Is He a Good Example for You or a Warning?
“The God of Jacob . . . will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”—ISA. 2:3.
1, 2. In what ways can you benefit from Bible examples?
ARE you not convinced that you can benefit from what is written in the Bible? Therein you find examples of faithful men and women whose life course and qualities you would like to imitate. (Heb. 11:32-34) However, you have likely noted warning examples also—men and women whose deeds or attitudes you do well to avoid.
2 Actually, some individuals mentioned in the Bible stand out both as good examples of the course to follow and as warnings of what to shun. Think of David, a humble shepherd and then a powerful king. You find in him a good example of one who loved truth and trusted in Jehovah. Yet, David was guilty of serious wrongs, such as those involving Bath-sheba, Uriah, and an ill-advised census. Let us, though, focus on his son—a king and also a Bible writer—Solomon. We will first note two ways in which he was a good example.
“The Wisdom of Solomon”
3. Why can we say that Solomon set a good example for us?
3 The Greater Solomon, Jesus Christ, spoke favorably of King Solomon, setting him before us as a good example. Jesus told some doubting Jews: “The queen of the south will be raised up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but, look! something more than Solomon is here.” (Matt. 12:42) Yes, Solomon was famous for his wisdom, and he urged us to acquire it.
4, 5. How did Solomon gain his wisdom, but how is our acquiring of wisdom different?
4 At the start of Solomon’s kingship, God appeared to him in a dream and invited him to make a request. Aware of his limited experience, Solomon requested wisdom. (Read 1 Kings 3:5-9.) Pleased that the king asked for wisdom rather than for riches and glory, God gave Solomon “a wise and understanding heart”—as well as prosperity. (1 Ki. 3:10-14) As Jesus mentioned, Solomon’s wisdom was so outstanding that the queen of Sheba heard of it and made a long trip to experience it for herself.—1 Ki. 10:1, 4-9.
5 We personally do not expect to receive wisdom miraculously. Solomon said that “Jehovah himself gives wisdom,” but he wrote that we should strive to gain that godly quality: “Pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment.” Related to that, he used expressions such as “call out for,” “keep seeking for,” and “keep searching for” wisdom. (Prov. 2:1-6) Clearly, we can gain wisdom.
6. In what ways may we show that we are benefiting from Solomon’s good example as to wisdom?
6 It would be good to ask, ‘Am I taking to heart Solomon’s example of treasuring divine wisdom?’ Economic uncertainties have moved many to concentrate on their job and finances or have influenced decisions about the type and amount of education to seek. What about you and your family? Do your choices indicate that you are treasuring and seeking divine wisdom? Would adjusting your focus or goals allow you to acquire more wisdom? Really, gaining and applying wisdom is for your lasting good. Solomon wrote: “In that case you will understand righteousness and judgment and uprightness, the entire course of what is good.”—Prov. 2:9.
Elevating True Worship Brought Peace
7. How did God come to have a grand temple?
7 Early in his reign, Solomon took steps to replace the tabernacle, in use since Moses’ day, with a magnificent temple. (1 Ki. 6:1) We may call it Solomon’s temple, but it was not his idea or his way to make a name for himself as an architect or a wealthy benefactor. In fact, it was David who first proposed building a temple, whereupon God gave David detailed plans for the temple and its furnishings. And David made a great contribution to finance the work. (2 Sam. 7:2, 12, 13; 1 Chron. 22:14-16) Still, it fell on Solomon to carry out this building project that went on for seven and a half years.—1 Ki. 6:37, 38; 7:51.
8, 9. (a) We find in Solomon what good example as to persevering in good works? (b) What resulted from Solomon’s elevating of true worship?
8 Thus Solomon set a good example for us of persevering in good works, and he kept the right focus. When the temple was finished and the ark of the covenant was placed in it, Solomon offered a public prayer. In part, he prayed to Jehovah: “[May your] eyes . . . prove to be opened toward this house night and day, toward the place of which you said, ‘My name will prove to be there,’ to listen to the prayer with which your servant prays toward this place.” (1 Ki. 8:6, 29) Israelites and foreigners could pray toward this structure on which God’s name was called.—1 Ki. 8:30, 41-43, 60.
9 What resulted from Solomon’s elevating of true worship? After celebrating the temple’s inauguration, the people were “rejoicing and feeling merry of heart over all the goodness that Jehovah had performed for David his servant and for Israel.” (1 Ki. 8:65, 66) In fact, remarkable peace and prosperity marked Solomon’s 40-year reign. (Read 1 Kings 4:20, 21, 25.) Psalm 72 reflects that and gives us insight into the blessings we will enjoy under the rule of the Greater Solomon, Jesus Christ.—Ps. 72:6-8, 16.
Solomon’s Warning Example
10. What failing on Solomon’s part may readily come to mind?
10 Why, though, can we say that Solomon’s life course is also a warning example? You may think first of his foreign wives and concubines. We read: “It came about in the time of Solomon’s growing old that his wives themselves had inclined his heart to follow other gods; and his heart did not prove to be complete with Jehovah.” (1 Ki. 11:1-6) Undoubtedly, you are determined never to imitate his foolish course. But is that the only warning we find in Solomon’s life? Consider some details of his life that are easily overlooked, and see what warning you find.
11. We can conclude what about Solomon’s first marriage?
11 Solomon reigned for 40 years. (2 Chron. 9:30) Hence, what can you conclude from 1 Kings 14:21? (Read.) According to that verse, upon Solomon’s death his son Rehoboam became king at age 41, his mother being “Naamah the Ammonitess.” This means that before Solomon became king, he married a foreigner from an enemy nation that served idol gods. (Judg. 10:6; 2 Sam. 10:6) Did she worship them? Even if she did at one time, she may have turned away from idols and may have become a true worshipper, as did Rahab and Ruth. (Ruth 1:16; 4:13-17; Matt. 1:5, 6) Still, Solomon likely came to have Ammonite in-laws and relatives who did not serve Jehovah.
