Too Smart for His Own Good? Lessons from King Solomon’s Failures

Who was King Solomon? Was he a good king or a bad king ? How did his sin result in the split of Israel and Judah ? Let’s read the amazing story in the Bible and find out!

How Solomon became King

King Solomon is a well known historical figure even in the secular world because of his sensational life. He was considered to be very wise; grew very rich; built a temple for God; acquired lots of gold; and had 1000 women in his harem. But he did not live up to the legacy of his father David. He was not faithful to God.

Look how many laws Solomon broke that were listed in these verses! Deuteronomy 17:14-17

[14] “When you come to the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ [15] you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. [16] Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ [17] And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.

Deuteronomy 17

Solomon was the son of King David (of Israel) and his wife Bathsheba. David was the only king that God called “a man after my own heart”, yet he still sinned and had a man killed due to his own lust. However, despite that, God made an unconditional covenant with David which promised that he would always have a descendant on the throne of Israel. Ultimately, this will be the king of kings, Jesus Christ.

When David was king, he wanted to build a house for God, a temple. But God told him no, your reign has been too bloody, but I will let your son do it. He also told David that Solomon would rule in a time of peace . David gathered the many materials needed for the temple before Solomon became old enough to be king. He also told Solomon to be faithful to follow God. Later one of David’s other sons, Adonijah, hatched a plot to take over as king, but his plans failed.

1 Chronicles 22:5-13

[5] For David said, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands. I will therefore make preparation for it.” So David provided materials in great quantity before his death.

[6] Then he called for Solomon his son and charged him to build a house for the LORD, the God of Israel. [7] David said to Solomon, “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the LORD my God. [8] But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. [9] Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. [10] He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’

[11] “Now, my son, the LORD be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the LORD your God, as he has spoken concerning you. [12] Only, may the LORD grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the LORD your God. [13] Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the LORD commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed.

Young King Solomon

When Solomon became king, he worshipped God and made sacrifices on the high places at Gibeon because there was no temple. God came to him there in a dream and asked what he wanted as a blessing. Solomon asked for wisdom to be able to be a good king.

1 Kings 3:9

[9] Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

God was pleased with this request and granted him extraordinary wisdom, as well as blessings of riches and honor. Sadly, and yet not surprisingly, even this extra portion of wisdom was not enough to keep a rich and powerful man from falling into sin.

1 Kings 3:10-14

[10] It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. [11] And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, [12] behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. [13] I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. [14] And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

1 Kings 4:29-34

[29] And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, [30] so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. [31] For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. [32] He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. [33] He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. [34] And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.

1 Kings 10:23-25

[23] Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. [24] And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. [25] Every one of them brought his present, articles of silver and gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.

Proverbs 3:5-7[5] Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. [6] In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. [7] Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

Solomon fails to obey God

Unfortunately , because Solomon had taken many foreign wives who did not worship the God of Israel, he eventually followed them into their pagan religions, which God forbids and hates. He wasn’t just allowing them freedom to pursue their own religions, he was fully participating. Some extra-biblical writings also say he was very involved in occult practices. It’s not hard to imagine how having hundred of wives who are consulting with demons could possibly become a snare!

1 Kings 11:1-3

[1] Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, [2] from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. [3] He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.

1 Kings 11:4-10

[4] For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. [5] For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. [6] So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done. [7] Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. [8] And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.

1 Kings 11:11-13

[11] Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. [12] Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. [13] However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.”

God had warned Solomon , but he didn’t listen.

1 Kings 9:1-8

[1] As soon as Solomon had finished building the house of the LORD and the king’s house and all that Solomon desired to build, [2] the LORD appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. [3] And the LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your plea, which you have made before me. I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. [4] And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, [5] then I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’ [6] But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, [7] then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. [8] And this house will become a heap of ruins. Everyone passing by it will be astonished and will hiss, and they will say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’

[9] And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice [10] and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the LORD commanded.

Israel is Divided

Because of Solomon’s idolatry, God decided to remove the kingdom from him, but not until after he died. He was going to take away all the tribes but one. God told him that his servant Jeroboam would become king of Israel and that his son Rehoboam would be king of Judah.

1 Kings 11:40

[40] Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam. But Jeroboam arose and fled into Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.

After Solomon’s death, Israel was going to follow Rehoboam, but Jeroboam came back from Egypt. After Rehoboam foolishly told the people he was going to make their lives even more difficult, they decided to follow Jeroboam; but the tribe of Judah made Rehoboam their king . They prepared for a battle to retake Jerusalem from Jeroboam, but the prophet Shemaiah told them that God did not want them to fight against Israel and that this strange situation had been arranged by God.

1 Kings 12:19-20

[19] So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. [20] And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only.

Note: Evidently the tribe of Benjamin was included with Judah.

After Jeroboam became king of Israel, he began to fear that the people would want to go offer sacrifices in Jerusalem and they would end up making Rehoboam king again. So he acted foolishly by creating two golden calves and telling the people to worship them instead and he appointed an alternative feast day. He reigned for 22 years and did many other evil things.

Rehoboam also lead his people in Judah into sin with Asherim and idolatry and all of the abominations of the nations that the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

1 Kings 13:33-34

[33] After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. [34] And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.

A Sad Ending

Solomon ruled for 40 years. He is mostly remembered for his wisdom and temple and gold and many wives. But his sin and idolatry had long lasting effects for God’s people and his own family.

Later in his old age he reflected upon what he had learned from his life of great wisdom and riches and his failures in the book of Ecclesiastes . Vanity! All his wisdom and riches and pleasure-seeking was all for nothing in the end, he said.

Ecclesiastes 1:18[18] For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Lessons learned

What can we learn from the dramatic life of Solomon?

First we see that having the ability to discern good and evil is useless and even dangerous when it’s not combined with obedience to God’s authority. True wisdom comes from trusting God, seeking God, and living the way God commands us to live. Solomon’s fleshly desire for women was stronger than his desire to obey God. This led to his downfall. Nothing has changed in today’s world, the sex drive controls many people.

Second, when Solomon became involved in idolatry, which means demonically controlled religious activities, he was no longer under God’s blessing. This is still a danger today! Be careful that you do not invite demons into your life through pagan religious practices.

Third, we can compare David’s sin with Solomon’s. David consistently repented in sorrow and sought God when he sinned. His love for God was strong. We don’t see that with Solomon. His reflections In Ecclesiastes seem to indicate his regrets for his life choices, and he advises the reader to fear God and keep his commandments, but we don’t have a record of him turning back from his idol worship before this . However we can recall that he loved God and worshipped him as a young King, so hopefully he did repent.

And last but not least, we see that Solomon’s sins affected many generations of his own family as well as all of Israel. We must be careful because our sins can have lasting effects on others.

Most importantly, we should read Solomon’s story as a cautionary tale, a story of regrets caused by pride, not a story of a wise king. Wisdom comes from God. Being ‘smart’ without being humble towards God can lead to all kinds of trouble.

Colossians 2:20-23

[20] If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—[21] “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” [22] (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? [23] These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.


  1. Amen! Well done.

    I really like the phrase, “…lean not into your own understanding..” It just reminds me that we can have the wisdom of Solomon and still get it wrong.

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