The mysterious case of King Solomon

I’ve been reading a bit of Kings lately and the book starts out with the story of Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, who is a most perplexing character.

Solomon’s rise to the throne of Israel was a walk in the park compared to his father’s- he only had his brother Adonijah to deal with (and he pretty much signed his own death-warrant by asking to marry his father’s virgin wife, an act which amounted to treason), and so the story of his ascension is over quite quickly. Yet still early on, something seems not quite right.

1 Kings 3:1: Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh in Egypt and married his daughter…

This seems like a throwaway fact, but it was a direct violation of the law (Deuteronomy 7:3-4), so will perhaps have raised alarm bells in early readers of the book. It’s almost immediately stated that Solomon loved the Lord, and it is then that he’s granted his famous wisdom, and makes the judgement on the two women (they don’t tell you they’re prostitutes in Sunday School..) who are arguing over a child. As well as being wise, he presided over the most peaceful time in Israel’s history, was a prolific poet, and had a good knowledge of zoology and botany. His wisdom made him famous.

He built the Lord’s temple, and it was glorious (David had promised to build it, but the Lord said Solomon would be the one to do it), but in building it, he used forced labour- this might have been fine if he hadn’t also used the same forced labour to build palaces for himself and his wife. The kingdom was happy and successful, so successful that Solomon was receiving 666 talents of gold a year, an obscene amount of money for such a small nation. He amassed horses from himself, some from Egypt, violating the law further in Deuteronomy 17:6-7.

The last act was his taste for women (1 Kings 11). His father hadn’t been wholly innocent on this front (after all his mother was Bathsheba), but Solomon took it so much further. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of them foreign. As Deuteronomy predicted, they turned his heart away from God. He worshipped the foreign gods and then adversaries started appearing. The final blow was when God said that Solomon’s kingdom would be ripped in two after his death (which happened in the reign of his son, Rehoboam, who seriously lacked his father’s wisdom and PR skills).

I just find it very puzzling as to why Solomon’s wisdom didn’t seem to spread to his entire life. Why would a man who could judge so wisely rule like a tyrant and not be able to see when he’s breaking the law he’s supposed to uphold as king?

We are promised wisdom if we ask for it (James 1:5), but I guess that knowing what the right thing to do is, doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily do it- the grip of sin can be strong- but prayer and God-centred discernment is a good start.

Just a thought thought I was having this evening- I’m a bit rusty, so please forgive that they may not be terribly well-written or profound!

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