The second son born to Bathsheba and David, Solomon, was not a shoo-in to his father’s throne and faced stiff competition from his half-brother Adonijah. David had many wives and subsequently many heirs but since two of his elder brothers were killed, Adonijah presumed himself to be the rightful heir. But because of the intervention of Nathan the prophet and his mother, Solomon was made king by David.
Even though his father gave him clear instructions to follow God, Solomon’s first recorded act as king was the execution of two men, one of them, his elder brother Adonijah. Clearly, he had not inherited his father’s compassionate heart for his enemies.
Solomon Asks for Wisdom
Solomon was operating in the ways of this world and acted according to what he saw the other rulers around him do. Just for the sake of alliance, he married the daughter of the king of Egypt. A land that God tormented to save His people was one of the first nations that Solomon sought alliance with. This showed his thirst and desire for the power of this world.
This was all before he had built the temple and the people continued to offer sacrifices in high places. His priority was appeasing the rulers of this world before appeasing the Creator of this world.
At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”1 Kings 3:5
Solomon answered with tact and in a sense asked for unlimited wishes. He asked for wisdom to govern the land of Israel and to distinguish between right and wrong. God was pleased with Solomon that day as he did not ask for things he so obviously desired but put the interest of his kingdom before his own.
Even though our heart desires for evil things of this world, God is still pleased with us when we make an effort to change our ways. Like God did with Solomon, He will fill us with everything we need, to change our ways, but it is up to us to follow through on our desire to change.
Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honour —so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.1 Kings 3:13
Unfortunately for Solomon, all the wisdom, wealth and honour of the world could not help him when he strayed away from the path of God.
A Wise Ruler
There is no questioning that whether there was any king wiser than Solomon. He ruled the land with his God given wisdom and appointed officials and governors that would help him administrate the land. He gave judgement on tough cases that were brought before him with ease.
His famous ruling on who was the actual mother of the son claimed by two prostitutes is folklore and embedded in our pop culture, like the one in Seinfeld, when Newman deems Kramer to be the actual owner of the bike.
The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”1 Kings 3:26
When everyone in Israel heard about this judgement, they were in awe as they could see that Solomon had the wisdom given to him by God to administer justice.
…his fame spread to all the surrounding nations… From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.1 Kings 4:31-34
Treasures on Earth
Since God had given Solomon a state of peace from his surrounding nations, he thought of utilising the free time he had not fighting wars and finish the temple of God. He built the temple of God with dedication and took care of even the minutest details.
He spent eleven years of his life, slowly but methodically building the house of the Lord. But when it came to his own house, he built it with even more dedication and took thirteen years to build his palace. Perhaps this was the turning point for the king as after building the temple of God he was satisfied and let his guard down to the temptations of this world.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, … But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matthew 6:19-21
God knows everything about us as he knows our heart and He saw the lust for this world in the king’s heart and even warned him in Gibeon where he had met Solomon all those years ago.
…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, 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. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff …1 Kings 9:6-8
Humans will fail us but God’s words will never fail and that is what Israel found out when the above words of Yahweh came true as Israel became a laughingstock till this day. The temple was destroyed and turned into a heap of rubble and no matter what Zerubbabel, Joshua, Ezra or Nehemiah did to try and revive Jerusalem, it was a land that had lost the grace of God.
God Sends Adversaries
The wisest man on earth acted with such great foolishness and forgot God and started worshipping man-made gods. Solomon had many wives and they turned his heart away from God just like the Lord had warned.
Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray … and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God…1 Kings 11:2-4
So, Solomon followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites and did evil in the eyes of God. This angered God, as Solomon’s heart was turned away from Him and God sent adversaries Solomon’s way.
Then the LORD raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom.1 Kings 11:14
Apart from Hadad, God sent Rezon and even his own official Jeroboam to rebel against Solomon. Thus, Israel was divided into two nations, the northern region, the namesake of the current land and the southern kingdom which was called Judah, after the tribe of the kings that ruled in it.
God Sends His Son
Even the wisest man in the world was fooled by satan and lured away from God. Is there any hope for us? But Jesus’ death on the cross has made the wise foolish and the foolish wise. We have been given His spirit and the ability to discern the will of God and His Spirit makes us much wiser than Solomon. Let us not emulate the foolish king and forget our Maker, our Redeemer and the very reason for our existence.