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1 Kings Chapter 10 broadly seems to detail the fulfillment of God's promise to Solomon from Chapter 3:

13I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. ESV

The narrative tone changes abruptly in chapter 11, from the first verse onwards things seem to be on a downward trajectory:

1Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. ESV

my question is whether the original audience would have seen this as 'chapter 10 good, chapter 11 bad', or whether the end of chapter 10 would already have begun to ring loud alarm bells, especially verse 26 onwards:

26And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. 27And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah. 28And Solomon's import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king's traders received them from Kue at a price. 29A chariot could be imported from Egypt for 600 shekels of silver and a horse for 150, and so through the king's traders they were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria. ESV

bearing in mind the injunctions about Kings in Deuteronomy 17:

16Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. ESV

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1 Answer 1

The change is even more gradual than that. The narrative is intended to show Solomon very slowly becoming corrupted due to his power and wealth.

For example: at the end of 1 Kings 6 it says he took 7 years to build God's temple (Heb: 'Beth'), and in the next verse (1 Kings 7:1) it says he took 14 years to beuild his own house (Heb: 'Beth'). So he already considers himself twice as important as God. Later on in 1 Kings 10:14 it says he had Solomon got 666 talents of gold, which as we know is a number signifying danger.

Professor Iain Provan did some in-depth research on the narrative structure of 1 Kings 1-11 for his PhD, and examined many of the implied literar cues and signals that are harder to pick up for people not raised in ancient Hebrew culture. I would recommend doing further research on the gradual decline of Solomon's wisdom by looking at Provan's essay, "Why Barzillai of Gilead?" which looks at some of the earlier problems even with how David hands over the kingdom to him.

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"it says he took 14 years to beuild his own house. So he already considers himself twice as important as God." Or maybe it means he didn't prioritise it as much. The size of the houses may be evidence of his self-importance, but not the time they took to build. That one can go either way. – curiousdannii Jul 21 at 6:00
Very good point, thank you. From a purely logical perspective, the time taken to build the houses are not proof that Solomon is prioritising himself. The assertion that, nonetheless, the text DOES mean to suggest that Solomon prioritised himself comes from the more intangible literary cues that surround the passage. One of these is reflection on why the author chose to include this detail at this particular moment. Furthermore, in the ancient world the time taken over something was more of a symbol of care than carelessness, unlike in today's fast-paced society. – TheBarnacle Jul 22 at 10:18

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