Was Solomon wise?
Huck Finn and Jim had a conversation on that very question, and Jim didn’t find any wisdom in him at all. The Bible says, “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:28-30, NIV).
But it also says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness”’ (1 Corinthians 3:19).
So let’s give Jim some credit. Solomon’s craftiness–and all those women–caught up with him. His spiritual foolishness destroyed the kingdom he had built, and when God confronted him, he refused to repent. Let’s look at 1 Kings 11.
Solomon famously had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. He reigned 40 years. That amounts to taking 25 women into his harem every year!! In most cases he must have spent a night or two with them and never paid much attention for the rest of their lives. Of course, they couldn’t just leave and go somewhere else more fulfilling.
Why did he do that? It’s not because he was just a lush. He married foreign princesses and added lesser-born women to cement alliances with the surrounding nations. It was a big part of his foreign policy.
Having an unimaginably large harem also demonstrated his wealth, along with his building program. The splendor of his court impressed not only foreign rulers, but his own people. See how crafty he was?
The Bible says that Solomon loved many foreign women and held fast to them in love. Did he really love the women? I suspect he loved the idea of sexually dominating them and then ignoring most of them. He loved the reputation they gave him and the peace they bought for his kingdom.
But look where all these women came from: all the surrounding nations that God had explicitly forbidden any Israelite to have any dealings with at all. Jim talked about all the wives quarreling, but they didn’t quarrel with each other. They quarreled with him.
In effect, they demanded that if he was going to take them from their homes and familiar customs, the least he could do was build places where they could stay in touch with their traditions–filthy, disgusting traditions like temple prostitution, fertility rites, and child sacrifices.
So he built temples to their gods, including Molech and Chemosh, to whom worshipers offered their babies to be burned alive. Over the centuries that this temple operated, the priests of these demons simply threw the corpses into the Hinnom Valley below.
The whole valley became unclean. After the return from Babylonian captivity, it was fit only for use as Jerusalem’s trash dump, known in Greek as Gehenna. Jesus used that word to describe hell.
Consequences of Solomon’s disobedience
God did not send a prophet to Solomon. He spoke directly and demanded that Solomon repent and turn back to the ways of David, his father. Solomon refused. Thus did Solomon’s vaunted wisdom become foolishness. The king who had started his reign in such favor with God forfeited everything.
Did he think marrying all those foreign women would buy him peace with his neighbors? God raised up two adversaries that gave Solomon trouble on his border in two directions.
Did Solomon think that the splendor of his kingdom would command admiration and respect at home? God appointed one of his own officials, Jeroboam, to lead a rebellion. For David’s sake, the prophet told him that God did not intend to take the kingdom away from Solomon, but from his son.
And what did Solomon do when he heard about it? He tried to kill Jeroboam. Does that sound like someone earlier? Think of Saul trying to kill David, Solomon’s father.
This post has not simply been a lesson in ancient history. What happened to Solomon has happened to many others down to our own day. Think of how many prominent politicians, entertainers, and even ministers of the gospel have fallen into scandal, as often as not through sexual sin.
One need not be a celebrity to begin the walk with God well and not finish well. The secret to ending well is to cling to God and give up everything that would turn us away from him. Even if we must give up something that our own craftiness considers wise.