How Can the Wise Be So Stupid?

Building of the Trump Tower in Chicago, IL

 1 Kings 9
When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, the Lord appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. The Lord said to him:
“I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
“As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’
“But if you(plural) or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you(plural) and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’”
At the end of twenty years, during which Solomon built these two buildings—the temple of the Lord and the royal palace— 11 King Solomon gave twenty towns in Galilee to Hiram king of Tyre, because Hiram had supplied him with all the cedar and juniper and gold he wanted. But when Hiram went from Tyre to see the towns that Solomon had given him, he was not pleased with them. “What kind of towns are these you have given me, my brother?” he asked. And he called them the Land of Kabul, a name they have to this day. 14 Now Hiram had sent to the king 120 talents[e] of gold.
Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his own palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. (Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. And Solomon rebuilt Gezer.) He built up Lower Beth Horon, Baalath, and Tadmor(Tamar) in the desert, within his land, as well as all his store cities and the towns for his chariots and for his horse—whatever he desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and throughout all the territory he ruled.
There were still people left from the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (these peoples were not Israelites). Solomon conscripted the descendants of all these peoples remaining in the land—whom the Israelites could not exterminate—to serve as slave labor, as it is to this day. But Solomon did not make slaves of any of the Israelites; they were his fighting men, his government officials, his officers, his captains, and the commanders of his chariots and charioteers. They were also the chief officials in charge of Solomon’s projects—550 officials supervising those who did the work.
After Pharaoh’s daughter had come up from the City of David to the palace Solomon had built for her, he constructed the terraces.
Three times a year Solomon sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings on the altar he had built for the Lord, burning incense before the Lord along with them, and so fulfilled the temple obligations.
King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea. And Hiram sent his men—sailors who knew the sea—to serve in the fleet with Solomon’s men. They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon. 

After reading through 1 Kings 9, I’ve got to say that, for a man who is known to be the wisest man to have ever lived, Solomon was really pretty dumb. I mean, here’s this guy to whom the Lord gave such greater wisdom and discernment for good and evil than anybody else ever in all of history, and more than anybody said to come after (except Jesus of course), but yet made so many stupid mistakes! For example:

  1. Marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter as a peace treaty. First of all, she’s not an Israelite, and the Law said that no Israelite was to marry a non-Israelite. Second, the marriage was based on a peace treaty with Pharaoh. Granted many marriages in those days were based on property and contracts, but after all the history between the two nations, Solomon decided to make a treaty with Pharaoh? Wouldn’t you think this put a damper on God’s impact on His people when He reminded them of what He did for them?  God: ‘I brought you from out of Egypt…’ People: ‘Wait, Egypt? Oh, you mean that beautiful place I visited the other day to buy incense.’
  2. Solomon’s building project: Solomon misunderstood the prophesy of David’s son (seed) building a house for the Lord that would stand forever. So figuring the prophesy was about him (but we know today that God was talking about Jesus), Solomon started off building the house for the Lord. (Did Pride lead to poor judgment?)
  3. Poor money management: As Solomon built, it’s like he said, ‘Sure, what the heck, let’s get everything done now while we’re at it’, and built more than the house for the Lord. And he didn’t just build or rebuild everything, but he made everything match (like redecorating your kitchen with marble countertops). Here, I believe Greed led Solomon to build “all that Solomon desired to build.”
  4. Relationships with women: Solomon married other women as treaty-binders also, not just Pharaoh’s, as well as picked up many women as concubines. Now, I know this was “a king thing”, but it was still against God’s statutes and ordinances, which Solomon promised to follow.
  5. Solomon worshiped his many wives’ gods: I think this mistake goes without explanation.

What also confuses me is, how could a man with such wisdom and discernment, who’s even quoting saying that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, make so many foolish mistakes and Godless decisions? But here’s what I’m thinking…Solomon had great wisdom and discernment for right and wrong, yet what led him to make such stupid and foolish mistakes was that he chose not to obey. It’s like his conscience (or the Holy Spirit inside of him, assuming He was inside him as He was inside David) tells him one thing, but he chooses not to listen to it, and instead goes off and does his own thing (I’ve mentioned this problem before in a previous post about people making decisions based on feelings and desires versus what they know to be right or wrong). It’s also said that wisdom often develops out of the mistakes we experience. Could it be that the 3,000 proverbs Solomon wrote (1 Kings 4:32) were all based on the experiences of his own mistakes? Or were they his thoughts on the matters before making such mistakes?

Another thought I have on this is that he was a human, and no matter what somebody has to offer, if we put such glory onto a human being, somewhere along the line, we will experience great disappointment. In fact, the Bible even tells us this: “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say (Isaiah 29:14), ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.’ So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish…Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

“For God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise…so that no one may boast before Him.”

So if there’s anybody who was the wisest to have ever lived, and in whom we can know or obtain the wisdom of God, it’s in Jesus. And not only was Jesus God in the flesh, but He also actually practiced what He preached. The great wisdom He taught, He also did. Jesus wasn’t like Solomon, or others today who basically say, ‘Do as I say, but not as I do’. Jesus actually said “Follow Me”- Follow Me to righteousness; follow Me to salvation; follow Me to the Father; follow Me to Heaven; follow Me and do as I do so that you may be children of God; Follow Me, My teachings, My statutes, and My commands, as I show you how by doing them Myself. Follow Me and become like Me – like God.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Understand, Jesus had just as many opportunities to sin as did Solomon, especially during those 40 days in the wilderness (think of it: you’re so hungry that your body is beginning to cannibalize itself to survive. You have the ability to change a rock into a loaf of bread. Wouldn’t you do it, even if not being tempted by Satan directly?) Yet, Jesus didn’t.

Also, if you want to be wise, then again you must also become such in Christ, for “God has united (us) with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Him to be wisdom itself.” Also in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, Paul said, “…few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things that the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.”

So if one must know and follow Christ (God) to become wise, then how does somebody who knows so much, make so many stupid mistakes in practice? Simple: they’ve taken their focus off from God, put it onto their own pride, and followed through, which was exactly what Solomon did: Wise in knowledge, but senseless in practice.

1 Comment

  1. Matthew 13:22–“The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s Word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced”. Unlike Solomon and others who are “wise in knowledge, but senseless in practice”, may we continually focus on the Lord and be “good soil” that truly hears and understands God’s Word, and is fruitful for God’s kingdom (Matthew 13:23).

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