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7-4-2 Solomon And David

Solomon  wished  to imitate his father David in every sense; his own  real  personality  only really came out in the Ecclesiastes years,  when he took to drink, materialism, women and idolatry. It  took  the  influence  of his parents many years to wear off. David  had  weaknesses  for  horses (2 Sam. 8:4) and many wives; and Solomon  followed  in  these  steps  too. Note that David had six sons in seven years by six different women, including Gentiles (1 Chron. 3:3). And in addition to these, David had children by “the concubines” (1 Chron. 3:9). Doubtless Solomon reasoned, albeit   deep   within  his  psyche,  that  such  behaviour  was legitimate  because  David  his father had done it. We have seen that  David  seems to have over interpreted Scripture and assumed that  his  interpretation was certainly correct. And Solomon did exactly the same. The weaknesses of the parents all too easily are repeated by the children to an even greater extent.  

David had taught his children with the words: “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps. 34:11- did David say this to his children every evening?). And Solomon uses just the same words, even whilst disobeying God’s law at the same time in his own life: “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father…I give you good doctrine…for I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments and live” (Prov. 4:1-4). And so Solomon taught his kids with the same outward form of words, although the personal reality of wisdom was lost on him. He repeats these very words of David when teaching his own son: “My son, keep [retain] my words…keep my commandments and live” (Prov. 7:1,2). The idea of keeping commandments in order to live is a reference back to the many Deuteronomy passages where Moses pleads with Israel to keep God’s commands and live. But Solomon came to perceive his father David’s commands as those of God, and in his generation he watered this down in his own mind until he assumed that his commands to his children were to be treated by them as the law of God- no matter how far he had strayed himself from God’s law. It’s a gripping, frightening psychology. “O my son, receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many” (Prov. 4:10) is alluding to the promise of long life for the obedient to God’s laws; but never does Solomon make the admission that his laws are only a repetition of God’s laws. He was playing God by implying that his words carried the weight of God’s words. He taught his son obedience to him as a father, but not to God Himself. He tells them: “I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths” (Prov. 4:11), repeating the words of David in Ps. 32:8: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye”. But those words in their context were wrung from a David desperately grateful for God’s forgiveness of his sin with Bathsheba. Solomon hadn’t gone through this contrition- he was a self-justified womanizer, and yet he used the same outward form of words as his father. Solomon assumes he is going in the right way when he says: “I have led thee in right paths” (Prov. 4:11), in subtle contrast to the way David repeatedly asks to be led in the right way by God Almighty (Ps. 23:3; 25:4,5). Solomon’s obsession with large numbers of horses and chariots (2 Chron. 1:14) was a marked contrast to the words of one of David’s songs which Solomon must have often hummed to himself: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Ps. 20:7). He knew this, but the knowledge resided in just one part of his brain- in reality, he went ahead and did the very opposite. It’s rather like he uses phrases out of his dad’s lament over Jonathan (“dew…pleasant…like a roe on high places…love…shield”) and applies them to his Gentile girlfriend in his song- the Song of Solomon… 

