Guests: and

THIS WEEK’S STUDY: 1 Kings 3:1-11:43; 2 Chr. 1:1-9:31

MEMORY TEXT: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

WISDOM, FOOLISHNESS, AND SIN. Scripture tells us that Solomon was among the world’s wisest men. His wisdom was a gift of God. The story of his life reveals that he was also one of the world’s great fools. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, what is the beginning of foolishness and sin?


I. WISE MAN: 1 Kings 3:1-4:34; 2 Chr. 1:1-17

II. BUILDER: 1 Kings 5:1-7:51; 2 Chr. 2:1-5:1

III. BELIEVER: 1 Kings 8:1-9:9; 2 Chr. 5:2-7:22

IV. MAN OF THE WORLD: 1 Kings 9:10-10:29; 2 Chr. 8:1-9:28

V. FOOL: 1 Kings 11:1-43; 2 Chr. 9:29-31

THE RISE AND FALL OF A GREAT MAN: Except for an unstable home background, Solomon had every advantage when he became king over Israel. His income was assured, the borders of the country were secure, the people seemed happy and contented. From his father David, he had received wealth and wise counsel, and a clear-cut charge to build a temple to the Lord. To Solomon belonged the kingdom, the power, and the glory — but not forever.

At the beginning of his reign, Solomon revealed flashes of genuine humility, too. In prayer, he admitted that he lacked the skills to rule his vast kingdom. He craved wisdom from on high. That was his greatest need, his deepest longing.

But power and wealth are subtle enemies of the soul. They began to chip away at Solomon’s integrity and wisdom. A bright and gaudy world diminished the intensity of his religious devotion. How could he rise to such heights — and fall to such depths? Those are questions we need to ask ourselves as we study the life of this wise and foolish king.

I. WISE MAN (1 Kings 3:1-4:34; 2 Chr. 1:1-17)

As Kings and Chronicles turn their attention to the substance of Solomon’s reign, the tendency of each book remains evident: Kings tells the more complete story, including the less complimentary parts; Chronicles focuses on Solomon’s religious loyalty to the worship of the true God. But both accounts tell of Solomon’s request for wisdom and God’s response, granting him his desire — and riches and honor as well.

  1. What ominous clue of coming trouble appears right at the beginning of Solomon’s reign? 1 Kings 3:1-2.

By the end of his life, Solomon had gathered to himself seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Scripture says that these “turned away his heart” (1 Kings 11:3). The marriage alliance with the Egyptian pharaoh was an early indiscretion that was destined to become habit-forming.

The Old Testament does not speak with clarity against polygamy. In fact, a law recorded in Exodus 21:7-11 actually addresses the issue of plural wives, commanding a man to grant food, clothing and full marital rights to a first wife if he should take a second.

But while the Old Testament includes very little explicit moralizing against polygamy, the stories of Abraham, Jacob, and David do bear testimony to the tragic results of the custom. In the end, however, Solomon was condemned more for marrying foreign wives than for being a polygamist (cf. 1 Kings 11:1-8).

  1. In the later monarchy, the “high places” were seen as places where the people worshiped false gods. How did the situation differ in Solomon’s day? Was it possible to worship the true God of Israel at the “high places” outside Jerusalem? 1 Kings 2:2-4; 2 Chr. 1:3-6.

Worshiping at “high places” was risky because of pagan rites sometimes practiced there. In an earlier era, the patriarchs would often construct altars in places that were traditionally “holy,” thus bearing witness to Yahweh. Bethel, Shechem, Shiloh, and Gibeon were all places that had gained a reputation for “holiness” at one time or another.

  1. What does 2 Chr. 1:4-6 suggest about the possibility of God’s people all worshiping in Jerusalem?

In our mind’s eye we can picture the people streaming towards Jerusalem, year after year, for the great annual pilgrim festivals. A careful reading of the Old Testament suggests, however, that this worship pattern was often erratic. For years the ark circulated apart from the tabernacle itself. When Solomon became king, the ark was in Jerusalem but the tabernacle was in Gibeon. Solomon determined to bring the people to Jerusalem for worship to preserve them from the influence of pagan religions.

It is too easy to imagine God’s Old Testament people on a “high road,” untouched by the world. A more realistic view of the Old Testament shows them stumbling along a “low road,” only rarely glimpsing God’s ideal for His people.

  1. What was God’s attitude toward Solomon’s request for wisdom? 2 Chr. 1:11-12.

One of the ironies of the spiritual life is that when we ask for the right things for the right reasons, God can also grant us other gifts which would not have been safe for us to receive if we had asked for them directly.

