An example of a man who started wisely in life but took a tragic detour into the path of pleasure and vanity is King Solomon. Thankfully, he repented of his sins before his life was over and recorded his experiences so that future generations might learn from them. His success and failure in life rose and fell in direct proportion to how well he honored the instruction given to him by his father and mother.
Solomon’s father was King David, a man after God’s own heart. David was a man of many failures, but he was a sinner saved by grace. Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of David’s mighty men. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then plotted the death of her husband in battle in one of the darkest incidents of David’s life. God forgave David’s sin in the matter, but the consequences that followed were severe and the baby that was conceived died (II Samuel 12:9–23).
After the death of this baby, we read of the birth of Solomon. “And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him. And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD” (II Samuel 12:24–25).
Solomon was the baby’s official and royal name, but David called this son by a special name, Jedidiah, which means “Beloved to Jehovah.” Many scholars believe Proverbs Chapter 31 reveals that Bathsheba also had a special name for Solomon. In verses 1 and 4, in Solomon’s tribute to his mother, he calls himself “Lemuel”—apparently the name his mother called him, which means “dedicated to God.” David sincerely repented of his sin with Bathsheba. Both parents dedicated their son Solomon to Jehovah. Even today, many parents who sincerely repent over the sins of their youth desire that their children would avoid the same mistakes and instead walk in the Lord’s ways.
When David was on his deathbed, there was a dangerous “power grab” for the throne. Adonijah, one of David’s sons, tried to take the throne in opposition to David’s known wishes (I Kings 1:5–7). The conspiracy was strong and involved men like David’s general Joab and one of Israel’s most prominent priests, Abiathar. While Adonijah was proclaiming himself king at Enrogel with the support of Joab, David’s general, and Abiathar, David’s priest, Bathsheba entered the presence of her husband to plead the cause of her son, Solomon. David called for the loyal priest Zadok, as well as for Nathan the prophet and Benaiah, one of his most faithful commanders. These three men anointed young Solomon at the spring of Gihon. After a brief but fierce struggle, the insurrection of Adonijah was put down, the disloyal were executed, and Solomon was established in his kingdom. (See I Kings 2:24–35.)
At the very beginning of his reign, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night with this amazing offer, “Ask what I shall give thee” (I Kings 3:5). Solomon replied, very humbly, “Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? (I Kings 3:6–9).
This request pleased the Lord, and Solomon was promised not only a wise and understanding heart, but also all that he did not ask: “riches and honour.” But this reward came with a careful prerequisite: “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days” (I Kings 3:14).
Sadly, Solomon’s obedience was short-lived. His mother had warned him in his youth “give not thy strength unto women” (Proverbs 31:3). She also instructed him that “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink” (Proverbs 31:4). Solomon disobeyed his mother in both areas. He indulged freely in wine (Ecclesiastes 2:3). He multiplied wives and concubines to the extent that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (I Kings 11:3). As a result of neglecting his mother’s warning and following his own ways, according to the next verse in I Kings 11, “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.”
Solomon oversaw some glorious building projects in Jerusalem: the magnificent first Temple, the royal palace, an armory, an elevated throne of ivory overlaid with gold and guarded by statues of lions. In spite of these accomplishments, Solomon turned from the God of his parents and disregarded their instructions. After many years of pursuing his own pleasures, he wrote as “the Preacher” and announced with sorrow and contrition, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). The entire Book of Ecclesiastes is the detailed record of all that Solomon tried in his pursuit of satisfaction. Finally, he realized that he was wrong; his parents had been right. Solomon eventually returned to the Lord, but devastating results would come because of his departure from his parents’ instructions.
In the Book of Proverbs, Solomon remembered with mingled gratitude and regret the instruction given long ago by his parents, “For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live” (Proverbs 4:3-4). He earnestly advised his son, Rehoboam, to take warning from his own example: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck” (Proverbs 1:8–9).
Many a man today has received valuable spiritual instruction and examples from his Godly parents only to turn aside under the destructive influences of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Have you been guilty of forsaking your parents’ instruction or not giving them honor? One is never too old to repent and be forgiven. Are you instructing your children about the Lord and His ways? A good starting point would be to share with them the wisdom of God recorded in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. King Solomon wrote Proverbs and Ecclesiastes for the express purpose of helping future generations to avoid his tragic mistakes and to learn to heed the value of Godly parental influence. His conclusion is recorded in Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13–14: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. . . . Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”