One cannot help notice the great stress placed by Solomon on teaching his children, as David had taught him. It could be that there was too much emphasis on theory, thinking that by merely teaching the Law, the children would turn out OK. But Dt. 6:1-7 taught that Israel must “do” the commandments of the Lord “so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes…these words…you shall teach them diligently to your sons”. It was by the parents both doing and teaching the Law that their children would “do” it too. Behaviour patterns are learnt by observation and experience of parents, not by mere theoretical inculcation. So could it not be that there is a lesson here for us- that the diligent teaching of the Law, as David did to Solomon and as Solomon so proudly did to his children, actually has no lasting effect unless that Law is lived out in a daily life. It seems to me that the Western Christian attitude and program for child-rearing is based very much on the assumption that both parents are believers, marry in their 20s, mother raises the kids and father brings in the money, with the result that the children will in due time also be baptized and repeat the cycle. This is all well and good. But the reality is that less than 7% of America’s population fits the traditional nuclear family profile. “Today’s family can be a single parent with one or more children, a two-career couple with no children, a female breadwinner with child and househusband, or a blended family that consists of a previously married couple and a combination of children from those two previous marriages” (John Naisbitt, Megatrends, NY: Warner Books, 1984 p. 261). Our style of Sunday School material and teaching needs to be appropriate to this reality, if we seek to win this world for Christ rather than just reproduce within the existing Western community. The brethren and sisters of our community and ecclesias must be the de facto spiritual parents of many of our children. Mere doctrinal teaching alone is not enough- it must be seen regularly and meaningfully and relevantly to be lived out in transformed lives. Solomon’s Proverbs, although inspired by God, have so many similarities with the Psalms of his father David. It seems to me that although he was of course inspired in writing Proverbs, he chose to articulate the wisdom given him in terms which his father had used in his songs, prayers and Psalms. Thus when Solomon teaches that God must be allowed to establish or direct our way (Prov. 4:26; 16:29), he is using the same Hebrew words as in Ps. 37:23 and Ps. 119:5, when David says the same. It’s as if he was given God’s truth and yet he never quite made it his very own- he still articulated it in terms of the faith of his fathers. And thus he lost it in the end. 

It seems to me that David didn’t challenge Solomon, nor did he teach him the spirit of cross-carrying service. His big desire was that Solomon would build a temple. But Solomon loved building. Solomon built “for his pleasure”, for his will, whereas the Kingdom of God is about doing the will / pleasure of God (2 Chron. 8:6 RV). Solomon was being taught by David to serve God in a way which only reinforced his own personality type and in ways which were already what he naturally wanted to do. It would be rather like a father teaching his young son that you serve God by playing with your train set, and nothing else is needed. Or when the son gets older, that all you have to do to serve God is to go to social events and hang out with your Christian friends. This is all too easy. The service of God is joyful, and yes it can be ‘fun’, but the essence of sinful man serving his God is struggle against his own humanity. Could it be that we in the West have often spoon fed their kids on a diet of ‘safe’ service. But if they are challenged to step out and put themselves on the line a bit more, particularly in the area of local witnessing, would not the harvest be a bit different? Brethren and sisters with initiative, with commitment, with the spirit of self-sacrifice rather than young adults who think that our faith is about ice cream and pizza and endless fun and games, with a bit of Bible reading thrown in? As my manner is, I am caricaturing. I know so, so many fine and committed young brethren and sisters. But perhaps there are fractions of truth and relevance in the caricature. For in the end, Christianity is not in books, church halls or Sunday School classes, but in the real world, where is is practiced and demonstrated. It is a reaching out from ourselves and our comfort zones to do something transformingly significant in the lives of those around us.  

It  is  significant  that  Solomon's  spiritual  life  has  more appearance  of  spirituality  the  closer we get back to David's death.  David had asked for wisdom (Ps. 119:34), and even Solomon’s request for wisdom can be seen as rooted in a desire to live out parental expectation more than purely from his own volition. For David had told him: “Thou art a wise man” (1 Kings 2:9), and Solomon wanted to live up to that expectation. In  other words, David's influence was extremely strong, but  it  decreased over the years. Yet even at the end, Solomon’s wisdom stayed with him in that some aspects of his upbringing stayed with him- he could never escape from it. When he says that he has never found a truly wise woman, but he did know one wise man (Ecc. 7:28) he may well have had David in mind. Solomon keeps saying that his zealous  work  for the temple was the result of God's promise to David  having  fulfillment  in him (1 Kings 8:24-26), and to some extent  this  was true. David earnestly prayed for Solomon to be the Messianic King (e.g Ps. 72), and therefore David asked for Solomon to be given a truly wise heart (1 Chron. 29:19). These prayers were answered in a very  limited  sense-  in  that Solomon was given great wisdom, and his Kingdom was one of the greatest  types  of  Christ's  future  Kingdom.  We  have  shown elsewhere  (Christians Unlimited in A World Waiting To Be Won)  that our prayers for others really can have  an  effect upon them, otherwise there would be no point in the   concept   of  praying  for  others.  But  of  course  each individual  has  an  element  of  spiritual  freewill;  we can't force  others  to  be  spiritual  by  our  prayers;  yet  on the other  hand,  our  prayers  can  influence  their  spirituality. David's  prayers  for  Solomon  is  the classic example of this. Those  prayers  were  heard  most definitely, in that God helped Solomon  marvellously, giving him every opportunity to develop a superb  spirituality; but he failed to have the genuine personal desire to be like this in his heart, in his heart he was back in Egypt, and therefore ultimately David's desire for Solomon to be the wondrous Messianic King of his dreams had to go unfulfilled.  

