Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

The Death of Solomon

When Solomon had finished all his great works, God renewed to him the promises which had been made to David. He also warned the king that while obedience would be rewarded with great blessings, disobedience would bring about the ruin of both king and people.

Hiram, who had finished the buildings which the king had planned with such magnificence, now went home, after receiving his promised reward of twenty cities, which were all situated in the land of Galilee.

After Hiram had gone, Solomon finished the walls of Jerusalem. Then, to please his foreign wives, he did what he knew was wrong, and set up heathen altars to Ashtoreth and Moloch on the Mount of Olives, directly opposite Mount Moriah, where stood the new temple. Here he not only allowed his wives to offer up sacrifices to the idols, but even helped them to do so.

God had warned him that such disobedience would surely be punished, and as Solomon had worshiped idols he was no longer allowed to enjoy the great prosperity of his early reign. A prophet was therefore sent to Jeroboam, one of Solomonís rivals, to tell him that part of the kingdom would soon be given info his hands.

The prophet met Jeroboam, snatched the new mantle off his shoulders, and tore it into twelve pieces. Then thrusting ten of these into the astonished Jeroboamís hand, he said that God would thus rend the kingdom to pieces, and would give ten tribes into his keeping. This soon came true; ten tribes joined Jeroboam, and the tribe of Judah was the only important one which remained faithful to the royal family. It was left to the king only for the sake of David, and so that the Lordís worship might go on in his temple at Jerusalem.

When Solomon heard this prediction, he tried to bring it to naught by killing Jeroboam; but the intended victim, hearing that his life was in danger, fled into Egypt

Solomon was haunted all the time by the feeling that his sins had robbed his children of their inheritance. He was also worried by wars with two rivals, Hadad, Prince of Edom, and Rezon, founder of the kingdom of Damascus; and thus he was very unhappy toward the end of his life.

Solomon was not only one of the greatest kings of the world, but he is also known as a writer. He left three books, which form part of the Old Testament. It is supposed that the first, which is called the Song of Solomon, was written when he was very young; that the second, Proverbs, was the work of his manhood; and that the third and last, Ecclesiastes, was composed in his old age, when he had ceased to take pleasure in anything, and could only say: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."

Having found that wealth and wisdom are of no avail to a man who has departed from the ways of the Lord, Solomon died, after a reign of forty years. He had spent all the treasure which his father had left him, and had laid such heavy taxes upon the people that they were poor and oppressed. When he died, he left his son Rehoboam to reap the harvest of dislike which he had sown.

Rehoboam, called to the throne by Solomonís death, went up to Shechem to be proclaimed king. There he was met by Jeroboam, who had now come back from Egypt, and who came to ask him to redress the wrongs under which the oppressed people had suffered so long.

Instead of granting this petition, as all the older men in his council advised him, Rehoboam haughtily refused to reduce the taxes, and said to the people: "My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke; my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions."

The people, hearing these cruel words, understood that they could expect neither mercy nor justice from the new king, and in their anger they rose up against him. His tax collector was stoned to death, and Rehoboam himself escaped a like fate only by fleeing in his chariot to Jerusalem.

The rebels, left masters of Shechem, now went on to elect Jeroboam king of Israel, and ten of the tribes promised to obey him. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were still faithful to the grandson of David.

To compel the other ten tribes to obey him once more, Rehoboam collected an army of one hundred and eighty thousand men. He was about to march against Jeroboam, when a man of God brought him a divine message, which forbade his going forth to war.

Rehoboam did not dare disobey this order openly, and for many years there was only a pretense of warfare. The two kings, however, were all the time busy in making their armies larger, winning allies, and building strong walls around their towns, so that when the right moment came they could wage war with better chances of success.