I was reading the book of 2 Chronicles recently, and stumbled upon a lesson from the life of Solomon that I don’t think is often captured. Let me set the stage with a few important passages:
2 Chronicles 1:6-14
And Solomon went up thither to the brasen altar before the Lord, which was at the tabernacle of the congregation, and offered a thousand burnt offerings upon it.
In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall giev thee.
And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast shewed great mercy unto David my father, and has made me to reign in his stead.
Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude.
Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is go great?
And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but has asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king:
Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.
Then Solomon came from his journey to the high place that was at Gibeon to Jerusalem, from before the tabernacle of the congregation, and reigned over Israel.
And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, which he placed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 9:30-31
And Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel forty years.
And Solomon slept with his fathers, and he was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead.
2 Chronicles 10:1-16
And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for to Shechem were all Israel come to make him king.
And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was in Egypt, Whither he had fled from the presence of Solomon the king, heard it, that Jeroboam returned out of Egypt.
And they sent and called him. So Jeroboam and all Israel came and spake to Rehoboam, saying,
Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore ease thou somewhat the grievous servitude of thy father, and his heavy yoke that he put upon us, and we will serve thee.
And he said unto them, Come again unto me after three days, And the people departed.
And king Rehoboam took counsel with the old men that had stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, saying, What counsel give ye me to return answer to this people?
And they spake unto him, saying, If thou be kind to this people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be thy servants for ever.
But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men that were brought up with him, that stood before him.
And he said unto them, What advice give ye that we may return answer to this people, which have spoken to me, saying, Ease somewhat the yoke that thy father did put upon us?
And the young men that ere brought up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou answer the people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it somewhat lighter for us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.
For whereas my father put a heavy yoke upon you, I will put more to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
So the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was of God, that the Lord might perform his word, which he spake by the hand of Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
And when all Israel saw that the king would not hearken unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? and we have none inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to your tents, O Israel; and now, David, see to thine own house. So all Israel went to their tents.
The passages are long, but they show that all the wisdom of Solomon, all his glories and public works, led to aggrandizement of the king and government at the expense of the people. The first passage shows that one of the first things Solomon did was to take to himself horses, building his own strength — something warned against in the Pentateuch:
But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Eygpy, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.
Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away,; neither shall he greatly mutiply to himself silver and gold.
Notice that the Pentateuch also warns against multiplying gold and silver and wives — all things that Solomon did.
And what was the result of his glorious reign? A dissatisfied people, one oppressed by its government, one that revolted and split the kingdom in twain.
In Ecclesiastes Solomon wonders at the vanity of life, of everything. Notice it is the great king that feels the vanity. It isn’t the simple common man that feels life is vain. Big government, social planning, ultimately fails. Solomon talks about building things, only to have the fool follow and ruin it all.
If we look at Solomon, we see the original social planner seeing that trying to direct society from the top down leads to discontent from the top down.
Perhaps that is why the original intent for the promised land included no kings, and when kings came along they were counselled to keep themselves simple: in wealth, in wives, in military might. The strength of a land is its people, not its king or government. A free people solves its own issues individually and together with limited government interference.
Turning this to the our current political situation: none of the candidates are suggesting government get out of the way of our freedom or happiness. Each one is advising ways of expanding its influence to do stuff for us. The example of Solomon warns us where that leads, if we have the wisdom and the eyes to see: We will merely exchange whips for scorpions.
Reject them all, and find someone who will reign in government and release freedom once again.