It occurred to me in the last few weeks that everything about King Solomon spelled B-I-G:
- He had a big family (1 Kgs 11:1-3), lived in a big palace (1 Kgs 7:1-12, 10:14-21), and worshiped inside a big temple (1 Kgs 6:1-38, 7:13-51, 8:1-66, 9:25; 2 Chr 3:2-7). He ruled over a big kingdom with a big population and a big military (1 Kgs 4:20-21).
- He created a big administration (1 Kgs 4:1-19), engaged in big international trade (1 Kgs 3:1, 9:26-28, 10:1-29, 11:28-29), and made big money (1 Kgs 10:14-15, 22).
- The man was big into agriculture and construction (Eccl 2:4-7), research and education (Eccl 1:13), as well as entertainment and the arts (Eccl 2:1-3, 8, 10).
Solomon was in a class all by himself. Rich, famous, and wise, he had no equal in his lifetime (1 Kgs 3:13; Eccl 2:9). He was greatly admired and respected, and people from all over the world came with expensive gifts to see him and hear him speak (2 Chr 9:22-24).
Unfortunately, King Solomon had a big problem. He "loved many foreign women." He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines (1 Kgs 11:1-8). Big mistake—just think about how much money it cost this man to feed, clothe, and shelter his big family. But that wasn't so much the big problem for this man, who in his youth loved God and sought to do His good will above all else (1Kgs 3:7-9).
The big problem was that when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and he inevitably became unfaithful to the one true God (1 Kgs 11:4). The man had no qualms about building altars to all these false gods and worshiping them (1 Kgs 11:5-8). Needless to say, the Lord became very angry with Solomon.
But that need not have had happened. Scripture tells us that Solomon had a special place in the Lord's heart from the time of his birth. It is written, "And the Lord loved him. And He sent word by the hand of Nathan the prophet; so he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord" (2 Sam 12:24-25). Jedidiah means Beloved of the Lord.
When his father died, Solomon became king. One of Solomon's immediate priorities was to worship God with all of Israel at Gibeon, where God's Tent of Meeting was located. There, Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings (2 Chr 1:6). That night the Lord God appeared to Solomon in a dream and told him to ask for anything he wanted. Scripture tells us that Solomon did not ask anything for himself. Instead, after acknowledging that it was the Lord God who had put his father and now him on the throne, Solomon prayed, "Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?" (1 Kgs 3:5-9).
The Lord granted Solomon his humble request and blessed him with "riches and honor" (1 Kgs 3:12-13). God also told Solomon that if he walked in His ways and obeyed His statutes and commandments as his father did, then God would also give Solomon a long life (1 Kgs 3:14).
Many years into his reign, when Solomon was dedicating the new "house of the Lord" that he had built according to his father's plans, the Lord appeared to him a second time. After the Lord had accepted Solomon's prayer and sanctified the temple, He told Solomon that if he lived a godly life, the Lord would "establish the throne of [Solomon's] kingdom over Israel forever" (1 Kgs 9:1-8). God also said. "But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them" (2 Chr 7:17-18; 1 Kgs 9:6-9; 2 Chr 7:19-22).
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Reflecting upon Solomon's life story from a parent's perspective, I couldn't help thinking that this was a parent's worst nightmare.
But I must draw your attention to the following passage: "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." Although the Lord had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep His command. 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" (1 Kgs 11:9-11, NIV).
Regrettably, Solomon also had a big attitude.
We can also gain some insight from an incident that happened after his death. When Solomon's son succeeded him on the throne, the people came to him with this plea: "Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you" (1 Kgs 12:4).
It has been said that too much of a good thing is bad for you. Could it be that, over time, Solomon let his wisdom, riches, and honor go to his head (Eccl 4:13)? Did he think that he was exempt from God's statutes? For example, although God had specifically commanded that no Israelite king should "multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses" (Deut 17:16), Solomon boasted of magnificent stables. He also imported horses from Egypt and Keveh and exported them to "all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria" (1 Kgs 10:26-29).
The Lord laid down this principle and others like it long before the Israelite people clamored for a king like everyone else in that part of the world. God knew what was coming and He gave His people firm guidelines about picking a king and about what the king could or could not do (Deut 17:14-20). The Lord was especially firm that an Israelite king should not imitate the prevailing custom of the times by marrying many wives. The Lord had decreed, "Neither shall [the king] multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away" (Deut 17:17).
In those days, a new wife was used to seal agreements between kings and kingdoms. Solomon married Pharaoh's daughter when he "made a treaty with Pharaoh king of Egypt" (1 Kgs 3:1). During his reign, Solomon made many treaties and acquired many new wives in this manner.
But this king, who had the whole world at his feet, so to speak, had it in his power to obey God and break the tradition of other kings. Instead, Solomon chose to become entrenched in the ways of the world, and he got sucked in, a little deeper every day.
The fear of a son or daughter's downward spiral into spiritual oblivion grips the heart of every concerned parent. David knew there was only one thing that could thwart such a tragedy. He gave Solomon these very specific instructions: "[K]now the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever (1 Chr 28:9).
I wish that Solomon had listened to his father and to his God. Perhaps Solomon wished he had listened to them, too. In the twilight of his life, Solomon wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. It evokes in the reader a deep sense of sadness. One line shall forever be etched in my memory: "Better is a poor and wise youth than an old and foolish king who will be admonished no more" (Eccl 4:13). I guess Solomon was the wisest man in the world after all.
Solomon concluded the Book of Ecclesiastes with these words: "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil" (Eccl 12:13-14).
That is why I want to sign off with a prayer, that Jesus Christ our Lord, the God of all heaven and earth, grant you a loyal heart and a willing mind to serve Him and to know Him all the days of your life.
Written as a mother would her child, "Letters from Mom" addresses the struggles of our young people as they step toward the threshold of adulthood. This column hopes to encourage, comfort, and urge the youth to continue living as children of God. Please send comments or questions to email@example.com.