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Reviews | Solomon - Wise and Foolish

Solomon – Wise and Foolish

Tecwyn Morgan

Paperback or e-book (ePub)

276 pages

Solomon — Wise and Foolish

The Testimony review (from February 2009)

The life of a great king

BROTHER TECWYN MORGAN has a lively, humorous and engaging style of speaking, and the same style is apparent in his recently published book on Solomon. Based on a series of twenty articles in the Christadelphian in 1998-9, his material has been expanded and rewritten. He has also included references to works consulted, and added a bibliography. The overall result is a pleasing book of 276 pages, the references being at the end of each of the twenty-six chapters. There are also twenty-three maps, drawings and charts.

As Brother Tec says in his Preface, although Scripture does not reveal whether Solomon will be in the Kingdom or not, we can learn from his experience, because “the same God Who worked with Solomon, in an attempt to bring him to perfection, is also working with us and in our lives” (page viii). The book is more than an assessment of the spiritual life of this great king in the various periods of his reign; it also looks at the history of the times and the relationships Israel had with the Gentile nations around. In so doing, we are shown how Solomon’s rule is a foreshadowing of the Lord Jesus and his reign of glory, when all kings and rulers will worship him and God, and bring their wealth to Jerusalem. It is a well-researched volume, and the reviewer was impressed with the wide range of sources and material that Brother Tec used in his preparation.

The beginning of his reign

The author takes us back to the promises to David when in 1 Chronicles 22:9,10 David refers to the fact that his successor was named as Solomon, who was not yet born at that time. He comments: “There are many indications that David did not make this prophecy public until near the end of his reign and we can understand why” (page 4). Solomon’s life and upbringing in the royal palace are considered, and the events concerning the succession as David grew older and weaker. David made a public ceremony of Solomon’s accession, in contrast to the furtive coup attempt made by Adonijah.

David prepared Solomon for kingship by private talks with him, and also by public assemblies in Jerusalem. The assemblies included Levites, temple officials, and the civil and military leaders of the kingdom. Brother Tec writes:

“Sandwiched in-between the call to build God’s House are details of the people who already worshipped God in the two Tabernacles that already existed, the old one at Gibeon and the new Tent for the Ark at Jerusalem … people were, and are, the most important component in the worship of Almighty God … Nor would the Temple that David wanted built be of any Divine consequence unless it was occupied and attended by people who wholly desired God and gave their lives as ‘a living sacrifice’ (Romans 12:1)” (pages 46-7).

Solomon’s national coronation, with sacrifices and the formal anointing, is described in 1 Chronicles 29. Perhaps Psalm 72 was written by David then, and the whole event prefigures the glorious Kingdom of Christ. Just as Christ will ‘rule in the midst of his enemies’ (Psalm 110:2) at the commencement of the Kingdom, so Solomon’s and David’s enemies had to be dealt with. His father David showed great confidence in his son’s ability to treat all these enemies appropriately, even though Solomon was only twenty years of age.

When God asked Solomon what He could give him, his request was for wisdom to govern Israel, to be their shepherd and to discern right and wrong. God gave him all these things as well as riches and honour. Brother Tec shows that these many gifts to Solomon were necessary, not for Solomon’s personal benefit, but for the great task of building the temple complex in Jerusalem, making appropriate relationships with neighbouring countries as trading partners and building the defences of the realm, as well as putting into place all the preparations that David had made for the temple worship. The accounts in 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles are nicely slotted together.

Brother Tec makes the comment: “Of course, had God wanted to make this Temple an exclusively Jewish building, with no Gentile involvement at all, He could have arranged matters in that way” (page 106). But Gentile wealth, largely donated by David, was to be used for this temple, and Gentiles were to come to this temple to give honour and praise to Israel’s God, just as it will be when the Greater than Solomon sits on the throne of the Lord.

Various plans and diagrams are to be found in chapter 12, “Temple Truths”, and these are helpful for those who find the descriptions in Scripture hard to follow. In describing the worship in the temple, Brother Tec pictures the holy place as the Garden of Eden, with lampstands modelled on almond trees, carved palm trees and cherubim, and an abundance of showbread. The priests would be educated by the temple. He writes:

“This process of national education will be reinstated when the future Temple is constructed in Jerusalem and representatives of the nations come to learn once again about Divine things. They will be looking back in time so they can understand the way in which the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ was a vital part in God’s purpose, and why they need to identify with him” (page 133).

The temple completed

Solomon rightly made the building of the temple his priority in his reign, and after seven years it was completed. In his eleventh year, at the Feast of Tabernacles, the ark of the covenant made the short journey from the tabernacle of David to the most holy place of the temple; and with voices raised, the blowing of 120 trumpets and a clashing of cymbals, the ark of God came to its resting place. God signified His approval of all this by filling the temple with a cloud, just as He did with the tabernacle in the wilderness.

