By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: I Kings 3.3-15
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Books of Kings in conjunction with this article.
A Man of Renown
During the last couple of months we spent time looking at the books of I and II Samuel and specifically observed Kings Saul and David. While we will be spending this month looking at I Kings, we will not take all month to examine Solomon. But to begin a look at I Kings and not look at Solomon, somehow, seems wrong. King Solomon is a very interesting man. Just mentioning the name Solomon brings to mind many things, so determining which one is most important is probably difficult. But perhaps one of his greatest characteristics must be his reputation for wisdom.
We think it impressive when a contemporary person speaks profoundly, and even regard historical utterances like, “a penny saved is a penny earned”1 to still have an impact to our thinking and living. Knowing that wise pithy proverbs have perennial power, I find it interesting that Scripture reveals that Solomon uttered an astounding 3,000 metaphorical maxims2 otherwise known as proverbs.
The term metaphorical maxim is partly derived from Strong’s definition of the Hebrew word mashal which includes the idea of similes, which is a form of literary comparison. The simile may take the form of an adage, a poem, or a discourse. Interestingly enough, a proverb can also be given in the form of a parable. Knowing this, then we can see why the King James Concordance reveals that the Hebrew word for proverb is also translated as parable in several locations.3
Knowing that Solomon was given much wisdom, and that he had great ability to speak many profound thoughts, it makes a disciple ponder how one who was so wise, could act so foolishly. Foolish in the sense that his desire for women lead him to formally marry 700 women and to take 300 wives of lesser status, known as concubines.4 It is not so much that he lived polygamously, because David, Solomon’s father, himself was polygamous. Instead, the problem was his desire for the ladies that lead him to marry non-Jehovah fearing females.
Scripture makes it evident that Solomon was eventually persuaded by the non-believers to follow the non-true religious beliefs. In essence, Solomon’s weakness for women led to his willingness to put other gods before Jehovah, which ultimately lead him away from his first love.5 Yet, even knowing his spiritual failure, the Scriptures reveal that Solomon was a man who once sought Jehovah’s guidance and that Jehovah Himself gave Solomon unprecedented wisdom.
But before Solomon ever failed, he had success. David secured the throne for Solomon6 and David counseled7 the newly crowned son of Bathsheba on how to handle certain issues and concerns. While the King James Version reveals that Solomon calls himself “a little child” it seems that we can only speculate at his age.
While Chronicles8 does mention Solomon, it seems that Scripture does not record Solomon’s age at ascension. Nor do the Scriptures seem to record the length of time between ascension and Solomon’s prayer for wisdom. However, it is my speculation, based on the series of events9 of Solomon carrying out his dying father’s wishes and marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, that it must have been at least a few months, if not more than one year after ascension when Solomon prayed for wisdom. One might ask, “Why is that significant?”
It is significant because the Hebrew word translated little can also mean young or least and the Hebrew word translated child can also mean servant and is so translated about 50 times in the King James. Several other translations refer to Solomon being a servant; this is why Solomon seems to have lost his true love. He knew who he was, and whom he belong too.
The prayer for wisdom was not a teenage boy, or young adult asking for wisdom, but rather a servant of Jehovah asking for righteous divinely given understanding (KJV). Solomon was truly seeking to please Jehovah and seeking to rule the people in a righteous manner, allowing the people to experience righteous justice.
Because Solomon was humble in his request, he was granted his desire and then some.10 The book of James encourages disciples to pray for wisdom, but wisdom is almost intoxicating. As one is blessed with understanding and wisdom, one can become haughty like Solomon. Solomon was able to speak and utter many profound pithy proverbs, but in the end lost his spirituality. Asking for wisdom while humble seems proper and encouraged by Scripture. Asking for humility while wise seems even more proper, and is also encouraged by Scripture. May we all seek to have an understanding heart, and remain humble.
1. “Penny Saved.” Benjamin Franklin’s Proverbs. http://library.thinkquest.org/J002420F/proverbs.htm, October 9, 2008.
2. “Metaphorical Maxims.” I Kings 4.32, NASB.
3. “mashal translated as parable” Numbers 23.7, 23.18, 24.3, 24.15, 24.20-21, 24.23; Job 29.1; Psalm 49.4, Psalm 78.2, Proverbs 26.7, 9; Micah 2.4, and Habakkuk 2.6; all verses KJV.
4. “Concubine.” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. p.326 ISBN-13 978-0-8054-2836-0.
5. “Lead him away.” I Kings 11.1-4, NASB.
6. “Secured the throne.” I Kings 1.1-40, NASB.
7. “David’s Counsel.” I Kings 2.1-9, NASB.
8. “Chronicles.” I Chronicles 29.22-25, NASB, II Chronicles 1.1-12, NASB.
9. “Series of events.” I Kings 2.12-3.1, NASB.
10. “His desire and then some.” I Kings 3.12-14, NASB.