Solomon–an unhappy ending
Solomon, son of King David and Bathsheba, usually holds a place of respect in the hearts of those who read of him in the books in the Bible, I Kings, and II Chronicles. Most Sunday School lessons laid out in quarterly plans tell about his wisdom and his building the Temple in Jerusalem. Little else is said.
For those who read all of the Bible on a regular basis, Solomon is not as well respected. Readers tend to see the high and low points in his life when they see the whole story. Recently I finished a series of devotional studies in the book of Proverbs. Solomon, we are told in I Kings 4:32, wrote about three thousand Proverbs. As I finished Proverbs, I wondered about Ecclesiastes. Should I go on into that book? If not now, when?
Ecclesiastes gives us a much different picture of King Solomon. He is cynical and depressed. What happened to this positive person who wrote so many optimistic things? It seemed as if he vanished. Some Bible scholars think that Solomon did not even author Ecclesiastes because it is such a different character. Yet, verses 1:1,12 convince me it is indeed Solomon who is now forlorn, and bares his soul.
First, in my opinion, Solomon is nearing the end of his life when he penned Ecclesiastes. If older people are not careful, bitterness and cynicism can set in. They look back not with joy but with regrets. However, Solomon had a different world view. His was gifted with wisdom and riches–and women. It was those women who caused his cynical view of things. I Kings 11:3-5 gives us the insight. Solomon had 700 wives, and 300 concubines. While there are jokes at Solomon’s expense about his multiple wives, it is no joking matter. They turned his heart away from God.
Imagine the pleading of a beautiful woman, or women. “If you loved me. . .” and those pleas sent him to worship in an idol temple instead of the beautiful Temple in Jerusalem. Ashtoreth, of the Zidonians and Milcon of the Ammorites lured Solomon’s heart away. He now looked to his kingdom and saw only his own emptiness. “Vanity” he cries, “all is vanity.” The Hebrew word there is one that is also translated “empty.” All the riches, all of the material goods, all of the beautiful women could not satisfy.
His wonderful, unified kingdom was jerked away and Judah remained only because God had promised it to David. This brought peril to the now divided nation that eventually slipped into seventy years of captivity. The Temple was ransacked. There is good that can be extracted from the book of Ecclesiastes. All is not lost. Sometimes lessons can be learned from the point that we learn what not to do.
The smallest sins can be the deadliest. Ask a remorseful Solomon. “Well, just this once. . .” takes us on a path to eventual decay.