Why Solomon Couldn’t Take His Own Advice (and Why You Should)

Did you ever wonder how a man so wise as Solomon could have such a sad ending to his story?

Here’s a man revered by the world: the son of David, rich, discerning. Christians and Jews alike still admire his proverbs, and just to tip my hand: Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of the Bible.

Sue Clark (cc)

Yet in his latter years we get this from 1 Kings:

And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. (11:9-10)

This is the same man who, essentially, discovered the meaning of life:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecc. 12:13)

So this man King Solomon, son of David—the wisest man ever to grace the planet—sought out and actually discovered the meaning of life, yet he, himself, didn’t actually do it?

What gives?

The answer, it turns out, is quite simple. A cerebral kind of guy, I like to think the end all and be all is wisdom. That possessing wisdom is enough to conquer the world.

So my first inclination is that as wise as he was, he wasn’t wise enough. That the limit of man’s wisdom—even when granted by God—pales in comparison to that necessary to avoid stumbling. But it’s even simpler than that.

It’s not the mind that’s the problem, it was his brain.

What do I mean?

Solomon’s mind was sound. His logic was tight. But he still had an animal brain. Where the mind is metaphysical—intangible—the brain is solid. It has mass. It has a length and width. It’s a prisoner of this fallen world. When you die, it dies along with your body even while your mind remains.

This is the eternal inner battle every human since Adam (including Jesus) has faced. And while you may mentally grasp all of this, your brain doesn’t fight fair. In response to stimuli like food, sex, and exercise the body releases neurotransmitters known as endorphins. These chemicals suppress pain often evoking a sense of euphoria. (The very word “endorphin” means “morphine from within.”)

When you take a bite of chocolate or have an orgasm your pituitary gland releases a flood of endorphins in response to the pleasure. And just as with external narcotics, endorphins can be quite habit-forming.

Of course God’s creation was good, so in the context of Eden this isn’t a problem at all. On the contrary. But in a fallen world, mankind has a tendency to take things God intended for good and twist them into something He did not intend. Isn’t that the very definition of sin?

Solomon’s struggle is your struggle. And mine. He knew what was right in his mind, but his brain fought for control, and ultimately won the battle. You see the problem wasn’t a lack of wisdom, it was a lack of self control. God appeared before him twice (1 Kings 3:14, 9:6) and warned him to keep His commands and not to follow other gods. Warnings that Solomon ultimately rejected.

But what does that have to do with endorphins?

Solomon had an appetite for women, ergo sex, ergo endorphins. So much that he had over 700 wives. The scripture tells us that many were foreign women who led him astray to other gods. (But lest we place all the blame on the women, notice that God still gave Solomon the punishment.) And while the two admonitions in 1 Kings were general, there are very specific instructions in Deuteronomy 17 in this regard:

And [the king of Israel] shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away… (Deut. 17:17a)

It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

Every day is battle against our own flesh to do what we know is right. As Christ-followers with the Bible at our disposal: on our shelves, on our hard drives, even in our pockets, we are without excuse not to do the right thing.

So please take Solomon’s advice even if he couldn’t take it himself:

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent… Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Prov. 1:10, Ecc. 12:13b-14)

You know that in your mind. Make sure your brain knows it too.

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