Tragedy of Solomon (G.G.)
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The following is a 500 word essay answering the question: Read 1 Kings and Assess the statement: "The reign of King Solomon can be seen as both a blessing and a tragedy for Israel"?
Solomon's rule as king of Israel initially brought blessing to his people, however the end product of his reign was tragedy for Israel. The First Book of Kings, much more so than 2 Chronicles, presents a portrait of a young man who was filled with humility and wisdom, but over time lost his trust in a sovereign God through the pleasures and politics of the world. Perhaps the most revealing mark against Solomon was his worship of the pagan gods of his wives in the place of a steadfast love and obedience to God (1 Kings 11:1-6). As God's chosen king, Solomon was a role model for the people of Israel, and so his turning away from God truly was a tragedy for the people. It was also a disaster for the unified nation of Israel because of God's response to tear part of the kingdom away from the house of David (1 Kings 9:11).
Solomon's wisdom in his early reign was a great blessing for Israel. Solomon showed wisdom in asking God for a discerning heart (1 Kings 3:9). With this wisdom, Solomon brought justice and blessing to the people. An example of this is clearly seen in his wise determining of a child's true mother in 1 Kings 3. In wisdom, Solomon also brought blessings of great poetry and timeless proverbs to the people. Yet as Solomon became older, 1 Kings shows that he faltered in terms of personal wisdom, and was disobedient to God's command to "walk in my [God's] ways" (1 Kings 3:14).
Solomon brought the apparent blessing of economic prosperity to Israel (1 Kings 10:23) with enormous trade and wealth (1 Kings 10:14). However, much of this was a blessing to Solomon and his household rather than for the people of Israel. After Solomon's death the people cried out for a "lighter yoke" than the one Solomon had ruled them with (1 Kings 12:4) revealing that they did not consider this prosperity a blessing for them.
Under Solomon's administration, the temple was built. This was a great blessing to Israel, acting as a focal point for the worship of God. An example of this focus on God is seen at the dedication of the temple, when the people of Israel were reminded of the requirement of faithfulness to God (1 Kings 8:66). In some respects, this was somewhat a transient focus on God. Additionally, many Israelites were conscripted into forced labour (1 Kings 5:13) and taxes were high whilst the temple and Solomon’s palace were built.
During the reign of Solomon, Israel was mostly blessed with relative peace and stability and the people lived in safety (1 Kings 4:24-25). Much of this peace was achieved through clever political dealings, some of which was contrary to God's wisdom. In particular, Solomon married many foreign wives against God's expressed will (1 Kings 11:2). He had seven hundred royal wives (1 Kings 11:3), revealing that he did not seriously consider God's commands for Israel's kings (Deuteronomy 17:17). 1 Kings reveals that these wives ultimately led him away from God and turned his heart to the pagan gods of the nations around Israel (1 Kings 11:1-6). Solomon built high places to many of these gods. This was a terrible tragedy for the people, who may also have been influenced by this idolatry, and turned away from God. 1 Kings links this "late slide into apostasy with increasing [foreign and domestic] opposition" to Solomon.
After Solomon's death, the kingdom was torn into two. 1 Kings reveals that God had determined to do this because of his anger that Solomon had turned to other gods (1 Kings 11:9-13). This divided kingdom was Solomon's lasting legacy to the people of Israel. If the events that occurred after Solomon's death show the measure of his work, then ultimately, despite its many blessings, his reign was a tragedy for Israel.
- V.P. Long, T. Longman, I. Provan I. A Biblical History of Israel. (Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 255
- P.T. Culbertson. Living Portraits from the Old Testament. (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1978), 18
- J.O, Sanders. People just like us. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1978), 93
- Culbertson. Living Portraits, 9
- Long et al, Biblical History, 248
- Sanders. People like us, 97
- Culbertson. Living Portraits, 16
- Sanders. People like us, 95
- J. Bright. A History of Israel. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1959), 191
- Long et al, Biblical History, 255
- Long et al, Biblical History, 257
- D. Alexander., P. Alexander. The New Lion Handbook to the Bible. (Oxford: Lion Publishing, 1999), 285