Solomon’s Failure

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 10
We can scarcely conceive of one who had such a good beginning or who enjoyed such God-given advantages in his life as King Solomon. He was born into the royal family of his father David, the warrior king, under whose reign all of Israel’s enemies had been subdued. He ascended the throne at a very young age (probably scarcely twenty years old), and recognizing his lack of wisdom and experience, he asked the Lord for wisdom to govern wisely. As a result of this request, the Lord not only gave him wisdom and knowledge such as none before or since have had, but He also gave him riches, wealth and honor, such as none other has had. In spite of all this, Solomon’s life was in many ways a failure, and so much so that his son (Rehoboam) lost the greater part of the kingdom under the government of God. We know that “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Rom. 15:44For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4)), and in Solomon’s history we find much that is instructive for our own souls, “upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor. 10:11).
I would suggest that there were three main areas of failure in Solomon’s life, all of them avoidable, had he been willing to follow the Lord, to obey the law, and to be sensitive to warnings from the Lord.
Three Requirements
First of all, a king was to copy out, personally, the entire law of Moses, in order to impress it on his heart and soul. More than this, he was to read it “all the days of his life,” so that he might “keep all the words of this law” and “prolong his days in his kingdom” (Deut. 17:18-2018And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: 19And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: 20That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18‑20)). Whether Solomon did this is not recorded, but it is certain that after a good beginning, he did indeed disobey three important commandments in the law. In this same chapter (Deut. 17:16-1716But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. 17Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 17:16‑17)), the king was told not to multiply to himself horses, wives, and silver and gold. The Lord knew the tendencies of the human heart, and He knew well that a king who multiplied to himself these three things would soon learn to trust in horses rather than the Lord, would have divided affections, and would become occupied with riches rather than the Lord Himself.
Three Failures
As we know, Solomon accumulated all three of these, the number of his wives and concubines being perhaps the most staggering figure of the three. Yet all these women could not satisfy his heart, for in the end he had to say, “Behold, this have I found  ...  one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found” (Eccl. 7:27-2827Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: 28Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found. (Ecclesiastes 7:27‑28)). We need not go into detail about the amassing of horses, silver, gold and wives, but the plain fact is there, that it was direct disobedience to God’s Word. In view of all this, the Lord appeared to him twice, promising blessing upon him and his house if he was faithful, yet warning him (at the second appearing) of the solemn consequences of failing to keep His commandments.
Further Failure
But one act of disobedience leads to another, for wrongdoing seldom exists in isolation. It is recorded that when Solomon “loved many strange women” (1 Kings 11:1), “his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4). This was most serious, for as we have noted, the Lord had solemnly warned him at his second appearing, mentioning the results of disobedience both to him and to Israel. It seems that Solomon did not really take this to heart, for later it is recorded that “the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared to him twice” (1 Kings 11:9). The worship of other gods — abominable heathen deities — was most offensive to the Lord and could not be tolerated. Again the Lord spoke, and again directly to Solomon, pronouncing judgment on him and on Israel. The kingdom would be rent from him and given to another.
The Worship of False Gods
This brings us to the third failure in Solomon’s life, and in some ways the most serious. The worship of false gods was a terrible insult and affront to Jehovah, who had done so much for Israel. But Israel’s history shows that even after they fell into idolatry, when there was true repentance, the Lord was gracious and had mercy on them. But Solomon was warned several times by the Lord, and it seems that these warnings were not heeded. First of all, he had been warned about the consequences of disobedience on the second occasion of the Lord’s appearing to him (1 Kings 9:6-9). Second, the Lord spoke directly to him at a later date, telling him that He would “rend the kingdom” from him. But evidently Solomon did not repent. Third, God raised up adversaries to him, both Hadad the Edomite and then Rezon the son of Eliadah, in Syria. These ought to have been a voice from the Lord. Finally, God had the prophet Ahijah tell Jeroboam that He would “rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon” (1 Kings 11:31) and give him ten tribes over which to reign. Evidently Solomon knew about this, but instead of humbling himself and repenting, he “sought therefore to kill Jeroboam” (1 Kings 11:40).
Sadly, all this resulted in the Lord’s prophecy being fulfilled; under Solomon’s son Rehoboam the kingdom was divided, and the rightful king was left with only two tribes — Judah and Benjamin. The idolatry that began under Solomon continued, and as we well know, the eventual outcome was that all Israel was carried into captivity and uprooted from their land.
Lessons to Learn
What lessons, then, does all this have for us? First of all, let us be reminded that obedience and happiness go together (John 15:10-1110If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 11These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. (John 15:10‑11)), and that disobedience not only dishonors the Lord, but also brings misery into our own lives. The Lord desires our blessing, and “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:33In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. (John 5:3)).
Second, let us be reminded that while all disobedience ultimately dishonors the Lord, the worship of false gods is particularly offensive to Him. False religions are always connected with the sanctifying of man’s lusts, and this continues today. For us who live in the light of Christianity, the idolatry of the Old Testament is the covetousness and worldliness of the New Testament. We have been called to honor Christ and seek His interests in this world. To do otherwise and to embrace a worldly lifestyle is particularly distasteful to the Lord.
Finally, we should be sensitive to the Lord’s voice and respond when He speaks to us. We read that “God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not” (Job 33:1414For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. (Job 33:14)), and all too often we are dull of hearing and fail to listen. We need more of the spirit of what Eli told Samuel to say: “Speak, Lord; for Thy servant heareth” (1 Sam. 3:9). Wealth, wisdom and power — all of which the Lord had given him — evidently lifted Solomon up in pride, so that he failed to listen to the One who had given them.
David’s Failure and Solomon’s
Some may remark that while Solomon failed, he did not, in one sense, fail in the same serious way that David did. But there was a marked difference in David. He failed seriously, and more than once, but in each case he responded to the Lord’s voice to him and immediately repented. For this reason he was called a man after God’s own heart. Solomon pursued a wrong course of which he never repented, in spite of the Lord’s dealings with him, and is never said to be a man after God’s own heart. Surely all failure is to be avoided, but it is better to be a David than a Solomon.
W. J. Prost