God answers prayer

Thirteenth in the Solomon Series

Before he died, David amassed the precious metals and stones, the iron and bronze and much of the wood that would be needed for building the temple, and he led the people in giving freewill offerings for the house of the Lord. He prayed: Grant to Solomon my son that with a whole heart he may keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision." (see full prayer - 1Ch 29:10-19)

We know that David's prayer was answered; that Solomon built God's house, and kept and performed the Lord's statutes, at first. However, "when he was old," (1 Ki 11:4) Solomon's wives...

turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as [was] the heart of David his father.
For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as [did] David his father.
Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that [is] before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.
And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.
(1Ki 11:4-8)

Although Solomon continued to worship in the temple, his loyalties were divided. Some commentators say he did not worship with his wives, but accommodated their worship practices; others say he joined his wives in idolatrous worship.

His actions and divided heart brought God's judgment:

"Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which 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 which I have chosen."
And the LORD raised up an adversary against Solomon…
1 Ki 11:11-14a

Thankfully, as noted at the start, Solomon's father had prayed for him. At first, it seems the prayer was forgotten after a time, as we consider the shameful backsliding (perhaps not a strong enough term), and that a divided heart resulted in a divided kingdom.

Yet, Solomon did turn back to God's Word. We see this turning in Ec 7:29, Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

Solomon's acknowledgement that God made man upright shows us that he believed Genesis, that man was created in the image and likeness of God, but later fell and thereafter pursued all sorts of devious paths to pleasure and enlightenment leading to gloom.

The context of Ec 7:29 shows that Solomon realized that his downfall had been brought about by his invention of marriages, as though that was allowable for a king. Yes, some sultans and kings of nations in that region had similar harems, but Israel was meant to model righteousness, not to imitate the opposite.

I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason [of things], and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness [and] madness:
And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart [is] snares and nets, [and] her hands [as] bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.
Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, [counting] one by one, to find out the account:
Which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.
Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
(Ec 7:25-29)

Solomon understood he had been foolish; snared by loose women because he was sinful, but he could not exactly understand why he had not been enabled or able to avoid the fetters of willful abandon. After all, was he not the wisest man in the world? Nevertheless, he would acknowledge that one man in a thousand was worthy of his admiration — that not all men were sinful as he understood he was; but no woman could claim his praise.

Perhaps his disappointment in himself and extreme focus on his own sins prevented him from seeing any good in women, generally.

In discouragement, all seems lost. Pray!

Love... to the point of distraction

Twelfth in the Solomon Series

Solomon's favorite wife was a dark-complected beauty from out of Egypt. She was "black, but comely," and entreated, Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; [but] mine own vineyard have I not kept.. (Song 1:6)

Many theologians view that statement as describing the church, and understand the Song of Solomon as an allegory of the love of Christ for his bride, the church. This is a beautiful view.

Other commentators see this Song or poem as Solomon's celebration of his marriage to Pharaoh's daughter and his devotion to this special wife. It can be enjoyed as both a parable and a true love story.

In the description of her as "black, but comely," we see a desire on her part to be acceptable, even though foreign in appearance. Perhaps Solomon enjoyed this striking contrast. Yet, even more, what he found in her was a special match for his spirit, in the sense that she had personality traits that were magnetic to him. She was exuberant, feisty, determined, desirous, confident, alluring, expressive, engaging, lovely, and of course, she was head-over-heels in love with him. And gorgeous.

He could also identify with her love for her family, since he loved his, too. In the poem her brothers are her protectors and she speaks of her desire that Solomon could be as one of them; she would then feel acceptable. (Song 8:1) Yet Pharaoh's daughter was cosmopolitan in her desire to marry outside her realm, to journey to Israel and consort with the most important king of the known world.

Some commentators believe she was a proselyte to the Jewish faith since she is never mentioned as one who drew Solomon's heart away from God; however, the palace he built for her was outside Jerusalem. Why? If she was really a "Ruth," would she not be nestled in the dwelling place of the king?

So, how did this union come about?

