The books of Kings are a tragedy, like a Shakespearean tragedy. I think that’s a helpful framework to keep in mind.
Merriam-Webster defines tragedy like this:
a serious drama typically describing a conflict between the protagonist and a superior force (as destiny) and having a sorrowful or disastrous conclusion that elicits pity or terror
Within the books, there is not a happy ending. This is a serious drama. The protagonist is the people of Israel. The superior force is God. And spoiler alert, there is a disastrous conclusion when the temple is destroyed and the people taken to exile. The end. (For now.)
This is the beginning of the end for the nation. This is where things begin to unravel.
Solomon himself is a tragic figure. God has given him extensive wealth and wisdom. He has a established a kingdom. He has lived in peace. But neither his wealth nor his wisdom are his salvation. There are limits to Solomon’s wise decisions. Despite his epic wisdom, Solomon makes some poor choices.
Notice the sequence of events in these paragraphs. Solomon first disobeys an explicit command of God, not to marry foreign women. And it’s not like he accidentally forget once or twice. He disobeys repeatedly. 700 times!
And it’s this disobedience that opens the floodgates to idolatry—worshipping cheap imitation gods that are not the Creator God.
Solomon was given a choice by God. That choice was faithfulness or unfaithfulness. And because he choose poorly, bad things crept not only into his life, but also the kingdom. Here we meet two adversaries to Solomon’s rule. Tomorrow we’ll meet a third, and the most destructive one, the one who will fracture the nation. This is an example of the corrosive quality of human sin.
Bad things happen in the world. And the Bible offers various solutions as to why. The book of Job, for instance, shows us that God has the final word over suffering. In Kings, we’re shown (with echoes to the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3) that human misery is a direct result of disobedience, of making poor choices, of poorly stewarding free will.
Question: Where have you seen or experienced poor choices leading to miserable outcomes?