Wisdom is only effective when it is put into action. Early in his life, Solomon had the sense to recognise his need for wisdom. But by the time Solomon asked for wisdom to rule his kingdom, he had already started a habit that would make his wisdom ineffective for his own life – he sealed a pact with Egypt by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter. She was the first of hundreds of wives married for political reasons. In doing this, Solomon went against not only his father’s last words, but also God’s direct commands. His action reminds us how easy it is to know what is right and yet do not do it.
It is clear that God’s gift of wisdom to Solomon did not mean that he couldn’t make mistakes. He had been given great possibilities as the king of God’s chosen people, but with them came great responsibilities; unfortunately, he tended to pursue the former and neglect the latter. While becoming famous as the builder of the temple and the palace, he became infamous as a leader who excessively taxed and worked his people. Visitors from distant lands came to admire this wise king, while his own people were gradually alienated from him.
Little is mentioned in the Bible about the last decade of Solomon’s reign. Ecclesiastes probably records his last reflections on life. In that book we find a man proving through bitter experience that finding meaning in life apart from God is a vain pursuit. Security and contentment are found only in a personal relationship with God. The contentment we find in the opportunities and successes of this life is temporary. The more we expect our successes to be permanent, the more quickly they are gone. Be sure to balance your pursuit of life’s possibilities with reliable fulfilment of your responsibilities.
Strengths and accomplishments:
- Third king of Israel, David’s chosen heir
- The wisest man who ever lived
- Author of Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, as well as many of the proverbs and a couple of the psalms
- Built God’s temple in Jerusalem
- Diplomat, trader, collector, patron of the arts
Weaknesses and mistakes:
- Sealed many foreign agreements by marrying pagan women
- Allowed his wives to affect his loyalty to God
- Excessively taxed his people and drafted them into a labour and military force
Lessons from his life:
- Effective leadership can be nullified by an ineffective personal life
- Solomon failed to obey God, but did not learn the lesson of repentance until late in life
- Knowing what actions are required of us means little without the will to do these actions
- Where: Jerusalem
- Occupation: King of Israel
- Relatives: Father: David. Mother: Bathsheba. Brothers: Absalom, Adonijah. Sister: Tamar. Son: Rehoboam
Key verse: “Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king of all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women” (Nehemiah 13:26).
Solomon’s story is told in 2 Samuel 12:24-1 Kings 11:43. He is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 28, 29; 2 Chronicles 1-10; Nehemiah 13:26; Psalm 72; and Matthew 6:29; 12:42.