In the Song, Solomon notes, There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number. (Song 6:8) Does this mean he had 60 wives and 80 concubines and countless maidens at the time he consorted with Pharaoh's daughter? Continuing, he writes, My dove, my perfect one, Is the only one, The only one of her mother, The favorite of the one who bore her. The daughters saw her And called her blessed, The queens and the concubines, And they praised her. (Song 6:9)

It is unclear whether an Egyptian harem or Solomon's approved of her. Perhaps he already had the sizable harem, but Pharaoh's consorts were those who specially approved of this darling daughter. In any case, of all his wives and so forth, Solomon loved her best, at least for a time.

In 1 Kings 3:1 we read, Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh, king of Egypt. His marriage to Pharaoh's daughter was an alliance that recognized Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up, and taken Gezer, and burnt it with fire, and slain the Canaanites that dwelt in the city, and Pharaoh then gave it as a dowry for her. (I Ki 9:16)

I have not found why Pharaoh attacked Gezer. Did he know the territory was a city of the Levites that was under occupation by Canaanites? Was it his way of making an alliance with this favored man of God? Suffice to say, Pharaoh helped Solomon to secure his borders and expand his kingdom and in return gained a son-in-law. But it wasn't strictly business for Solomon. He gained a love that was better than all his others — a soulmate: The desire of his heart.

Yet, we know how the story ends: Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. The blood shed in conquering Gezer was not valued over the long term. Gezer was built, the special palace for his Egyptian wife was built, but the seal that was set was broken, even though love ought to be "as strong as death":
Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love [is as] strong as death, Jealousy [as] cruel as the grave; Its flames [are] flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised. (Song 8:6, 7)

In passion many words are spoken, but in Solomon's day, the expectations for the king tended to distract him. He distracted himself, too. Or, as Solomon later would lament, Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. (Ecc 7:29)

Inventions? What are these? Man, upright? How? We will look at these in the next Solomon post.

Don't forget...

Eleventh in the Solomon Series

If we want to know what Solomon looked like, we have a description in the Song of Solomon (Song 5:10-15). He had a very fine appearance: light skin with red tones, thick black hair, blue eyes — probably, since they are like doves eyes by the rivers of waters — reflecting the color of the water. He had an agreeable face and strong hands and legs; an upright figure, like the cedars of Lebanon.

He was a type of Christ in his legendary wisdom and reign of peace. It is written: He loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father" (1 Ki 3:3).

However, somewhere along the way as he spoke 3,000 proverbs, wrote 1,005 songs, exposited the innerworkings of the natural world, and was visited by people from all over and the kings of the earth who wanted to hear his wisdom (1 Ki 4:29-24), he began walking away from the law. He forgot it.

He began gathering horsemen and chariots: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, which he placed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem. (2 Ch 1:14)

In Matthew Henry's commentary on 2 Chronicles, we are reminded about what Moses instructed Israel regarding any future king:

He gathered chariots and horsemen. Shall we praise him for this? We praise him not; for the king was forbidden to multiply horses, Deu. 17:16. I do not remember that ever we find his good father in a chariot or on horseback; a mule was the highest he mounted. We should endeavor to excel those that went before us in goodness rather than in grandeur.

A review of Deuteronomy 17 lists some things that a future king of Israel must not do:

  • He shall not multiply horses to himself…
  • Neither shall he multiply wives to himself…
  • neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. (Deut 17:16-17)

Instead, he should:

  • write him a copy of this law in a book out of [that which is] before the priests the Levites:
  • And it shall be with him, and
  • he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them… (Deut 17:18-19)

Yes, the man who would be king of Israel should not only read God's Word, he should also write a copy of it. He would need his OWN copy. What we write, we are better able to remember.

He must keep it close at hand and read it daily to maintain a healthy fear of the LORD, to safeguard against sin, and to know God's law in order to perform it.

It seems likely, based on reading the Proverbs, that King Solomon had written himself a copy of the books of Moses. However, perhaps at some point he set it aside. He did not read it frequently enough, for we learn that he had lots and lots of horses, wives and gold:

  • …Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. (1 Ki 4:26)
  • …he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. (1 Ki 11:3)
  • And all king Solomon's drinking vessels [were of] gold... it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon. (1Ki 10:21) ...Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold (1 Ki 10:14)

So, the first thing we can learn from our Solomon study is to always have a Bible nearby, and to read it daily, even if we have read it for decades, even if we don't feel like it, no matter how busy we are.

We should also write or type the Words of God, to help our ability to recall its guidance quickly and accurately. Copy and paste does not count!