1 Kings 11:4,6 clearly states God's opinion that Solomon was not like David: "his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was  the  heart  of David his father...(he) went not fully after the  Lord, as did David his father". This double stress, bearing in  mind inspiration's economic use of words, is really making a point. Yet the records of Solomon seem to be framed to show that externally,  Solomon  was indeed following David. 2 Chron. 8 is a passage  which especially makes this point, in that it describes the  actions  of  Solomon  in  the  very  language which is used earlier about David:  

Solomon (2 Chron.)


8:3 “Solomon went to Hamath Zobah”

2 Sam.8:3 “David smote also Hadadezer the son of Rehob king of Zobah”

8:3  " and prevailed"

Same  word 1 Sam.17:30

8:8 Those “whom the children of Israel consumed not, did Solomon make to pay tribute”

2 Sam.8:6  “David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David, and brought gifts”

8:14 “He appointed according to the ordinance of David his father, the courses of the priests to their service, and the Levites to their charges…for so had David commanded”

1 Chron. 24:1


2 Sam.8:7 “David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem”

Yet notice too how in this connection how both David and Solomon dealt with the matter of chariots and horses. Solomon’s weakness for horses was perhaps traceable to David’s. Solomon unashamedly amassed horses and chariots, in direct disobedience to Divine command (Dt. 17:16). When David his father had captured 1000 chariots and horses, he hamstrung 900 of them and retained 100 of them (2 Sam. 8:4). He had a conscience about the matter, but thought that 90% obedience wasn’t bad. And the hamstrung horses were likely used for agricultural work and especially for breeding- breeding yet more chariot horses. David’s 90% obedience lead to his son’s 100% disobedience in this matter of chariot horses.

Solomon prayed to God in the terms and language of his father (2 Chron. 6:41,42 cp. Ps. 132:1,8,9). He was familiar with his father’s Psalms- after all, all Israel sung them. It must have been like being the son of a world-famous singer. The words were even in Solomon’s subconscious it seems, for when he tells his son “Give not sleep to thine eyes nor slumber to thine eyelids” (Prov. 6:4) he is alluding unconsciously, it seems (in that it is out of context) to David’s promise not to give sleep to his eyes until he had found a resting place for the ark (Ps. 132:4). Solomon's  zealous  organization  of  the  temple worship was an exact  fulfillment  of the order laid down by his father David (1 Kings  7:51; 2 Chron. 7:6; 8:14). Solomon wanted God to bless the temple  as  a  sign  of His pleasure with David his father (e.g 2 Chron. 6:42).  Solomon's  personal  enthusiasm for service to God became subsumed by the huge psychological spiritual dominance of his  parents. His zeal for the temple was almost purely a result of living out his father's expectation; he almost admits as much in  1  Kings  8:20:  " I  am  risen  up  in  the room of David my father...and have (therefore, in the context) built an house for the  name  of  the  Lord" .  He offered huge numbers of sacrifices when the ark was brought into the temple (1 Kings 8:63), just as David had sacrificed as the ark was brought to Zion (2 Sam. 6:13 = 1 Kings 8:5). Yet he failed to feel and know the truth of David’s conclusion that God doesn’t essentially want sacrifice (Ps. 40:6). David had been forced to learn that lesson through the shame of his sin with Bathsheba- Solomon was so sure of his own righteousness that he never was driven to see the inadequacy of animal sacrifice in itself, and the need in the end for the direct receipt of God’s grace. It is possible that he asked for wisdom only because his father David had taught him to ask for it, just as he taught his children (Prov. 4:5-7). And even in the cynicism of Ecclesiastes, written in Solomon’s later life, he still uses words and phrases which have their root in his father David- e.g. his description of women as snares in Ecc. 7:26 goes back to how his father dealt with women who were a snare (1 Sam. 18:21). And the whole description of old age in Ecc. 12 is based on his father’s experience with Barzillai (2 Sam. 19:35). The  lack  of  true  zeal within our community,  after  several  generations  'in  the Truth', may be related to all this too. We each need to seriously examine ourselves in this connection, and know the meaning of personal conversion. 

