Absence of AccountabilityBy Nathan Mates
King Solomon, by all accounts, had everything going for him. He was anointed by God to be King over the Israelites. His father, King David, had driven out the Philistines, expanding the territory of Israel to the largest it had ever been, establishing years of peace and tribute (aka money) to Jerusalem. David had also been prevented from building a Temple to God because of those wars [1 Chronicles 22:7-10], but that didn't stop David from stockpiling materials for it [1 Chronicles 28:11-21]. But, Solomon did build that temple, a permanent replacement for the tented Tabernacle Moses had built centuries before.
Solomon had also pleased God with a request for wisdom: "So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 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. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for--both riches and honor--so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life." [1 Kings 3:11-14]
Solomon's wisdom came to pass as God promised: "Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite--wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations." [1 Kings 4:30-31] Solomon pretty much had it all, as the author of Kings notes: "King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth." [1 Kings 10:23] In short, a very enviable position to be in.
But, those things that Solomon had were mostly of this world. The author of Kings goes on to note "He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines," [1 Kings 11:3a] The author had also previously noted with a hint of disdain that "In the eleventh year in the month of Bul, the eighth month, the temple was finished in all its details according to its specifications. He had spent seven years building it. It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace." [1 Kings 6:38- 1 Kings 7:1]
As Solomon's pursuits grew more and more of this world, so went his spiritual condition: "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. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites." [1 Kings 11:4-7]
While some blame is put by the author of Kings on Solomon's wives who "lead him astray" [1 Kings 11:3b], this is not to excuse Solomon in the least for his actions and choices. It wasn't in God's plan for one guy, king or not, to have 700 wives. It wasn't in God's rules for the Israelites to intermarry with Philistines-- and yet Solomon had done so: "King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter--Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 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." Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love." [1 Kings 11:1-2] It definitely wasn't wise to worship other Gods.
So, what was the result of all this? As expected, sin was punished: "The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord's command. So the LORD said to Solomon, "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. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son." [1 Kings 11:9-12]
Solomon's wisdom failed him and the nation. Why was this so? We may not have the complete picture, but one thing is noticeable in the Biblical record of Solomon. More precisely, the absence of something is apparent: the absence of accountability.
The two kings before Solomon, King Saul and King David, both had men of God, prophets, who could-- and did-- chew them out when they messed up. Saul had the prophet Samuel: "You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord's command." [1 Samuel 13:13-14] Samuel would become a persistent thorn in Saul's side to do right-- see 1 Samuel 15, 1 Samuel 28.
Saul's army also wasn't afraid to rebuke him when necessary. Napoleon would note centuries later that 'an army marches on its stomach.' But, Saul decided to do the opposite and declared a fast before battle. Saul's son Jonathan had eaten honey without knowing of the fast, and "Jonathan said, "My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?" [1 Samuel 14:29-30] Saul tried to put Jonathan to death for that unknowing offense, "But the men said to Saul, "Should Jonathan die--he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the LORD lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God's help." So the men rescued Jonathan, and he was not put to death." [1 Samuel 14:45]
Likewise, King David had people who told him when he did wrong. The prophet Nathan chewed him out for getting another man's wife (Bathsheba) pregnant and then arranging for that man's death. [2 Samuel 12: 1-14]. David's main hatchet man, Joab, commander of the army, rebuked him for feeling sorry for the rebellion against David that had just been crushed: "Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, "Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the LORD that if you don't go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come upon you from your youth till now." [2 Samuel 19:5-7]
Also, when David had violated God's commands to trust him for victory in war, and ordered a census of the warriors, he was rebuked twice. The first was from a familiar source: "But Joab replied to the king, "May the LORD your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?" [2 Samuel 24:3] David persisted in ordering that, and the calamity came: "Before David got up the next morning, the word of the LORD had come to Gad the prophet, David's seer: "Go and tell David, 'This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.'" So Gad went to David and said to him, "Shall there come upon you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me." [2 Samuel 24:11-13]
After this, examine King Solomon's life. Read 1 Kings 2-11, and 2 Chronicles 1-9. Apart from posthumous comments by the author of Kings, such as personal palaces taking twice as long to build as God's temple, there's no record of other humans calling him to task. It's not as if there wasn't a hierarchy of rulers-- 1 Kings 4:1-19 lists Solomon's chief officials and district governors. And yet we don't read of any rebuke to Solomon until 1 Kings 11:9-12, where God rebukes Solomon after he worshiped other Gods. Unlike David, who immediately repented after the Bathsheba incident, there's no record of Solomon doing anything.
It's much harder to prove something by the absence of material, and thus, Solomon's lack of accountability remains only a theory. However, it does seem to carry some weight. Other kings received godly counsel from others, and rebukes as necessary. Solomon didn't. Was Solomon's wisdom so overpowering that it discouraged others from being able to give counsel? Hard to judge that from the info we have.
We are built, as humans, to be in relationship, first with God, and also to other humans. By being with others, we can confess sins to one another, receive encouragement, and be challenged on to love and good deeds. [Hebrews 10:24] Having someone in your life who can take you aside and say "you blew it" -- not to cut you down, but in simply telling the truth-- is essential.
Not all of us are going to be blessed with prophets like Gad or Jeremiah hanging around with direct words from God. But, we all have other humans around us. What other Christians do you know who you can trust to tell you of your mistakes? What other Christians do you know who you can confess sins to and then pray with them afterwards for forgiveness? Also, who do you know you can do that to, the calling of them on their mistakes and helping them repair the damage? Pray for visibility of such people if necessary.