An Assessment of Solomon

Solomon was not a good king, but I don’t mean that maliciously – more regretfully.  Spiritual success or failure is the only kind that counts in the Bible.  Solomon had enormous potential to be good, but he didn’t really live up to it.  So, it’s not that Solomon was intentionally evil; he only did evil by sliding down the slippery slope. We might say he was merely weak. Who knows whether any of us would do better in his position, confronted with his temptations, with such opportunity to sin? He gave in to his worst passions, the same passions we all fight against, and this made him a bad king, spiritually speaking. For example, take the following bit out of Deuteronomy about any future king of Israel:

“But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.” (Deuteronomy 17:16-17)

A quick perusal of 1 Kings 10:14 – 11:8 reveals that Solomon didn’t bother to obey any of these words.  He multiplied horses, even going down to Egypt to do so.  He multiplied silver and gold – more than anyone else.  He multiplied wives to a degree we might call twisted.  He failed on all accounts. And so he merited this negative assessment:

“Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David.” (1 Kings 11:6)

The books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes help explain this complex character. God answered his prayer for wisdom in 1 Kings 3, so he was wise.  Proverbs contains only a portion of his “many proverbs” (Eccl. 12:9), which totaled 3000 according to 1 Kings 4:32.  Yet Solomon seems to have failed to take his own advice.  He rather seems to have scooted around it.  In agreement with Proverbs, to be fair, we never read of him committing adultery, but again, with all those wives he probably never had the time.  Oh, that he would have lived according to this counsel:

“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. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)

That passage alone might have rewritten Solomon’s biography.  Alas, instead, as we read Ecclesiastes, it discloses a life engulfed in regret – one without a happy ending.  He’s a miserable man with no real direction, no purpose, but still a man who has not completely forgotten about God.  Despite his remorse, he is still able to reach the right conclusion.  The Preacher ends his discourse in this way:

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Solomon’s life contains many negative examples, but negative examples can still be helpful to us.  We can “do as he says, but not as he does”, to use a proverb no one really likes.  Solomon also does us a favor by living out our most carnal fantasies.  We never have to imagine what it would be like to have all the money we could ask for, all the women we might want, to rule over a great nation and command great military might.  He did it and it stunk. It’s better to just humbly serve God.

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