So  what,  then,  can  we  learn  from the attitude of Solomon's parents   to   him?   In  his  early  years,  Solomon  commented unashamedly: " I was my father's son (stating the obvious, unless Solomon  was  proud of the fact), tender and only beloved in the sight  of  my mother (Bathsheba had other children apart from Solomon, so he is exaggerating here). He taught me also (as well as Bathsheba-  something remarkable for those times), and said unto me,  Let  thine heart retain my words...neither decline from the words  of  my  mouth...hear,  O  my son, and receive my sayings" (Prov. 4:3,4,10).  David  took time out from his busy schedule to spend  time  instructing  his  special,  beloved  son. And David wasn't  just  playing  Scrabble with Solomon in the evenings; he was  really  drumming  into  that  lad  vital  spiritual values. Solomon  really  respected  David  and  loved his mother; he was without  doubt  the  blue  eyed  boy  to  her,  and  he  reacted accordingly.  We  have seen how in Prov. 31 she lays the law down with him about his girlfriends, about not marrying Gentiles, and about  not  drinking, yet in Song 3:11 we see Bathsheba with all her  motherly pride crowning Solomon on the day of engagement to that  Egyptian  girl  who  was  to  be his downfall. Like David, Bathsheba  taught  Solomon the principles with great enthusiasm, but   she  allowed  parental  pride  to  make  her  dismiss  the possibility  that  her  son  was seriously going astray. David had been described as the chiefest among ten thousand (2 Sam. 18:3), and yet this is how Solomon’s illegal girlfriend describes him (Song 5:10). He had clearly told her all about his father David- and she evidently pleased Solomon by describing him as being like his father, even though she probably had never known David. He sought a wife who would be a surrogate parent rather than a help-meet. Like Bathsheba, David  was  a  great  example of obeying the Law's injunction to speak  of the word to one's children at all times, but he got to the  point  where  he  was so convinced Solomon would please God and  be  the Messiah that he forgot all about the conditionality of the promises.  

But  Solomon  repeatedly refers to this instruction as the words and  commands  of David his father; his early obedience to God's words and principles was because he wanted to follow his father, not  because  of  any  genuine  response to the grace of God. He had  an  evident  pride  in  the  high  standing  with God which David  his  father  enjoyed (2 Chron. 6:5,6,10), which led him to automatically  respect  and  accept  David's  spiritual teaching rather  than  figuring  things  out  for  himself.  It  is quite right  that  we  should  have  a  true spiritual respect for our elders  (cp.  Heb. 13:7);  yet  this  must  be  balanced  against developing  our own faith, our own understanding of God, without being spiritually dominated by them.  

Jotham is another example of this kind of thing. “He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah had done”  (2 Chron. 27:2). His perception of God was defined in terms of his father. Freud in his book The Future Of An Illusion was somehow right when he said that many people project the image of their father onto God; they see Him as defined in terms of the experience they had of their father. This is how spirituality comes to be transferred rather than developed after the direct image of God.  

