Many people are familiar with the manner by which King Solomon (David’s son) became the wisest man to have ever lived. As the story unfolds in the third chapter of 1 Kings, God appears to Solomon in a dream and says, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (1 Kings 3:5 NIV). In perhaps his wisest action, Solomon replies to God, “… give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9 NIV). God is so happy with Solomon’s request that He grants him a wise and discerning heart like none other and gives him the additional blessings of riches and honor (1 Kings 3:10-13).
Many of us are familiar with the Biblical account. But do you know the rest of the story?
Solomon faltered greatly during his tenure as King and eventually turned his back on God. If the wisest and most discerning man of all time turned away from God, what hope is there for the rest of us? First, let’s take a look at what Solomon did wrong …
1 Kings, chapter 11 clearly tells us where Solomon made his mistake. First, he took over 700 wives and 300 concubines. This was done in direct violation of God’s standard that the marriage relationship was created to be shared between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24). Additionally, in Exodus 34:16, God explicitly warns Moses that His chosen people are not to marry foreign women and risk being pulled into the worship of pagan gods. Solomon knew the risks and God’s warnings yet he married these women anyway? Why? Solomon was a king. It was the practice of ancient rulers to marry foreign women as means to accumulate wealth, power, and to extend peace throughout the land. You can almost hear Solomon justifying his actions, “I know you prohibited it God, but certainly in this case the good outweighs the bad. Beside, I’ll never be seduced by pagan gods … I’m Solomon!”
Despite his discernment, Solomon does indeed succumb to worshiping pagan gods. The Bible records that in his old age, his wives (whom he loved dearly) seduced him into following their gods. Solomon began to worship the false gods of the Sidonians, the Moabites, and the Ammonites. He even built an altar to them on the Mount of Olives (1 Kings 11:4-8). Some of these pagan deities were known for the child sacrifices that were made to them. It was a form of worship that was detestable to God.
Yet Solomon did it anyway.
I ask once again … if the wisest of all men can stumble as badly a Solomon did, what hope is there for us?
To put it bluntly … there is nope hope for us. Regardless of our intentions, we are going to sin. We all do it; even the wisest among us. So what do we do?
When telling the story of Solomon’s fall, Scriptures make a comparison between him and his father David. 1 Kings 11:4 says, “… [Solomon’s] heart was not completely with the Lord his God, as his father David’s heart had been.” Like Solomon and the rest of us, David was a man who sinned greatly. His sins are perhaps among the most famous in history. He lusted after Bathsheba (Solomon’s mother) and had her husband killed so he could take her as his wife. It was a terrible sin; however, David’s response to it was different than Solomon’s. When rebuked for what he had done, David acknowledged his sin (2 Samuel 12:13). David made no excuses for his actions; rather, he repented and continued to worship the Lord.
Solomon’s fall seems a bit harder than his father’s. He writes in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14:
13 … here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Solomon’s sin cost him greatly before he learned the lesson that it just wasn’t worth it. This rings familiar today because most of the world’s religions fail to elevate sin as the problem that separates us from God. Other faiths might try to alleviate suffering or institute practices that will bring a person closer to the divine. Christianity alone identifies sin as the act that separates us from a perfectly holy God. Solomon, like many of us, had to learn this lesson the hard way.
I tend to believe that Solomon’s descent into sin took a long time. He didn’t see it for what it was because it began with something small and gradually built until he had turned his back on God and began to worship pagan idols. His descent into idolatry was a slow one that began with just a little disobedience.
Solomon’s path is one that we are all at risk of following. We must follow David’s example and learn to repent for our sins. We must accept the forgiveness that is found in Christ Jesus.
Explore the Bible: Quick Source Leader Volume 6 Number 3 by Lifeway Christian Resources
All in One Bible Reference Guide by Zondervan
Quest NIV Study Bible by Zondervan