Solomon – A Man of Wisdom
by John C. Westervelt
David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for forty years. As was common within the culture, David had sons by several wives. When David’s health began to fail, his oldest surviving son Adonijah plotted to become king by inviting all the king’s sons, the commander of the army, and Abiathar the priest to a feast of sacrificed oxen and sheep.
Nathan the prophet and Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, bowed down before David, who was lying on his sickbed, to give him the news of this renegade king. David asked Bathsheba to stand before him. He then proclaimed, “I vowed to you by the Lord God of Israel, saying, ‘Your son Solomon shall be king after me.’”
David ordered Nathan, Zadok the priest, and Benaiah to gather all of David’s officers and take Solomon, riding on David’s mule, to Gihon for his coronation. Riding David’s mule was a sign to all the people that Solomon was David’s choice as his successor. The sure-footed mule picked a path down the steep, rocky slopes into the Kidron Ravine east of Jerusalem and a short distance ahead to Gihon. A thousand years later, Judas would betray Jesus in a grove of olive trees just across this same ravine. Zadok poured sacred oil on Solomon’s head and pronounced him king of Israel.
Soon after becoming king, Solomon asked God to give him an understanding heart so he could discern between good and evil as he ruled God’s people. God answered, “I am giving you a wise and discerning heart. If you walk in my ways, I will prolong your days.”
Solomon finished what David had begun – consolidating under Hebrew rule the lands promised to Abraham, which stretched from the upper Euphrates River in the north to the border of Egypt in the south. All the inhabitants sent taxes to Solomon and peacefully served him throughout his lifetime.
With peace in the land, Solomon began building the temple. Hiram, king of Tyre and a friend of Solomon’s, had his men cut cedars in Lebanon, carry them to the sea, make rafts of the lumber, and float the rafts to Palestine. After Hiram’s men broke up the rafts, Solomon’s men carried the lumber overland to the temple construction site. Stone was cut in the mountains and carried to Jerusalem. Jesus would visit this very temple to drive out the merchants and overturn the tables of the moneychangers.
Solomon was not only the king, but also a judge. Two women living alone in the same house gave birth three days apart. When one baby died, its mother took the living baby and left the dead one beside the sleeping mother. The latter woman recognized that the dead child wasn’t hers. To resolve the argument, the two women spoke before the king. After hearing both sides, Solomon said, “Get me a sword, and I’ll give half a baby to each of you.”
One of the women fell prostrate before Solomon pleading, “Give her the living child.” Instead, Solomon gave the baby to the woman before him who was willing to give up the baby so that it might live, saying, “She is his mother.”
Using God’s gift of wisdom, Solomon wrote most of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. With the optimism of his younger years, Solomon recorded in Proverbs, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” With aging and a concern about the futility of life, he began Ecclesiastes with “Vanity of vanity! All is vanity.” Solomon wrote a love story, Song of Solomon, to tell of his feelings for the Shulammite maiden who became one of his wives.
Solomon’s wisdom led to success, his success led to power, and his power led to sin. If Solomon wanted a woman he could have her. Extravagance prevailed, and in time he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. His foreign wives worshiped their foreign gods. When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart from the Lord to their gods.
After waiting a thousand years, the Jewish people finally occupied the land that God had promised to Abraham. This lasted until the sin of Solomon would cause God to split the country into the nation of Israel in the north and Judah in the south.
The Jews of Jesus’ day expected the Messiah to rule over the Kingdom of David once again. They failed to understand that Jesus came not as a king, but as a servant to save all people. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you,” but He also stated, “I have come to fulfil the law.” This is tough love with a warning not to break the commandments as Solomon did in his old age.
1 Kings 1-11 1 Chronicles 28-29 2 Chronicles 1-9
Ecclesiastes 1:2 Proverbs 17:22
Copyright 2001 by John C. Westervelt
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