1 Kings 11:14–25: Solomon’s Adversaries
We’re in the middle of what I’m thinking of as the downfall of the nation of Israel. Which, I admit, is a bit hyperbolic: the nation is going to split into two (Israel in the North and Judah in the South), but both nations will continue for hundreds of years. However, this is the beginning of that split, as well as the beginning of the nation’s downward trend after its zenith under Solomon’s rule. We read in the last passage how Solomon’s foreign wives led him into worship of other gods, and that the LORD determined to punish him for that sin.
This passage is interesting in that a couple of adversaries of Solomon are introduced, but these adversaries are not part of the ongoing story of the splitting of the nation. The fact that Solomon has adversaries, after so much success for his entire life, is an indication that something bad is happening, but other than that, these men aren’t really significant parts of the history of the nation1. They’re temporary nuisances for Solomon in his old age who don’t really cause my trouble (that I can see), and then fade away. In the next passage we’ll read about Jeroboam, who is going to significantly alter the course of the nation(s), but these two are more of a blip.
There are two adversaries mentioned and the passage gives a lot of backstory for them, so I’ll cover them separately:
- Hedad the Edomite, and
- Rezon the Zobahite2
Both of these men have history with Solomon’s father David: grudges have been kept, and are now coming to fruition.
Hadad’s story goes back to 2 Samuel 8, and David’s war with Edom. When I blogged about that passage I didn’t even mention Edom, it was just a minor portion of the text (to me), but here are a couple of relevant verses:
And David became famous after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.
He put garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. The LORD gave David victory wherever he went.
What was only a minor detail to me, reading 2 Samuel thousands of years later, was a huge deal to Hadad, of the royal line of the Edomites, who fled the slaughter by Joab (commander of David’s army). Some Edomite officials brought the boy to Egypt where the Pharaoh gave him a place to live and food to eat. And, although we’re not told why, Pharaoh was quite pleased with Hadad and even gave Hedad his sister-in-law in marriage. And if that weren’t enough, when Hadad and the Pharaoh’s sister-in-law had a son the boy was raised in the royal palace along with the Pharaoh’s own children.
But when Hadad hears that both David and Joab have died he decides to go back to his own country, presumably to seek revenge against the Israelites—though we’re never told about it. In fact, all we’re told is that the Pharaoh doesn’t want him to go:
“What have you lacked here that you want to go back to your own country?” Pharaoh asked.
“Nothing,” Hadad replied, “but do let me go!”
We’re given less of a story about Rezon, though it also goes back 2 Samuel 8, and is also a nation I didn’t even bother to mention when I blogged about it: Zobah. As I was reading the passage at the time Zobah was just one more nation defeated by David’s army. Rezon somehow served the king of Zobah (we’re not told what his actual position was), and when the army of Zobah was defeated Rezon put together a band of men of his own.
Rezon and his men ended up in Damascus, where they “took control” (verse 24). But again, we’re not told much about anything Rezon did other than…
Rezon was Israel’s adversary as long as Solomon lived, adding to the trouble caused by Hadad. So Rezon ruled in Aram and was hostile toward Israel. (verse 25)
Although we’re not given any details, it seems that Hedad and Rezon caused problems for Solomon from their territories.
Now that we’ve heard the stories of Hadad and Rezon I have no idea what to do with them! They don’t seem to fit into the story of God’s people other than as a side note; Solomon, who had formerly had peace on all sides, now has adversaries on either side of him, but we’re not told anything that the men did, or how they harmed the Israelites. I’m assuming they probably raided the Israelites, and that maybe there were some battles, but I’m not taking away from this passage that they were major problems for the nation. However, the fact that Solomon—who has, up until now, lived completely in peace—has any adversaries is, in and of itself, a change.
There have been times, when blogging through Old Testament historical books, when I decide not to bother mentioning something only to find that it becomes important later, and this is such a case (as mentioned above, regarding 1 Samuel 8), but I’m not too broken up about it. I’m still not sure what I would have said about David/Joab defeating the nations of Edom or Zobah, just like I’m not sure what to say about Hadad and Rezon now.
The ESV Study Bible notes do provide some interesting context, however, so maybe I’ll just let them have the last say:
1 Kings 11:14–25 In 5:4, Solomon told Hiram, in the midst of God’s blessing, that he had peace on every side (no adversary). Now the blessing has departed and the peace is fractured. Two men who had hitherto not caused Solomon significant problems are now raised up by God to oppose the apostate king in his old age. The first is Hadad, a victim of David’s wars (2 Sam. 8:13–14); the second is Rezon, who had apparently either escaped from the battle described in 2 Sam. 8:3–4 or fled from Hadadezer later, unwilling to submit to imperial rule from Jerusalem. Damascus, from ancient times a major site on the main caravan route from Africa to Mesopotamia, now becomes the capital of the Aramean kingdom of Syria, which will rise to become a significant power in the region during the divided monarchy in Israel. Syria will often be in conflict with Israel and Judah but will sometimes ally with them against common foes. The kingdom will ultimately be absorbed into the Assyrian Empire as a result of the campaigns of Tiglath-pileser III in 733–732 B.C. Rezon opposes Solomon from the north, Hadad from the south; and where the king once had peace on all sides, he now finds enemies.