Ask yourself: Is any of us ever “safe” to handle the gifts of God on our own? By losing our connection with God, can the gift of wisdom be turned into foolishness?

II. BUILDER: 1 Kings 5:1-7:51; 2 Chr. 2:1-5:1

  1. What kind of foreign help did Solomon solicit in the building of the temple? 1 Kings 5:1-8; 7:13-14.

It would appear that Solomon was very interested in cooperation but not fearful enough of contamination. Hiram, the king of Tyre, along with another citizen of Tyre, Hiram, a master craftsman in bronze, were enlisted to provide help in building the temple.

  1. If marriage with foreign women was the major factor in Solomon’s religious apostasy, what major factor in the civil arena erupted when Rehoboam became king in place of Solomon? See 1 Kings 5:13-18.

Early in Solomon’s reign, taxation and forced labor began to play a major role in his government. When Rehoboam became king the people asked for relief, but were promised heavier burdens than ever. The smoldering discontent which then burst into open rebellion had its roots in Solomon’s policies.

  1. What does the comparison between 1 Kings 6:37-38 and 7:1 suggest as to Solomon’s priorities in life?

Was the author of Kings trying to tell us something when he put two statements side by side, one saying that Solomon took seven years in building the temple, the other that he spent thirteen building his own house?

Ask yourself: Can members of the body of Christ help each other recognize the first signs of spiritual problems? How could Solomon have been helped before it was too late?

III. BELIEVER: 1 Kings 8:1-9:9; 2 Chr. 5:2-7:22

When the temple had been built and all was in readiness, Solomon summoned the country to a great convocation in Jerusalem. The ark was ready to stop its wandering. Its home was ready. Solomon determined to mark the occasion with solemn fanfare.

  1. How did Solomon recognize in his prayer the conditional nature of the promises made to David? 1 Kings 8:25-26.
  2. While he admitted that the temple could not be God’s dwelling place, what special recognition for the temple did Solomon ask of the Lord? 1 Kings 8:27-52?
  3. Indicate the special categories of people for whom Solomon prayed in his petition as recorded in 1 Kings 8:

Outcasts, repentant sinners, people in distress — those are the ones for whom Solomon expressed a special interest. His plea was that the Lord would recognize the sincerity of their prayer when they turned their eyes to the temple.

  1. What does Solomon’s posture in prayer tell us about the appropriate attitude and stance of a believer when addressing God? 1 Kings 8:22, 54-55; 2 Chr. 6:12-13.

Both accounts have Solomon standing for part of the ceremony, but kneeling for the prayer itself. Throughout Scripture, kneeling seems to be the preferred posture for prayer. It symbolizes reverence in the presence of a higher power.

On occasion, however, especially when delivering a rebuke, the Lord commands the believer to stand before Him. When Elijah fled to Mount Horeb (Sinai), running for his life from Jezebel, the Lord told him, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord” (1 Kings 18:11). Similarly, after Job’s angry words, the Lord commanded him: “Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me” (Job 38:3, RSV).

Ellen White once firmly rebuked a brother for presuming to stand for prayer when he should have knelt out of respect for God. See Selected Messages, 2:311-16. But she also wrote: “It is not always necessary to bow upon your knees in order to pray. Cultivate the habit of talking with the Saviour when you are alone, when you are walking, and when you are busy with your daily labor” (Ministry of Healing, pp. 510-11).

At crisis points in our lives and in moments of overwhelming solemnity, we fall on our knees before God. Thus we recognize that God is God and we are merely his creatures.

  1. What was the reaction of the people to the dedication of the temple? 1 Kings 8:65-66.

Ask yourself: How important is it, both for one’s personal experience and for the believing community as a whole, that God’s people to come together in large assemblies to celebrate the good things of God? Can camp meetings and/or General Conference sessions produce the same kind of buoyant togetherness as Solomon engendered with his dedicatory festival?

IV. MAN OF THE WORLD: 1 Kings 9:10-10:29; 2 Chr. 8:1-9:28

Solomon’s fame kept growing even when there were signs that his relationship to God was not as strong as it should have been.

  1. How did Solomon’s wealth and wisdom compare with that of his contemporaries? 1 Kings 10:23-25.
  2. Did the Queen of Sheba visit Solomon for secular or religious reasons — or both? 1 Kings 10:1-9.

Ask yourself: Is it possible to be heavily involved in religious activities, even talking much about our relationship with the Lord, while our spiritual life is actually dying?

