Book Review: Worship in Ancient Israel: An Essential Guide

705424Jacket Blurb – don’t let the heavy wording put you off, see what I have to say about it below! : In an engaging style–characteristic of the author, Walter Brueggemann–this Essential Guide describes the leading motifs of ancient Israel’s worship traditions in the Old Testament. The author guides the reader through the themes, central texts, prayers, festivals, and practices of that worship. He sees throughout the Old Testament a central emphasis on worship as a covenantal gesture and utterance by the community in the presence of God. In addition to being an essential guide to this subject, this book is intended to be in the service of current theological and practical issues concerning worship of the church in its ecumenical character.

As this month contains a number of significant festivals in the Jewish calendar, (which I have blogged about), this book fits right in. The festivals were based around celebrating the provision and faithfulness of God towards Isra’el, and of course, that is done through worship.

I will start by saying that I learnt masses through this great little book. I picked it up to learn about David, then found myself spending more time thinking about how I worship. While not every reviewer has agreed with Professor Brueggemann, he inspired me to take a look at whether I fit in with the current church trend and praise God their way, or whether I worship genuinely, using my own initiative as my heart leads me. This is both a book to help you understand the past, and to make you take a good look at where you’re at with God now.

Professor Brueggemann’s chapter which spoke of the Israelites honest communication with God, was challenging and comforting to me, as I am pretty much a straight talker in the prayer department too. If I feel hard done by, the Lord knows about it and has a sore ear. David was the same, as were quite a few people I had never thought of. I was relieved to know that this is acceptable, as long as I am respectful of Who God is and don’t stoop to abuse or blame; (that last part was my reasoning, not Professor Brueggemann’s content.) A blog post on this topic will be coming out shortly, as it inspired me so much.

The way God’s relationship with Isra’el was interpreted in terms of His covenant with His people and their response, was absolutely correct and added a beautiful rich texture to the book. The focus on worship building a relationship, and adding constant new depth to it was just awesome.

loyaltyHonestly, I think David would really like this book and how he and his nation are represented. It’s not a theological tome on what people did, it’s a key hole view into how God built His nation, and how Isra’el was able to freely embrace and benefit from that in a loving way. Worship is the key response and still is. Some things have never changed.

The Psalms are mentioned in quite a few places and some of Professor Brueggemann’s breakdown of their structure was the least dry assessment I have read yet: and I have slogged through many cracked, mouldy dissections which bled the life out of David’s beautiful responses to God.

There is one problem, sadly… while the jacket blurb refers to an engaging style, the heavy theological language that this book started out with, was anything but engaging and easy to read. I had picked this book up a year ago, tried to read it and failed. This time, I knew I needed the content, so I hung in there, and thankfully, that perseverance paid off exceptionally well. If you cannot handle theological language, big words, or academic, formal writing styles, you won’t appreciate the book, which is a shame as it has so much to offer. My only other criticism is I wish I knew what Professor Brueggemann meant by “thick.” I can take a guess, but a definition would have been beneficial.

I do recommend this work. It doesn’t take too long to read, and has left me more aware of the depth of God’s love for me.

 

amazon-logo_transparentGet it on Amazon
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005 ISBN: 0-687-34336-4.(This post has been neither sponsored or requested.)

Read a second opinion / review from a theologian. ~


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

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Bible Hub: Everything You Need to Study the Bible – #Free

bh2From the beginnings of this project I have needed multiple translations, commentaries, Hebrew wording and as many reference resources as I could get my hands on… it can get expensive… However, even amongst the reference materials I have purchased, many have not been as helpful as Bible Hub.

They have multi-lingual Bibles, reading plans, devotions, encyclopaedias and dictionaries… everything you could want and they don’t ask for payment. They don’t even have a donation box, which I would have used, as I am heavily dependent on the site.

Raid it, bookmark it and pray for a blessing on the people who are kind enough to run it!
“Bible Hub Online Parallel Bible, search and study tools including parallel texts, cross references, Treasury of Scripture, and commentaries. This site provides quick access to topical studies, interlinears, sermons, Strong’s and many more resources.

Our mission is best summarised as follows:
1) Increase the visibility and accessibility of the Scriptures online.
2) Provide free access to Bible study tools in many languages.
3) Promote the Gospel of Christ through the learning, study and application of God’s word.

