So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself… I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be” (1 Kings 3:9-12).
He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 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 (1 Kings 11:3-4).
One of the most famous verses in the Old Testament is the Shema, from Deuteronomy 6:4.
“Hear O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”
The word hear (shama) in Hebrew not only means hear, but to pay attention, to understand and obey. And that was essentially Solomon’s prayer—to have a discerning heart—a heart that hears, pays attention, understands and obeys (yes, it is the same word). Too bad we don’t listen that way.
But later, Solomon started to marry foreign wives who had foreign Gods. Now the LORD had given this warning to all of Israel “They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods” (1 Kings 11:2).
And his heart they turned. The word turned speaks not only the actions of the wives (to spread a tent and entice) but Solomon’s re-action (deviate, turn aside and stumble). And follow after their gods he did “He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites” (11:5).
The Apostle Paul provides great insight into Solomon’s marital choices:
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor 15:33 ESV).
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV)?
The consequence of Solomon’s heart following the gods of his wives is as follows:
Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates (11:11 NIV).
Don’t place all the blame of Solomon’s moral collapse entirely on his wives. It was, after all, his choice. And not all foreign wives are evil. In fact, there were two godly foreign wives in Christ Jesus’ bloodline: Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king (Matthew 1:5-6).
Solomon was the wisest, but he did not finish well. May the words of Paul inspire you “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7 ESV).