The Fruit of Folly
The story of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon is famous. It has been fictionalized and made into something it was not.
However, it illustrates the fame of Solomon’s wisdom. The Queen of Sheba was probably from the Arabian Peninsula. She likely came from modern-day Yemen, which is approximately 1400 miles from Jerusalem. Traveling with a large train of camels as 1 Kings 10 tells us she did, the trip would have taken at least 70 days each way. This is a long time for a monarch to be away from her kingdom. However, having heard of Solomon’s wisdom, the Queen of Sheba made the trip in order to test Solomon with hard questions.
It is instructive to hear what she had to say. Here is what she said:
“Everything I heard in my country about your achievements and wisdom is true! I didn’t believe what was said until I arrived here and saw it with my own eyes. In fact, I had not heard the half of it! Your wisdom and prosperity are far beyond what I was told. How happy your people must be! What a privilege for your officials to stand here day after day, listening to your wisdom! Praise the LORD your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness.” (1Kings 10:6-9) [i]
In spite of all his great wisdom and knowledge, Solomon’s life ended on a very sad note.
This is what the Lord said to Solomon:
“Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, my chosen city.” (1 Kings 11:11-13)
Because of what Solomon had done, the Lord took the kingdom away from him. It was only because of David that his name was not wiped off the face of the earth. 1 Kings 11:6 tells us that Solomon did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. Solomon did not just behave badly, he did evil. It is one thing to say he exercised poor judgment, but it is entirely different to say he did evil.
We can learn much from Solomon’s bad example. We can learn the mistake to avoid and the way to avoid that mistake.
1 Kings 11:1 says, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites.”
In 1 Kings 3:1, we saw that King Solomon started his reign by marrying the daughter of Pharaoh. This would have been a marriage sealing a treaty. 1 Kings 11:3 tells us Solomon had 700 wives of royal birth. Since these wives were of royal birth, we can assume they were treaty marriages. However, these were not just treaty marriages to Solomon, Solomon loved these women. This is the fact that 1 Kings 11:1 is stressing. Verse 2 repeats the fact that Solomon loved these women.
There are two points that come into play here.
The first point is political expediency. Because of his great wisdom and understanding, Solomon was able to build political alliances and power through marriage. Therefore, we understand he had a strong desire or need to build his kingdom. This desire was a motivation for his many marriages.
The second point is physical desire. Wisdom did not turn off Solomon’s physical appetites. However, it did make him better able to acquire what he wanted. It is obvious from his great number of wives, money and horses that he was very good at acquiring.
The New Testament speaks of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. 1 John 2:16 lists these as all that the world offers. Solomon took the world up on all it offered, and his wisdom helped him. Solomon had more of what the world offers than any person before him, nor has any person matched him since that time.
1 Kings 11:2 says, “The LORD had clearly instructed the people of Israel, ‘You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.’ Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway.”
This verse states the clarity with which the Lord had given His instruction. In addition the Lord gave these instructions more than once. Deuteronomy 17:16-17 is a case in point when it says:
The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the LORD has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the LORD. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.
Solomon did all three of the things prohibited here. He acquired horses, wives and money. Not only that, but the first thing he did was to go back to Egypt, make a treaty and marry Pharaoh’s daughter. He might just as well have spit on a copy of Deuteronomy 17.
As for the issue of taking many wives, the Lord gives a reason for the prohibition. He says, “They will turn his heart away from the LORD.” This is exactly what happened to Solomon. It says in 1 Kings 11:4, “They turned his heart to worship other gods.” Having great wisdom was no protection from the consequences of sin.
Solomon built temples, high places and altars for these gods, and he bowed and worshipped before them. Let’s consider two of these gods that Solomon bowed and worshipped before, Ashtoreth and Molech.
Ashtoreth was a female goddess of war and fertility. She was worshipped as Ishtar, Aphrodite and Venus. Her worship was physical and involved both male and female shrine prostitutes and was lascivious in the extreme.
Molech was the protecting father of the Ammonites, and was one of the most, if not the most, detestable of false gods. The worship of Molech is most notable for child sacrifices where infants were put alive into a blazing furnace. Scripture calls this “causing children to pass through the fire.” (Deuteronomy 12:31, 2 Kings 21:6)
Not only were these foolish, lifeless idols, the worship of these idols involved evil practices beyond belief.
How could the wisest man who ever lived be so foolish?
Simple, he disregarded the word of the Lord. This is the mistake to avoid.
Some verses call it despising the word of the Lord. (2 Samuel 12:9, Isaiah 30:12, Jeremiah 23:17) Solomon showed complete contempt for Deuteronomy 17 and the clear instructions written there.
Even though the Lord clearly warned Solomon, 1 Kings 11:2 says that Solomon insisted on loving these women. 1 Kings 11:10 says, “He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the LORD’s command.”
This is the definition of folly. The wisest man who ever lived is also one of the biggest fools that ever lived. However, before we get too self-righteous, remember that Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (ESV)[ii] How are we to escape such folly?
It is simple. God gave instruction for the king and this is what He said:
“When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)
How often does the Lord say, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires?” (Psalm 37:4) How clearly does God warn us, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you” (1 John 2:15)?
God gave instructions to the kings of Israel to read God’s word every day. He gave the same sort of directions to Joshua when He placed Him over Israel as leader. He said, “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” (Joshua 1:8)
The Book of Psalms starts out by telling us that the truly happy person meditates on the Word of God both day and night.
Clearly, the way to avoid the mistake that Solomon made is to delight ourselves in God and in His word.
The fruit of Solomon’s life was horrible. His life resulted in a divided kingdom, civil war and ultimately the destruction of the nation. He introduced practices that destroyed the nation. This is the fruit of folly.
When we disregard God’s word, we are guaranteed such fruit.
What are some commands that you and I callously disregard?
Do we love our work more than our wives or families? Do we love our money more than God? Do we love our appetites more than our wives or husbands?
This is between you and God.
God appeared to Solomon twice and made it clear to Solomon what He required.
You can ask God to make Himself clear in your life. Pray with the Psalmist:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
There is hope. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
Let the fruit of folly in Solomon’s life serve to remind us of our need for a Savior and to drive us to seek God daily in His Word. No one has ever done this on their own. There is not one person who does right and never sins. This is why God gave His only Son to save us. We must start by asking Jesus to be our Savior and give us a new heart that will delight in God and His word. This is what it means to be born again. The heart you and I were born with can never submit to God. This is why Jesus said, “You must be born again.”
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.