The life of King Solomon is one of my favorite wells to soak in inspiration and wisdom. It’s easy to gloss over the complexities when you read the Scriptures, but there’s so many layers to unpack. It’s a story of lust, strategy, triumph, and tragedy. Not to mention, captivating. Makes “Game of Thrones” look like child’s play.
When it comes to Solomon, we’re a talking about the son of one of the most powerful kings who ever lived, whose mother was seduced, and her first husband was sent to his death. We’re talking about a man who witnessed as his family turned on each other for the sake of greed or revenge. A man whose sister was raped by a half-brother. A man who received the greatest wisdom and wealth ever bestowed…and yet he threw it all away by putting the love of women before his love of God.
So, let’s back it up and really dive into who he was and what he saw as a young child that shaped the king he’d grow up to be.
The Adultery of David and Bathsheba
King David…Everyone knows the story of David and Goliath. It’s a childhood classic. The smaller, younger David defeated the 9-foot giant of a man in Goliath by slinging a stone to the Philistine’s head. Of course, it wasn’t David acting on his own. God (Jehovah) was with him. It was God who guided the stone that killed Goliath.
But even before he killed Goliath, hahaha! You get a sense of David’s zeal when he visited his older brothers on the battlelines and saw Goliath taunting the Israelites to combat.
Young David’s response in 1st Samuel 17:26 was “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
David is one of the few (if not, the only) men in the Bible where it is said that he had a heart after God himself. And I don’t think that should be overlooked. It’s like I always say, the New Testament teaches you the Gospels (Greek, for good news). But the Old Testament teaches you about God’s character, his personality. Yes, there is a lot of death and destruction, but there’s usually a cause and effect.
Back before David slew Goliath, he was just a shepherd boy, the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons. God had anointed David to replace King Saul because Saul disobeyed God’s command to destroy the Amalekites. (1st Sam. 1:15) The Amalekites were a group of people who had attacked and raided the Israelites generations earlier when they were out in the desert wilderness for 40 years. Thus, God declared he would blot out the Amalekites…out of love and vengeance for his chosen people.
When King Saul disobeyed by failing to kill the women and children, I believe he was leaning upon his own human empathy and understanding instead of trusting in the word of God. A lesson we can relate to today when you hear people criticize Christ’s teachings because they personally don’t understand or think it’s mean and intolerant.
When David became king with God’s backing, he set out to expand Israel’s borders and eliminate God’s enemies, we’re talking about pagans who worshiped false Gods and sacrificed their children…an abomination in the eyes of Jehovah. So yes, while David was known for his musical talents, dancing in the streets with his people and his zeal to do what’s good in God’s eyes…he was also a warrior king. He killed thousands.
And though he clearly had a love for God…David wasn’t perfect. That’s not to make light of what he did. What King David did was horrible, diabolical even by today’s standards. David was already married with children of his own. And in 2nd Samuel Chapter 11, we learn that while David had sent his commanders and soldiers out to fight the nations of Syria and Ammon, David stayed in Jerusalem.
And there…one afternoon, as he was walking on the rooftop of his home, King David spotted Bathsheba bathing from afar. The Bible describes her as a very beautiful woman. David sent to inquire about her. He learned that she was married to one of his soldiers, Uriah…but still had sex with her anyway. And when David found out she was pregnant, he attempted what we see a lot of people doing more and more these days. Paternity Fraud.
Paternity fraud is nothing new. For those who don’t know, Paternity Fraud is when a man is deceived, whether it’s intentional or not, into believing that a child is biologically his, when in fact, the child is actually the son or daughter of another man. Cuckled, I believe is another term for it and even in the U.S, there are little laws for protection or recompense for men who fall prey to it.
When King David found out Bathsheba was pregnant, the first thing he attempted was to facilitate paternity fraud. As if bedding his soldier’s wife wasn’t bad enough, David brought Uriah back from the war and encouraged Uriah to lay with his wife for a night before going back to the war.