This site is a great way to link any verse on your site to an instant menu of 25 versions!”
REBLOGS WELCOMED


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All copyright and ownership of the text and logo images for any quoted websites belong to them. However, while some images are made by me, Creative Commons or Public Domain, many are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you. If you need to check the origin of an image, please use the free service at Tineye.com

Boldly Approaching God: The Example of David

baldhonestfaithWe are familiar with Hebrews 4:16: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most;” and Ephesians 3:12: “Because of Christ and our faith in Him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence;” but what you may not know, is that boldness before God isn’t a New Testament privilege that arrived with Jesus.

This confident attitude in approaching God is evident in how David communicates with the Lord, and was also seen in Moses, Job and other Psalmists. It may look a little disrespectful sometimes, but it is a hallmark of a dynamic, covenant relationship with God.

“I cried out to you, O LORD.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will You gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise You?
Can it tell of Your faithfulness?
Hear me, LORD, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O LORD.” Psalm 30:8-10 (See also Psalm 44 by the Sons of Korah)

I didn’t know about these ancient roots of boldness, until I read “Worship in Ancient Israel,” by Walter Brueggemann. On page 46-47 he writes: “Isra’el also engaged in truth telling about its life with YHWH in confession, lament and protest… Isra’el was not a submissive, second-rate player, but was a full, vigorous partner to YHWH with an unapologetic presence and an unembarrassed voice that refused to be silenced or cowed… Isra’el refuses to submit too readily to YHWH’s sovereignty when that sovereignty was seen to be unfaithful; in such circumstances, Isra’el instead of submitting, made a claim for itself against YHWH.”

Page 49: “Such speech, in its rawness, is in fact an expression of great faith; it expresses deep conviction that when YHWH is mobilised in order to honour YHWH’s covenantal commitments to Isra’el, YHWH has full capacity and power to right any situation or wrong. Thus the voice of protest and rage is characteristically in the service of plea and partition to YHWH.”

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I agree with Professor Brueggemann that calling God to action like this can seem irreverent. However, David is never rebuked by God for being too direct. God could destroy him for speaking out, but as David’s boldness is coupled with praise and dependence on God for help, He doesn’t. It seems that those without the faith to get in God’s face and speak their mind lose, and those with the faith to be bold, win. Honesty with God obviously pays off.

“Protect me! Rescue my life from them!
Do not let me be disgraced, for in You I take refuge.
May integrity and honesty protect me,
for I put my hope in You.” Psalm 25:20-21

Calling on God is submissive, rather than subversive. David could have taken his problems into his own hands and dealt with his enemies by the sword. Instead, he persisted in knocking on God’s door, and his perseverance got him a better answer.

If you study the Psalms, you will find that his entreaties to God are also tempered by praise and a promise to make an offering to God when deliverance has been granted. God gets His due recognition, gratitude and with David, the testimony of what God had done is also shared among the people via a Psalm, to encourage them as well. David’s brave, bold faith benefitted many people, including us today.

“Declare me innocent, O God!
Defend me against these ungodly people.
Rescue me from these unjust liars…”
verse 4: “Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise You with my harp,
O God, my God!
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise Him again—
my Saviour and my God!” Psalm 43:1 and 4-5 (Also see Psalm 66:13-15)

So are there limits to how bold we can be? Yes; the limits begin if we abuse the Lord, blame Him for our problems, or in short, cease to address Him with any attitude that doesn’t demonstrate the *fruit of the Spirit. He is merciful and patient, but He is neither a scapegoat, nor a punching bag. Respect is absolutely always called for, in every situation and praise absolutely must accompany these kinds of prayers. Submission is always a requirement.

There are times when like David, regardless of the trouble we are in and how urgent it is, we just have to wait patiently for an answer and keep hoping in the Lord. There are other times when due to complications, such as the effect of other’s free will on our circumstances, God can’t do as we ask, and we have to submit to His authority and wisdom, like it or not. Plus there are times when we’re wrong. Our ‘fix it’ answer was a poor one. In all these conditions we need to adopt the humble attitude Job had when he said:
“I know that You can do anything,
and no one can stop You.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.” Job 42:2-3
Despite how humbled he is, Job still has the courage to front up and reply to the Lord.

