Solomon had everything going for him: wisdom, wealth, and power. Unfortunately, he had many vices as well: greed, lust, and idolatry. These combined to bring about the undoing of Israel in more ways than one.
Solomon was the king of Israel. Solomon was not the obvious choice for the throne. Nevertheless, David handpicked Solomon as his successor. While Solomon eventually took his place as one of the few truly great kings of Israel, he was very different from his father. David was a warrior, accustomed to dealing with conflict (or at least the threat of conflict) for most of his rule. By contrast, Solomon presided over the most enduring peace in Israel’s history.
Without pressures from beyond his kingdom, Solomon devoted himself to other pursuits—namely, cultivating wisdom (which he famously displayed to the amazement of his subjects and foreign dignitaries alike), forging diplomatic alliances with regional powers like Egypt, and building the temple in Jerusalem.
Solomon, however, was not without his blind spots. His wisdom (a gift from God, according to the writer of 1 Kings) did not prevent him from plunging headlong into the dangerous pursuit of wealth. He accumulated chariots and horses in violation of God’s command (see Deuteronomy 17:16). He used forced labor to build the temple and taxed the people heavily in order to finance his luxurious lifestyle (see 1 Kings 5:13;12:4).
Solomon’s best-known weakness, however, was his taste for women—and lots of them. Solomon famously had seven hundred wives —many of them no doubt marriages arranged for diplomatic reasons— and another three hundred concubines. Like the practice of accumulating wealth, the king’s taking of many wives was expressly forbidden by the Law (see Deuteronomy 17:17), and for good reason.
Over time, Solomon’s pagan wives lured him away from the one true God. And as the story ends, the once wise king descends into folly.
When he dedicated the temple, Solomon expressed a profound truth about God: No building can contain His presence (see 2 Chronicles 6:18–21). God in His grace condescends to move among us, but His presence and power cannot be confined to any building or box.