Solomon seems like one of the most contradictory characters in the Bible. On the one hand, he is the wisest man ever, living with wealth, power, and political peace. On the other hand, he makes some of the most foolish decisions which led to the division of the kingdom. If he was so wise, then how could he be so foolish?
As I was reading through the scriptures on Solomon, I noticed something I had never seen before. Remember that as a new king Solomon was worried about how to run the kingdom. He felt inadequate for the job. As he was worshipping God (1 Kings 3), God allows Solomon to make a wish: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon does not ask for riches or fame or power. He simply asks for a discerning heart to govern his people. In response, God promises to give him a wise and discerning heart, and to give him riches and honor as well.
As the story of Solomon unfolds, we see him running a vast government and erecting great buildings. His wisdom in running his country is so great that he becomes an international celebrity. The Queen of Sheba visits Solomon in 1 Kings 10, and she declares that he is even wiser than she had heard. She asks him all kinds of questions, and he has an answer for everything. She declares that his officials must be very happy, serving under such a wise king.
Solomon’s reign is a time of peace and great prosperity.
But this wise man is not so wise with his own family and his faith. He knows all about running a country, but fails miserably in more important matters. First Kings 11 gives us a glimpse into his home life. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Imagine what his family meetings were like! His children would have to introduce themselves! Many of these wives worshipped foreign gods, and Solomon accommodated their various faiths. He built altars and places of worship for all his foreign wives.
In all this, God was not pleased. Duh. God forbade the Israelites from intermarrying with the people of Canaan at all. Solomon obviously ignored that piece of wisdom. As a result, his wives led him astray spiritually.
Remember, though, that Solomon only asked for wisdom about running his country. God gave him abundant wisdom for governing. But Solomon was sorely lacking in wisdom about faithfulness to God. He made foolish decisions. He probably thought he could do no wrong. He did as he pleased in marrying for political purposes.
His foolish choices led him to a life of emptiness and frustration. Read the book of Ecclesiastes to see how joyless this rich and wise man was.
After Solomon’s death, the kingdom fell apart. His son was clueless about how to rule – how ironic – and the kingdom of Israel was divided.
The best kind of wisdom is not just about doing a good job. The best kind of wisdom keeps us in touch with God for every aspect of living. Jesus wants abundant life for us. He wants us to live in love, joy and peace. That comes from staying connected with the Lord. That’s real “abundant life.”