First Kings 3 tells a story of God speaking to Solomon. God says, “Ask for whatever you want me to give to you.” Solomon replies in 1Kings 3:9, “Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and discern between right and wrong.” Solomon asks for wisdom. God is pleased. God tells him that because his request was good, he would receive not only wisdom, but also wealth and honor.
What did wise Solomon do at the beginning of the very same story in 1 Kings 3? Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh.
Solomon was known far and wide for his wisdom and knowledge. First Kings 4 tells us that he was not only a wise king, but an educator, too. He spoke 3,000 proverbs; wrote songs; taught about animals, birds, and reptiles; and described plant life and trees. People including the Queen of Sheba traveled great distances to learn from him.
Solomon was also a wise construction manager. God entrusted the building of the temple to him. He wisely allied with Hiram from Lebanon for timber and skilled workers, and he brought in the best artisans for the metalwork.
When the temple was dedicated, Solomon’s devotion to God was clear. He was God’s chosen leader, he recognized God’s gifts to him, and he thought of his people as he prayed that God would always remember them in the seasons and send rain each year for the crops.
Still, like Saul and David, Solomon was a flawed leader. Like each of us, he faced temptations, and his choices ultimately led to the split of the kingdom in the next generation.
Solomon was wise, and yet he was unwise.
God had told his people soon after the exodus not to marry non-Israelites. The reason was simple. Marriage to non-believers would invite the gods of pagan nations into Israel. Intermarriage would lead to idolatry and disobedience.
Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh. It was the custom in national alliances to seal the deal by giving a daughter in marriage. Rather than faithfulness to God’s commands, Solomon opted for the traditions of national agreements. He unwisely accepted an Egyptian wife instead of remaining obedient.
Solomon did not just dabble in intermarriage. Besides the Egyptian, he married Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. In total, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines! First Kings 11:2 repeats the word of the Lord, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.”
Not only did Solomon intermarry and turn a blind eye to his wives’ idols and beliefs, but on a hill to the east of Jerusalem, Solomon built altars for the gods of his wives. Those gods included Molech, which demanded that firstborn children be thrown into the fire. Those gods included Asheroth, whose worshippers fornicated publicly to entice her from the ground to bring fertility to the earth.
Wise King Solomon unwisely brought idolatry and paganism into Israel during his reign.
God blessed Solomon with wealth, even though Solomon only asked for wisdom. Each year Solomon amassed 666 talents of gold. He built an opulent throne of ivory and gold, and to approach it were six steps.
The number tells the back story. Throughout Scripture, six is the number for human centeredness. In the story of David and Goliath, Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, and Revelation, human-centeredness is symbolized by the number six. And if an exclamation point is to be added, 666 is used.
In symbolism, wealth had become too important to Solomon. He amassed it. Verse 21 even says that nothing was made of silver, because that was a step down in Solomon’s day.
Solomon was certainly wise, discerning, and a gifted educator. He was God’s chosen king. He built and dedicated God’s Temple and dedicated it to God. First Kings 11:41 eulogized that there were not enough books to contain the stories of his life and wisdom.
And yet Solomon’s wisdom did not overcome his humanness. In spite of his wisdom, foreign women and opulent wealth were his weaknesses. We should not be surprised. Before Saul was anointed, the warning was issued. If you choose to put your trust in humans, they will fail. We all will. It will not end well when human desires and temptations are our center.
The lessons of the three kings are the same. Answering God’s call is not about the physique of Saul, the skills of David, or the wisdom of Solomon.
Answering the call of God to lead is about recognizing that each of us has human flaws. It is only by the grace of God that our flaws will not destroy us and bring down those entrusted to our care. When those who are called to lead seek to lead faithfully and to do all to the glory of God, then God will act. In spite of our humanness, God will be glorified.
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services