Lesson 26: King Solomon: Man of Wisdom, Man of Foolishness
1 Kings 3; 5-11
To encourage class members to use their blessings wisely.
Ask class member to read:
“We generally think of Satan attacking us at our weakest spot. … but weakness is not our only vulnerability. Satan can also attack us where we think we are strong – in the very areas where we are proud of our strengths. He will approach us through the greatest talents and spiritual gifts we possess. If we are not wary, Satan can cause our spiritual downfall by corrupting us through our strengths as well as by exploiting our weaknesses.” – Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign, October 1994, 12.
Today we’ll be talking about King Solomon, considering how he used his great gifts from God both for righteousness and unrighteousness. We’ll also look at some additional strengths that Elder Oaks noted could become weaknesses for us in our day.
1. The Lord blesses Solomon with wisdom, riches, and honor.
Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba, the one whom the prophet Nathan anointed to be the king after David. Just before his death, David gave Solomon his last father’s advice:
1 Kings 2:2-3:
2 I go the away of all the earth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man;
3 And keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself.
Knowing what we know of David’s own struggles, what do you think of his advice? Is he really qualified to give such advice?
And so David died. In the early days of his reign, King Solomon went to Gibeon, a “high place” used for sacrifices, since Israel at that time had no temple. Let’s read
1 Kings 3:5-9:
5 ¶ In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
6 And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
7 And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
8 And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
What do you think about Solomon, as he started his reign?
1 Kings 3:10-15:
10 And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
13 And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
14 And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.
15 And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants.
The first situation that faced Solomon, a story that the world turns to still today as one of the greatest illustrations of wisdom, involved two women and a baby. Could someone summarize that story for us, please?
2. King Solomon directs the construction of a great temple and has a palace built for himself.
Early in his reign, Solomon was commanded by the Lord to build a temple. Solomon obeyed, and built a temple that remains legendary to this day. Do you remember what made it so noteworthy among the peoples of the world? (Solomon made peace with kings in neighboring countries so that he would have the time and men and to build the temple, and so that the riches of those other countries could be brought to build the temple. He used only the best materials; everything was huge; everything was covered over with gold. The best craftsmanship, from the men who carved the foundation stones to the men who carved the wooden ornaments of the temple, was called into service.)
It took seven years to build the magnificent temple, then Solomon had the temple dedicated to the service of God.
Just as one indication of the magnificence of the temple, the Bible records the dimensions of the building:
1 Kings 6:2-3:
2 And the house which king Solomon built for the Lord, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits.
3 And the porch before the temple of the house, twenty cubits was the length thereof, according to the breadth of the house; and ten cubits was the breadth thereof before the house.
(Write 60 x 20 x 30 and 20 x 10 on the board.)
Solomon’s next big project, we are told, after building the house of the Lord, was to build a house, a palace, for himself.
1 Kings 7:2, 6:
2 ¶ He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon; the length thereof was an hundred cubits, and the breadth thereof fifty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits, upon four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars.
6 ¶ And he made a porch of pillars; the length thereof was fifty cubits, and the breadth thereof thirty cubits: and the porch was before them: and the other pillars and the thick abeam were before them.
(Write 100 x 50 x 30 and 50 x 30 on the board, under the dimensions of the temple.)
Solomon was a great builder – there’s no question of that, or of the care and attention he put into every detail of the Lord’s house. That project had developed his strengths as an administrator, a diplomat, an architect, an artist, strengths which he employed in building his palace. What signs are there, though, that Solomon’s strengths were beginning to become a weakness?
Solomon’s vanity, or taste for the finest things, didn’t stop with the size of his palace. We are told elsewhere that all the fixtures of his palace, from his shields to his drinking vessels, were made of fine gold, and that he had a throne built of ivory, with carved lions standing on each side of his throne, and that he imported the best horses and chariots and linen and other goods from all over the known world.
Is there anything wrong, really, with liking the finer things of life, with wanting to drink your water from a gold cup rather than one made of pottery? Under what conditions might that desire for the finer things actually become a problem? (Bring out as many of these ideas as class members are willing to suggest: Our focus turns to wealth rather than to God; we begin to think that the quality of our possessions reflects the quality of our lives; we separate ourselves from those who do not have the same wealth; others may go without the basic needs of life that could have been provided by the sacrifice of a few of our own luxuries; in the case of a king like Solomon, the people may have been burdened to provide the funds for his luxuries.)
Elder Oaks identified numerous qualities that, when used correctly, are strengths, but when driven to excess, as Solomon drove his strengths, can become weaknesses.
(Discuss as many of these concepts from Elder Oaks’ 1992 talk as time allows:)
(From Elder Oaks talk: “Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve has likened the fulness of the gospel to a piano keyboard. He has told us that a person could be ‘attracted by a single key,’ such as a doctrine he or she wants to hear ‘played over and over again. … Some members of the Church who should know better pick out a hobby key or two and tap them incessantly, to the irritation of those around them. They can dull their own spiritual sensitivities. They lose track that there is a fulness of the gospel … [which they reject] in preference to a favorite note. This becomes exaggerated and distorted, leading them away into apostasy” (Ensign, Dec. 1971, p. 42).
Before class I asked our Relief Society pianist to go to the piano as soon as I mentioned gospel hobbies and begin striking one key, over and over, to illustrate this point as we were talking about it. People liked that – it’s amazing how much doing the unexpected even in a point this small can wake people up and add to the lesson.)
Misapplication of Spiritual Gifts
A Desire to Know All
A Desire to Be Led in All Things
A Desire to Sacrifice More than Is Needful
Social Consciousness Not Tempered by Other Values
An Intense Focus on Goals
Popular Teachers and the Potential of Priestcraft
Neglect or Distortion of Family Duties
Excesses in Giving
Accomplishment and Pride
Inordinate Church Service
Not Really Following the Prophet
Misapplication of Love and Tolerance
3. Solomon becomes excessively wealthy and marries many non-Israelite women who persuade him to worship idols.
Solomon’s lust for wealth is not the only excess that developed during the course of his reign. He began taking wives – many wives, and wives who were not Israelite. How did these non-Israelite wives contribute to Solomon’s decline from the righteousness with which he had begun his reign?
So, what is the answer? We want to cultivate our strengths – the Lord has given us strengths as a blessing, for ourselves and for His Kingdom. How do we prevent our strengths from becoming our downfall?
Elder Oaks says the answer is not “moderation in all things”:
Moderation in all things is not a virtue, because it would seem to justify moderation in commitment. That is not moderation, but indifference. That kind of moderation runs counter to the divine commands to serve with all of our “heart, might, mind and strength,: to “seek … earnestly the riches of eternity,” and to be “valiant in the testimony of Jesus.” Moderation is not the answer.
Rather, he says:
The quality we must cultivate is humility. Humility is the great protector. Humility is the antidote against pride. …
We might also say that if men and women humble themselves before God, he will help them prevent their strengths from becoming weaknesses that the adversary can exploit to destroy them. …
Those who engage in self-congratulation over a supposed strength have lost the protection of humility and are vulnerable to Satan’s using that strength to produce their downfall. In contrast, if we are humble and teachable, hearkening to the commandments of God, the counsel of his leaders, and the promptings of his Spirit, we can be guided in how to use our spiritual gifts, our accomplishments, and all of our other strengths for righteousness. And we can be guided in how to avoid Satan’s efforts to use our strengths to cause our downfall.
In all of this, we should remember and rely on the Lord’s direction and promise: “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers” (D&C 112:10).