The   Divine  assessment  of  Solomon's  spirituality  makes  no reference  to  his  obedience to God's commands; rather " Solomon loved  the Lord (in that he) walked in the statutes of David his father"    (1  Kings  3:3)-  rather  than  God's  statutes.  This perfectly  explains  why Solomon blandly disobeyed God's word in the  very ways his father David did. Again, there are unpleasant similarities with our own position. Weaknesses  which  our forefathers  and  community  have  accepted  without comment for generations  are  tolerated  without  a quibble; there are other issues,  equally  contrary  to  Divine principles, over which we create  great  complaint- simply because this is what parentally and  communally  we  have  been taught to react against. Yet the Gospel   should   be   making   us   a  new  creation,  standing independently  of tradition and background conditioning. Knowing others  who  are  doing  the  same  should  be  the basis of our fellowship,  rather  than  just  belonging to the same community with the same background. It seems that Solomon didn’t really reflect on who his father really was. He had an ideal image of him, choosing to overlook his failures with women. David committed the sin of presumption with Bathsheba, and yet Solomon judges Joab for committing presumptuous sin without mercy (1 Kings 2:29 cp. Ex.21:14).  

The  words of Prov. 4 show that Solomon's motivation for teaching God's  ways  to  his  son (Rehoboam) was because this is how his father  had  taught  him. “Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids”, he exhorts his son (Prov. 6:4), in the very language used to describe his father’s zeal for the building of the temple (Ps. 132:4). When he warns his son not to go in to his neighbour’s wife (Prov. 6:29), this was inevitably looking back to his parents’ failure. He told his son, and presumably all his sons, to keep their father’s commandment and not forsake the teaching of their mother (Prov. 6:20). In this he was just blindly repeating his own experience of youth, and yet the way he repeated it was irrelevant seeing that his wives were largely Gentiles. To tell them to follow the laws of their mothers was hardly good advice. But he said it because it seemed the right thing, it was what he had been told as a child. David  was  motivated  by a desire to fulfil   the   Law's   command   that   the   word   should  be enthusiastically taught by parents to their children. Externally, Solomon  likewise  obeyed the command. But he did so as a result of  living out parental expectation; he did what his parents had done  to  him. Yet Rehoboam didn't really take Divine principles very  seriously  in  his later life, although there is reason to think  that  he did so originally. And so he too lived  out  the  spiritual experience of his father Solomon; the rot   of   only   external  spirituality  snaked  through  those generations,  until  the  real spirit of the Truth was lost, and only  an  external  shell remained. There is ample evidence that this   is  exactly  the  situation  in many areas today.  

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon comes to conclude that although he had heaped up riches, his life was vanity- indeed, all is vanity, because one doesn’t know how wise will be the person to whom one leaves their life achievements. And yet one of David’s songs which Solomon must have sung went like this: “Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them” (Ps. 39:6). Solomon didn’t think about the words of his dad’s hymns. It took him  a lifetime to learn the truth of them for himself, and by then it was too late (so it seems to me). So with us, to learn and heed wisdom rather than have to learn it all again by experience- this is one of the hardest things for us, especially if our background was in a home of truth and wisdom. David seemed to have feared that this might just be the case when he pleads with Solomon: “Solomon my son, know thou (i.e. experientially, personally) the God of thy father” (1 Chron. 29:8). It could also be that Psalm 127 is his Psalm for Solomon written at the very end of his life; he tells Solomon that unless God builds this house / temple, it will all be “in vain” and Solomon will but eat the bread of sorrows, labouring hard all his days for nothing. And this is very much the picture of Solomon in Ecclesiastes. David said that such labour in vain was made unnecessary by the fact that “So he giveth his beloved sleep” (Ps. 127:2). ‘David’ means ‘beloved’, and it could be that David was gently trying to focus Solomon’s attention on the future David who would be made to sleep / due by the Father, in order to build the real house.  