So the next time you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to be honest with God. He already knows every detail of your circumstances and feelings. so hiding what is really going on is impossible. The Lord has promised to **bless us with every spiritual blessing. We are ***beloved, treasured heirs with Christ, and He will always ****be on our side to help us through every trial and battle. Tell Him how you feel and ask for help… And don’t stop asking and seeking Him. You’re not crossing a line, you’re building your faith and a better, active relationship with Him.

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References:
Worship in Ancient Israel: An Essential Guide,” by Walter Brueggemann, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005.  ISBN: 0-687-34336-4. (Academically, theologically worded and not easy to read for the average person, but if you can get through the wording it is a massive blessing. I learned so much which reflected on my relationship with the Lord and encouraged me.)

*The fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:22-23
**Every spiritual blessing: Ephesians 1:3
***Beloved joint heirs: Romans 8:15-17
****By our side: Deuteronomy 31:8 and Hebrews 13:5

Re: Psalm 43:4: “Then I will go to the altar of God…” This may refer to David planning to go to the tabernacle to give a peace offering as thanks, as per Leviticus 7:11-15.

Moses’ honesty with God can be seen here: “Moses heard all the families standing in the doorways of their tents whining, and the LORD became extremely angry. Moses was also very aggravated. And Moses said to the LORD, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favour and spare me this misery!” Numbers 11:10-15


Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

David’s Steleae: The Psalms as Public Memorials and Private Prayers

violin-and-psalm“I will tell of the marvellous things You have done.” Psalm 9:1b

“I will exalt You, Lord, because You have rescued me.” Psalm 30:1a

A stele is “an upright stone slab or pillar bearing an inscription or design and serving as a monument, marker, or the like.” [Source: Dictionary.com] They were widely used in the Near East millennia before David, and well after his time. It was standard practice for kings to have steles and statues of themselves made as positive propaganda to support their reign. However, David didn’t follow this practice. In line with the *ten commandments, he didn’t have himself pictured with a representation of YHWH behind him, neither did he carve his achievements in stone. Apart from the book of Samuel and 1 Chronicles, the only memorials we have to David are his Psalms, some of which could be likened to victory steles, and others which have an interesting function.

Roughly half of all the Psalms that are attributed to David were sent to the choir director and made public, and 50% of those Psalms were written when he was in great distress. We don’t know how the other Psalms were used, but it is possible that the ones which have not been specifically marked as “for the choir director” were in his personal collection, then organised into books after his death. His Psalms which are marked as prayers: 17, 86, and 142, were notably not sent to the choir director.

Some of the Psalms that were made public had national themes: Psalm 60 was written while David grappled with Israel’s failures in the battle in the Valley of Salt, and is noted as being useful for teaching; the wording of Psalm 67 is a mix of a prayer and a benediction; and Psalm 58 is an outspoken challenge to the people of Israel on justice [see the final chapter below for clarification]. David also sent Psalm 53 to the choir director, making a public statement of faith with “only fools deny God.”

Using my own classification of the Psalms (I get lost in the theological classifications, so I divided them further for my own use), these are the victory Psalms that David wanted sung before the Lord:

  • Psalm 9: I will tell of all the marvellous things You have done.
  • Psalm 18: When rescued from Saul and the enemies in that period of time.
  • Psalm 20: May the LORD answer all your prayers.
  • Psalm 21: How the king rejoices in Your strength, O LORD!
  • Psalm 30: Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.

The Psalms of joy and wonder, plus David’s statements of faith that were sent to the choir director include Psalms 8, 11, 19, 62, 65, 66, 67, 53 and 58.

One thing which occurred to me when looking at which Psalms were attributed to specific events and could be considered memorials, is that there are no Psalms specifically linked to David’s most notable victories such as killing Goliath, bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, or his battle achievements. He didn’t mention God’s special covenant with Him, or his plans to build the temple; (neither did David ask for it to be named after him.) This is a testament to David’s humility, despite the moral dips which occurred with Bathsheba and the census.

The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.

The stone tablet with the code written on it. This was placed in a public space so that all could read it.

