Saturday, August 24, 2019

Two Sides of Solomon

The Old Testament gives us two views of Solomon’s life. One portrays his reign as a model of the future messianic King (Chronicles, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Psalms 72 and 127). The chronicler focused on his wisdom and sensitivity to the leading of God in his life, saying, “All the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart” (2 Chronicles 9:23).

The other viewpoint, however (Kings and Ecclesiastes), pictures him in quite another way. Kings tells us that Solomon’s heart turned away from the Lord to “other gods” (1 Kings 11:4). At the end of his life, “the LORD became angry with Solomon.… so the LORD said to Solomon, ‘I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you’ ” (1 Kings 11:9–11).

These two views of the life of Solomon are not the result of contradictory viewpoints. They point, rather, to fundamental contradictions in Solomon’s own life. The biblical writer sums it up quite succinctly: “His heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kings 11:4). The Hebrew text literally says that unlike David, his heart was not “at peace” with the Lord. With these last words, the biblical writer draws out a bitter irony that followed Solomon throughout his life. 

In 2 Samuel 12:24, the first thing we learn about him is that after the incident of David with Bathsheba, Solomon’s birth signaled that David was again “at peace” with God, hence he “named him Solomon” (peace). In 1 Kings 11, however, at the end of Solomon’s life, the last words we read about him say that Solomon was not “at peace” with God. It is ironic that Solomon’s name, standing as a constant reminder of God’s grace and forgiveness throughout David’s life, should be so turned against him at the end of his own life. At the time of the dedication of the temple, Solomon’s own sermon (1 Kings 8:61) warned the people that they would forfeit God’s blessing if their hearts were not “at peace with the LORD.” Who would have thought that Solomon himself would be one whose heart was not at peace?

The lesson of Kings is not hard to appreciate. No one is exempt from God’s call to follow Him with a whole heart. Solomon himself, the epitome of the wise and godly king, had a divided heart and thus could not be used of God to lead His people. In the end, even the kingdom of Solomon was divided. Half was given to his enemy Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:20). The other half continued in the house of David, but never again did it achieve the glory it enjoyed during the reign of David his father.