Sunday, 6 September 2015

Was Solomon a Good or Bad King? – Part 1

Early in Solomon’s reign God appears to him in a dream and offers to give him anything he asks for. Solomon, being aware of his inadequacy to rule Israel, asks the Lord for a wise and discerning heart, showing his concern for the people he has been given the responsibility to rule.

Source: Children's Bible Lessons
Have you ever started on a journey in life and in the beginning everything goes to plan, but as the journey continues you find that you get distracted and even led astray by the things that go on around you day to day, until where you finally end up bears no resemblance to the plans you had when you started out. This happened to a great king in the Bible and this article is going to look at his life and decide at the end of it if he was a good or a bad king. He was, King Solomon.

Solomon’s Reign - Solomon came into prominence towards the end of David’s life when Adonijah, his half-brother and David’s eldest surviving son, makes a bid for the throne. Solomon’s mother Bathsheba tells David of the plot and David commands Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet to anoint Solomon as King. Adonijah is summoned to Solomon after taking refuge in the sanctuary and is sent home unpunished. Later, however, Adonijah’s execution is ordered after Solomon considers him a threat along with that of his army commander Joab.

King Solomon’s reign began promisingly, following in his father’s footsteps, by offering sacrifices to God at Gibeon and showing a great love for Him, and he benefited from the peace that his father had secured during his reign. Solomon inherited an empire that was both united and powerful, and had no desire to expand it, but rather concentrated his efforts on turning Israel into a trading nation. This was made possible partly by the fleet of ships he had built, his many chariots and horses and also by the fact that the international climate at the time, was stable. Whilst this may bode well initially for Solomon’s character, Anderson suggests in his book, The Living World of the Old Testament, that Solomon’s reign is seen somewhat through rose-coloured glasses. He tells us that Solomon’s reign was very different to his father’s. David came to the throne the hard way, starting at the bottom in a shepherd’s field, into the hard and rough life of a warrior. But in his greatness he never rose so high that he was cut off from the common soil or the traditions of the Tribal Confederacy that had nourished him in his youth. In contrast Solomon was, as Anderson puts it, ‘born to the purple,’ knowing only the sheltered, extravagant life of a king’s palace. This meant that from the beginning to the end of his reign he ruled with absolute power, and cared little for the sanctities and social institutions of the former Confederacy.

Solomon’s Wisdom - Early in Solomon’s reign God appears to him in a dream and offers to give him anything he asks for. Solomon, being aware of his inadequacy to rule Israel, asks the Lord for a wise and discerning heart, showing his concern for the people he has been given the responsibility to rule. Because of his humble heart God not only answers his prayer for wisdom, but promises him wealth and honour also, (1 Kings 3:1-14).

The words Jesus spoke in Matthew 6:29, ‘Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these,’ when He referred to the natural features of the lilies of the field indicate how Solomon’s name came to be a symbol of wealth and glory. His wisdom is demonstrated when he has to judge in the case of two prostitutes who claim to be the mother of the same child; through Solomon’s wisdom the correct identity of the mother is established and the problem is resolved. (1 Kings 3:16-28)

However, the counter argument to Solomon’s wisdom and his ability to rule as a good king is highlighted by Bright in his book, A History of Israel, when he says; that Solomon exhibited in other areas of his life a blindness and even a stupidity that hastened the demise of his empire toward disintegration. One example of this is found in 1 Kings 9 where God appears to Solomon in a dream giving him a stern warning that the temple will become a heap of ruins if he or his descendants turn aside from God. Solomon immediately follows this by giving 20 cities away to Hiram king of Tyre, which involved giving away part of the land of Israel and its inhabitants.

Solomon’s Organisational Skills - Hughes in his book, Cover to Cover, points to 1 Kings 4:1-34 and comments on Solomon’s sound organisational abilities being demonstrated, when he appoints a cabinet to help him govern, and selects other officials giving them the responsibility to govern 12 districts and to administer and collect taxes from them. This may intimate Solomon’s concern to make sure everyone was treated equally and fairly. However, Anderson argues, that the actual facts in Solomon’s administration shows his lack of the common touch that would have in fact turned his dream into a reality. He also suggests that Solomon was ambitious and selfish by nature, and that his lavish court in Jerusalem was nothing more than a hall of mirrors reflecting the glory and reputation of the great King of Israel. This was in contradiction to the law given in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, which specifies that a king of Israel shall not rule autonomously but shall be guided by the book of the law given to the Levites by God.

This article has considered the reign of King Solomon, his wisdom and his organisational skills. Next week in Part 2, I will discuss his riches and power, and conclude with whether King Solomon was a good King or a bad King.  In the meantime why not take a look at the life and reign of King Solomon by reading 1 Kings chapters 1 to 11, and along with parts 1 and 2 of this article decide for yourself if indeed you feel Solomon was a good or bad king.

Author: Kevin Hunt 

May God bless and enrich your life

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