God is always the focus of David’s songs, which is another significant difference between him and any other ruler. He never claims honour or victory for himself. For an example, read the **Code of Hammurabi which has massive chunks at the beginning and end, glorifying and justifying the rule of Hammurabi. For example: “Hammurabi, the prince… making riches and increase, enriching Nippur and Dur-ilu beyond compare… who conquered the four quarters of the world, made great the name of Babylon…who enriched Ur; the humble, the reverent, who brings wealth…”

David’s work shows that he was transparent in how he talked about his life in public and that he wasn’t hung up on appearances. He freely admitted his faults and struggles and the glory for his successes always went to the Lord. Psalm 51, which speaks of his correction by Nathan over Bathsheba, and how sin affected him, was made public. Whether that was to address his sin because it was public knowledge, or whether it was to be used as a teaching aid to strengthen the faith of the people and encourage righteousness, or both, I honestly don’t know.

Psalm 3, which was about when he fled from Absalom, Psalm 34 where he escaped from Philistine territory feigning madness and Psalm 52, where he was betrayed by Doeg to Saul, weren’t marked for use by the choir director either. Not using Psalm 52 appears odd, as all the other betrayal Psalms were publicly sung. Perhaps it wasn’t copied or notated correctly, or perhaps David had some private reason for not sending it on? I wish I knew.

These are the Psalms which have a definite event associated with them and could be considered a form of victory stele.

  • 7 – concerning Cush of the tribe of Benjamin
  • 18 – rescued from all enemies and Saul [PUBLIC]
  • 30 – dedication of the temple / house [PUBLIC]
  • 54 – betrayed by Ziphites [PUBLIC]
  • 56 – seized at Gath [PUBLIC]
  • 57 – when fled from Saul and went to the cave [PUBLIC]
  • 59 – soldiers watching his house [PUBLIC]

The last point of interest is David’s request that two Psalms which relate to persecution by Saul, (57 and 59,) be sung to the tune “Do Not Destroy.” Knowing the old title attached to that melody would add a clear message to the Psalm, which would be noted by anyone knowing that piece of music. Other Psalmists also requested the same for their work.

“Do Not Destroy” is also the melody which was selected for Psalm 58: “Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word?” In Bible Hub’s interlinear Bible, “ruler” is elem, or congregation. [Strongs Number 482] It is a masculine word, which is culturally correct as the assembly of believers was all male in David’s time. Some Bibles say gods, some say sons of men. There is no correct consensus. It is a source of profound frustration to me that words such as this are so poorly translated in our Bibles, and a reminder to dig deeper to find the true meaning of the Word of God.
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Notes:

*“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

**The Code of Hammurabi translated by L.W. King http://www.general-intelligence.com/library/hr.pdf  and the Louvre Museum’s page on it: http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/law-code-hammurabi-king-babylon


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The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Study Light.org : One Stop Bible Study and Encouragement Web Site

slorglogoEven though I usually visit Bible Hub to access Scriptures quickly, I still keep an eye out for other sites which have great online Bible resources. Study Light recently grabbed my attention for the amazing range of resources they have on offer.

Study Light has more than a range of Bibles and commentaries, they have:

  • Bible reading plans and progress charts
  • Devotionals from popular authors such as Charles Spurgeon, Selwyn Huges, A.W. Tozer and Oswald Chambers
  • Bible Maps
  • Historical Resources from many points in history including BC (including Edersheim and Josephus – by the way, I refuse to compromise by using BCE, sorry, not sorry); A.D. including the Early Church Fathers, Foxe’s Book or Martyrs and more; plus many books on church history, including the history of various denominations.
  • There are pastoral resources ranging from quotes and illustrations to use in church bulletins, to sermon illustrations.
  • Original language tools in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.
  • News from the Christian post.
  • Audio teachings.
  • Articles and daily reflections on the Word.
  • Lots of commentaries, concordances, dictionaries and encyclopaedias… plus the odd Bible or two, actually, a giant drop-down list of them!
  • And you can even choose which colour you want the site to appear in.
  • Plus a cartoon!

Needless to say, I bookmarked it pretty fast.

Please, go and help yourself, then pass the word on.

REBLOGS WELCOMED

Solomon’s Slide Into Sin, Part 2

This is part 2 of my series on Solomon. Part 1 was published last Monday, 9th June 2017. Read it here.

Other Reasons Why Solomon Fell

087-king_solomon_in_old_age1. Solomon was swaying away from God from very soon after David’s death. He was worshipping at the high places where those pagan gods were exalted, which indicates that his heart had never been fully YHWH’s. Under the law of Moses, the only place he should have worshipped should have been at the Tabernacle which was at Gibeon at the time. The ark was separated from the Tabernacle, but it was in David’s Palace at Jerusalem, right where Solomon was living, so he had no excuse for being in a High Place. Access to God doesn’t get much more convenient than down the hall.

