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Was Solomon a good King?

The question under discussion is: “Was king Solomon a good king?” Like every human other than Jesus, he had some good points and some bad points. In our meet-up discussion group, we discussed Solomon as a good king, so this discussion with be framed by the following thoughts:

  1. Solomon as a good king (the decisions and things he did right)
  2. Solomon as a bad king (where bad is defined by his disobedience to direct commandments given in Scripture or by things Scripture records as the mind of God with respect to Solomon)
  3. My personal opinion on Solomon.
  4. Thoughts and questions for further discussion.

Solomon as a good king

He provided safety for Israel,

Here in the USA, we are governed as a Republic with just laws derived from our Constitution, which in turn was derived from the Scripture. As we read: “provide for the common Defense”. Article I, Section 8, Constitution of the United States[1]. Congress appropriates funds for national defense and has the power to declare war.

We understand that our government has a God-given responsibility to ‘provide for the common Defense’, and for those of us who are grateful patriots and lovers of freedom. We take our Constitution seriously as Christians, recognizing the purpose and foundation of this nation. From the Mayflower compact all the way through our history, we have endeavored to allow Jesus to be our Lord, and the Scripture the ultimate standard of morality. Great historians David Barton and William Federer have made these truths very readable and available to those of us who honestly want the loving rule and reign of Jesus over our lives and enthroned in our public morality and policy. Clearly, Solomon did a good job in providing this for the nation of Israel or we read:

1 Kings 4:25

New International Version

25 During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree.

The next thing Solomon did was to build the temple and institute the national worship of Israel to God. Solomon honored God and his father David in doing this:

1Chron 28: 6

He said to me: `Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. 7 I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time.’ 8 “So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the LORD, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever. 9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a temple as a sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.” 11 Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. 12 He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things.

 

He dedicated the temple and offered sacrifices that could not be numbered. I recall reading a revivalist article some years ago that when Solomon offered over 1000 bulls on the alter the day he dedicated the temple, that so much blood was shed that the streets of Jerusalem ran red with the blood of the sacrifice, symbolic of how the blood of Jesus cleanses our streets, cities and nations as we come to God and truly repent of our sins. 2 Chron 5:6 Also King Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel who were assembled with him before the ark, were sacrificing sheep and oxen “that could not be counted or numbered for multitude. “

This zeal and passion for God and His temple brought a corresponding response from heaven:2 Chron 5: 14 and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.

Truthfully, this should be the cry of every pastor’s heart, that as the Word of God is preached, that God Himself will reveal his glory in our services, and do among the people what no amount of ministry can do.

Some say, this was only in the old testament and was an isolated case, but this author begs to differ.

2 Cor 3: But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

In a service in 1995 in Toronto, Ontario during the revival known as ‘the Toronto Blessing,’ this author experienced this. After a time of extended worship, the minister scheduled to preach came to pulpit and was able to proclaim; ‘THE FEAR OF THE LORD!”. When he did, God’s glory fell in the meeting forcing all 5000 or so people in attendance to their knees or on their faces, suddenly aware of God’s holiness, and very conscious of our personal sin. Each of us broke before God, and with no external prompting found ourselves at the altar, deeply broken and weeping seeking God’s forgiveness for our sins. At that time, I had a picture vividly flash across my mind, of a slaughterhouse, with blood and animal gore everywhere. I asked the Lord what this meant, and what I felt I understood was that He Himself was slaughtering our soulical motivations and desires, that only His purposes might prevail in our hearts. What was so vivid from this hour on our knees was that no one dared to try and regain human control of the service, and the experience of the overwhelming weight of God’s glory that prevailed. How I long for times of God’s presence again amongst His people in our church services! Do it again Lord!!!

1King 3:5-15, v9

We see here how Solomon served God and did good as he had been instructed by King David his father, yet allowed compromise in his worship and service. We will discuss this compromise more fully as we show Solomon as a bad king.

Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given to him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

So, in desperation, Solomon cried out for wisdom, and it was given to him, yet he compromised his walk with the Lord, even in his great wisdom.

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to 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, 12 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.

We are discussing the success of Solomon and what I like about this account of the two mothers arguing over the baby is how Solomon’s wisdom immediately produced wise actions…

The case of the two women and the sword:

24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and a half to the other.”

26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.

28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

This reminds me of this verse: Psalm 110:3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.

 

Another good thing Solomon brought to the nation of Israel.: He brought order and excellence to the government of Israel:

1 Kings 10: When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at[a] the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.

Reminds me when I pastored, how I worked hard to produce peaceful structured services based upon 1 Corinthians 14:40 Let all things be done decently and in order. Our church plant was birthed in a government housing project, and we had addicts and their children testify that they loved coming to our church because it was the only peace they felt in their entire week. Jesus is Prince of Peace!

 

In our text we find a chart titled “The Narrative Emphasis in the History of the Uniter Monarchy’ (HW p 191)[2] which compares Appointment, Successes and potential failures, and results of these failures. This is a great introduction to my discussion of Solomon as a bad king.

In the box under Solomons success and failures we read;

“1. Foreign wives’ religious practices accommodated

  1. Labor and tax on the people.

That caused;

Military problems and Division of the Kingdom.

Well, our text is very succinct in their brief evaluation of the life of Solomon, but our meet-up discussion groups got into the topic in more depth.

 

 

Solomon was a bad king

These are the notes given to us from the other group meet-up.

