1 Kings 3:3-28; 4:21-34; 5:1-12; 8:1-53
Solomon succeeded his father David. During this time, he had a lot of responsibilities resting on his shoulders. As was the custom, Solomon went to Gibeon to offer sacrifice to God. The Lord appeared to him in a dream and said: “Ask what I shall give you” He asked for wisdom – (1 Kings 3:7-9).
“And now, O Lord my God, thou has made thy servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people whom thou hast chosen, a great people that cannot be numbered or counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people” (1 Kings 3:7-9)
Solomon’s request pleased God so exceedingly that he granted him his request. He also added to him riches and honour. Solomon therefore brought his wisdom to bear on his judgement of cases, especially, the case involving two harlots who lived in the same room. They both had babies. One of the babies died and the two mothers now lay claim of the living baby. Solomon now ruled that the living baby be cut into two and each half be given to each woman.
However, the real mother of the living child wept and asked the king not to slay the baby, instead, it should be given to her rival, who insisted that the baby be divided. From their utterances, Solomon knew the real mother and gave her the baby.
This rare display of wisdom made Solomon famous in nearby countries as people came from far and near to behold his wisdom. Apart from judicial matters; his wisdom also manifested in other ways. In all, Solomon spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs were a thousand and five. He was reputed to be the wisest man then.
He made arrangements with King Hiram of Tyre to supply him Cedar and Cypress timber for the building of the temple while Solomon gave him a yearly supply of twenty thousand cors of wheat and twenty thousand cors of beaten oil (1 Kings 5:10-11). With these imported materials, Solomon built his own house, the house of the forest of Lebanon as well as the temple of the Lord. After this, the temple was dedicated to the Lord in Jerusalem.
- Solomon succeeded his father David on the throne.
- At Gibeon, as he went to offer sacrifice unto God, the Lord appeared to him in a dream asking him to request for whatever he wanted.
- Solomon requested for wisdom to rule his people. God was pleased with that because he did not ask for wealth or the death of his enemies. The Lord granted his request and promised him wealth and honour.
- Solomon’s wisdom was soon put to practice as he judged two prostitutes giving them the right judgement.
- His wisdom spread far and wide among other nations.
- This made people from other nations to come and listen to him.
Unwise Policies of Solomon and Rehoboam/How Solomon Misused His Wisdom -1 Kings 9:15-23; 11:1-13; 12:1-20
There was peace during the reign of Solomon. This made him live in luxury. He embarked on expensive projects and wasted a lot of human and material resources. The following were Solomon’s unwise policies which made his wisdom short-lived:
- He embarked upon very expensive, wasteful and gigantic ventures or projects. He built his own house which took thirteen years, built the house of the forest of Lebanon, temple and other white elephant projects. All the structures were in very expensive materials and precious stones. Thus, he was seen as very extravagant and wasteful.
- The people paid through their noses as they were heavily levied. The people were also subjected to forced labour.
- He married from countries God had warned the Israelites not to marry from. This resulted in these women turning his mind away from God by making burnt offerings and sacrifices to the gods of these heathen nations. Each of them brought her own native god and Solomon erected altars for them against the will of God.
- He had an uncontrollable desire for women. Altogether, he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. This was very unbecoming of a king whom God loved dearly. Solomon’s reign was short-lived.
This led to the fall of Solomon and the division of Israel as a nation. He died and his son, Rehoboam reigned in his stead. This decision by God to divide Israel was actually fulfilled in the days of Rehoboam.
Rehoboam’s Unwise Policy
Rehoboam was made king in Shechem. Hearing that Rehoboam had been made king, Jeroboam returned from Egypt where he had gone to seek asylum after going into self-exile for fear of Solomon. Jeroboam saw the death of Solomon as opportunity to divide the country, hence he came to Rehoboam and said: “Your father made our yoke heavy. Therefore, lighten the hard service of your father and we will serve you:” (1 Kings 12:4)
Rehoboam, replied, saying they should come back after three days, during which he sought counsel from his father’s advisers who told him to listen to the people’s request. However, he rejected the counsel of the elders but took the advice of his age mates who advised him to increase the people’s burden. When Jeroboam and his people returned after three days, Rehoboam spoke to them according to the youngmen’s advice.
Rehoboam’s expensive taste made him over-burden his own people with unbearable taxes. Things started falling apart and there were lots of enemies that rose against him including Jeroboam. Prophet Ahijah had earlier assured Jeroboam that God would make a sizeable portion of Solomon’s kingdom to fall into his hands.
Jeroboam became king over the ten tribes of Israel known as the Northern kingdom, while Rehoboam reigned in Judah. Thus, Rehoboam’s unwise decisions and diplomatic blunder led to the division of Israel which David toiled to build. Solomon is certainly to blame for this, owing to his unwise and obnoxious policies.
If Solomon had not levied the people so much and made their yoke heavy, they would not have sought for the reduction of the yoke or burden. His son learnt this from him and now see the consequences.
Consequences of Solomon’s Misuse of His Wisdom
- Solomon married wives from other heathen countries, these women introduced their native gods into Israel, and even built altars for them. God was angry. Therefore, God decided to take the kingdom from him and give to his servant Jeroboam, giving only one tribe to Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) for David’s sake.
- This singular act of Solomon brought to an end, Israel’s ageless corporate existence as a single entity.
Lessons to Learn From Solomon’s Mistake
- No matter how much God loves anyone, once he disobeys God, God punishes him.
- We should be conscious of the fact that whatever we do, our children are watching us. Rehoboam took after his father in this regard.
- The words of the elders are always the words of wisdom. If Rehoboam had listened to the elders, the kingdom would not have been divided.
- It is not good to have very high taste as Solomon, as we can meet with problems in the course of attaining it.
- Excessive desire for women can be risky. We must guard against this. Solomon’s sensual life led to his fall.
- Sometimes it is good for us to marry from our own tribes or within to avoid marrying women who are idol worshippers.
- It is unwise for leaders to enslave their people to meet their selfish desires for material things.
- Our leaders should learn to be diplomatic and wise instead of Rehoboam’s arrogance and stupidity which made him not to manage the looming crisis.
- We should not allow our success and praise of men to go into our head as in the case of Solomon.
Upon assuming office as king of Israel, Solomon sought wisdom from God, which God granted him, with wealth and fame. Thus, he became the wisest man around then. However, he fell short of God’s favour when he began to marry from such countries that God warned Israel not to marry from, e.g. Canaan and Philistia. As a result, the wives introduced their native gods in Israel and soon, the worship of such gods gained ground. Solomon even built shrines for these gods.
Thus, God divided the kingdom of Israel into two and gave only one tribe to Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, while Jeroboam (Solomon’s former aide) became the king of Israel (Northern Kingdom). It was Rehoboam’s tyranny which he copied from his father that made the Northern kingdom to break-away. However, the division of the kingdom of Israel began from Solomon’s unwise policies.