Proverbs shows Solomon at his most optimistic. However, we know that it did not end well with Solomon. He ended up being led away from God by his many wives.
In an earlier post, we saw (1 Kings 11:4 says) when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods. In fact, verse 7 says Solomon built high places for the pagan gods, Chemosh and Molech.
We also saw (1 Kings 11:9-13) God says he commanded Solomon not to build these high places but Solomon didn’t obey. So God says he will take the kingdom from Solomon’s sons, letting Solomon keep the kingdom because of David. God even raises adversaries against Solomon, but these adversaries are in other countries. Notice, despite God’s judgment, Solomon still feels no discomfort.
There are no verses saying Solomon confessed and repented. There are no verses saying Solomon took down the high places. In fact, we saw (2 Kings 23:13) the Bible says hundreds of years later, the king (Josiah) defiles the high places that Solomon built for the previously mentioned gods. Solomon never obeyed God by taking down the high places. How could someone with Solomon’s God given wisdom, end up making an unholy decision and showing a lack of wisdom in his actions?
Ecclesiastes is often used to show that wisdom is bad. People say, “Solomon is seen as wise, yet he ended up a failure”. This causes some people to conclude that it is bad to focus on wisdom. If anything, it appears to be a lack of knowledge that created Solomon’s problems.
We see the beginnings of the effects in Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes shows Solomon has lost his optimism. Essentially, Solomon says, “It’s all pointless and unprofitable.” How did Solomon go from the optimism of Proverbs to the pessimism of Ecclesiastes?
In Proverbs, we saw the Bible (Solomon) says to get wisdom. This can be done two ways. First, we can build our knowledge and understanding. Essentially, we can choose to grow and think more, not less. Then we can base our actions on this knowledge and understanding.
Secondly, we can let God influence our decisions. We called this grace. The individual must refine their ability to hear God. The problem with operating on grace alone is that it still depends on the individual’s ability to discern if they are hearing God. Humans make errors. Consequently, the individual that lives solely by grace is eventually going to be wrong. They are going to be unrighteous.
Remember, we are saved by grace through faith. It is not grace alone. We have to pair grace with faith. We’ve seen that faith believes something that we can’t see or hasn’t happened yet through experience and/or knowledge. So we are back to knowledge. Ultimately, we get wisdom by growing in faith, which is knowledge and experience. What knowledge did Solomon lack?
We saw that in Deuteronomy 17, God outlines the duty of a king and gives warnings in verses 16 and 17.
“But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.”
“Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.”
Solomon was warned not to take horses from Egypt, make silver and gold plentiful, and take many wives because they will lead him away from God. However, this is exactly what Solomon did.
“And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt…” (1 Kings 10:28)
“And the king (Solomon) made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones…” (1 Kings 10:27)
“And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his 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.” (1 Kings 11:3-4)
Solomon caused his own sufferings. The sad thing is that Solomon understood the concept of confession and repentance. In 1 Kings 8:47-50 he explains it. However, he went against God’s advice and didn’t recover.
This was not prophecy. The passages from Deuteronomy didn’t say it would happen. It said IF a king did this, it would happen. Solomon didn’t have to take horses, etc. Solomon had a free will. God tried to influence Solomon’s heart by giving him advice. Solomon didn’t let this influence come out in his actions.
Actually, there’s no way of knowing for sure whether it was a lack of knowledge, understanding, or wisdom that caused Solomon’s suffering. It would be a lack of knowledge if Solomon didn’t know or forgot about this warning. It would be a lack of understanding if Solomon didn’t understand the consequences of not regularly reading The Law. If Solomon knew this warning, but didn’t believe it applied to him, then it was a lack of wisdom.
Some people point to the end of Ecclesiastes and say that Solomon "got it".
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
Solomon may have understood the right answer, but he did not do it. Believing Solomon "got it" would be proof that one was valuing appearance and words over profitability and actions. Solomon understood...but his actions showed he lacked wisdom.
Actually, Ecclesiastes is Solomon's confession. However, we have seen he did not repent. He did not turn the other way from his sin. He did not repair the damage done and take down the high places. Over the years I have seen that the confession that is offered without repentance will eventually be retracted. Confession and repentance are two different acts. Both are necessary to remove guilt and overcome sin. The Bible says Solomon didn't repent. People who teach differently AREN'T teaching the Bible.
There is another reason for judgment being brought against Solomon. When most people read Ecclesiastes, they conclude Solomon covered every possible solution to his lack of happiness. Tomorrow, we will see that Ecclesiastes actually shows Solomon made four mistakes...