But Uriah…wanting to be a good soldier and set an example for his men, didn’t go home. He slept alongside the other servants and told King David that he couldn’t in good conscience go home and enjoy his wife, knowing that his brothers-in-arms were at war. So David smoozed him some more with drinks and then sent him back to the field.
In 2nd Samuel 11:14, we learned the King David wrote to the commander and said, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down and die.”
When Bathsheba learned that Uriah had been killed, it’s written that she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent to have her brought to his house and she became his wife. These were the parents of King Solomon.
Just because all this is written in the Bible…it doesn’t mean God approves of such behavior. That’s what I don’t get when people say things like, “Slavery’s in the Bible!” or “See! David had multiple wives”…God was greatly disappointed in David. He sent his prophet Nathan to rebuke David for his behavior and as punishment, David and Bathsheba lost their first son…the one she was pregnant with before Uriah was killed.
One of the most important lessons we can learn from David, is that unlike many future kings, David almost always shows remorse, regret, and contrition when he offends our Heavenly Father. He showed remorse when Nathan rebuked him in the matter of Uriah’s death. He showed remorse after the vanity of wanting to take a Census over all of Israel.
However, just because God is a merciful and forgiving father…it doesn’t mean we don’t have to live with the consequences of our mistakes. King David’s life was full of victories…but his actions jeopardized his kingdom and set into motion the turbulence that led to Solomon’s traumatic childhood.
The Rivalry of Brothers
When it comes to King David…most people know about his “son”. Meaning singular. They know about Solomon. The thing is, King David had eight wives. He had over eighteen sons and daughters. Some were half brothers and sisters, and some had the same mom and same fathers. This is very important to keep in mind.
Before Solomon had risen to prominence as David’s most famous son…there was another. Solomon was just a child when his older brothers had the spotlight. And among the 18 siblings, the one favored by everyone including King David for his beauty, strength, and courage was a man named Absalom.
In the scriptures, little is known about his military exploits before the events of 2nd Samuel Chapter 13, but from my reading, I think it’s safe to assume Absalom’s influence with the military was significant. As you’re about to see.
As I mentioned, David had eighteen sons and daughters by eight wives. The eldest son, was a man named Amnon. Amnon had a problem. He was deeply in love with his half-sister, a woman named Tamar.
Tamar…was the full-blooded sister of the more charismatic and powerful Absalom. You get a sense of the family dynamics in 2nd Samuel 13:4 where Amnon tells his best friend and fellow cousin, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”
In Chapter 13, we learn that Amnon pretended to be ill and when King David came to see him, Amnon requested for Tamar to come and make cakes for him to eat. Seems harmless, right?
But when Amnon sent everyone out of the room so that Tamar could feed it to him alone, he took hold of Tamar and encouraged her to have sex with him. She said no. She begged him not to violate her, telling him that it’s outrageous and would put her to shame.
In verse 14, it says that “he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.” …This is rape…
And once he was finished, verse 15 tells us that his love for her so quickly turned to great hatred. Amnon ordered Tamar to get up and go, but she was beside herself grief and anguish, saying “No, my brother, for this is wrong, in sending me away is greater than the other that you did.” That’s when Amnon called for a guard to put her out of his presence.
Ladies and gentlemen…shouldn’t be too hard for us to comprehend the magnitude of injustice, anger, and rage. If I feel this as a spectator born in 1986, over 3,000 years since the crime took place…can you imagine how Prince Absalom felt when he found out what his older half-brother did to his sister?
Absalom shows his cunning, I think, proving himself to be a strong man not just physically, but mentally. A lot of people, when they think of strength, they assume it’s the one who shouts the loudest and unleashes his temper whenever provoked. Allow me to explain the difference between revenge and a reaction:
If you walk up and hit me with the intent to cause harm…regardless of who you are, one shouldn’t be surprised if I haul back and knock the brakes off you. This isn’t revenge. It’s a reaction provoked in the heat of the moment before I’ve had a chance to calm down and think about what’s going on. Good or bad, this isn’t evil…its instinct, in which, the reaction varies from person to person.
