Solomon’s story is a tale of a wise and noble man, as far as men go. He was the wisest of men. (1 Kings 4:30) He had everything. He was handed the kingdom of Israel from his father, David, who had subdued all the warring nations around them.
Solomon had peace for the entire 40 years of his reign because of David’s prowess and provision. Solomon was also a great statesman in his own right, maintaining strong relationships with foreign leaders.
Without the ever-present threat of war, and with the help of favored nations, Solomon was able to build a stunning Temple for God and a magnificent house for himself.
Solomon was also called Jedidiah (beloved of the Lord).
When God offered him whatever he wanted, Solomon chose wisdom. The wisdom literature in the Bible, and possibly Ecclesiastes, were written by Solomon, along with some Psalms that remain with us today. Leaders from around the known world traveled to take counsel from Solomon.
Among the things Solomon wrote was Proverbs 5:1-4:
My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
turn your ear to my words of insight,
that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
In Proverbs 5:15-16, these famous poetic words were penned:
Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
Surely, Solomon was too smart and wise to be tripped up by lust, right?
Well… no. I am not sure that Solomon committed adultery (like his father David did, taking Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, who gave birth to Solomon). He didn’t need to, because he took for himself hundreds of wives and hundreds of concubines on top of that! (1 Kings 11:3)
God had spoken many years before to Moses about the conduct of kings. Solomon in his wisdom certainly would have known these words: “[The king] must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.” (Deut. 17:17)
Of course, Solomon did both. We learn in 1 Kings 11 that those hundreds of wives turned Solomon’s heart from God, which tarnished his legacy and led to the break up of the nation of Israel forever.
What does the story of Solomon tell us? Some people might conclude (too easily) that the Bible is full of contradictions. Is this the lesson: don’t do as I do; do as I say? If Solomon, as wise as he was, got tripped up by common lust and greed, what does that mean for the rest of us?