Solomon’s great wisdom and the unrivaled splendor of the First Temple brought pilgrims from near and far. The account of the visit of the Queen of Sheba (2 Chronicles 9, 1 Kings 10) tells us something about this great king and the magnificent and holy light from God that blessed him and all the people.
Yet Solomon failed to heed the counsel of God and of his father David. He soon had accumulated horses and chariots (disregarding the admonition of Samuel and the Law of Moses), and in the course of time he excelled his father’s love of women by accumulating “700 wives and 300 concubines.” One of the great understatements of the Bible attributes Solomon’s downfall to the influence of his foreign wives:
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women: the daughter of Pharaoh, and Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from 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. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For 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. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD commanded. Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.” (1 Kings 11:1-13)
For many years Solomon evidently wandered away from fellowship with His God, returning only much later, near the end of the life, to record for us in his book, Ecclesiastes, what he had learned about the emptiness of all of life apart from God.
When Solomon died his son Rehoboam became king of Israel. The nation, however, was on a spiritual decline. Rehoboam’s policies caused the kingdom to be divided into north (Israel) and south (Judah) separate regimes. Jeroboam, the first king of Israel. He built two substitute places of worship, one in Bethel and one in Dan for fear the people would return to Jerusalem:
And Jeroboam said in his heart, ‘Now the kingdom may return to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah. Therefore the king took counsel and made two calves of gold and said to the people. “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt. (1 Kings 12:26-28).
Because the people felt bound to the legal system of worship in Jerusalem Jeroboam realized the need that worship be centralized in the north. The northern kingdom remained in idolatry until it was overrun and taken captive in 721 BC by the Assyrians. Nineteen kings had ruled over the ten Northern tribes – the Bible has no good thing to say about a single one of them. The dismal record of the lives of Jeroboam I, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram (Joram)), Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash (Joash), Jeroboam II, Zechariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah and Hoshea is given in the books of the Kings.