The Wisdom of Solomon

Pro 9:10 The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy [is] understanding.

Psa 111:10 The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do [his commandments]: his praise endureth for ever.

Click to go to our Home Page






I once read about a man who had an IQ of 200. He not only had a high IQ, he was a very successful businessman of about 40 years of age. He was asked as to what he attributed his intelligence and great success in life. He replied: “A deep study of the Bible for the last 20 years of my life.”

That was a truly wise and intelligent man! And there was another very intelligent man whose greatest expressed desire was to know how to lead justly. His name was Solomon. We would do well to study his values.

Solomon reigned as king over Israel from about 970 to 930 BC. He was the son of King David and his beautiful wife Bathsheba. From very early in his reign Solomon displayed extraordinary wisdom.

We are told that one night God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” In response Solomon prayed for “a discerning heart” so that he could govern the nation God had entrusted to him wisely and justly. The Bible tells us that “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” 1 Kings 3:5-9; 1 Kings 4:29

Perhaps the most famous story about Solomon has to do with two prostitutes who appeared before him to settle a dispute. They lived in the same household and both had given birth, just a few days apart. One morning, when just the two of them were in the house with their babies, one of them woke up to nurse her child when she discovered he was dead. She accused the other woman of having rolled over on her own child in her sleep, killing him, and then substituting it for her child.

“Not so!” the other woman interrupted. “The living one is mine; the dead one us yours.” “No,” the first woman countered. “Your son is the dead one; the living one belongs to me.” And so they argued back and forth until they were near ready for a physical combat.

Finally the king spoke. “What are we to do?” he asked. “This woman claims, ‘The living son is mine and the dead one is yours.’ And this woman argues, ‘No, the dead one’s yours and the living one’s mine.” Then he sat back on his throne and stroked his beard for a while. “I have an idea,” he said, looking at the two women. Then he turned to one of his attendants and said, “Bring me a sword.” Its sharp blade glistened in the morning sun. “Now,” he said to his attendant, “Cut the baby in two and give half to this mother and half to that.”

A scream pierced the judgement hall. “No!” cried one of the women. I beg you, your majesty, give the living baby to her, but don’t kill him!”

To which the other woman coldly replied, “If I can’t have him, she won’t have him either. Go ahead and slice him in two.”

And so Solomon rendered his decision. “Give the living baby to the first woman. She is the real mother.” Word of this got around to the whole of Israel, the Bible tells us, and soon Solomon was held in awe because it was clear that God had given him the ability to judge wisely. 1 Kings 3:16-28

Solomon’s wisdom became known not only in his own kingdom of Israel, but also throughout the Middle Eastern world, all the way to the land of Sheba in what is probably modern-day Yemen on the Arabian peninsula. The Bible tells us that “when the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions”. Much to her amazement she found that there was nothing that fazed him. “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true,” she declared to him. “But I did not believe what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard.” 2 Chronicles 9:1-6

Wisdom in the Proverbs

A sampling at least of Solomon’s wisdom is preserved for us in the Book of Proverbs. Of its thirty-one chapters, chapters 10 to 22 and 25 to 29, a total of eighteen in all, are ascribed to Solomon. The full, formal title of the book runs like this:

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

·       for attaining wisdom and discipline;

·       for understanding words of insight;

·       for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,

·       doing what is right and just and fair;

·       for giving prudence to the simple,

·       knowledge and discretion to the young—

·       let the wise listen and add to their learning,

·       and let the discerning get guidance—

·       for understanding proverbs and parables,

·       the sayings and riddles of the wise.

Aside from the length of its title, if there is one feature of Proverbs that stands out it is its concern for the everyday, often mundane, affairs of life. There are proverbs that deal with relationships among family members and neighbours, honesty in business, the way we dispose of our money, and the way we use our tongues. There are proverbs that encourage industry and prudence, patience and perseverance, humility and self-control.

Some of the proverbs have become so ingrained into our way of thinking that, nearly three thousand years later they remain familiar to many of us. How many of these have you heard before?

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh words stirs up anger. (15:1)

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (16:18)

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (22:6)

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (16:25)

Many of the proverbs display a gentle, ironic humour. Here is one that we robins (early risers) need to take to heart:

If a man loudly blesses his neighbour early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.

It would be well to often meditate on these:

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. (11:3)

Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. (12:16)

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (13:10)

One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

The wisdom of God

To some, Proverbs might seem like just basic common sense. But common sense appears to be the least common of all qualities—and wisdom from a biblical perspective is something far deeper than mere common sense. In fact what we are talking about is the most uncommon sense. The key to what I mean by that is found in the way in which the Book of Proverbs itself defines wisdom:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Solomon recognized his wisdom as a gift from God. Wisdom in this sense springs from a relationship with God, as we allow his Holy Spirit to take hold of our minds and our thoughts.

