King Solomon, having learned from his foolish failings, imparts powerful spiritual lessons in his short and largely autobiographical book called ‘Ecclesiastes,’ which was written in his old age.
Of all the kings of history, Solomon had the best chance to succeed. God had given the young son of King David his throne, peace, phenomenal wealth and wisdom. Also, when he became king of Israel, Solomon asked God for even more wisdom, which God granted.
As a result of God’s blessings King Solomon was wiser than anyone to that time and since with the exception of Jesus Christ Himself (1 Kings 3:10-12). “So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart” (2 Chronicles 9:22-23).
However, Solomon used his power and influence to take many wives and concubines (women of lesser legal standing than a wife). Some sources estimate he had as many as 700 wives and 300 concubines. God always intended that there be only one man and one woman in each marriage and Solomon paid the price for ignoring God’s way of life.
He let his harem of pagan wives lead him into idolatry, and his bad example led to terrible consequences for the nation of Israel. “For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God” (1 Kings 11:4).
The price was a divine prophecy that Solomon’s dynasty over the 12 tribes of Israel would end with him. His son would retain only two tribes (Judah and Benjamin—1 Kings 11:31), to be known as the house of Judah. Someone else would rule over the 10 tribes in the northern part of the country, which became known as the house of Israel. (To learn the identity of its descendants today, read the article in this issue of Bible Insights Weekly -- “The Tribe Tracker’s Guide to the Future”.)
Solomon had let God and Israel down, but he appears to have repented before he died and the autobiographical book of Ecclesiastes was very likely his final testament of truth, and his last chance to undo some of the evil done by his sinful example.
The first two chapters are autobiographical. Solomon uses himself as a case study seeking the meaning of life. He presents the theme for us all: Why are we here? ‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity’ ” (1:1-2). The context shows he is speaking of physical life “under the sun” (verse 3). Solomon had learned physical life of itself does not bring lasting fulfillment and happiness. Only a proper relationship with God will do that, as Ecclesiastes shows.
The book addresses all the opposites of human behavior and thinking: love and hate, oppression and social justice, futility and purpose, foolishness and wisdom. It also mentions the human ideals: friendship, marriage, productive work, duty, contentment and emotional balance.
Ultimately the book of Ecclesiastes and Solomon’s conclusion about human life, can be summarised in the humble profession of faith which concludes the book: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (chapter 12:13-14).