“Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked Him to jealousy more than all that their fathers had done, with the sins which they committed.” (1 Kings 14:22, NASB95)
“He [Shishak king of Egypt] took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house, and he took everything, even taking all the shields of gold which Solomon had made. So King Rehoboam made shields of bronze in their place, and committed them to the care of the commanders of the guard who guarded the doorway of the king’s house.” (1 Kings 14:26–27, NASB95)
The demise of Israel came quickly after the reign of Solomon. Although one could argue that Solomon’s kingdom was the pinnacle of Israel’s fame, wealth, and honor, there can be no doubt that spiritually the kingdom was a shadow of what it was under David. Solomon may have had great wealth, and there is no doubt that he beautified the kingdom and made a glorious temple, but internally there was a rot that would eventually lead the divided nation into apostasy and exile.
In 1 Kings 14, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, watched as all of the external signs of his father’s success dissipated right before his eyes. Through a youthful foolishness he lost ten of the twelve tribes in a rebellion, and along with these he lost the favor of the people. Instead of humbling himself and turning to the Lord, Rehoboam turned to false gods and idolatry, just as his father did through the influence of foreign women he married.
As a picture of how degraded Judah had become, 1 Kings 14:26-27 mentions the shields of Solomon. More than a mere passing note of interest, the shields are a visible lesson for all that will watch and learn. In his days as king, Solomon saw gold become so abundant that it was said that silver was as nothing (See 1Kings 10:14-29). To show off this wealth, he had 200 large shields of gold, each made from about 7 1/2 lbs. of gold. Additionally, he had 300 more smaller shields made from almost 4 lbs. of gold each. Together these shields would have been fashioned out of 2,625 lbs. of gold, which for Solomon was nothing since 1 Kings 9:14 states that one year’s worth of gold income was 666 talents, or about 25 tons (50,000 lbs.) of gold! What was the purpose of these shields? Together they acted as a visible symbol of Solomon’s great wisdom and wealth.
With that insight, 1 Kings 14:27 reveals a great truth. In the face of utter humiliation as a result of his outrageous idolatry, Rehoboam chose to put on the mask of a hypocrite instead of facing the truth with repentance and humble contrition. In Solomon’s days, silver was as nothing–how much less bronze! Now Solomon’s wayward son is grasping to keep up appearances. He has replacement shields made to cover the naked walls, but not of gold, which he no longer had. Instead they would be made of bronze. Why make these shields at all? With foreign invaders from Egypt stealing their wealth and ransacking the kingdom, you would think that Rehoboam would have been more concerned with greater issues. Instead, we find him seeking to make things look the same as they did during the days of his father’s reign. Bronze shields would appear gold-like, giving the impression that nothing had changed. But they had–massively, and to a greater extend than these shields alone. A cheap substitute had taken the place of the valuable. Instead of the precious worship of Yahweh, a fake and common worship had been swapped out as if they were the same. But they are not.
Instead of playing games with God, Rehoboam should have broke. He should have seen the loss of gold and prestige as an opportunity to go back to the basics of humble worship as his grandfather David had demonstrated. David, clothed in only a linen ephod danced before the Lord, not caring about anyone else but the pleasure of his God. May we be aware of this shift in our own lives and ministries as well, never replacing the gold of true worship with a cheap substitute, because God isn’t fooled. When God is trying to get your attention, don’t double down and act like nothing is wrong. Go to God.