Solomon started well. When he was being installed as king he prayed for wisdom and knowledge to rule wisely rather than for wealth. Because he prayed wisely and asked humbly for wisdom and knowledge God promised him wealth as well.
However see on what basis Solomon prays “You have show great and steadfast love to David my father and have made me king in his place.” 2 Chr. 1:8. Solomon is appealing to God due to God’s covenant love (steadfast love; hesed), God’s unconditional love which he expressed when he made the covenant with David that his son would sit on his throne. We know that ultimately this applied to Jesus.
Solomon Prays for Wisdom
2Ch 1:7 In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.”
2Ch 1:8 And Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place.
2Ch 1:9 O LORD God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth.
2Ch 1:10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?”
2Ch 1:11 God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king,
2Ch 1:12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.”
As king of Israel Solomon was to follow the instructions for kings in the Torah, the Pentateuch. Deuteronomy 17:14-20 He is told in Deuteronomy 17:16 not to multiply horses.
Deut 17:16 But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the 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.
In other words he is told not to build up a great army. This is because God himself is Israel’s protector. The king is not to trust his army. To get horses he would have to send servants to Egypt to buy them because horses were not available or bred everywhere. If the king of Israel wanted to buy horses from Egypt he would have to make an alliance with them. He would become entangled politically with Egypt having to support Egypt against other enemies. The king of Israel was not to make alliances with other heathen nations. All surrounding nations worshipped false gods and often had disgusting practices, such as offering child sacrifices to Molech or fertility rituals which involved sexual immorality.
Earlier in Exodus 23:33,34 God had told Israel:
You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. "They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.
Though this and a couple other warnings are specifically relating to Israel conquering the land, they did not do as they were told and did end up in idolatry. The warning to the king in Deuteronomy is the same sort of warrning.
The king was not to build up a big army and feel secure in it. (Remember Gideon who overcame with only 300?). God was their defense.
1 Kings 10:26 And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem.
1Ki 10:27 And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephelah.
1Ki 10:28 And Solomon's import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the king's traders received them from Kue at a price.
1Ki 10:29 A chariot could be imported from Egypt for 600 shekels of silver and a horse for 150, and so through the king's traders they were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.
So, Solomon broke this command not to multiply horses (build up a big army and trust it or to enter alliances to build one up). He also sent his servants to Egypt to get them against what the Law commanded.
It was also common that to enter into an alliance a king would have to marry a daughter of the king with which he was entering into an alliance. The king of Israel was not to do this, but Solomon did it many times.
Deu 17:17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away:
1 Kings 11 tells the story of Solomon’s wives. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth (i.e. he entered into 700 alliances with heathen nations). He also had 300 concubines. Vs. 3 This was against God’s law. He had seen his father’s polygamy and fell to even worse temptation. God’s intent was always one man and one woman Gen 2:23, 24.
Solomon’s foreign wives led him astray. He worshipped false gods and even put up altars to false gods and allowed their depraved practices. Vss 4-8. He even, for instance, put up an altar to Molech (“The King”) a god who required child sacrifice. Molech was a hollow metal idol. The idol had outstretched hands up raised. The priests built a fire in the idol and then put a live baby on the hands of the red hot metal “god.” Probably Solomon was trying to be kind to his foreign wives and didn’t see a problem with them having their religion, but he fell into temptation himself. He was basically asking for the protection of all these foreign gods. Yahweh wasn’t enough. As a result God ripped his kingdom in two and his son only inherited half a kingdom.
Solomon’s wealth was world renown, but it was also wrong and a trap. God had also said:
Deu 17:17 b neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.
The King was supposed to use his wealth to free those in slavery and provide for the poor. Solomon spent his wealth on show, palaces and thrones.
For instance Solomon had to build a new throne for the princess of Egypt whom he had married. So here he shows not only that he has disobeyed God by getting horses and chariots from Egypt, he has entered into an alliance with Pharoah and married his daughter. Not only has he married her, but he wastes money on a special palace.
2 Chronicles 8:11 Solomon brought Pharaoh's daughter up from the city of David to the house that he had built for her, for he said, “My wife shall not live in the house of David king of Israel, for the places to which the ark of the LORD has come are holy.”
Solomon had completely lost his grip on his relationship with God. He had become a mighty, worldly king. He had put together a huge army. He had gotten his “tanks” from Egypt. He had made an alliance with Egypt and many other surrounding nations. He had married many, many times (700 at least) to seal these covenants / alliances. He had become a show off, showing off not his knowledge and wisdom, which lasted a while just like Samson’s strength lasted a while. He ended up worshipping disgusting and pagan gods. He displeased the Lord so greatly that half his kingdom was lost.
Deuteronomy 17:18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
Deu 17:19 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:
Deu 17:20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
Solomon and every king of Israel was supposed to write out a copy of the Law himself. He was to have the Law of God (the Torah) read to him “all the days of his life.” By listening to God’s Word he was to “learn to fear the Lord.”, not to be afraid of God, though maybe it would have helped. He was to honor God and keep his Law. He was to reverence God and yes, fear the righeous One of Israel.
However Solomon became proud. He was proud of his army. He was proud of his political acumen, making “wise” alliances. He was proud of his wealth. He was proud of his harem. He was proud of “his” wisdom. He forgot the source. He fell into idolatry.
The young king who started so well ended up breaking just about every command God had given him. He despised God’s covenant and forgot his law. He was a “great” Ancient Near Eastern king in so far as he had what they all had: wealth, a mighty army, a harem, “wise” alliances, a tolerant religious policy, fame... However, he had totally lost his way.
My professor for Pentateuch and earlier prophets said that the Chronicler had one goal: to show that all the kings of Israel and Judah fell short of what God required. At the end of 2 Chronicles Cyrus says, “Let him who will go to rebuild the Temple, go up!” The one who would rebuild the real Temple was the one who was also the Prophet, Priest, King and Sacrifice, Jesus, the only Son of God, the only true Messiah.
If anything Solomon shows us the danger of wealth and power. Perhaps the better way is the wisdom that says
Proverbs 30:7-9 New International Version (NIV)
“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.
But these are from the sayings of Agur son of Jakeh, not Solomon.