How do we deal with Solomon?


(Micah Bush) #1

Hi Everyone,

Both in Jewish and Christian circles (and even in the Bible itself), there seems to be a fair bit of reverence around the person of Solomon: He is regarded as the wisest man who ever lived prior to Christ, a great king during Israel’s “golden age,” and a great writer of proverbs and poetry.

To be honest, though, I have trouble with this view. While Song of Solomon is regarded as a divinely-inspired celebration of marital love, the man to whom it is credited married 700 women and had 300 mistresses on the side in defiance of God’s command (Deuteronomy 17:17a); Solomon built the long-awaited temple to Yahweh, yet was led astray by his pagan wives to build sanctuaries to foreign gods; his wealth is regarded as a sign of God’s blessings, yet it was measured by the things (horses and precious metals) that Israelite kings were forbidden to accumulate (Deuteronomy 17:16, 17b); his wisdom is legendary, yet his kingdom was fragile enough to fall apart days after his son took the throne. For all his successes, Solomon seems to have been a failure on every front that really mattered. How do we reconcile this reality with the praise that Solomon has received? (I wouldn’t be troubled much if this praise came mainly from outside the Bible, but even the biblical text seems to rank him higher than his performance really deserves.)


(SeanO) #2

@MicahB I suggest rereading I Kings 11. The Bible is quite clear that God became angry with Solomon for his disobedience and his explicit breaking of God’s commands given in Deuteronomy regarding how the king ought to live. I’ve also attached a link to an article from ‘The Bible Project’ answering this question at the bottom of the thread.

It is natural for people to remember fondly a king who ruled during the golden age of a nation. Also, God did grant Solomon great wisdom. However, Solomon turned away from God. Tim Keller has said that there are two great tests in life - failure and success - both offer different types of temptation. Solomon faced the test of success and, at least in large part, I think it would be safe to say he failed the test.

When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.Deuteronomy 17:14-17

I Kings 11:6-13 - So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done. 7 On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.9 The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

Sermon on Two Great Tests


(Helen Tan) #3

The life of Solomon was played out to show us how even the richest and smartest person in the world still fails when his life is lived without God and His principles which He has laid out for our success. Solomon had everything he desired and yet, he derived no satisfaction. However, God is still faithful. We see Solomon coming around in Ecclesiastes which, according to Chuck Swindoll, "shows us a man who lived through this process and came out on the other side with a wiser, more seasoned perspective. When we’re surrounded by the temptation to proclaim life’s ultimate emptiness, we can find in Ecclesiastes a vision tempered by experience and ultimately seen through divinely colored lenses. Life is destined to remain unsatisfying apart from our recognition of God’s intervention. It only remains to be seen whether or not we will place our trust in His sure and able hands."

Solomon’s life (as he lived it by his own volition) was not supposed to make sense but was to show us that “all is vanity” without God. We cannot find fulfillment or meaning outside of God. It’s a tough lesson, one which Solomon bore in pain and regret. And we can learn from the man who had everything and still found no meaning or satisfaction.


(Micah Bush) #4

It is a bit reassuring that I Kings makes a point of highlighting Solomon’s failures. Still, it bothers me that the account from II Chronicles largely ignores these shortcomings. I get that the purposes of the two narratives are different (one is a summary of what went wrong that led to Israel’s exile, the other is a reassurance of God’s faithfulness to the returning exiles), but it is a bit disconcerting to see material prosperity indiscriminately lumped under “God’s blessings” with little acknowledgement of the vices running rampant under the surface. Perhaps part of the issue for me is that this approach seems so pervasive in modern times, at least in America: We idealize the past, look to worldly standards to define “success,” and purposefully ignore or justify the faults of people on “our side.” I expect such behavior from the world; seeing it among self-professed Christians is unsettling, and seeing it in the biblical narrative is especially troubling.


(C Rhodes) #5

@MicahB. I think that being human guarantees that we will fail at most things. If we did not have this flaw, then the cross would never have been necessary.

So, a man who danced from his clothes before GOD, who is credited with being a man after GOD’s own heart, but put to death another man because he had impregnated that man’s wife; does not conflict with my understanding of GOD’s agape love and faithfulness to us all.

Though I have never been guilty of any of Solomon are King David’s sins, in my flesh remains a need to submit to GOD daily. As long as I live in this shell, I can go astray. Loving GOD must be a conscious act. GOD’s Word tells us, our best is still a nasty rag. But GOD accepts us by virtue of the covering of the blood of JESUS.

I can understand the Biblical exclamation of virtue in the lives of what appear unworthy people. That is Grace I covet for myself. As human as we are, it lacks the ability to alter how GOD sees us. It is puzzling, even to the Angels. But that’s just who GOD is. And we are just what we are not. Psalm 8:3-8, Isaiah 55:7-8, Isaiah 64:6-9, 2 Peter 3:9 KJV.


(SeanO) #6

@MicahB I do not think the Biblical authors intended to cover up anything. For example, King David’s failings are also not highlighted in Chronicles, but everyone knew about them. The author of Chronicles was not hiding any information - everyone knew about Solomon and David’s failures already. Rather, the author of Chronicles was choosing to highlight how God had been faithful and would continue to be faithful. The exiles knew what had gone wrong - the author here is trying to show them how God remains faithful.

Some nations have practiced ‘historical revisionism’ - which is literally rewriting history and then teaching modified history to their citizens. That is lying. The author of Chronicles is not revising history. Everyone already knew about David and Solomon’s failings and the book of Kings guaranteed they would continue to know. Chronicles was not meant to replace Kings, but rather to supplement it.

Does that make sense?


(Cordia Simon) #7

This is the same sentiment I have concerning Solomon. Herein lies an example of a life lived with unlimited pleasures, resources and adoration yet…empty.

All is vanity without Christ.