Solomon’s Writings

 •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 10
In another article in this issue, we have seen some lessons we can learn from Solomon’s failures. However, we would like to pass on to something more positive, namely, his inspired writings. To most believers, these are probably more familiar than his failures, for they comprise three books in the Old Testament — Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. These books are quite different in their content and import, and they reflect various parts of Solomon’s wisdom, some of it learned directly from God, and some learned by sad experience. It is not our intent to give a synopsis, or summary, of the import and content of these books, but rather to connect them with the human writer, Solomon, in the various experiences of his life.
The first book which we read in Scripture is Proverbs. It was probably written roughly at the mid-point of Solomon’s life, and it represents his wisdom, not only as he had received it from God, but also what was his as a result of his experience as king. The words are addressed to a people considered to be in relationship with God, and thus the name Jehovah is used almost exclusively when referring to God. It is wisdom for this world — a world that has been spoiled by sin, but through which one can be guided, who is ready to listen to God’s wisdom. It deals with God’s government, showing the truth of Galatians 6:77Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. (Galatians 6:7): “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (In this way the Proverbs are good for all time, as even in our Christian dispensation, grace does not set aside the just government of God.)
It is evident from Solomon’s history that he walked with God for approximately the first twenty years of his life, during which time he completed both the building of the temple and his own house, and also the house of the forest of Lebanon (see 2 Chron. 8:1). During this time, his wisdom was doubtless increased, and it was also during this time that his many proverbs were written, as well as his songs. It was also at this time that the Lord appeared to Solomon the second time, not only assuring him of blessing if he and Israel were faithful to Him, but also warning solemnly of the serious consequences should they forsake His commandments and go and serve other gods. Sad to say, and as we have already noted in other articles in this issue, Solomon did indeed forsake the commandments of the Lord, and he even became a victim of some of his own proverbs.
The writing of Proverbs shows us clearly the principle on which God always operates, namely, “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom. 11:2929For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (Romans 11:29)). God gave Solomon his wisdom, and even though he eventually did not walk in it himself, yet God did not take it away. “Also my wisdom remained with me” (Eccl. 2:99So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. (Ecclesiastes 2:9)). He was used of God to write down, for posterity, the result of all the wisdom God had given him, both by precept and by experience.
We come now to the Book of Ecclesiastes, and the character of this book is so different from the others that Solomon wrote that critics have even questioned the fact that he wrote it. But Solomon did write it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and God has given it to us for our good and ultimately for our blessing. It was written toward the end of Solomon’s life, and it is the lament of one who had everything in this world that one could possibly wish for, including wisdom. Yet he found himself unhappy and unsatisfied. He remarks, “Whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy” (Eccl. 2:1010And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labor: and this was my portion of all my labor. (Ecclesiastes 2:10)). But then he has to sum it all up by saying, “All was vanity and pursuit of the wind” (Eccl. 2:1111Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:11) JND), and he repeats this phrase a number of times in the book, as if to emphasize it to our hearts. The book is most doleful and sad, and in many ways seems to give man no real hope. We may well ask why God chose to give it to us.
First of all, the book is a salutary lesson to those who seek their joy in this world and in the things of this world. Because of the universal application of the book, God is always referred to as God, rather than Jehovah. Solomon, probably more than any before or after him, had riches, honor, a peaceful reign, and wisdom from God. What more could man want? Yet, in seeking his pleasure in those things, he found out that nothing could satisfy. His natural heart led him into all these pursuits, but his wisdom enabled him to write the book at the end of his life, as a warning to others. We can learn from Solomon’s experience and avoid the trap into which he fell, or we can find it out for ourselves. Sad to say, most of the world is still engaged in finding out for themselves that “all is vanity and pursuit of the wind.”
Second, there is a great deal of wisdom in the book, even if much of it is of a negative character. Despite his disappointment at the end of his life, Solomon’s wisdom comes through in his observations and perceptions. For example, we read in Ecclesiastes 7:11A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth. (Ecclesiastes 7:1) that “a good name is better than precious ointment.” This is surely good advice at any time and in any dispensation. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Eccl. 8:1111Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Ecclesiastes 8:11)) is true in any time and place.
Third, and perhaps most important, the book acts as a foil, or contrast, to show the futility of chasing things in this world, against the joy and blessing that God gives. We must remember that the observations made in Ecclesiastes are made “under the sun” — that is, without necessarily having reference to consequences after man has died. Thus it says, “How dieth the wise man? As the fool” (Eccl. 2:1616For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. (Ecclesiastes 2:16)). Or, “that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts  ...  as the one dieth, so dieth the other” (Eccl. 3:1919For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 3:19)). This in no way implies that man does not exist after death; rather, it is an observation “under the sun,” an observation that can be made without a direct revelation from God, for man must have a revelation from God to know what is after death.
But if we want to show slides or a video on a screen, we generally wait until it is dark, unless we are in a closed room. Then we turn out the lights, and the light from the projector shows up far more clearly. This is perhaps the most important reason for the book. If God is going to show His love and grace to us, He first gives us a full display of the weariness and frustration that results from seeking happiness outside of Himself. Then, against this dark background, He begins to show us what really satisfies.
Song of Solomon
This brings us to the Song of Solomon, which needs very little comment. It was probably written earlier in Solomon’s life and might well have been the result of his taking Pharaoh’s daughter as his wife. If Ecclesiastes is the experience and lament of one whose heart is so large that nothing can satisfy it, the Song of Solomon is the experience of one whose heart is not large enough to enjoy its object fully.
Doubtless the expressions in it refer to Israel in a coming day as being the object of God’s affections, but again, it is instructive that neither God nor Jehovah are mentioned in the book. The terms used are always those of endearment, such as “beloved,” “my sister,” “my spouse,” “my dove,” and other such words. In a coming day, Israel, having rejected their Messiah once, will seek Him, and the godly ones of that day will reestablish their relationship with Him. But today we, as believers, can enjoy the thoughts and feelings of a bride, for the church is the bride of Christ, and it is Christ that is spoken of as the bridegroom in this book. The beautiful descriptions and affections that are part of the book bring out the loveliness of Christ and of His relationship with His bride. With the bride in the Song of Solomon, we too can say, “Yea, he is altogether lovely” (Song of Sol. 5:1616His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. (Song of Solomon 5:16))! If our hearts are taken up with Him, how little the things of this world will seem, and if we are required to use them down here, how lightly we will hold them! We will enjoy His love — the One who says, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee” (Song of Sol. 4:77Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee. (Song of Solomon 4:7)).
W. J. Prost