Solomon’s dedicatory prayer, in 2 Chronicles 6, reveals that Solomon was ruling God’s people with insight and faithfulness as he prayed for their spiritual welfare. It is in this prayer that he mentions how men have ‘the plague of their heart’ which they can lay before God for His help, and Brother Tec comments:

“If only Solomon could have foreseen his own situation some years on! The ‘plague of his own heart’ was going to need some attention, and he was going to be completely reliant upon God’s forgiveness, covenant love and compassionate help, if he was ever to find the way back to God’s favour. But, for the moment, all was well. Solomon, the man of prayer, was totally in tune with God” (page 160).

The next thirteen years of his reign were occupied with further building work in Jerusalem: his own palace, the house of the forest of Lebanon, Pharaoh’s daughter’s house. It was when the palace was finished that God appeared to him the second time, the first occasion being at Gibeon when God had asked him what He could give him (see above). This second appearance seems to have been in answer to the prayer of dedication at the completion of the temple. This was a delayed response to his prayer, some thirteen years after the prayer was uttered, and it contained warnings to Solomon not to forsake God’s laws but to walk in His ways, as David his father had done.

Gentile visitors to the temple

One of Solomon’s tasks was to witness to the nations around the glory of the God of Israel and His worship. This had begun with the association Solomon and Hiram king of Tyre made in the provision of materials and skilled labour. The author suggests that, as Hiram calls Solomon his “brother”, they were in covenant relationship, with Hiram a worshipper of the God of Israel. He links this with the words of Ezekiel 28, hundreds of years later, when the prophet denounces Tyre because once (in Solomon’s time?) they had cherubic protection and were recipients of God’s blessing.

One might wonder how a Gentile like Hiram, unacquainted with the worship of God and the construction of the tabernacle and temple and all that those places taught the holy nation, could possibly begin to understand how Yahweh should be approached and worshipped. Brother Tec suggests that there was an upper chamber above the most holy place which gave a view of the holy place, and that from there the king, and visitors like Hiram and the Queen of Sheba, would be able to see the daily ministrations of the priests.

These foreign dignitaries brought considerable wealth into Jerusalem, and Psalm 72:10,11 says that, under Solomon’s greater son, Tarshish and the isles and the king of Sheba will bring him gifts and presents in a similar way. The great prosperity of the times of Solomon is described in the Scripture record. In addition to using his wealth for building the temple and the other buildings of the temple complex, money was used for cities of defence and for Solomon’s personal pleasure, as detailed in Ecclesiastes 2. Brother Tec discusses how the wisdom given to Solomon was used to assess the real value of worldly possessions, and comments:

“How would Solomon cope with the challenges presented by the increasing affluence that was being experienced by himself, his court and his nation? Could he keep his head while all around were losing theirs? That is the challenge for us too in our affluent and self-satisfying age” (page 216).

The decline of Solomon’s faith

The important passage in Deuteronomy 17:16,17 warning what kings might be like was particularly applicable to Solomon:

“he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold”.

Sadly, Solomon collected seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, many more than enough for any man! As Brother Tec puts it succinctly, “He lost his heart”.

The author reminds us of many proverbs of Solomon, particularly the wisdom passages at the beginning of this book, where clearly Solomon was aware of the pitfalls such liaisons could bring. Brother Tec goes on to say, “We are to learn from Solomon and then live as he instructs [in the book of Proverbs] – developing the fruit of Divine wisdom by living in the fear of God … the King pictures Wisdom as a woman whom we should choose as our closest companion through life, someone who should accompany each of us along life’s path” (page 242).

The idolatry that followed from association with these women was something about which years later Nehemiah was to warn the returning exiles. Solomon built shrines on the Mount of Olives to the false gods, and caused Israel to practise idolatry. He thought he could combine the worship of Yahweh with that of idols. The author gives a warning for the twenty-first century:

“We have got to be just as careful that we don’t mix things up. Bits and pieces of what other denominations believe can easily get picked up by us, including when we read their publications, unless we read with care and discrimination … So, whilst we need to move with the times, to present the gospel in the most attractive and topical way, we must beware of mixing things up and thus losing our way with God, as Solomon did” (pages 256-7).

The record tells us that, in order to get Solomon to change his way, God sent adversaries, enemies who disturbed his realm and his personal position. There is no indication that he was chastened and reproved by them, as we should be by the events of our lives, for God surely overrules our ways that we show forth His glory. We simply do not know whether this great king will be in the Kingdom, but we know Jesus’ judgement will be just. The real question, as Brother Tec keeps asking in this splendid book, is how well we are shaping up to the challenges of godly living in this the day of our opportunity.

In conclusion, Brother Tec’s book is easy to read, it has been thoroughly researched and is full of wise conclusions and relevant exhortations. It is warmly commended to the Brotherhood.

JOHN NICHOLLS

(Originally published in the February 2009 edition of The Testimony Magazine (pages 409-412), and is reproduced by kind permission.)

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