Summary: Solomon, Pt. 3
ALL IS VANITY (1 KINGS 10:23-25, 11:1-13)
A Jewish story tells of Alexander the Great’s presence before the gates of paradise on his journey home after he had conquered the whole world. Seeing that the gates would not open for him, he asked for a token to prove that he was there. All he got was a human eye. Reaching home, he called all his wise men together.
“O King,” replied the wise men, “place the eye in the scales and weigh it.” “What for?” asked Alexander. “I can tell you before hand that it weighs but little.” “Do it just the same!” the wise men urged. “In the other half of the scales place a gold piece. Then we will find out which is heavier.” Alexander did as they asked. To his surprise he found that the eye was heavier than the gold piece. He threw into the scales another gold coin - still the eye was heavier. He then threw a whole handful of coins and ordered that all his gold and silver and jewels be thrown in. Still the eye outweighed the treasure.
“Even were you to take all your chariots and horses and palaces and place them in the scales, the eye will be heavier,” said the wise men. “How do you explain this?” asked the king. “How is such a thing possible?” “Learn a lesson from all this, O king,” said the wise men. “Know that the human eye is never satisfied with what it sees. No matter how much treasure you will show it, it will want more and still more.” “Your explanation doesn’t satisfy me. Give me proof,” insisted Alexander. “Very well,” agreed the wise men. “Have all your gold and treasure removed from the scales. Then place a pinch of dust in their place and observe what happens.”
Barely had Alexander placed a little dust in the scales when they tipped to the other end, for the dust proved heavier than the eye. “Now I understand the meaning of your words and of what was in your minds!” cried Alexander. “So long as man is alive, his eye is never sated, but no sooner does he die when he is as dust! Then his eye loses its impulse and becomes powerless. It can no longer desire.”
People tend to forget where the small pleasures of life and the simple things in life once they make it. Solomon made it big. He was a celebrity, a hit, a showstopper. Traders or spice merchants (1 Ki 10:15), governors of the land (1 Ki 10:15), apes and peacocks (1 Ki 10:22) made its debut in Scriptures and made their way into Israel for the first time. The king lived a life of influence, affluence and opulence. Solomon made a great throne of ivory for himself (1 Ki 10:18) and twelve lions were placed on the six steps leading to the throne. All King Solomon’s goblets were gold and all the household articles in the palace were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver (1 Kings 10:20-21). Solomon had forgotten that people came to hear his wisdom (1 Ki 10:24), not to see his riches.
How can we be rightly related to God, others and self? What safeguards do we need and have against riches and vanities in life?
You Need a Head Exam on Your Big Head
11:1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter-Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 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. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. (1 Kings 11:1-3)
A Mormon acquaintance once pushed Mark Twain into an argument on the issue of polygamy. After long and tedious expositions justifying the practice, the Mormon demanded that Twain cite any passage of scripture expressly forbidding polygamy.
“Nothing easier,” Twain replied. “No man can serve two masters.”
It’s been said, “The penalty for polygamy is more mother-in-laws.”
Sixth century Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “It is not good for all your wishes to be fulfilled. Through sickness you recognize the value of health, through evil the value of good, through hunger satisfaction, through exertion the value of rest.”
Solomon knew the twin threats that come from being dirt poor and being filthy rich. He prayed in Proverbs 30:7-9: “O LORD…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
The word “love” ( v 1) cleverly tracks Solomon’s rise and fall. His values were bankrupt, his decline was hastening and his collapse was imminent. The barely-enthroned king Solomon loved the Lord (1 Ki 3:3), but the long-entrenched king loved foreign women (11:1). The amorous king couldn’t stop himself from flirting with ladies, playing with fire and courting for trouble. He added wives like winning trophies, change them like new clothes, and collected them like buying stamps. Solomon had the wisdom to deal with things related to others, but not to himself. Further, even the wisest man in the world was not given the ability to deal with more than one woman in his life, never mind 1,000 women.