What’s not good, however, is for me to think about what you did and carry that anger for weeks or months, just plotting to get back at you for what you did. When Christ teaches us to forgive, its things like this that he’s talking about. There’s a scripture about turning the other cheek…I don’t believe that relates to simply letting someone beat you down, but to let go of that anger and forgive them once the confrontation is over, or at the very least, once you’ve returned to your senses.
Forgiving what Amnon did to his sister Tamar…that’s rough. I’m not about to sit here and judge Absalom for his action or how he chose to handle that. But here’s what the scriptures say: “When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry. But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad, for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had violated his sister Tamar.” (2nd Samuel 13:21-22)
When I read those scriptures, I surmised that Absalom plotted his revenge, calculated it, and never let on that he was seething with rage. This shows cunning, because starting in verse 23, we learn that he exacted his vengeance two years later. That’s two years, 365 days each of holding back, of keeping all that anger bottled up inside to unleash at the right moment.
Two years after the rape of Tamar, Absalom hosted a feast and invited all his brothers; one could assume a young Solomon was there.
Absalom instructed his servants to get Amnon, the eldest brother, drunk. And when he gave the command, the servants struck Amnon dead. It was during such chaos that all the brothers thought they were in danger. Each took to their mules and fled. News flew faster, and King David received the fake news that all his sons were killed by Absalom. He eventually learned the truth, however, and Absalom was forced to flee to his grandfather’s kingdom in Geshur. He stayed there for three years.
Despite what happened, David still loved and favored Absalom. Keep in mind, young Solomon’s alive and bearing witness to all of this. After three years, David allowed Absalom to come back to Jerusalem but to live in his own house and out of his presence. I’m assuming this means away from David’s home and places of business.
But as I alluded to earlier…Absalom was a ridiculously popular figure. In 2nd Samuel 14:25, it tells us that “in all Israel there was no one so much to be praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom.” Absalom exuded everything they wanted in a king.
After living in Jerusalem for two years, yet out of the king’s presence, it was only a matter of time before Absalom felt it was time for him to displace his father as king. He rallied the people against his elderly father, and it got to the point that King David had to flee Jerusalem with Solomon and his royal household.
It was a civil war where David faced numerous adversities, even being cursed by a man named Shimei from the house of Saul…a figure Solomon would remember when he becomes king. In the end, Absalom’s forces met with King David’s to battle in the Woods of Ephraim and there, Absalom was killed. The scriptures say that Absalom was fleeing from battle when his head (likely hair) got caught on the branch of a tree and he was hanging there…before Joab killed Absalom with three javelins (or spears).
SOLOMON’S ASCENSION TO THE THRONE
As King David’s eventful life was drawing to a close, time came for him to pick his successor. Who would be the next ruler of one of the most powerful nations in the known world? Well, King David swore to Bathsheba that their son Solomon would be his successor.
In 1st Chronicles 28:9, King David tells Solomon to “know the God of Israel” with a whole heart and a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.
This is something no one should take lightly. When it comes to our heavenly father, there is no privacy. Your thoughts are not hidden from his sights. Your wants, your motives, your intentions, God sees it all. This shouldn’t be disparaging, but instead, comforting.
If you read the scriptures and believe, then you should know that whatever you’re afraid of admitting or confessing, God already knows about it! God already sees it in your heart. Thus, you should pray to Him for strength and guidance.
Solomon was taught this as a young man even before God appeared to him in his dream. Think about it. As King David lay dying, charging, entrusting his beloved Israel to his son, Solomon had already seen so much. He knew his father’s mistakes, his triumphs and losses. He witnessed the conflicts and internal strife of his older brothers…and it wasn’t over yet.
While David had chosen Solomon to be the next king…Solomon still had another older brother who tried to seize the throne for himself. I’d like to point out, siblings squabbling for the throne aren’t exclusive to Israel or God’s chosen people. Just recently, I’ve been doing research on the Ottoman Empire and for generations, it was basically an accepted tradition that when the Sultan dies, the next Sultan would have his brothers strangled to eliminate all threats. And sometimes, these sultans would have as many as 15-20 brothers. All dead in an instant.
