“The Lord loved him.” (2 Samuel 12:24)
King Solomon (pronounced Shlomo in Hebrew) had more wisdom than any other leader of his time, perhaps even in our time. Yet, his wisdom was not enough to ensure his success.
What can we learn from Solomon’s accomplishments and personal weaknesses that will help us to be prosperous and successful in our lifetime?
Solomon was David and Bathsheba’s second son (2 Samuel 12:24) and Israel’s third king. He reigned forty years from 971–931 BC.
The name Solomon, Shlomo שְׁלֹמֹה in Hebrew, comes from the word shalom שָׁלוֹם, which means peace, completeness and wholeness. This is reflected in the fact that Solomon’s kingdom enjoyed great peace and expansion under his reign (1 Kings 4:24).
The Bible mentions that God loved Solomon in particular and therefore gave him a special name — Yedidiah or Yedid-Yah (יְדִידְיָהּ), which means Beloved of YHVH (2 Samuel 12:25).
Yedeed in modern Hebrew, is the word for friend. And Yedidiah is a popular boy’s name in Israel today, meaning Friend of God.
How beautiful it is that God wanted Solomon to always know how much his Creator loved him. So much so that God even declared: “I will be his father, and he will be My son” (2 Samuel 7:14).
Solomon Becomes Wise
According to Jewish tradition, Solomon is one of 48 male prophets in the Tanakh (Old Testament). To be considered a prophet in Jewish thinking, one must have personally encountered God, which Solomon did — twice.
God appeared to Solomon the first time when he had been offering sacrifices and burned incense in the high places at Gibeon, though no one was to make sacrifices there (1 Kings 3:3).
Nevertheless, it is here in the midst of doing a very foolish act of worship that God appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked what He can do for him.
Instead of being selfish and asking for wealth or long life, Solomon wanted to be a good king for the Jewish people, so he asked God for “an understanding heart to judge the people and discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9).
God granted Solomon’s request and said, “I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before, nor will there be one like you afterwards” (verse 12).
Now imbued with Divine understanding, Solomon returned to Jerusalem and did the wise thing—he “stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings” (verse 15).
When we find ourselves doing foolish things, we can ask God for wisdom to help us do the right thing. But, as we shall see, even having abundant wisdom does not shield us against self-destruction.
During his reign as king, Solomon received God’s great wisdom to accomplish some impressive things:
He built the house of the Lord—the First Temple in Jerusalem where God’s presence resided (1 Kings 5–6).
“He produced manuals on botany, describing every kind of plant, from the cedars of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows on walls. He also produced manuals on biology, describing animals, birds, insects, and fish. People from all nations came to hear Solomon’s display of wisdom” (1 Kings 4:33–34).
Solomon wrote great wisdom recorded in the Books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and more than 1,000 songs. Only two of them, however, were included in the Book of Psalms — Psalms 72 and 127.
The Song of Songs (also known as Song of Solomon) is often attributed to him. It is a poetic love story so beautiful that many a bride choose passages from it to be read on her wedding day.
Solomon surrounded himself with good men as governors and advisors (1 Kings 4:1–19).
He righteously resolved disputes in ways that surpassed other judges and leaders.
We see this when two women came to Solomon, both claiming to be the mother of a baby boy. He gave the order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” The woman who falsely claimed to be the mother eagerly desired to see this order carried out. However, the real mother cried out, “Don’t kill him!” (1 Kings 3:16–28).
Solomon gained influence with world leaders through the wisdom and riches that God gave to him.
“When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his servants, the service and attire of his attendants and cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he presented at the house of the LORD, it took her breath away” (1 Kings 10:4–5).
As a result of all of this impressive governance, “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” (1 Kings 4:25).
Yet, as Solomon discovered, abundant wisdom and wealth were not enough to keep his kingdom under God’s protection.
He also needed abundant humility and self-discipline to follow the rules that God ordained for all kings of Israel to follow.
Solomon Breaks God’s Rules
After Solomon dedicated the Temple, the Lord appeared to him a second time and said,
“As for you, if you walk before Me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe My decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel’” (1 Kings 9:4–5).
We know what these commands are because Deuteronomy chapter 17 lists several rules specifically for all future kings of Israel.
Here are a few of God’s rules that Solomon had trouble following:
The king “must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, for you are not to go back that way again’” (verse 17).
Nevertheless, “Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt” (1 Kings 10:28). And he had a lot of them, which he kept in store cities that he built (1 Kings 9:19).
The king “must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.” As we read above, Solomon amassed such great amounts of wealth that even the Queen of Sheba was astonished.
The problem with amassing so much wealth is that over time, God warned, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your ancestors, as it is today” (Deuteronomy 8:17–18).
It takes incredible humility to remain faithful to God while having access to vast supplies of anything you could ever want. After all, “pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall,” wrote Solomon in Proverbs 16:18.
The Bible doesn’t say that Solomon had issues with pride, but he does show a pattern of violating God’s rules. He may have thought he was getting away with breaking them, until he disobeyed one of God’s most important rules:
The king “must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.”
With all his wisdom and wealth, Solomon had one dangerous and very common weakness — women! And in this case foreign women who worshipped other gods.
He married the Egyptian Pharaoh’s daughter but also women who were Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonites, and Hittites (1 Kings 11:1).
Many of the women he married were royalty, daughters of foreign kings, which was an ancient form of keeping peace with neighboring nations, since the leaders were all family.
But Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines in total!
He did this even though God explicitly told him, “You must not intermarry with them, for surely they will turn your hearts after their gods” (1 Kings 11:2).
And that is what happened. The man whom God called His son and His beloved “built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods” (1 Kings 11:7–8).
“So the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept My covenant and My decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates’” (1 Kings 11:10–11).
Very soon, neighboring leaders started to become hostile toward Solomon (1 Kings 11:14–25).
Moreover, after Solomon’s death, God divided the nation of Israel into two kingdoms: Israel to the north and Judah to the south (1 Kings 11:13, 29–39).
Only the kingdom of Judah remained under the reign of King David’s descendants.
We do not have any record of Solomon repenting of his disobedience or seeking after God and Ruach Hakodesh (the Holy Spirit) as his father David so earnestly did in Psalm 51. Yet, we can glean from Solomon’s writings in the Book of Ecclesiastes that he learned a valuable lesson.
After using the riches God gave him to buy an excess of everything he wanted, Solomon said that “everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecc. 2:10–11).
And so, at the very end of this somber book, he leaves us with the same exhortation that God had been saying to Solomon and all people throughout Scripture:
“Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecc. 12:13–14).
May we not only understand this wisdom but also pray to develop the self-discipline and humility to live it out.
Something Greater Than Solomon Is Here
God said of Solomon, “I will be his father, and he will be My son” (1 Chronicles 28:6; 2 Samuel 7:14), but Solomon did not uphold the standards of being a true son of the God of Israel, for Solomon loved other gods (1 Kings 11:4).
Nearly 1,000 years later, God sent His only begotten Son, Yeshua who was with God from the beginning!
Our Messiah Yeshua showed us how to be true children of God, being the example of always doing what the Father told him to do and say.
Though God named Solomon Yedidiah “Beloved of God (YHVH),” He never mentions again in Scripture how beloved Solomon is to Him.
On the other hand, twice, the Father bellows from heaven for all to hear:
“This is My son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Also, “listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5).
And Yeshua said, “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42; also Luke 11:31).
Yeshua is the perfect Son of God who offers us perfect wisdom and eternal peace, something no earthly king ever can.