Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, all that he did as well as his wisdom, are they not written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon? The time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. Solomon slept with his ancestors and was buried in the city of his father David; and his son Rehoboam succeeded him.
Solomon dies. Not the most exciting verses in 1 Kings but some of the most poignant as a lesson for us all. We remember Solomon as a man rooted deeply in God whose wisdom outshines all the peoples of the East, and who pens over 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs. Not a bad legacy for a 40 year reign. Leaders of the ancient world, including the Queen of Sheba, sought him out for counsel. Yet, despite his wisdom, he turned from his first love and his unfaithfulness led to dividing the kingdom.
Solomon was undoubtedly a great statesman. However, expanding trade routes put temptation in his way. Deuteronomy gives clear instructions to kings warning against three things: not to take too many wives, not to accumulate too much wealth nor acquire too many horses. Despite the warnings, lust and greed turn his head as he takes 700 wives, and 300 concubines, from foreign territories. He acquires much wealth but at the cost of high taxes and conscripted labour. He multiplies his horses (amasses a large army) despite never going to war. God warns him that the legacy of his turning will be a divided kingdom; that is what happens. When he died, Rehoboam, his son, continued his father’s oppressive policies and Israel divided from Judah and the unified kingdom ended.
Willful failure to do what God asks brings destruction. It is as simple as that. Lust, greed for power, and love for the world makes Solomon compromise his faithfulness and obedience to God. Yet Solomon’s story could be our story. It is so easy to drift away. Lust, greed and preoccupation with worldly things are still human problems. Solomon, who was once close to the heart of God – preferring Wisdom to the ways of the world – died smothered in wealth, sex and power. The story of Solomon is a sad moral tale for us all.
Merciful God, create in me a clean heart, O God. When I am steeped in the empty values of the world instead of your holiness and glorious light create in me a clean heart, O God. When I have allowed myself to be immersed in the darkness and corruption that seduces me away from being light and salt to the world create in me a clean heart, O God. When I have hung onto worthless things having a heart of selfishness and lacking a sense of awe at your Wisdom and your Word create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a loyal Spirit within me. Amen.
The Rev’d Nicola Furley-Smith, Moderator of Southern Synod