“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:”
Proverbs 1:1 (NIV)
Have you ever heard a fact so much that you really didn’t question it or consider learning more about it? This occurred to me as I began reading Chapter 1 of Proverbs this morning. I’ve always accepted that Solomon was the primary author of Proverbs, was known as the world’s wisest man, and that he was David’s son and king of Israel. But, I never really questioned the proof for those facts or what else I might discover about him if I searched the Bible for his information.
So, for this week’s blog post I decided to investigate all the verses I could find regarding Solomon. The primary books that cover his life are 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 1 &2 Chronicles. We can also glean information about his thoughts from Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. He is even briefly mentioned in other books including Nehemiah, Jeremiah, Matthew, Luke and John. From this alone, I discovered, there is plenty to read about Solomon in the Bible!
So, what does the Bible tell us about Solomon?
Solomon was David and Bathsheba’s second child, conceived not long after their first baby died at seven days old as a consequence of their adulterous affair and the murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband (2 Sa 11-12:24). We can conclude that Solomon is indeed David’s son by the number of times his lineage is mentioned in places such as 2 Samuel 12:24, 1 Chronicles 14:4, Proverbs 1:1, and Ecclesiastes 1:1.
God’s favor was on Solomon, as evidenced by the fact that before his birth, God promised that Solomon would succeed David as king and would reign during a time of peace:
“Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days” (1 Ch 22:9).
And, God showed his love for Solomon at his birth by naming him Jedidiah (2 Sa 12:24-25), which means “loved by the Lord.” Even though the name Solomon means “peace” and is the only name used in the Bible to refer to this wise king, some scholars suggest that David may have called his son Jedidiah. Regardless, God’s action of giving Solomon this name showed his favor toward him.
Several verses throughout the Bible proclaim that Solomon would be king after his father, David: 1 Kings 1:13, 17, 30, 47-48. But the road to kingship was not easily paved. In David’s final days, his son Adonijah tried to make himself king. David overrode it by anointing Solomon, and then Solomon later had Adonijah killed over a request for one of David’s concubines (1 Ki 1, 2:25).
Solomon’s anointing as king was greatly celebrated and his kingdom was firmly established (1 Ki 1:39 and 2:12). Under his kingship, he built the long-waited-for temple (1 Ki 8:13, 2 Ch 6:2, Jn 10:23). Solomon reigned over Israel for 40 years (1 Ki 11:42).
David’s charge to Solomon, like Solomon’s message to his son in Proverbs, shows the importance of living by God’s standards:
“When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. ‘I am about to go the way of all the earth,’ he said. ‘So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go and that the Lord may keep his promise to me: ‘If your descendants watch how they live, and if they walk faithfully before me with all their heart and soul, you will never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’”
1 Ki 2:1-4 (NIV)
David prayed that God would give Solomon wisdom: “May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God” (1 Ch 22:12).
Taking his father’s charge and blessing to heart and realizing the great responsibility he would have as king, Solomon understood that he needed wisdom (1 Ki 3:7) and asked God for it. God was pleased with his request, telling him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings” (1 Ki 3:10-13).
God answered Solomon’s request by making him a wise king (1 Ki 2:9, 4:29-34, 5:12), and Solomon showed his wisdom through judging fairly (1 Ki 3:16-28), answering difficult questions (1 Ki 10:3) and writing 3,000 proverbs and more than 1,000 songs (1 Ki 4:32).
He married Pharaoh’s daughter as part of an alliance with Egypt (1 Ki 3:1, 7:8, 9:16, 9:24, 2 Ch 8:11). He also took on many foreign wives — Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites (1 Ki 11:1, 3), which resulted in his greatest failure.
Because he aligned himself with foreign wives, Solomon violated God’s command in Deuteronomy 17:17 and Exodus 34:16 and turned to paganistic religious practices, which directly broke God’s commandment that he should serve no other gods but Him (Ex 20:3).
Even the wisest of men could still fail. Nehemiah 13:26 tells us, “…He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women.” This sin resulted in a later loss of the kingdom from Solomon’s son Rehoboam (2 Ch 7:19-20 and 1 Ki 11:9-13).
1 Kings 10:23 sums it up: “King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth.”
Solomon had horses imported from Egypt and all other countries (2 Ch 9:28), he had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses (1 Ki 10:26), and he made silver seem common and cedar plentiful in Jerusalem (1 Ki 10:27).
Solomon, in his later years concluded that life only has meaning when God is at its center. His advice to us is to “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc 12:13). Despite Solomon’s failures, we can trust his wisdom because that wisdom is God-given. And because of Solomon’s failures, we realize that we don’t have to be perfect. What we can embrace is the one who is perfect: Jesus. When we fear God and follow his commands, we show our love for Christ. So, embrace Jesus’ love for you and trust God’s wisdom, as Solomon concluded at the end of his life.