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King Solomon

Wisdom of Solomon

The phrase “Solomon in all his glory” has rung out from generation to generation throughout the ages.  He is considered the most splendid prince to ever rule over Israel.  In a short time, Solomon built the small, poor, yet politically powerful state of Israel into the most advanced culture of its age as well as an international center of great wealth.  It held the respect and envy of world leaders.  Why was Solomon so great in the eyes of men?  To answer this question we I must backup to the events that took place shortly after Solomon was anointed king.

“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask! What shall I give you.’  And Solomon said: ‘You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.  And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. 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 Kings 3:5-9)?

“The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: ‘Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days’” (1 Kings 3:10-14).

So we see that the key to Solomon’s success and greatness was his humility, and unselfishness as reflected in the days of his youth.  God honored his promise and soon the fame of the wisdom of Solomon spread throughout the land of Israel and the world.  “And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had rendered; and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.”  “And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt.”  “And men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon” (1 Kings 3:28, 4:29-30, 34).

Perhaps we would be enlightened on the wisdom of Solomon if we looked at a few verses from the book of Proverbs which, according to tradition, Solomon wrote in his midlife.  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”  “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.” “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” “The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools.” “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 1:7, 2:6, 3:13, 4:19, 3:35, 3:5-6).

Perhaps the golden text of wisdom is given to us in Proverbs 23:7a.  “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he”.  Herein is the driving force that selects the paths in which we walk, and determines the quality of life that we experience.  It is on this basic principle of life that modern writers have developed the philosophy of “The Power of Positive Thinking”.  There is also power in negative thinking, and when we come to the twilight of our lives, we find we have become the product of our thought processes.  The quality of our life in the sunset years is determined by how we have let God direct our thought processes both in the present and in years gone by.

After we review the reign of Solomon we will examine the quality of life he experienced in his senior years.

Whereas David was a great military and political leader, his son Solomon was a great builder and administrator.  Early in his reign, Solomon entered into a trade alliance with Hiram, the Phoenician King of Tyre, who was a friend of David’s.  Hiram agreed to furnish Solomon with architects, masons and carpenters, and with building materials of cedar, cypress wood, and gold.  In exchange, Solomon agreed to provide Hiram with an annual supply of wheat, barley, wine, and olive oil (1 Kings 5:1-12, 2 Chr. 2:1-18).

Within twenty years, using forced labor and with the help of Hiram’s skilled craftsman, Solomon enlarged the city of Jerusalem from about eleven acres to thirty-two acres, and transformed it into one of the most magnificent cities on earth.  The expansion took place upon the second level of Mount Moriah, on the land purchased by David from Ornan, the Jebusite. There, on a plot of land covering about 750 feet by 1500 feet, he built the temple, palace, and other official buildings.  Using stone, cedar and gold, these buildings became the most splendid buildings on earth.  The city was ablaze with glory as the sun rose from the east, and the early morning rays reflected off the golden buildings.

Building upon the base of destroyed cities, Solomon used forced labor to build fortified military bases to guard the heartland of his kingdom.  The most famous of these cities have been excavated at Hazor in the Hule Valley, Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley and Gezer on the coastal plain near the modern city of Tel Aviv.  Using horses and chariots, the same weapons of warfare used against Israel by the Philistines and Canaanites during the days of the judges, Solomon and his army controlled the valleys and trade routes throughout the land.  At the height of his reign, he had a war machine with a striking force of 1400 chariots and 12000 horseman.

His close alliance with Hiram, King of Tyre, led to a joint commercial venture of Maritime trade.  Soon, Solomon controlled a fleet of merchant ships that were based at Ezion Geber in the Gulf of Aqaba.  From Ezion Geber, he sent his ships down the Red Sea between Arabia and Egypt to the eastern coast of Africa.  Almost overnight, he not only controlled trade within Palestine, but the spice trade between Arabia and Africa.  Tribute and trade greatly added to Israel’s wealth and many of the Israelite’s became rich.

It is difficult for us to comprehend and appreciate the tremendous wealth accumulated by Solomon during these golden years.  Not only did he receive much from his lucrative trade arrangements, but also many who came to hear and marvel at his great wisdom brought gifts of great value.  “So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. Now all the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart. Each man brought his present: articles of silver and gold, garments, armor, spices, horses, and mules, at a set rate year by year” (1 Kings 10:23-25).