Adonijah was the fourth son of King David, Solomon’s older half-brother from a different mother. In a classic power move, Adonijah started drawing support from court officials, notably the commander of the army, Joab and other priests in a plot to usurp the throne. In 1st Kings Chapter 1, we see that Adonijah had a feast with sacrificed animals, inviting all his brothers except for Solomon. This right here should tell you that Adonijah was at least aware of his father’s wishes and was willingly to defy him. All of this took place while David was still alive.
Nevertheless, King David had Solomon anointed as the next King of Israel. Solomon took the throne with much rejoicing, the city in uproar, and trumpets blaring. The celebration was so loud that Adonijah could hear it from their feast some distance away. When he asked what was going on, he learned that Solomon was installed as king. Understandably, Adonijah’s guests all became fearful and rose to go their own way. In verse 50, it says that even Adonijah recognized Solomon’s position and feared him at that point.
Adonijah…you got to remember, this is still Solomon’s big brother. Whether it was an act of contrition or fear, Solomon hears that Adonijah had grabbed the horns of the altar where the priests made sacrifices. It seemed as if Adonijah was seeking God’s protection and Solomon said… “If he will show himself a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall on the earth. But if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.”
Then, King David died and Solomon’s reign began.
In 2nd Kings Chapter 2, we read that the matter of Adonijah isn’t over. Moreover, we see that Solomon’s mother Bathsheba plays a significant role in Solomon’s life. You can see he truly cares and cherishes her when he stood up to greet her and bowed to her. He requests that a seat be brought for her by his throne.
If you read that chapter, you could take it at face value. But for us here in the year 2021, there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to what happens to Adonijah, why Solomon gave such reverence to his mother, Bathsheba, or why it was important to be recorded in scripture.
When it comes to Bathsheba…Solomon’s reverence for her heeds the commandment of honoring thy mother and father. But when David was king, we don’t read any mention of Jesse or his mother playing a huge part in his reign after he became king. It could be because they were dead by then.
You can tell Bathsheba is godly in a number of ways. First off, there’s the great prophet Nathan who continually trusts in Bathsheba with information regarding Solomon’s well-being and the wishes of King David. Secondly, Bathsheba was perhaps the first to show remorse, shame, and regret when she learned of what happened to her first husband Uriah. I mean…can you imagine? As if being seduced by the great king to commit adultery wasn’t enough, her husband is killed soon after she gets pregnant, and she loses that first child as punishment.
And lastly, you can tell Bathsheba is godly in her innocence. Bathsheba’s push to have Solomon made king was by the promise King David made to her. In history, there’s countless examples of women seeking power and influence through their sons the king, but we don’t see it with Bathsheba. Of course, keeping an open mind, just because it isn’t recorded in scripture, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
In 1st Kings Chapter 2, Solomon’s big brother Adonijah approaches Solomon’s mother Bathsheba in a last-ditch effort to gain prominence. Adonijah asks Bathsheba to go to Solomon and ask that a woman named Abishag, the Shunammite, to be made Adonijah’s wife. Bathsheba agrees to do this. To Bathsheba, this was just an innocent request. What harm could it do to give Adonijah a wife? I think that really shows her heart. Not a schemer. Not one of plots and intrigues.
Meanwhile, lol, you really learn a lot about Solomon’s character in his response. Which I love so much! Remember, God hadn’t appeared in his dream yet to grant him his wish for wisdom. So Solomon’s reaction and response are mainly due to his experience at so young an age, a discerning mind, crafted by the years of witnessing so much betrayal and heartache from schemes and deception.
Immediately, he discerned that Adonijah’s request for Abishag’s hand in marriage was a tactic. You see, Abishag was a young beautiful woman who was with King David’s side at the time of his death. Some sources say that Abishag was a concubine of sorts. It’s already been established that David had multiple wives. (again, this isn’t to prove God condones such behavior, merely stating that it happened).
