Can you imagine what it would be like to be the richest person on Earth? As of February, 2008, Warren Buffett was given that title (worth an estimated $62 billion). What would it be like to be the wisest person on Earth? Admittedly, it is hard to even speculate whom this might be today since wisdom is not objectively measurable like money. Some would suggest Marilyn vos Savant (whose IQ has been measured at over 200). Others would suggest William James Sidis who could read the New York Times at 18 months of age, taught himself 8 languages by the age of 8 (and invented another one), and went to Harvard at age 11 (he would have went earlier but his parents wouldn't let him). Of course, let it be understood that raw intelligence is different from wisdom.
Better still, what would it be like to be both the richest and wisest person on Earth at the same time? There was such a man who lived almost 3000 years ago--Solomon, son of David. King Solomon was known for his wisdom, his wealth, his wives, and his writings. He became ruler in approximately 970 B.C. and his kingdom extended from the Euphrates River in the north to Egypt in the south. His crowning achievement was the building of an absolutely amazing temple for Jehovah in Jerusalem. Almost all knowledge of him is derived from the biblical books of I Kings and II Chronicles.
SOLOMON'S EARLY LIFE
Solomon was the son of King David and Bathsheba. Solomon was not the oldest son of David, but David promised Bathsheba that Solomon would be the next king. When David's elder son, Adonijah, declared himself king, David ordered his servants to bring Solomon to the Gihon spring. There the priest anointed him while David was still alive. Solomon inherited a considerable empire from his father.
At first, Solomon was faced with opposition. Two of David's closest advisors, Joab and the priest Abiathar, sided with Adonijah. When Adonijah came to Solomon and requested the king's servant as a wife, Solomon saw that this was a veiled threat to take over his kingdom. Thus, he sent a messenger to kill Adonijah. He banished Abiathar to the city of Anathoth. Solomon then followed his father's last instructions in which David had ordered him to kill both Joab and one of his father's enemies, Shimei. Solomon thus overcame the last potential threats to his kingdom. He then appointed his friends to key military, governmental, and religious posts (cf. I Kings 1,2,4).
Solomon accumulated enormous wealth. He controlled the entire region west of the Euphrates and had peace on his borders. I Kings states that he had 12,000 horsemen and 1400 chariots (cf. I Kings 10:26). Remains of stalls for 450 horses have in fact been found in Megiddo. Solomon strengthened his kingdom through marital alliances. The Scriptures record that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (cf. I Kings 11:3). He had a large share in the trade between northern and southern countries. He established Israelite colonies around his province to look after military, administrative, and commercial matters. The empire was divided into twelve districts, with Judah constituting its own political unit and enjoying certain privileges.
When Solomon was young, he was faithful to God and desired to be a righteous and understanding leader of the nation. I Kings 3:5-15 records a most significant event in his reign:
"At Gibeah the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, 'Ask! What shall I give you?' And Solomon said: 'You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?' The speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: 'Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.' Then Solomon awoke; and indeed it had been a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD, offered up burnt offerings, offered peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants."
Solomon had such a marvelous beginning as king!
The first and most famous incident of his wisdom and cleverness as a judge was when two women came to his court with a baby whom both women claimed as their own. Solomon threatened to split the baby in half. One woman was prepared to accept the decision, but the other begged the king to give the live baby to the other woman. Solomon then knew the second woman was the mother (cf. I Kings 3:16-28).
People from surrounding nations also came to hear Solomon's wisdom. He composed 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs (cf. I Kings 4:32). He wrote the Song of Solomon, the Book of Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. One of the most celebrated visits to Solomon was that of the Queen of Sheba, who came from southern Arabia. Historically, Arabia was a country rich in gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Solomon needed Sheba's products and trade routes. The queen of Sheba needed Solomon's cooperation in marketing her country's goods. The queen came to Solomon with camels carrying spices, gold, and precious stones. She asked him questions and riddles and was amazed at his wisdom (cf. I Kings 10).
