If you happened to read my post last week on my most influential authors, you may have noticed (if you know me well) one particular figure that was conspicuously absent. He is my favorite biblical figure – a man of many strengths and weaknesses, and whose writings have taught me more about life and myself than any other. His name is Solomon, and I dearly love him.
King Solomon was born around 1000 B.C. to King David and his wife Bathsheba (yes, that one), and we see in 2 Samuel 2:24 that ‘the LORD loved him,’ the only time that phrase is used in reference to a king in Scripture. His name in Hebrew is more accurately pronounced “Shlomo” and comes from the word “Shalom” meaning ‘peace’ (Solomon’s name means ‘his peace’).
Solomon took over the throne of Israel from his father David around 970 B.C. and ruled for forty years. The biblical accounts of his life are in 1 Kings 1-11, 1 Chronicles 28-29, and 2 Chronicles 1-9. Solomon had many really cool parts to his life, beginning with his prayer for wisdom as a young king (1 Kings 3:3-14), which God grants him along with much wealth and power (1 Kings 4:20-34, 10:14-29). God also had Solomon build his Temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 6-8), which his father David wanted to build, but God wouldn’t let him. Solomon also wrote and/or contributed to three books of the Bible: Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. He is also in the line of Christ (Matthew 1:6-7).
While he is a really cool king and accomplished many awesome things during his life, these are not the reasons I love Solomon. I love him because he shows me what I’m capable of, no matter how good I think I am. Let me explain.
So Solomon starts out doing really well – he’s crowned king, gets married to a pretty groovy chick (see Song of Solomon – especially chapter three when they… well, just read it), has a ton of cash, and starts building the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem. But somewhere along the way he goes from seeing his bride as a lily among thorns whose love is better than wine (Song of Solomon 2:2, 4:9-10) to saying toward the end of his life that he finds a wicked woman more bitter than death (Ecclesiastes 7:25-29). We also see that in 1 Kings 11:1-8 he is led astray by his many wives (he had 700 wives and 300 concubines) who did not know the Lord. So he turns away from the Lord and builds his wives pagan temples to worship at. What happened to this once wise and mighty king? I think we can get a pretty intimate glimpse into his life during that time in Proverbs 5 where he describes the way a woman can tempt and lead a man astray… it smacks of personal experience and sorrow. It seems as though all of the wisdom, wealth, and sex in the world can’t make up for an ounce of obedience and fear of the Lord.
The consequences of Solomon’s sin are immense and wide-ranging. Ultimately because of his disobedience the Kingdom of Israel is split into the north (Israel) and south (Judah), and is never reunited. This is a dark time for Israel, recounted in Kings and Chronicles as well as the major and minor prophets – there are precious few bright spots during this period. The divided monarchy is ultimately brought to an end by the Assyrians (who defeated Israel in 722 B.C.) and the Babylonians (who defeated Judah in 586 B.C.), ushering in the Babylonian Exile – a time of intense testing and discipline for God’s people. So in a sense, Solomon’s sin begins the downfall for the nation of Israel, a spiraling descent into darker and darker times.
Now, Solomon does – I believe – come to repentance toward the end of his life, and despite the sorrow that his sin causes, returns to a faithful walk with the Lord. His closing words of Ecclesiastes seem to bookend his life and spread precious wisdom to those who would have it. He says that in the end, after all has been done and after he’s experienced everything to the utmost under this sun, the end of man’s life is to ‘fear God and keep his commandments’ (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). This along with his other writings is a great encouragement and challenge to me personally. Solomon writes with much passion, wisdom, and vulnerability so it seems like you’re sitting across the table from him sharing a cup of coffee and talking about life. And the coolest part of it is that God inspired and wrote every bit of it, and the Spirit uses it to sharpen, rebuke, challenge, encourage, and grow me. All of the works that he is accredited speak straight into my heart, but Ecclesiastes is without question my favorite – in fact, it is my favorite book of the Bible by a fairly healthy margin. I’ve read it many times and as of late have enjoyed working through it in my Fight Club with dear brothers in Christ.
I think the thing that really makes me sit, think, pray, and work through my walk with Christ is that I know that anything is possible if I turn my back on Christ. There’s no end to my sin, my wickedness, and my depravity if I ignore the Spirit’s leading in my life and pursue my own wants and goals. So Solomon is a warning for me to continually confess, repent, and keep my focus on following Christ with a reverent fear. He is also a model of a charmed life met with the bitterness of sin, which results in a repentant sinner of many years and experiences who passes along the wisdom God has granted him while he lived.
I am immensely thankful to God for Solomon’s life and writings – I pray that I glean the wisdom in them and that God allows me the grace of not having to experience the bitterness and sorrow that Solomon did. I also pray that you find some encouragement in studying Solomon’s life and writings, and look forward to hopefully hearing if and when you do.
I would like to leave you with a few questions for consideration which have sparked many prayers and journal entries in my life over the past several years:
1. What would you do with 700 wives and 300 concubines?
2. Where would you be without Jesus?
3. What ‘foreign women’ (sins that you allow to lead you astray) are in your life right now?
4. What are some consequences of sin that you’ve seen in your life (and may be dealing with right now)?