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The road from wisdom to folly is well traveled
Bible Speaks
Rev. L. Althouse

October 29, 2006
Background Scripture: 1 Kings 3.
Devotional Reading: Psalms 119:97-104.

In addition to the background scripture listed for this week, I recommend that you also read 1 Kings 11 for a more balanced view of King Solomon. Nine chapters in 1 Kings tell the story of King Solomon, son and successor to King David. For eight chapters, 3 through 10, Solomon is depicted in all his splendor and success. This is the Solomon of great wisdom, of grandiose building programs and unparalleled recognition.

In chapter 11, however, we see a different Solomon, a Solomon who no longer seems possessed of wisdom, judgment and humility. His building schemes, heavy taxation, slave labor, 700 wives and 300 concubines all testify to a man who has grown older, but not wiser. The Solomon, who so pleased the Lord in 1 Kings 3, fanned God’s displeasure into anger: “Since … you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant” (11:9).

Solomon’s dream
With that ending in mind, let us turn to 1 Kings 3 to see how it all began. First, we are told “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father.” (v. 3)

This verse saves us from making the assumption in vs. 5-14 that Solomon was simply saying and doing the things that would impress God. The writer assures us that Solomon truly loved God. Keep in mind that the Lord’s appearance to Solomon was a dream.

Whether we are to assume that God actually came to Solomon in his dream or that it was a figment of Solomon’s dreaming mind, we do not know. The Bible tells us on a number of occasions when God appeared to people in dreams, but we cannot know for certain whether this is one of those occasions. I can’t help wondering whether God would not have already known that Solomon’s reign would end in folly.

In this dream, the young Solomon appears to be very humble. In response to God’s question, “Ask what I shall give you,” Solomon replies, …”thou hast made thy servant [Solomon] king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in …” (vs. 7,8)

Scholars estimate that Solomon must have been around 20 years of age, so he is not saying he is chronologically a little child, but is as a little child in facing the heavy responsibility that rests upon him. Therefore, his one request of God is: Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people.” (v. 9)

Smart vs. Wise
The choice Solomon makes in his dream is very impressive. He did not ask for power (although he did manage to get a lot of power during his reign), he did not ask for riches (and this he would gain, too), military success (he also would have this in abundance), but wisdom.

And wisdom is not the same as intelligence, learning or mental prodigy. I have known a number of very intelligent people, very learned people and prodigies who sometimes proved not to be wise. Wisdom is not so much how much you know or how easily you acquire it, but what you do with what you know. Wisdom is not the exclusive property of intelligence.

In the dream God is impressed with Solomon’s humility and promises to give Solomon what he asked, plus: “I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you.” (v. 13)

Also, “And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and commandments, … I will lengthen your days.”

So, what happened to this once-humble Solomon? Was it that he was seduced by power, that he lost his humility or, as the writer suggests, was he unduly influenced by his many foreign wives and concubines?

We do not know, but, even though none of us are likely to rise so high, the same temptation and vulnerability to falling is no less real to any of us. The road from wisdom to folly is a well-traveled one.

This farm news was published in the Oct. 25, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.