Solomon: so famous, not so faithful.
Here comes success!
A series of biblical paradigms for rethinking success. Part 6.
Who is the most famous person you can think of — The Dalai Lama? Marilyn Monroe? Princess Diana? Donald Trump? What makes them so famous? It might be because they are rich, or powerful, beautiful or a great philanthropist.
Well, whoever your most famous person is I want to introduce you to someone even more famous! Someone whose fame has lasted more than 2,500 years. It’s Solomon, the third king of Israel.
If you have a moment read 1 Kings 10:14-29, where we find the summary of Solomon’s fame listed. Here are the highlights: a base annual income of 23 tons of gold; additional income from trade routes and investments he controlled; countless exotic gifts from everyone who was important in his day; a reputation for wisdom that made national leaders seek him out; thousands of horses and chariots that made him a regional super-power; and 700 wives and 300 additional lovers! What’s more, in previous chapters his amazing palace and the temple that he built in Jerusalem are mentioned, as is his spiritual leadership of Israel. Amazing—wisdom, spiritual authority, power, wealth, sex-appeal—he had it all.
You would think that a guy like this would crop up all over the Bible - a hero of God’s people. But in the New Testament Solomon appears only six times, two of these being in genealogies and two in Jesus’ comment about the lilies of the field being more beautiful than Solomon. In fact, you could say that this great man becomes something of a footnote in the NT. By comparison, his father David—who had a smaller kingdom, fewer wives, much less wealth and a more primitive army—is mentioned in 53 places in the NT. What went wrong? Why is the Bible’s most famous character (apart from Jesus) forgotten about within the Bible’s own narrative?
In 1 Kings 11, we read about Solomon’s many wives from different nations and faiths who led Solomon astray so that he was “not fully devoted to the Lord his God” (v4) and “did not follow the Lord completely” (v6). David, despite his mistakes, remained faithful to God; Solomon, despite his privileges, did not. That is the difference. In the Bible’s economy, nothing is of greater value than faithful, ongoing, life-long devotion to the Lord God.
In fact, if you look back at Deuteronomy 17:14-17, the Lord is clear about the expected behaviour of any king that Israel might have in the future. God gives three strict instructions:
- he must not have many horses (v16),
- he must not have many wives (v17), and
- he must not accumulate large amounts of gold!
Solomon got it wrong on every count, and 1 Kings 10 actually reads like a damning indictment in the light of this warning.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with wealth, authority, influence, good looks, or wisdom—these are all gifts from God. But each of them has the power to turn our heads and dominate our interest to the detriment of our relationship with the living God. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”
It is always worthwhile auditing our hearts. What are my dreams? Where is my security? Where is my focus? Do I make ‘allowance’ for sinful habits? Because if Solomon could fall, history has clearly taught us that the same could happen to any of us.
We would all benefit from taking the advice given to the king in Deuteronomy 17:19. We should keep God’s law with us wherever we go and read it all the days of our lives, so that we may learn to honour God and follow the words of his law.
Image Credit: 'The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon', oil on canvas painting by Edward Poynter