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” The common notion was that he was another Elijah, or a John the Baptist, or one of the prophets. When Jesus further questioned the disciples, “But who do you say I am?” it was Peter who blurted out, “The Messiah!” Then in Matthew’s version of the incident Jesus responds to him with the words, “Blessed are you, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”

The point was that Peter’s insight, like Solomon’s wisdom, was a divine gift. It was not the result of some inborn intuitive ability or of a finely honed skill of observation, but the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in Peter’s life.

Without the Holy Spirit, wisdom in this sense will always appear like foolishness to the world around us. Who in the world would say that the poor are blessed? Or the mourners? Or the meek? Or the hungry and thirsty? Or the persecuted? You see, the supposed “wisdom” of this world runs directly contrary to the wisdom of God.

And what could be more foolish than to acknowledge a pathetic figure hanging from a cross as Lord of heaven and earth? (In the world’s eyes).

That is why the apostle Paul writes, The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where are the wise? Where are the scholars? Where are the philosophers of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? … Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

If it is real wisdom that we seek, then we need to ask for the Holy Spirit to take hold of our minds and inhabit our hearts, so that we discover in Jesus, Him who is the way, the truth and the life. And as we walk through life with Him we shall find a mentor like none other!

Yes, The biblical King Solomon was known for his wisdom, his wealth and his writings. Solomon was not the oldest son of David, but David promised Bathsheba that Solomon would be the next king. When David’s elder son Adonijah declared himself king, David ordered his servants to bring Solomon to the Gihon spring where the priest anointed him while David was still alive. Solomon inherited a considerable empire from his father.

People from surrounding nations also came to hear Solomon’s wisdom. He composed 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 Songs. He wrote the Song of Songs, the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

Once Solomon’s empire was tranquil, he began to build the Holy Temple. He received wood from King Hiram of Tyre and imposed a compulsory labor service on both the Israelites and the foreign nations that were under his control. Solomon was also renowned for his other building projects in which he used slave labor from the Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. He spent 13 years building his own palace, and also built a city wall, a citadel called the Millo, a palace for the daughter of Pharaoh (who was one of his wives) and facilities for foreign traders. He erected cities for chariots and horsemen and created storage cities. He extended Jerusalem to the north and fortified cities near the mountains of Judah and Jerusalem.

Solomon’s downfall came in his old age. He had taken many foreign wives, whom he allowed to worship other gods. He even built shrines for the sacrifices of his foreign wives. Within Solomon’s kingdom, he placed heavy taxation on the people, who became bitter. He also had the people work as soldiers, chief officers and commanders of his chariots and cavalry. He granted special privileges to the tribes of Judah and this alienated the northern tribes. The prophet Ahijah of Shiloh prophesied that Jeroboam son of Nebat would become king over ten of the 12 tribes, instead of one of Solomon’s sons.

Solomon's sins

According to 1 Kings 11:4 Solomon's "wives turned his heart after other gods", their own national deities, to whom Solomon built temples, thus incurring divine anger and retribution in the form of the division of the kingdom after Solomon's death. (1 Kings 11:9-13)

1 Kings 11 describes Solomon's descent into idolatry, particularly his turning after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. In Deuteronomy 17:16-17, a king is commanded not to multiply horses, wives or gold. Solomon sins in all three of these areas. Solomon collects 666 talents of gold each year, (1 Kings 10:14) a huge amount of money for a small nation like Israel. Solomon gathers a large number of horses and chariots and even brings in horses from Egypt. Just as Deuteronomy 17 warns, collecting horses and chariots takes Israel back to Egypt. Finally, Solomon marries foreign women, and these women turn Solomon to other gods.

According to 1 Kings 11:9-13, it was because of these sins that "the Lord punishes Solomon by tearing the kingdom in two":[2]

And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the LORD commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, "Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.”

Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. The wives are described as foreign princesses, including Pharaoh's daughter and women of Moab, Ammon, Sidon and of the Hittites. These wives are depicted as leading Solomon astray. The only wife that is mentioned by name is Naamah, who is described as the Ammonite. She was the mother of Solomon's successor, Rehoboam.

Solomon died in Jerusalem after 40 years as ruler of Israel. He was buried in the City of David. His son, Rehoboam succeeded him as king. Under Rehobaum’s rule, Solomon’s empire was lost and his kingdom was divided into two parts.