Israelite Worship from Solomon to the Exile

Although Solomon completed and dedicated the temple, the foreign influences and faulty civil policy that set in during his reign eventually led to the demise of the Israelite commonwealth.

David’s son and successor to the throne was Solomon. During his reign Solomon continued to focus on the cultic worship of the temple, adding to the edifice ornamentation of such glory and splendor that all who visited Israel marveled at its beauty. Solomon emphasized beautifying the temple not only because he was dedicated to the worship of Yahweh and desired to show his gratitude, but because he had also begun to be influenced by surrounding foreign powers. The temple and its ornamentation were a sign to foreigners of the wealth and cultural strength of Solomon’s court. Scripture attests to these foreign influences during the reign of Solomon. This accentuated the syncretistic tendency that the Israelites had been dealing with since they first covenanted to be the people of Yahweh. Solomon often allowed civil policy to dictate ecclesiastical practices. He married foreign wives in order to establish alliances. These wives brought their alien gods into his courts (1 Kings 11:1–8).

The foreign influences from within the country cumulatively resulted in disaster. The northern kingdom’s destruction (722 b.c.) and the demise of the southern kingdom, including Jerusalem and the temple (587 b.c.), were viewed by the postexilic writers in light of the corrupt worship practice that had infiltrated the practices ordained by Yahweh. The religion of Israel before the Exile is depicted as a headlong, spiraling decline leading to disaster. Ahab had allowed Jezebel’s Sidonian influences to foster idolatry and despotism (1 Kings 16:32). Intermarriages between Jezebel’s family and the southern kingdom continued to spread the destructive influences. The situation was so severe and irreversible that it necessitated the destruction of both kingdoms, the temple, and the city of Jerusalem to reestablish the pure remnant of Yahweh’s chosen. The essentials of worship had been lost.

The Word of God, prayer, praise, confession, and forgiveness had become empty rituals that had lost the inner meaning and therefore impeded access to Yahweh.

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