2. His reign was never based on serving God. “So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.” Ecclesiastes 2:9-10

Solomon would have done far better if he’d asked God for a relationship with Him that was like his father’s, but God wasn’t his desire. I have always felt that he asked for the wrong thing; however, his choice could have come from David’s influence. This can be found in Proverbs 4:4-9. Verse 5 sums it up: “Get wisdom; develop good judgment. Don’t forget my words [David’s] or turn away from them.”

3. The wisdom (Proverbs) of Solomon are very works and justice based, not relationship based in tone. It shows that he was looking at God from a distance. As a result of his gift not being based on pleasing and seeking God, it turned against him. He had no means of dealing with the consequences of so much revelation. “For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” Ecclesiastes 1:18 David had a joy that Solomon never discovered, as he looked to the Lord, despite his suffering.

Solomon gloried in his gift and the recognition and riches it bought him without humbling himself before the Lord, and that poisoned it too. This is probably why his wisdom did not save him from spiritual destruction, it never became an act of worship. Wisdom gave him power, not salvation. “Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers who are in a city.” Ecclesiastes 7:19

sin4. The easy life left Solomon rudderless, and he became excessively ego-centric. Without suffering, Solomon focussed only on himself, discovering that a life without God is meaningless.

“I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless….So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me. Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labours. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.”
Please read Proverbs 2:1-11 for the whole text.

“So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labours under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.” Ecclesiastes 2:20-21

I could write more about the evils of wealth and risks of absolute power, but it has all been said before and it easily leads to me becoming too easily unrighteously judgemental. I will close with David’s own wise words which are too apt: “Love the LORD, all you godly ones! For the LORD protects those who are loyal to Him, but He harshly punishes the arrogant.” Psalm 31:23
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How King David Compares to King Solomon

david-vs-solomon-traits


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Creative Commons License
The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://cateartios.wixsite.com/kingdavidproject.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

Solomon: The Real World Circumstances Behind His Slide Into Sin

This is the first part of a 2 part article on Solomon. The second part will come out next Friday, June 9th 2017.

087-king_solomon_in_old_ageWe tend to think of Solomon’s descent into abandoning God as a simple process. He had too many foreign wives who influenced him, and that finished him off. However, the more I have studied ancient history and gained an understanding of what was happening in the world surrounding Isra’el, the more I have come to understand that there is a complex set of political dynamics behind why Solomon married those women. Sin is never simple. Rarely are our actions black and white, and like Solomon, disaster can be borne out of common wisdom and accepting what our society tells us is right and harmless.

Many of the bad choices we make are based on fear, and Solomon appears to be no exception. Looking back we know he had a war-free reign, but did Solomon know that would happen? He lived in a terrifying time and acted to mitigate the risks as best he could.

From reading Proverbs, I can see that unlike David, Solomon’s knowledge of God was in the head, not the heart and he never developed the passion for, or dependence on God which would have led him away from making disastrous choices. His fears pulled him towards reliance on his wisdom to make strategic decisions, rather than his heart leading him to act with faith, and that is why he took the safe, well worn route of making political marriages which would protect the nation. It was what many generations of pagan kings had done before him, and in the same way he copied their style of *animalistic throne, he copied their other law-breaking customs as well. Sadly, his lack of faith led to his final downfall when he abandoned YHWH altogether and split the nation he was trying to hold together.

Here are the main features of the world Solomon was living in which would have affected his choices. Please see the links at the end for additional resources which will help this make sense.

  1. Egypt was bouncing back from the Bronze Age Collapse which had kept them quiet. They began to exact vengeance against the Philistines who had taken a great deal of their territory, and would have been a direct threat to Isra’el, as back in Abraham’s time, Canaan was under Egyptian control and they would have wanted that critical piece of land back. The greatest logic as to why Solomon took an Egyptian royal wife was that it was a rational decision to ally the nations and hold off Egypt from attacking them. Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam, had an Ammonite mother; she was not the Egyptian princess, so Egypt lost little time in attacking Judah once Solomon was dead and there were no strings attached. [Refs. 1 Kings 9 and 1 Kings 14:25]

2. Egypt wasn’t the only threat to Isra’el’s security. Assyria was also steadily rising and became a terrifying menace which later enslaved the Northern Kingdom. They have the reputation of being the cruelest army to ever have existed on the Earth. Solomon would have watched this and been rightly concerned, plus we don’t know what other significant power struggles were occurring around him.