V. FOOL: 1 Kings 11:1-43; 2 Chr. 9:29-31

  1. While both David and Solomon had multiple wives and foreign wives, what major difference existed in the life record of the two kings? 1 Kings 11:1-8.

During the monarchy numerous incidents reveal how important the concept of a national deity is for understanding the Old Testament. The first command did not deny the existence of other gods, but only forbid Israel to worship other gods. Solomon’s experience shows how easy it was, even for the best of God’s people, to worship another god in addition to Yahweh. While pagan nations could worship many gods with no qualms of conscience, Israel could not: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me . . . Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them, for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God . . .” (Ex. 20:3, 5).

  1. Why was God’s reaction to Solomon’s apostasy particularly vigorous? 1 Kings 11:9-10.

The author of Kings seems amazed that Solomon could still wander away after the Lord appeared to him twice in a vision warning of the consequences of apostasy. Such personal attention should have been enough to keep him in the path of right. But no, he turned to other gods. No wonder the Lord was “angry.”

  1. How does Kings describe the Lord’s role in punishing Solomon for his apostasy? 1 Kings 11:14, 23, 31.

The verses in 1 Kings 11 which describe the last difficult years of Solomon’s reign raise the question: Did the Lord directly intervene to punish Solomon? The question deserves closer attention.

God’s relationship to punishment is described in one of two ways in Scripture: 1. Actively causing punishment to fall on sin; or, 2. Simply permitting punishment as the natural result of sin. Both descriptions are biblical, though the first is more prominent in the Old Testament and is generally preferred by those who wish to stress God’s power and authority.

The story of David’s census (2 Sam. 24 and 1 Chr. 21) provides a striking illustration of how two inspired writers adopt different approaches to the same story. The author of 2 Samuel declares that “the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them” (2 Sam. 24:1). By contrast, 1 Chronicles says: “Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to number Israel” (1 Chr. 21:1).

To use Ellen White¹s phrase, the “underlying harmony” between the two stories lies in the fact that even Satan operates only with God’s permission. Nevertheless, the author of 1 Samuel chose to depict God more actively as the one who causes punishment; by introducing the figure of Satan, the author of 1 Chronicles portrays God’s relationship to sin more passively as the one who permits punishment. Both writers were inspired by God; both descriptions contribute to our understanding of God.

In the “Introduction” to the book The Great Controversy (p. vi), Ellen White discusses how the differing perspectives of the various writers contribute to the “underlying harmony” of Scripture. See also Counsels to Parents and Teachers, pp. 432-33.

While it may still be helpful and even necessary in some instances to emphasize God’s power, describing him as the one who directly inflicts punishment, a broader understanding of the great struggle between good and evil enables us to see the role of Satan more clearly and to recognize that God often simply must allow sin to take its natural course.

Ellen White generally emphasizes the latter approach when she interprets Scripture. For example, the biblical account of Israel¹s wilderness rebellion in Numbers 21:6 describes the results as follows: “Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died.” In describing the story in Patriarchs and Prophets, however, Ellen White notes that the Lord “permitted” death to come. “As the protecting hand of God was removed from Israel, great numbers of the people were attacked by venomous creatures” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 429).

Ellen White quoted 1 Chronicles 21 instead of 2 Samuel 24, choosing that view which sees Satan, rather than God, inciting David (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 747). But both explanations are biblical and fit nicely into a deeper “underlying harmony,” though a believer may still prefer one over the other.

Interestingly enough, in the story of Solomon’s downfall, the Hebrew word satan, translated as “adversary,” is applied to Solomon’s human enemies in 1 Kings 11:14, 23, 25. In light of what the New Testament tells us about our great Adversary, Christians capitalize the word “Satan” and use it to label God’s great enemy and ours. Satan’s downfall is described in Revelation 12, his destruction in Revelation 20.

Ask yourself: Are there times when I can sense God’s love most clearly if I see him directly involved in the punishment of my sin? Or is it more helpful to see him as the one who simply permits me to receive the natural results of my wrong choices?

FOR FURTHER STUDY: Comments on this week’s lesson are found in Prophets and Kings, pp. 25-86.

A profitable study involves a comparison of the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes as representing the contrasts evident in Solomon’s life. The optimistic tone of Proverbs reflects the mind of a man excited about life and its challenges. By contrast, Ecclesiastes gives us the thoughts of a man who looks back on his life and sees a great deal of vanity.

SUMMARY: Even while Solomon was at the peak of his glory, wealth, and wisdom, Scripture records tell-tale hints that point to his approaching fall. Solomon’s life illustrates the truth that spiritual life does not die suddenly, but gradually slips away as small compromises grow ever larger and more significant.

Comments are closed.