Once Solomon's empire was tranquil, he began to build the marvelous temple to God that preparations had been made for by his father. He received wood from King Hiram of Tyre and imposed a compulsory labor service on both the Israelites and foreign nations that were under his control. His workers built the structure of the temple, its decorations, and its vessels. The temple took seven years to complete. It was built of stone and cedar, carved within and overlaid with pure gold. When it was done, Solomon dedicated the Temple in a public ceremony of prayers and sacrifices (cf. I Kings 6-8).
Solomon was also renowned for his other building projects in which he used slave labor from the Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites (cf. I Kings 9:20,21). He spent 13 years building his own palace, and also built a city wall, a citadel called the Millo, a palace for the daughter of Pharaoh (who was one of his wives), and facilities for foreign traders. He erected cities for chariots and horsemen and created storage cities. He extended Jerusalem to the north and fortified cities near the mountains of Judah and Jerusalem.
Although he started well and was blessed exceedingly by God with wisdom, riches, and accomplishments, Solomon strayed from the Lord in his later years. He had taken many foreign wives, whom he allowed to worship other gods. He even built shrines for the sacrifices of his foreign wives. His wives turned his heart away from the true and living God, and he consequently pursued various forms of idolatry. Within Solomon's kingdom, he placed heavy taxation on the people, who became bitter. He also had the people work as soldiers, chief officers, and commanders of his chariots and cavalry. He granted special privileges to the tribes of Judah and this alienated the northern tribes. The prophet Ahijah prophesied that Jeroboam, son of Nebat, would become king over ten of the twelve tribes, instead of one of Solomon's sons (cf. I Kings 11).
Outside Solomon's kingdom, Hadad, of the royal family of Edom, rose up as an adversary of Israel. Rezon, ruler of Aram, also fought Solomon, and created tension between the two kingdoms that was to last even after Solomon's reign ended. Solomon died in Jerusalem after 40 years as ruler of Israel. He was buried in the city of David. His son, Rehoboam, succeeded him as king. Under Rehoboam's rule, Solomon's empire was lost and the kingdom was divided into two parts.
LEARNING FROM SOLOMON'S MISTAKE
Dear friends, what point is there in considering Solomon's life today? Romans 15:4 comes to mind - "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Tragically, Solomon turned a great blessing into a curse. He had everything a person would dream of on Earth, and he foolishly threw it away! The root problem was that his heart was turned away from God, and that is how he turned a great blessing into a curse! Solomon, even with all his wisdom, was led astray in his heart by his selfish desires. He wanted many women (whose idolatrous influences he should have avoided), and he wanted to please them (even at the price of angering God who had given him everything!). No doubt, his heart was turned from God little by little. He gradually drifted farther and farther from the Lord.
If we as Christians are not careful, we will do the same thing today! But Stephen, I'm neither a rich king nor a polygamist! That's not the point. Children of God have the best life both now and to come. Do you appreciate the depth of God's blessings in your life? Seriously consider just how good God has been to you physically and, more importantly, spiritually. We can turn our blessings into a curse if our hearts are turned from God! Apostasy (falling away) is possible (cf. II Pet. 2:20-22). If we fall in love with the comforts of this life or the pleasures of this world, they will prevent us from obeying the Lord. I John 2:15-17 certainly describes the dangers Solomon fell prey to and the temptations we must work to overcome - "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."
Leisure time is a blessing, but it can be turned into a curse if we deceive our hearts into thinking that the pursuit of leisure is our purpose! Money is a blessing, but it can be turned into a curse if we trust in it and become selfish materialists! Good health is a blessing, but it can be turned into a curse if we trust in it, thinking we have many years left to get right with the Lord! Great intelligence is a blessing, but it can be turned into a curse if we, through pride, become our own god! Being able to study and reflect upon God's word is a great blessing, but if one hears and refuses to obey God's word, his opportunity will turn into a tragic curse! May we wisely use the tools, resources, and abilities that God has blessed us with, never losing sight of the source of those blessings and their intended purpose. Dear listeners, where is your heart today?
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.