It is interesting to note the extensive resources Solomon invested in building and fortifying Isra’el. [2 Chronicles 8:5] This is why it seems logical to me that the other foreign wives may have been like the Egyptian Princess: marriages to stop wars and uprisings from places like Assyria and lands such as Moab, which were hit hard by David. They would have wanted to test the military mettle of a new King to see if they could gain control of Isra’el and her many natural resources, but marriage could stop that from occurring.

Solomon was very active in national security, as well as building a prosperous nation. He was making all the right moves. Solomon rebuilt both Megiddo and Gezer, which had been struck by Egypt. [Ref. 1 Kings 9:15] As I said above, Canaan which includes Megiddo, had been under Egyptian control pre-Philistine arrival, as it is an area of vital strategic importance. It has a mountain range which cuts through the middle of trade routes, allowing the control and taxation of the camel and donkey caravans who had little choice but to take that route. It is also a very important military position which has been mown to the ground by war many times. 1 Kings 10:26 tells us of the army Solomon was amassing, which was cutting edge for his day, and strictly against the commands of the Torah. [ Ref. Deuteronomy 17:16] If he had felt safe, he would not have done any of this.

3. Solomon’s world was heavily influenced by the cultural diffusion which had occurred between the Canaanites and Israelites. Diffusion occurs for practical reasons: it opens the way to jobs, better trade and if you can understand and speak to your neighbours, and have things in common, then there is less chance of raids and war. So people ‘sensibly’ intermarry and try to live in harmony, which leads to curiosity about life style and other gods…and then the unfaithful become persuaded to worship Ashtoreth, Molech and/or Chemosh. It’s a subtle, natural process and the reason why God ordered the elimination of those nations. The people were told as far back as the wilderness: ‘don’t even ask others about their gods!’ That is a dangerous conversation when gods lead to guilt-free carnal pleasures as worship. Abandoning YHWH wasn’t planned sin; the people slowly faded into compromise, just as Solomon did, which was their undoing too.

ancient-arabia-yemen-%d8%a8%d9%84%d9%82%d9%8a%d8%b3Even with all these risk factors in mind, Solomon had no excuse for not depending on God to keep Isra’el safe. The entire history if Isra’el proves God’s faithfulness in delivering His people, plus David had set a sterling example of how to lean on God in any situation.
In Proverbs 3, Solomon’s own words are:

5: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6: Seek His will in all you do,
and He will show you which path to take.
25: You need not be afraid of sudden disaster
or the destruction that comes upon the wicked,
26: for the LORD is your security.
He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.”

Despite what he said, in practice, he relied on legalistic wisdom, solving the challenges that faced him using that one limited gift. As the commentator MacLaren says: “Proverbs 10:32, contains a collection of isolated maxims which may be described as the product of sanctified common sense. They are shrewd and homely, but not remarkably spiritual or elevated.” That sums up all of his work. God may have given Solomon wisdom, but Solomon didn’t use it for spiritual reasons or to increase his relationship with YHWH, he was too egocentric.

Look at the differences in how David and Solomon approach God. Ecclesiastes 2 uses these words: I made, I bought, I gathered… whereas in David’s song of praise in 2 Samuel 22, repeatedly, God is attributed with victory, well over and above anything David claims for himself. “The Lord is…” “He is…” He heard…” He opened…” “He shot…” “His lightning…”

Solomon lived for himself and his inward focus destroyed the very foundations of his character more than any accumulation of foreign wives could. He could be likened to a house built so poorly that any pressure on it, (fear of war and calamity,) pulled it down, because the foundations had no spiritual strength. Solomon is a terrible tragedy.
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Notes:

To properly understand the time Solomon lived in, you will find these articles helpful. I cannot include all this information here as it’s too extensive and took months of study and research to uncover.
Things You Need to Know About Isra’el
Bronze Age Collapse
Sands and Sin

*Animalistic Throne: from as a far back as the pagan priest kings of Mesopotamia, stelae and orthostats show thrones surrounded by lions or with lion heads carved into the arms of the throne. It was a way of harnessing the power of those mighty animals, and a well understood pagan symbol of power and might: not faith in YHWH.


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