Did Solomon apostatize here?

My iGoogle homepage displays photos of various “sacred” sites all over the world, and today I was greeted by a “Temple of Bel” in Palmyra, Syria… [EDIT: The site originally carrying the image seems to have gone away or at the least is having great difficulties. So I am replacing it here with two images from www.traveladventures.org. Head there if you would like to read more. I actually like these pictures better, and TravelAdventures.org does allow downloading of their pictures, for which I have sent them a note of thanks.  Very nice of them!]

Temple of Bel (from TravelAdventures.org)

Temple of Bel (from TravelAdventures.org)

Wikipedia (which all of us trust explicitly, no?) suggests that the temple is over 3,000 years old, which suggests that it existed during the reign of King Solomon. Plus, the city is mentioned in Scripture as being fortified by Solomon in 2 Chronicles 8:4 by it’s original Aramaic name, Tadmor, and possibly in 1 Kings 9:8 as by a name variant, Tamar, although the Sacred Destinations site points out that “Tamar” could be a different city. Both the city’s Greek name (Palmyra) and its Aramaic name (Tadmor) are mentioned by Josephus, who says that Solomon built it and calls it a “very great city” (Antiquities 8.5.1).

So, I wonder… When Solomon began to turn away from God due to the influence of the pagan wives he had allowed himself to accumulate (1 Kings 11:4), did he worship Bel (or Bol, or Ba’al) here at this temple? In fact, since he was apparently not averse to actually building pagan worship centers for his wives (1 Kings 11:7), is it at all possible that Solomon, himself, used his wealth to have this temple built or expanded?

If so (and, I suppose, even if not!), it is interesting that one of the adversaries that God raised up against Solomon after his apostatizing was named “Hadad” (1 Kings 11:14…25), which is another name for Ba’al.

Anyway — I post it here, today, for those who might find it an interesting stroll.

If I don’t get to post again, today, have a fantastic and profitable Sabbath! May tomorrow’s sunset find each of us closer to God than tonight’s.

5 thoughts on “Did Solomon apostatize here?

  1. Dear Mr. Smith,

    I never thought about that particular historical irony (Hadad raised up against one tolerant of Ba`al worship), but you’re right. If the city is identified correctly with one that Solomon fortified, and if the temple was built at the right time, then it’s certainly possible that the temple benefited from his munificence. (On the other hand, it just might have been built during the rise of Ba`al-worshipping Hadad in Syria.)

    But the Bible doesn’t say that Solomon apostasized, as it does with so many other kings. It says, in effect, that he compromised — that he did not walk wholeheartedly with God as David had done. Quite likely his tolerance of and even participation in paganism, like many of his marriages in the first place, was politically expedient and didn’t reflect real belief in or commitment to these idols. Of course the Eternal still had to call him on all that, because it reflected a lack of belief in and commitment to Him also. But much can be explained if we see Solomon as being in his “materialistic and experimental” phase at that time. He was “trying out the world” to see what was good for man to do in it. At such a time it’s easy to understand how he could’ve participated in Israel’s religion but also in paganism, and yet would’ve had little real depth of heart in either. I’m reminded of many of the Sadducees in this.

    Ecclesiastes was written from all indications very late in Solomon’s life, and it doesn’t show Solomon as either an apostate or an idolater. It does show him as being disillusioned by trying to work out life in a materialistic way, and to pointing the reader back to “fearing God and keeping His commandments” as “the whole (of) man”. Now Solomon himself alludes to the snare his 1,000 women got him into (one trustworthy man he could find out of a thousand, but not one trustworthy woman out of “all these”, that is, his 1000-strong harem, could he find). In the case of the scheming woman (so typical of those he married out of expediency, I gather), “he who fears God” escapes from her snares, but the “wicked” don’t. Are we to understand that he realized his danger in the nick of time and out of fear of God, escaped the snare his women laid? I think so — he did say that he found such a woman “more bitter than death”. Here and in other ways, I gather that Solomon learned from his experiences and from God’s punishment of him, although his ultimate repentance didn’t take away the long-term consequences to the Houses of David, Israel and Judah.

    Shabbat shalom (שבת שלום),
    John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

  2. Joe Hamby

    Mr. Smith,

    Saw your program on America on the Brink…

    Like you’re comment to gather ammo and head for the hills.

    Hope MO is treating you well. Miss you in the south!

  3. Howdy, and thanks, Mr. Wheeler. “Apostatize” probably *was* too strong a word.

    And howdy, Mr. Joe Hamby! It is really good to hear from you! I hope you guys are doing well! I miss the south, too. But I’m getting used to the midwest, and hopefully it is getting used to me, too. 😉

    [Note to our readers saying, “Huh?”: The “ammo and hills” comment that I made on the telecast was in jest — you have to hear it in context…] 🙂

  4. Howdy, Mr. Peters!

    Did you intend this comment for this post?

    I am, by the way, looking into Daniel 11 these days, though I would not say I am focusing on it. The days leading up to the Feast of Trumpets tend to put me into a “prophecy” state of mind.

    Take care!

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