The entire tenth chapter of First Kings and the ninth chapter of Second Chronicles give a summary of Solomon’s great splendor and wealth.  Here are a few selected verses, which shed light on his wealth.  “Now the weight of gold which came in to Solomon in one year was 666 talents of gold” (1 Kings 10:14).  Translated into pounds, 666 talents was about 50,000 pounds. The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold and was worth about 26 million dollars in Solomon’s time.  “All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Not one was silver, for this was accounted as nothing in the days of Solomon.”  “The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar trees as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowland” (1 Kings 10:21, 27).

Solomon’s Sins

But in all of Solomon’s fame, luxury, and material comfort, there is a dark cloud on the horizon.  As the years went by, the humility of Solomon’s youth turned to self-sufficiency, and he forgot the source of his wisdom.   After he turned his eyes off God, he preempted God’s absolute authority.  The source of Solomon’s problems was the peace agreements that he entered into with neighboring Gentile kings.  As a token of good faith, Solomon brought foreign women into the palace as wives and they, therefore, had a direct influence on the rule of Israel.  This was the very influence that God had said from the beginning must be removed from the land, otherwise, Israel would not remain pure and faithful.  Solomon’s bad judgment would soon destroy his kingdom.

“But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart” (1 Kings 11:1-3).

Let us not forget that there is a spiritual war going on between God and Satan.  Now the enemy has placed his warriors in key positions of influence within the household of Solomon.  A primary function of these wives was to bear children for Solomon – one destined to sit upon the throne.

“For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods” (1 Kings 11:4-8).

Let us make sure we have the complete picture, sitting on the Mount of Moriah is the beautiful temple of God, and across the valley, on the Mount of Olives, Solomon builds idols to pagan god’s.   Simultaneously, the priests are offering animal sacrifices to God on the temple altar, and Solomon’s wives are on the Mount of Olives burning their own children as sacrifices to Molech, the god of Ammon.   In Leviticus 20:1-8, God specifically warned the children of Israel not to have anything to do with Molech and human sacrifices.  Now, the wives of the king of Israel are offering sacrifices to this false god.  What a manifestation of the depraved nature of man!

“So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD had commanded. Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son.  However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen” (1 Kings 11:9-13).

God began to raise up adversaries against Solomon.  He relaxed the yokes that David had placed around the necks of the neighboring Gentile kings, and by the end of Solomon’s reign the yokes were broken.  His own people began to turn against him because of his apostasy and the heavy tax burden that he placed on them.  The later years of Solomon’s reign were not happy days, and as the years went by, they became more and more depressing.   For many years, Solomon lived on the mountaintop of glory, but after turning from God, he fell into the dark valley of despair.

In the Book of Ecclesiastes, which tradition says Solomon wrote in his old age, he states that all of life is vanity.  See Chapter 1. Why would the man who had riches, honor, splendor, and power, as no other man, make the statement, “life is all vanity”?  Solomon wrote the first chapter from a worldly point of view – a life without God. In each of the following chapters, he details what he experienced from the world – his conclusion is “all is vanity. Solomon had everything except peace with God, and he found in his old age that this is the most important asset because life without God is futile, meaningless, purposeless, and empty.

 But in the closing chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon said that an empty, futile existence is not inevitable.  Man has a choice.  He said to remember God, your Creator, when you are young, and to fear Him and keep His commandments all the days of your life.  See Chapter 12.

Compromise was the root of Solomon’s problem.  To ensure peace within his kingdom, he violated God’s commandments by signing peace treaties with the neighboring Gentile kings.  As a token of good faith, Solomon took Gentile princesses as brides.  Then for the sake of peace within his household, Solomon again compromised, and allowed His wives to offer sacrifices to pagan gods.

It is ironic that in his struggle to have peace with the world, that he lost his peace with his God.  It is also ironic that his compromise for peace with the world led to the destruction of his kingdom.  There is no compromise with God’s laws for He is the one who holds the absolute authority and the ultimate power.  His ways are not man’s ways and man’s ways are not God’s ways.  God’s ways are higher that man’s ways.  We see that the application of the wisdom of the wisest man who ever lived proved to be futile in the end.

Please return to “The Golden Years of Israel” to complete the study.

All quoted scripture is of the New Kings James version unless noted.