For centuries God ruled the Israelis directly, governing them through his prophets and judges. When the Israelis tired of this arrangement, they demanded a king, like their neighbors. Solomon was the third of these kings.
His two predecessors, Saul and David, were men of humble background. Solomon grew up in his father David’s palace and became comfortable with having the fine things of life. It was a trait that showed itself throughout his forty-year kingship.
In his early years Solomon made a commendable choice. While he was sacrificing in Gibeon, where the Tabernacle was located at this time, God came to Solomon in a dream and offered him whatever he wished. Humbly Solomon asked for wisdom so as to rule his people properly. It was a wish God fulfilled in abundant measure. Solomon became known as the wisest man of his time. His wisdom was sought out even by the queen of Sheba. It is wisdom we can still profit from today by reading his book of Proverbs.
Solomon was a son of the well-known Bathsheba. The son she bore David was likely his youngest son. Hence there was some tension from siblings when David chose him as his successor, but in general Solomon’s career matched his name, which means “peaceful.”
Solomon was not a man of war but rather an organizer and consolidator of what his father had won by force. His crowning achievement unquestionably was his building program. David had stockpiled vast quantities of precious metal and building supplies for the construction of an elaborate Temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem over the course of seven years. Nor did Solomon shortchange himself. He erected a royal palace that was thirteen years in building! But as we shall see, there was another reason for so large a palace.
Solomon reorganized his kingdom into twelve administrative districts, changing the traditional tribal borders. Each district was made responsible for supplying the royal needs for one month of the year. So burdensome were these requirements that there was wholesale complaint of over-taxation. Fortunately for Solomon, the crisis did not happen in his administration. His son Rehoboam was not so lucky. His insensitivity to the people’s pain led to the break-up of the kingdom and the permanent loss of the ten northern tribes.
Another weakness of Solomon’s reign was his seriously flawed family life. Eventually he accumulated a harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines (hence the need for the large royal palace). Granted, many of these were political marriages, but they took their toll on Solomon. He not only allowed his wives to keep their heathen religion, but even built worship places for them and himself became ensnared by these false religions.
As the Lord clearly indicated to the aging monarch, his unfaithfulness would be a contributing factor to losing the northern ten tribes. And yet, true to his promise, the LORD allowed this flawed son of David to be an ancestor to the true Son of David, Jesus Christ.
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