  • Solomon contributed to the split of the kingdom, consorting with other kingdoms for political and personal gain
  • Solomon had tendencies toward other religions, he accepted other deities like Astoreth and Chemosh.
  • 1 Kings 11:  Solomon followed Astarte (the goddess of the Sidonians) and Milcom (the disgusting idol of the Ammonites). So Solomon did what the Lord considered evil. He did not wholeheartedly follow the Lord as his father David had done. Then Solomon built an illegal worship site on the hill east of Jerusalem for Chemosh (the disgusting idol of Moab) and for Molech (the disgusting idol of the Ammonites). He did these things for each of his foreign wives who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

 

  • Attempt to erase tribal boundaries and loyalties, used Hebrew people as slaves
  • 2 Samuel 7:9, 2 Sam 7:10-11 was under this covenant as well
  • 1 Kings 14:10-11 he was not obeying the commands of Yahweh and disaster came to his household
  • Initial marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter and alliance of Pharaoh, defied God 1 Kings 3:1-2
  • 1 Kings 3:3 while all the good things are taking place, he succumbed to temptation
  • Solomon began to run things according to the bottom line
  • 1 Kings 9:6, what Solomon didn’t just affect just his lifetime but even later
  • 1 Kings 2:4, 6:12, 9:4-5, 8:25 conditional covenant that included his obedience
  • 271 Davidic covenants, his son would serve a full term
  • what is the metric for bad, Deuteronomy 17:14-20?
  • reigned for 40 years, was aware of the covenant and the law
  • 1 Kings 8:25, begins to depart from the law.

Though, I don’t fully agree with the Scriptural background supporting the reasoning of the other discussion group, I wish to focus my thoughts on their comment ‘What is the metric for bad: Deut 17:14-20.’

 

Let us look at these verses in more detail:

Deut 17: 14 When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;

15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set a king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.

17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turns not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.

18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:

19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:

So then, here is God’s metric for a Biblical king.

  1. He shall be an Israelite (v15)
  2. He shall NOT multiply horses to himself 2 Chronicles 9:25: 25 Now Solomon had a4,000 stalls for horses and chariots and 12,000 horsemen, and he stationed them in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. Clearly, he multiplied horses to himself.
  3. You shall NOT; nor cause the people to return to Egypt’ 1Kings 3:1 And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem roundabout.
  4. The king shall not: multiply wives to himself, 1 Kings 11: He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, 1000 women! Ugh! Just trying to love one wife as Christ loves his church is enough challenge, 1000 women would be insanity! We see how this caused the destruction of Israel and the temple and the people made captive to the kingdom of Persia. Solomon was not the only man to take to himself foreign wives, we read later in the books of Ezra 9-10 and Nehemiah that many Israelite men married foreign wives. In Ezra 10, they decided to divorce these wives and get right with God, and this is the only Biblical account I can find where God actually not only permits divorce but actually endorses it.
  5. 18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:

19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:

Scripture records no instance stating that Solomon ever attempted to do this. Clearly, disciplined, daily Bible reading has a purifying sanctifying effect on us as leaders, we must never become so busy with the work of the Lord that we forget the commands of the Lord of the work. There are several notable accounts in Scripture whereby leaders stood by the Word of God and we commended for it. I think of Josiah, the child king born during a time of Israel’s apostasy and idolatry, but he was taught the word of God and decided to fully obey it: 2 Chron 34:For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images. And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them. Radical obedience for a 16-year-old! The historic account continues: 31 And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book. 32 And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.

 

In conclusion, I think Solomon was a lot like us, a mixture of good and bad. He made Israel the greatest nation on earth for a brief season of human history, yet his promotion and prominence nearly destroyed him and the entire nation. Like the old proverb states: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’[3]

 

 

 

 

Final thoughts:

I remember a man of God making the statement: The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, the New Testament is the Old Testament Revealed. Kind of rhymes me thinks….so, let’s look at what Jesus said about how to judge a human life:

Jesus says Matthew 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. So, the question I ask is: ‘What is the fruit of Solomons life, and what can I learn from it?”

 

Well, the fruit stinks! Our textbook authors succinctly summed up the fruit of Solomon’s life of sensuality and idolatry. The Kingdom was divided, and eventually, the temple was destroyed, and the people of God were conquered and ended up in captivity.

 

So, rather than point fingers at Solomon, how can we be instructed in our own leadership?

 

  1. Wisdom, wealth, and position will not protect us from sin. Jeremiah 17:9

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? Only the Word of God can change and transform a human heart, so we do well to constantly immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, seeking not only wisdom but purity of heart and motive. Without holiness, no man will see the Lord.

  1. Flee fornication and adultery – like the famous Billy Graham statement to young ministers: “Don’t touch the girls, the gold, or Gods glory”. We must guard our marriages and our thought lives from immorality. Psalm 101:3 I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
  2. Our character and example are more important than our work and our giftedness. In 1 Tim 3:1-7 describing the qualifications for Christian leaders, we don’t see charisma, miracles, or wealth listed, only solid faithful character listed. We do well to return to this passage in prayer, often seeking God’s grace and mercy to walk in this always.

 

What do you see as lessons from the life of Solomon that might instruct us to become better leaders in our generation?

 

 

[1] “The U.S. Constitution.” The Constitution – Full Text | The National Constitution Center, 1776. https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/full-text.

 

[2] Hill, Andrew E., and John H. Walton. A Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 2009.

 

[3] Wikipedia. “John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, November 16, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dalberg-Acton,_1st_Baron_Acton.

 

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