1 Kings 11:9 (NIV)

The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.


How could a man, given such wisdom by God, turn away from God (to do his own thing)?

I have often wondered about the fall of Solomon. We are told in 1 Kings 11:4, “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (NIV). Why did his heart turn? Was it because of his wives (all 700 of them)? We are reminded that God told the Israelites to not intermarry with the people around them but Solomon did this and “held fast to them in love” (1 Kings 11:2). God gave specific instructions to the people in Deuteronomy (17:15-17) regarding kings:

  1. God must choose the king.
  2. The king must be an Israelite.
  3. The king must not acquire great numbers of horses.
  4. The king isn’t to make the people return to Egypt to get more of them (horses).
  5. He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.
  6. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

Let’s take a look at Solomon and see how he measures up to this kingly set of commandments: God chose Solomon as king (1 Chronicles 28:5). Solomon was an Israelite. 12,000 horses (1 Kings 4:26) would be considered a “great number.” He also imported them from Egypt (1 Kings 10:28). 700 wives are too many. I think that 25 tons of gold a year (1 Kings 10:14) is a large amount of gold.

Our boy Solomon isn’t measuring up well here on the Godly king scale. He starts off strong by being chosen by God and being born an Israelite was a gimme that wasn’t within his control. In all that’s been examined so far, are we just looking at the “end stages” of something else? It feels like it to me. A doctor looking at an x-ray of a lifetime smoker’s lungs is only looking at the result of smoking. Not the reasons behind smoking.

Before we look into the reason(s) behind Solomon turning away from God, I want to know if there was anything Solomon could have done to prevent his downfall? Like the smoker who picks up a pack of cigarettes with the warning on them that they cause cancer, did Solomon have such a warning that he ignored? Let’s go back to Deuteronomy 17:

When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. Deuteronomy 17:18-20

There’s the “warning label” that Solomon couldn’t have followed else we wouldn’t be discussing his fall. If Solomon had written a copy of the law for himself and read it regularly he’d have likely followed it. He wasn’t a fool, right? Here’s God who tells the Israelites in Deuteronomy 17, “You’re going to want a king when you get into the land that I’ve promised you. When you select a king make sure that he meets these requirements and doesn’t do all of this stuff. Make sure you write this down and then have your king do the same and read it over and over again for the rest of his life. If he doesn’t read this and do what it says he’s going to turn away from me and get a big head and think he’s better than everyone else.”

I think there’s an answer for the “how” part of our question, “How could a man, given such wisdom by God, turn away from God (to do his own thing)?” By not doing what God told him to do. Is it just me or does that seem too self-evident? I mean, we read the Bible and we see people mess up and we think, “I’m not going to do that,” and yet I think we do. Hindsight is 20-20. It’s easy to look back and see where someone else messed up. If only we could look at our own book that God wrote of our lives before we born (Psalm 139:16)!

I don’t think Solomon was ignorant of the law. I believe that he wrote it down, as he was supposed to, read it day after day and then every couple of days, once a week, a couple of times a month, and then whenever he thought of it. He was a busy man. He was the wisest king ever, right? Surely, he didn’t have to read that law over and over again. He wrote 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. He built the Temple of God. When people had questions, he had answers.

We can answer the question as to why Solomon turned away from God to do his own thing by answering the question for ourselves. What is it that distracts us from reading The Bible and doing what it says to do?