In ancient customs, the concubines and multiple wives were early forms of a harem. The harem was a sign of kingship. So, by asking for the beautiful concubine who was known to be by King David’s side at the time of his death, Adonijah was planning on using it as another ploy to signify to the entire kingdom that he was the rightful king.
In the rest of Chapter 2, you really see Solomon’s patience and frustration boil over as he starts to clean house. He sent one of his father’s most dependable warriors, Benaiah, to kill his brother Adonijah. He expels the priest Abiathar, which fulfilled a prophecy that Eli’s line of priests would be cut off. Joab, the Commander who sided with Adonijah was hunted down. He tried to do what Adonijah did earlier by grabbing hold of the horn of the altar…but that didn’t work. He was struck down right where he was. And eventually, the last of his father’s enemies, a man named Shimei who cursed David when David was on the run from Absalom… Solomon had Shimei killed as well.
Thus was the beginning of Solomon’s reign. The lessons? Sooo many!!!
Lesson 1. when God says “Vengeance is mine” in Deuteronomy 32:35, we should trust and have faith that god will take care of our enemies at his appointed time. This should make it easier for us to follow Christ’s teachings when it comes to forgiveness, because I get it. It’s not fair. When someone insults you, attacks you, or makes an effort to destroy and ruin you, I think it’s human nature for a lot of us to want to inflict the same pain we feel on our enemies. Revenge is and can be satisfying, no doubt.
But there’s a conflict in us as Christians, isn’t there. If Jesus Christ can be stretched out on a cross with nails driven through his hands and ankles, with each breath causing his flesh to tear, blood filling his lungs…if he can suffer through all of that for our sakes and still cry out for God to forgive those who know not what they do…what kind of Christians are we to hold on to such anger and hate, yearning for our enemies’ pain and destruction?
Even King David, one who was clearly favored by God himself, suffered from the hands of so many, and yet died without seeing a lot of his enemies pay for their offenses. Trust in God. Trust in Jesus. We are his flock. The Good Shepherd will protect us and handle the wolves that lurk to pluck us off.
Lesson 2. I won’t say whether Solomon’s decisions to kill Adonijah and Joab were right or wrong, but it shows the mind of one who plans on taking his rule seriously. Adonijah was his older brother. Joab served his father as commander of his army for decades. The decision to have them killed couldn’t have been an easy one, but was clearly for the good of the kingdom…God’s chosen people.
Lesson 3. The turmoil, trauma, and treachery Solomon had to endure and bear witness to at so young an age shaped his mind, hardened his heart, and prepared him to be king. Too many times we see what’s going on around us, our own personal sufferings and we’re so quick to blame God or lament without fully taking in the positives of our predicament.
I don’t want to get too off topic, but this year, I had just purchased my first home and there were sooo many problems with it from the get-go. My living room floor was uneven, so I had to have a crew in and drill a large pit through the concrete. It forced me to sleep on the floor of my home office for a month and there was a mad scramble to have everything fixed and in order by the time my parents came to visit the day after the Super Bowl.
It was extremely stressful and yet…I kinda enjoyed it. It certainly made the days interesting and when the place was all fixed up, I gained a greater appreciation for the condo than I probably would’ve before. Lol, I’m 34-years-old, but my sense of hearing and smell is 10x better than before. I can hear a single drop of water from behind walls and around corners like you wouldn’t believe, allowing me to catch problems before they got worse (catastrophic)…
Maybe that’s not the best example…But my point is, whatever cards you’ve been dealt, whatever life throws at you…instead of letting it get you depressed or looking for someone to blame…see the blessings in it! If your date bailed on you, if your crush rejects you…you could see that as “woe is me…” or you could see it as “I’ve been spared and dodged a bullet”.
Whatever happens just trust in God. As I’ll get into with Part 2, that’s the true wisdom. As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the most Holy One is understanding”.