I find Solomon to be one of the most tragic figures in all of the Old Testament. Read about him in First Kings and particularly 1 Kings 10:1-11:13. He becomes king of the greatest kingdom in the world and is humble enough to ask God for wisdom in ruling over the kingdom. God granted him great wisdom and he is recognized by all as the wisest king ever to live. Other rulers came to visit and were enthralled with his wisdom and wealth. At that point, Solomon began to lose perspective. He began to believe that he was special and entitled to all that he had. Certainly making a huge throne decorated with ivory and overlaid with fine gold suggests that he was losing perspective and thinking highly of himself. Then there is his other weakness: sexual addiction. At least that is what I would call it when someone has had sexual relations with more than 1000 women. 1 Kings tells us that Solomon had 700 wives (of royal birth) and 300 concubines. In our present day, Tiger Woods has admitted to having sex with 120 women and has taken therapy for sexual addiction. Mick Jagger estimates that he has slept with approximately 4000 people. At one point Jagger went for therapy for his sexual addiction but seduced the therapist and slept with her.1
Practically speaking, many of Solomon’s marriages would be classified as brief sexual relationships in our contemporary society. Solomon did not know each of these women as long-time partners with whom he confided. They were not wives in that sense of the word. I would speculate that perhaps there was something in his relationship with the Queen of Sheba which may have been a catalyst to this bad turn of his life. The Bible relates his rapid departure from a chaste life immediately after it speaks of her visit. If Solomon were a ruler of a country today there would most certainly be a public outcry to have him seek psychological treatment.
How did a man with such wisdom fall so low? The enemy of God took advantage of a weakness in the personality of Solomon. Solomon did not deny himself the finer things of life: a large throne, a beautiful palace, and the delight of multiple sexual encounters. Other kings of this time were allowed, indeed entitled, to the finest of the women in the land (rock stars and golf pros may also be seen as entitled in our time). These women gladly gave themselves to a powerful king or, in some cases, were so bound by slavery that this was the best of many bad options for them. But Solomon was not to be like every other king in the world. He was called to a higher standard; he was called to God’s standard and he failed to live up to this. “The Lord was very angry with Solomon” (11:9); and yet he treated him with loving grace and continued to use him even as Solomon experienced serious consequences as a result of his self-indulgent lifestyle.
This is why I see Solomon as one of the most tragic figures of the Old Testament. I can learn from his prayer for wisdom and I can learn from his many wise decisions; but perhaps I learn the most from his failings. I learn that I must avoid indulging myself with good things. There are many things I have in my life that are good but they must be enjoyed with gratitude and self-control. Certainly, my sexual life with one wife must be guarded; but, also my entertainment, food, and drink must come under the Lordship of my God. “God, I pray for wisdom in all areas of my life and I pray for wisdom for the whole Body of Christ.” May we who have known the grace and mercy of God live grateful, satisfied, and self-disciplined lives.
1 Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger, 2012, Gallery Books.