on Behalf of the People
An understanding of God’s covenant with Solomon implies the performance of political leadership could determine the fate of a nation in more ways than the direct effects of a successful or failed regime. The government of a people could receive a covenant (conditional promise) from God on behalf of the nation; with the king, president, prime minister, or other head of government as custodian of the covenant. The nation benefits or suffers, depending on the custodian fulfilling or failing to fulfill the conditions of the covenant. An example from Solomon as king of Israel illustrates the relationship. God promised great benefits to Israel if Solomon lived in obedience to him and followed his decrees, laws, and commands. However, he will punish the nation severely if Solomon broke the covenant. That is, God made a covenant with king Solomon on behalf of the nation of Israel.
We discuss God’s covenant with Solomon as king of Israel to understand that a nation’s relationship with God can be affected by its political leadership. As we discuss in a previous study under Authority of Government—Israel Asks for King, God delegates political leadership responsibilities to government, such as represented by the king during the time of Solomon as king of Israel. He expects the government to provide positive leadership (also referred to as effective leadership in A Ruler’s Motivation); whereby the king, president, prime minister, or other head of government walks in obedience to God and leads the nation to do the same as he/she focusses on addressing the nation’s needs. In contrast, negative leadership does not walk in obedience to God or care about the needs of the nation.
God rewards positive leadership and punishes negative. He directs rewards or punishment to the leader and to the nation. His covenant with King Solomon on behalf of Israel provides an example to illustrate the relationship.
Covenant with Solomon
Solomon received the covenant in three interactions with God. The first and third were direct encounters with God that Solomon experienced as dreams, whereas the second appears as an indirect encounter. He received the same conditional promise from God during the three encounters. However, based on the bible account, his understanding of the promise and conditions appeared incomplete initially but improved with each encounter.
The first encounter conveyed an understanding that the promise was for Solomon alone, whereas the second indicated the promise included a special benefit for the nation of Israel. However, the third encounter clarified the promise to include a great benefit or consequence to Israel that depended on Solomon fulfilling or failing to fulfill the conditions of the covenant. That is: God made the covenant with Solomon on behalf of himself, his offspring, and the nation of Israel; will reward Solomon and bless his offspring and the nation of Israel if he fulfilled the conditions of the covenant; but will punish him, his offspring, and the nation of Israel if he broke the covenant.
Solomon Receives Covenant
Solomon dreamed of an encounter with God while at Gibeon to offer sacrifice. As we discuss in a previous bible study under A Ruler’s Motivation, he prayed for effective leadership of Israel during the encounter and God promised to make him an effective leader. Additionally, God promised to grant him great wealth and honor and made the promise conditional on Solomon living in obedience to God: “And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life” [1 Kings 3:14].
God’s promise to Solomon through the encounter was a conditional promise, aka covenant: If you walk in obedience to God and keep his decrees and commands, he will make you a good and effective ruler (for the nation you have been chosen to rule) and give you great wealth and honor. Solomon understood that Israel will benefit from his performance of the covenant through the effective leadership he would provide. However, his next encounter with God regarding the covenant clarified the promise included additional special benefits for the nation if he fulfilled the conditions of the covenant.
Solomon’s second encounter with God regarding the covenant appears indirect and occurred during construction of the temple: “The word of the Lord came to Solomon” [1 Kings 6:11].
The message restated the covenant: “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father” [1 Kings 6:12]. Additionally, the message included a statement of benefit to Israel if Solomon performed the covenant: “And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel” [1 Kings 6:13].
Solomon understood through the encounter that the nation of Israel was a stakeholder in his living in obedience to God and following God’s decrees, laws, and commands. The nation’s stake in Solomon’s performance went beyond the direct benefits of effective leadership: God will live among them and will not abandon them if Solomon fulfilled the conditions for God’s conditional promise to him and his father David. However, his understanding was not complete regarding how his performance could affect the fate of the nation. That aspect of the covenant would become clearer to him through the next encounter with God regarding the covenant, which we discuss in the next section.
Covenant Clarified Again
Solomon had a third encounter with God regarding the covenant after the dedication of the temple, similar to his encounter with God at Gibeon [1 Kings 9:1–2]: “When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the Lord appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon.” The information implies God appeared to Solomon in a dream, similar to he did at Gibeon. During the encounter, God restated the covenant and clarified his promise to Solomon and to Israel under the covenant. However, this encounter differed from the earlier two, because Solomon understood clearly how he will benefit and how the nation will benefit, if he fulfilled the conditions for the covenant. Also, he understood clearly the consequences that Israel faced if he should break the covenant. God clarified the covenant condition, promise to Solomon, promise to Israel if Solomon fulfilled the covenant condition, and promise of consequence to Israel if he failed.
The Covenant Condition: God clarified the covenant condition as follows: “As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws” [1 Kings 9:4]. Further, he clarified the meaning of failure for Solomon—what actions and behavior of Solomon or his offspring would constitute a break of the covenant: “But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them” [1 Kings 9:6].
Promise to Solomon: God clarified the long-term benefit to Solomon under the covenant— “I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel’” [1 Kings 9:5].
Promise to Israel (on Positive Leadership): God clarified his promise to Israel under the covenant [1 Kings 9:3]: “…I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” This statement clarifies his promise to Israel that we discussed in the foregoing section: “And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel” [1 Kings 6:13].
Promise to Israel (on Negative Leadership): Additionally, he clarified the consequences that the nation of Israel would suffer if Solomon broke the covenant [1 Kings 9:7]: “then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples.” The statement of consequences to Israel continued through the next two verses.
Summary of What We Learned
King of Israel Solomon received covenant (conditional promise) from God on behalf of Israel. He didn’t understand the covenant clearly at first. He thought the promise was for him alone and that the nation had no stake in his performance beyond the direct benefits of his effective leadership.
However, two more encounters with God helped him understand the covenant included additional potential benefits and consequences to the nation that depended on his performance. The nation will benefit if he fulfilled the conditions of the covenant but will suffer if he failed.
This understanding of God’s covenant with Solomon implies the performance of political leadership could determine the fate of a nation in more ways than the direct effects of a successful or failed regime.