12, 13. Solomon made what poor decision early in his reign, and how might he have reasoned?
12 And things definitely took a bad turn after he became king. Solomon formed “a marriage alliance with Pharaoh the king of Egypt and [took] Pharaoh’s daughter and [brought] her to the City of David.” (1 Ki. 3:1) Did this Egyptian woman imitate Ruth by taking up true worship? Nothing indicates that she did so. Rather, in time Solomon built a house for her (and perhaps her Egyptian maids) outside the City of David. Why? The Scriptures say that he did so because it was not fitting for a false worshipper to dwell near the ark of the covenant.—2 Chron. 8:11.
13 Solomon may have seen political advantages in marrying an Egyptian princess, yet could he justify it? Long before, God had forbidden the marrying of pagan Canaanites, even listing certain peoples. (Ex. 34:11-16) Did Solomon reason that Egypt was not one of those listed nations? Even if he reasoned that way, would such rationalizing be valid? Actually, his course ignored the clear risk that Jehovah had mentioned—that of turning an Israelite from true worship to false.—Read Deuteronomy 7:1-4.
14. How might we benefit from taking to heart Solomon’s warning example?
14 Will we let Solomon’s course be a warning example for us? A sister might attempt to rationalize forming a romantic link that ignores God’s directive to marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Cor. 7:39) With similar rationalizing, one might share in extracurricular sports or clubs at school, underreport taxable income, or tell untruths when asked to reveal actions that could be embarrassing. The point is, Solomon must have used imperfect reasoning to get around what God commanded, and that same danger exists for us.
15. How did Jehovah show mercy in dealing with Solomon, but what should we remember about that?
15 It is interesting that after mentioning Solomon’s marriage to that foreign princess, the Bible relates that God granted his request for wisdom, and He also added riches. (1 Ki. 3:10-13) Solomon had ignored God’s instructions, yet there is no indication that Jehovah quickly rejected him as king or strongly disciplined him. That accords with the fact that God realizes that we are imperfect humans, made from dust. (Ps. 103:10, 13, 14) Remember though: Our actions can have consequences now or perhaps down the line.
So Many Wives!
16. In taking many wives, what was Solomon ignoring?
16 In the Song of Solomon, the king said admiringly of a certain virgin that she was more beautiful than 60 queens and 80 concubines. (Song of Sol. 6:1, 8-10) If that refers to Solomon’s situation, he had acquired that many women at that point in his reign. Even if most or all of them were true worshippers, God’s direction through Moses was that a king of Israel should “not multiply wives for himself, that his heart may not turn aside.” (Deut. 17:17) Again, though, Jehovah did not simply turn away from Solomon. In fact, God still blessed Solomon, using him to compose the Bible book Song of Solomon.
17. What reality should we not ignore?
17 Does this suggest that Solomon could ignore God’s direction with impunity or that we can do so? No. Rather, it shows that God’s forbearance can go on for some time. Yet, that one of God’s people can ignore his direction with no immediate negative consequence does not mean that there will be no sad outcome eventually. Recall what Solomon wrote: “Because sentence against a bad work has not been executed speedily, that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad.” He added: “I am also aware that it will turn out well with those fearing the true God, because they were in fear of him.”—Eccl. 8:11, 12.
18. How did Solomon’s case illustrate the truth we find at Galatians 6:7?
18 If only Solomon had kept heeding that divine truth! Yes, he had done much good and had long enjoyed divine blessings. But over time, he took one false step after another. A bad pattern developed. How true what the apostle Paul was later inspired to write: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap”! (Gal. 6:7) In time, Solomon reaped sad fruitage from ignoring God’s direction. We read: “King Solomon himself loved many foreign wives along with the daughter of Pharaoh, Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian and Hittite women.” (1 Ki. 11:1) Many of those likely remained attached to false gods, and Solomon was not immune. He went astray and lost the favor of our patient God.—Read 1 Kings 11:4-8.
Learn From His Example—Good and Bad
19. Why can you say that the Bible contains many good examples?
19 Jehovah kindly inspired Paul to write: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) Those written things include many good examples, men and women of outstanding faith. Paul could say: “What more shall I say? For the time will fail me if I go on to relate about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David as well as Samuel and the other prophets, who through faith defeated kingdoms in conflict, effected righteousness, obtained promises, . . . from a weak state were made powerful.” (Heb. 11:32-34) We can and should benefit from the good examples found in the Scriptures, following or imitating what is presented in those fine Biblical accounts.
20, 21. Why are you determined to benefit from warning examples found in God’s Word?
20 Certain Bible accounts, however, include warning examples. We can find some of those in the lives of men and women whom Jehovah at one point accepted and used as his servants. As we read the Bible, we can note where and how some of God’s people went astray and thus became warning examples. We can discern that some gradually developed wrong attitudes or tendencies, which eventually produced sad consequences. How can we draw lessons from such accounts? We may want to ask ourselves such questions as: ‘How did that develop? Might such a trend develop in my case? What can I do to avoid that and instead to benefit from this warning example?’
21 We certainly should consider these examples seriously, for Paul was inspired to write: “These things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Cor. 10:11.
What Have You Learned?
• Why can you find both good examples and warning examples in the Bible?
• How did Solomon allow a bad pattern to develop in his life?
• How can you benefit from Solomon’s warning example?
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Solomon applied God-given wisdom
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Are you benefiting from the warning example involving Solomon?