David’s life was full of grief, anguish and joy (2 Sam. 1:19-27; 3:33,34; 12:15-23; 18:33; 19:4; 23:13-17); whereas Solomon’s life lacked any pathos, and he concludes that “what has been done is what will be done” (Ecc. 1:9). Because he sought to only follow his father, he never experienced his very own and personal experiences and growth; he did what he perceived was right not because it was what he wanted, but because it looked smart, and appeared in line with his father. For those raised Christian, these issues are live and difficult. On a psychological level, it appears that those without personal experience, i.e. experience which is uniquely their own, fall into destructive behaviour- and Solomon would fit that pattern. R.D. Laing comments: “If our experience is destroyed, our behaviour will be destructive” (1). And it’s been observed that increasingly, modern society is creating behaviours rather than experiences (2). Typical 21st century man or woman has the Solomon syndrome- focused upon others as their heroes, endless learning from others rather than through empirical, personal experience; adopting the conclusions of others without having personally worked them through; indulging in virtual experience [especially, these days, online] rather than actual experience. Both psychology and the Biblical example of Solomon teach that all this tends to self-destructive behaviour in the end.

Solomon And The Promises To David

Solomon didn't go "fully" after Yahweh (1 Kings 11:6)- and yet this same Hebrew word is often on his lips in describing how God has "fulfilled" His promises to David through Solomon. Thus he saw the promises of God as some kind of unconditional offer of blessing- rather than grasping that their fulfilments to us actually demand a 'fulfillment' from us. So for all Solomon's references to the promises to David, he didn't see that they required something from him. And we can be so very similar, knowing God's promises and rejoicing in their fulfillment, without perceiving that this of itself requires response from us.

(1) R.D. Laing, The Politics Of Experience (New York: Pantheon, 1967) p. 12.

(2) Martin Marty, A Nation Of Behavers (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1976) discusses at length the relation between experience and behaviour.

David, Solomon And The Dynasty Syndrome

Of course, David was just a human being, as was Solomon. There would have inevitably been the 'dynasty' or the third and forth generation syndrome. The father, in this case David, is raised in privation of some kind in his family of origin. Determined to give his own family more than what he had he works hard, day and night, sacrifices much, mostly his own family to build an 'empire'. But is it for them? Is he not driven as much by his own fear as his passion? Not able to trust others whom he often feels are plotting his downfall, he surrounds himself with family, cousins etc. He leaves his 'empire' to his progeny, who, having grown up in comparative luxury are not as 'driven'. " Born with a silver spoon in their mouths” they accept what they have as their right, it is their right to rule the family business etc. Because they were raised in an environment that deferred to them as heirs they are often arrogant, lacking the drive and acumen of their father, they are often self-centred dilettantes but they still have enough of their father in them to add to his fortune by merger and acquisition. By the third and forth generation, well the dynasty is generally in decline the passion and drive having been lost almost completely. An oversimplification and generalisation I know but basically this is the framework of how the 'sins' of the fathers are passed on from one generation to the next. Then there is the passing on of dysfunction and functionality as well, through the genetic predisposition and family environment interface. The choice of partner for instance is determined by the family dynamic and the fact that they reflect what we know and love of our parents etc.
For Absalom the dynamic was different to that of Solomon, for him his father's love was his weakness which he hated due mostly to David's lack of action action over the rape of Tamar. He exploited this weakness egged on no doubt by his maternal grandfather more to make his father do something to curb his own excesses and prove he loved him by giving him boundaries etc. This brings up David's family system which was highly dysfunctional, this dysfunction was passed on to the rest including Solomon's half brothers and sisters.  Father's and mothers often live the lives they would of liked to have through their kids, fulfilling their fantasies. Then there's the internalisation of the parent and their family rule system, it goes on and on.

John Stibbs