would be divided after Solomon’s death, with ten Tribes following another king. However, because of His promise to David of an everlasting dynasty, the descendants of Solomon would continue to rule Judah. (Benjamin and Levi would remain loyal to the Davidic kings, as well.)
Until this time, everything in Solomon’s life had been hunky-dory. After this decree was made, Solomon for the first time had opposition. One critic was Hadad, a member of the royal family of Edom. David’s general Yoav eradicated Hadad’s people and he escaped to Egypt, where he became a member of Pharaoh’s household. He married Pharaoh’s wife’s sister. He went to Israel to make trouble for Solomon, but he didn’t tell Pharaoh this, since Pharaoh was Solomon’s father-in-law.
Another troublemaker was R’zon. R’zon was a former servant of David’s old nemesis, King Hadadezer of Tzova. He caused problems for the rest of Solomon’s life.
Finally, there was Yaravam (Jeroboam). Yaravam “bawled out” King Solomon when he closed up the Millo (see chapter 9). Yaravam had been a man of distinction – Solomon had appointed him a minister of taxation over the Tribes of Ephraim and Menashe.
Yaravam was leaving Jerusalem when G-d sent the prophet Achiya to see him. Achiya took a brand-new garment and tore it into 12 pieces. He then told Yaravam to pick up ten of them. This represented the ten Tribes that G-d was giving Yaravam to rule. (A prophecy can be “thwarted” by repentance unless it is accompanied by a physical act. This decree was effectively a “done deal.”) Achiya told Yaravam that G-d promised that David’s descendants would continue to reign in Jerusalem, but he would rule over the rest of Israel. And, if he would follow G-d’s Torah, G-d would establish for Yeravam an eternal dynasty, just like David’s. (Hint: he didn’t.)
Solomon sought to execute Yaravam for opposing him in the matter of the Millo, so Yaravam ran away to Egypt. He stayed with Shishak, who had succeeded Solomon’s father-in-law as Pharaoh. Yaravam stayed in Egypt until Solomon died.
Solomon ruled Israel for 40 years. When he died, he was succeeded by his son Rechavam (Rehoboam).