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!

Born to build

Tenth in the Solomon Series

Solomon was born to build. His father charged him: Take heed now; for the LORD hath chosen thee to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do [it]. (1 Ch 28:10)

Most importantly he built the temple that replaced the foldable tabernacle in the life of Israel's worship of God, but he also built: his own palace, a palace for his Egyptian wife, cities, fenced cities, store cities, chariot and horsemen cities (see 2 Ch 8:1-6). He built houses and their settings and surroundings — he planted vineyards, made gardens and orchards, made pools of water for his trees. (Ec 2:4-6)

His predisposition for building is seen in his writing style. In the Proverbs we see a penchant for measuring and balancing thought with thought, to display just the right insight, or to make us consider what is being taught — the Lord's angle.

Even in the Song of Solomon, he speaks about building a chariot, and the description of his beloved is ticked off in a listing, orderly even though passionately observed. One aspect, her neck, reminds Solomon of a tower: Thy neck [is] like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men. (Sng 4:4). Only a builder could draw such a comparison and consider it a praise!

The beloved is brought to a banqueting house, and the couple is within in a city in some scenes, even amidst all the imagery of nature in their song. Solomon loved buildings.

The design for the construction of the temple was given by the Holy Spirit to David, and Solomon could have related these instructions to a foreman, but chose to be his own foreman. Throughout the narrative of the progress of the construction, the Bible says he was hands on:

  • Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem (2Ch 3:1a)
  • he overlaid it (the porch) within with pure gold. (vs 4b)
  • And the greater house he cieled with fir tree (vs 5a)
  • he garnished the house with precious stones for beauty (vs 6a)
  • He overlaid also the house, the beams, the posts, and the walls thereof, and the doors thereof, with gold (vs 7a)

There is a continuous telling of Solomon's direct involvement:

  • And he made the vail [of] blue, and purple, and crimson, and fine linen, and wrought cherubims thereon. (vs 14)
  • And he reared up the pillars before the temple (vs 17a)
  • he made an altar of brass (2 Ch 4:1a)
  • he made a molten sea (vs 2a)
  • He made also ten lavers (vs 6a)
  • And he made ten candlesticks of gold (vs 7a)
  • He made also ten tables (vs 8a)
  • he made the court of the priests, and the great court (vs 9a)

We understand he did not build or make these things alone or without many foremen, yet he speaks of what his hands wrought (Ecc 2:11). His oversight was personal; it was management by walking around, a popular business method; he was the builder.

Today, on the worldwide web, many references are made to the desire of the Masons, a cultish organization and religion, to rebuild Solomon's temple. As well there are many references to a visible portion of the western wall of the temple that was built to replace Solomon's temple, known as the Wailing Wall. Many Jews greatly desire their temple's restoration. And the temple holds fascination for Christians. Many believe it will be rebuilt again to accommodate the Antichrist at the end of days.

The temple is not the focus of our Solomon study. Instead, we want to know how this favored master builder and type of Christ became dark in his desires and pursuits. Without reading anything into Scripture, we want consider Solomon's ventures as they relate to our own need for warning and instruction. We will look at his trajectory to glory and follow the path of the falling star to the place where he lamented the meaninglessness of all he had built.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

Hochosterwitz 01052004 04

Search