Who was the wisest man who ever lived? The immediate answer would be Solomon who as a new king over Israel was offered by God whatever he asked of Him in prayer. Solomon chose correctly when he said to God, “Give me a wise and understanding heart, for I am but a child who has been given the rule over this great nation.” God was pleased that he asked for wisdom instead of wealth, power or popularity. He told him as a result he would give him tremendous wisdom but he would also throw in the wealth, power and prestige. Solomon was known in his day throughout the world for his wisdom and people came from distant lands to hear of the wisdom of Solomon including the Queen of Sheba. When she had visited with him she went away saying that the half of Solomon’s wisdom had never been told.
Solomon wrote most of the Book of Proverbs, the Book of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. He also penned several of the Psalms. In I Kings 4:32 it says that he spoke 3,000 proverbs and his songs were 1,005. He demonstrated in these tremendous wisdom as he did in building the temple of the Lord God.
But the man known for his wisdom did some of the most foolish things a person could ever imagine. When we look back on his life there is much to admire but there is even more to detest. He often acted as if he was above the law of God and while others ought to obey God’s commands that he didn’t need to do so.
Just as soon as it is said that the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon, the next words are “Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the Lord.” (I Kings 2:46-3:1) God had Moses to write in the Book of Deuteronomy that the king of Israel was not to marry those from other nations or make alliances with them. God warned that they would steal their hearts away from Him and lead them to go after other gods and God would destroy them. The very thing that God said not to do, Solomon did and the very thing God said would happen if one did what He told them not to do, happened with Solomon and the people of Israel.
In I Kings 11:1-3 it says, “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.”
In the Book of Song of Solomon there is a beautiful love story between Solomon and his bride. But even that love story is tainted by the knowledge of his life. He may demonstrate some things on being a good lover in the sexual and romantic aspects of marriage. But to pattern after him as a husband or father would be a disaster. He had no concept of being faithful to his wife. Oh, he could give great advise to his son in Proverbs. He challenged him to be satisfied with the wife of his youth and to be enraptured by her breast. He told him that “You can’t take fire into your chest without being burned” referring to one playing with the fire of sexual involvement with someone other than your wife or husband. But if the son followed the example of dear old dad, he would have trashed his words and lived a horribly immoral life.
In the Book of Ecclesiastes Solomon plays the part of the spoiled brat that grows up in a rich family and refuses to learn anything from anyone else’s experience or advise. He has the attitude that he has to try it all for himself. Look at his life he said, it was all empty and futile. He tried every kind of human venture he could think of to try to find meaning, purpose and fulfillment in his life. He tried possessions, building houses, gardens, and every kind of luxury imaginable for his day, but found it empty and meaningless. He tried drinking himself stupid and was left with a huge hangover and declared that was empty and meaningless. He tried laying up great treasures but when he thought of the fact he was going to die and leave it all to children who would not know how to use it he became even more depressed. He tried immorality, sexual encounters of all kinds, but it left him empty and seemed futile.
He finally reaches the end of the Book and we hear the conclusion of the whole matter. “Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every thing into judgment, yes even the secret things.” Wise people can learn from other people’s experiences without going through them all themselves. Foolish ones think that no matter how it has turned out for others it won’t turn out that way with me.
Jesus who was and is really the wisest person ever to live, said that a wise man was one who heard his words and did them. He was like a man who built his house on the rock. A foolish person is one who hears the words of Jesus and doesn’t do them. He is like a person who builds his house on the sand and the storms of life destroy it.
In James 3:13-18 there is the best description of wisdom and foolishness to be found anywhere. “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Being smart, having a high IQ, making great grades in school or having numerous degrees don’t mean that one is wise. Solomon had the smarts, but his actions were often extremely foolish. How wise are you?