23. Royal Wisdom – Proverbs, Ecclesiastes

King Solomon, the wisest king ever along with others known share their journey of wisdom. His quest is, however, more a reflection of failure as he realizes that worldly wisdom has cost him spiritual wisdom.

Presentation Overview

  • The life of King Solomon
  • The learnings of King Solomon

Objectives

To:

  • Compare and contrast various types of wisdom
  • Understand how the wisest man became foolish
  • Learn from his mistakes
  • Follow true wisdom

The Storyline – Life of King Solomon

  • King Solomon’s request for wisdom
  • The call of Lady Wisdom
  • Wisdom turns to folly
  • From other women to other gods
  • Wisdom is meaningless
  • True meaning in life

Note: While King Solomon was the main author, there were other writers too!

Proverbs, Ecclesiastes - Breakdown

A Rabbinic teaching asserts that the Israelite king wrote Proverbs in middle age, and Ecclesiastes towards the end of his life [1]One categorization of proverbs chapters is as follows:

  • 1-9: for youth
  • 10-24: general
  • 25-31: For leaders

Ecclesiastes represents his realization of His mistakes and new perspective on life.

The Call of Lady Wisdom

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

King Solomon Chooses Wisdom

1 Kings 3:“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 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?”

Other Paths Beckon

1 Kings 11:1 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. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray

From Other Women to other gods

1 Kings 11: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 Molek 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.

From other women to other gods

When Wisdom turns to Folly

 Ecclesiastes 1:16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
    the more knowledge, the more grief.

How The Wisest King Failed

  • King Solomon is acknowledged as the wisest King ever. How does that match up with his own acknowledgement that his wisdom is vanity?

The Final Verdict

Ecc 12:13 Now all has been heard;
    here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
    for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
    including every hidden thing,
    whether it is good or evil.

Prov 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding

Recap

  • Solomon’s human wisdom far surpassed others
  • The resulting choices particularly marriage alliances in the name of peace took him away from God
  • His spiritual wisdom started diminishing
  • His vast kingdom was on the verge of division and downfall
  • His repentance came too late for recovery
  • Worldly wisdom without spiritual wisdom is vanity

Discussion

  • What does Tolstoy’s statement and King Solomon’s statement that life is meaningless mean?
  • What does it imply?
  • How do we bring meaning to a meaningless existence?

References

  1. A. Cohen, Proverbs: Hebrew Text & English Translation with an Introduction and Commentary, xii.

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