Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

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

share|improve this question
@Monica set against that is the narrative flow, which really does seem to pivot at the chapter boundary I think. –  Jack Douglas Apr 26 '13 at 17:41
True, but the chapter boundaries aren't original and don't always make sense (consider the very first chapter break). Hmm, are questions about the history of those divisions on-topic? –  Gone Quiet Apr 26 '13 at 17:47
@Monica I'm ignoring the chapter boundaries completely for the purposes of this question—just using them to communicate which passages I'm referring to, not implying they have any bearing on the answer! –  Jack Douglas Apr 26 '13 at 17:50

1 Answer 1

Traditional theology holds that the book of Deuteronomy was either given at Sinai or written by Moshe (modulo the last eight verses), so in that framework, knowledge of the Deuteronomy text ought to be sounding alarm bells when reading Kings. However, scholars generally ascribe later authorship to Deuteronomy, which complicates things.

Conventional scholarly wisdom has been that Deuteronomy originated in the northern kingdom of Israel and came south after that kingdom's destruction (8th century BCE), though some argue that it was composed in Jerusalem (not the northern kingdom) in the context of King Josiah's religious reforms.

Scholars also generally attribute the book of kings to Jeremiah or someone writing at about that time (6th century BCE), though some suggest that a first version was earlier -- and, again, part of King Josiah's reforms.

King Josiah was trying to set people back on the "right path" with God. And out of that time period we get (1) a text describing limitations on kings and (2) an early version of a text describing King Solomon's excesses. If you hold with the scholars rather than with traditional theology, it is hard not to see a connection here. For that matter, it's hard not to see an intentional connection on the part of Josiah.

So, in that frame and in Josiah's time, the passages about Solomon by themselves might not have struck the listener as anything unusual, but they weren't being read by themselves -- the book of Deuteronomy, including the laws against what Solomon did, was being spread at the same time, and Josiah was motivated to do that. And if you don't hold by the earlier dating for the book of Kings and say that Jeremiah wrote it, then by that time Deuteronomy had been out there for a while, so it seems likely that the listener would make the connection. I'm unaware of a dating that puts Kings before Deuteronomy. Therefore, no matter which of these opinions you follow, the reader of Kings would be familiar with the Deuteronomy passage.

It's worth noting, though, that if we follow the scholarly interpretation, then in Solomon's time his behavior wouldn't necessarily have sounded any alarm bells. We're talking here about the text that came later, not the actual events. Whether the actual events sounded alarm bells would depend on your understanding of the dating of Deuteronomy.

(I'm using Wikipedia links for convenience; I've heard much of this in lectures, but I don't have better online English sources to point to.)

Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.