“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.”
– 1 Kings 3:9-12
The Old Testament – A Brief Overview
David ordained that his son Solomon become the next king. He then gave Solomon the plans for the Temple and said:
1 Chronicles 28:9-11 “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. “Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it.”
Soon after this, the Lord appeared to Solomon and offered him anything he wished for:
I Kings 3:5-14 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. “And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge these great people of Yours?”
The speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, “behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. “And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honour so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. “So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”
Afterwards, Solomon became Israel’s most magnificent king. He built the marvellous Temple and God’s favour was with him. When he had finished the Temple he made sacrifices and said a public prayer:
I Kings 8:27-30 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! “Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today: “that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place. “And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive. . .”
Then God revealed His glory:
2 Chronicles 7:1-3 “When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD’S house. When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever.”
During his reign, he made Israel a world power and great wealth flowed into the kingdom. He had such great wisdom from God that people came from distant lands to here him. He taught many proverbs and wrote Ecclesiastes and Songs. Yet Solomon did more than any other king to break down the kingdom and to destroy its true foundations. His biggest mistake was in disobeying God by taking many wives and marrying the daughters of foreign kings. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He allowed them to build altars to “Astarte” (Ishtar in Babylonia and Astoreth in Phoenicia) the fertility goddess and other pagan gods.
The instructions in the Law for a king were as follows:
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 “When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ “you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. “But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ “Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.
“Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. “And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, “that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.”
Though Solomon was gifted with incredible wisdom, his heart led him astray. Toward the end of his life troubles began to appear through powerful factions, and enemies raised up both within and without the nation. Though Solomon made Jerusalem one of the wonders of the world, the kingdom was ready for a collapse. When Solomon died (about 922 BC) the kingdom split in two.