Solomon was known as the wise king blessed with an understanding heart, and yet also sadly fulfilled Samuel’s prophesy of the ills that would befall the Israelites if they were ruled by a king. The abundance the Israelites enjoyed as God’s chosen people proved insufficient for their contentment as they also longed “to be like other nations” even at the cost of losing their sons, daughters, servants, and a significant portion of their income to the service of a king that Samuel prophesied they would bitterly regret (1 Samuel 8:5-20). King Solomon contributed to the fulfillment of this prophecy through the gradual turning of his heart from a focus on following the commandments of God and serving his people to becoming like those from other nations who worshipped idols.
Known as a “Man of Wisdom” as the title of the lesson suggests, Solomon’s sagacity was of the heart variety rather than the mind. Emerging scientific research reveals more regarding the heart’s means of understanding. It has a logic of its own, acting independently from the brain and sending messages that the brain, in turn, understands and obeys. It was said that “All the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart” (1 Kings 10:24). It is through this kind of heart-reasoning that Solomon appears to have resolved the famous dispute between two harlots over a baby (1 Kings 3:16-28).
The women shared a home together through birth and pregnancy, having likely left a house of prostitution to go in on a home together. Perhaps devoid of any other friends and family, they must have been midwives for each other as they were the only witnesses of their babies’ births. One night as both women were sleeping with their babies, one of the women rolled over her son, accidentally killing him. The grief-stricken mother managed to remove the other woman’s baby without her notice and replace him with her baby’s body.
Solomon’s command to cut the baby in half reveals an understanding of the hearts of the two women, knowing that the true mother’s bowels yearned more for her son. As he perceived the intentions of the distraught woman’s heart well enough to attribute guilt, did his understanding heart also contemplate the depth of her pain at finding her lifeless baby, the guilt she must have felt over his death, and her loneliness? There is no account of any punishment affixed to her crime.
As Solomon reigned, his focus appears to have shifted from serving the Lord to satisfying his own more selfish pursuits. He taxed his people heavily (1 Kings 12:4) in order to build an extravagant palace with golden drinking vessels and a throne of ivory and gold, with six steps and twelve lions around it (1 Kings 10). The more Solomon sought the riches and the honor of his international reputation, the more his heart followed suit.
Still, the Lord continued to bless him with wisdom until his loyalty shifted entirely. Warned that non-Israelite women would “turn his heart to other gods,” he still acquired 700 wives and 300 concubines of various nationalities (1 Kings 11:2-4), manifesting a weakness similar to his father David. Solomon altered his own religious inclinations in an attempt to placate his many wives, having relinquished his desire to please God.
When Solomon began his reign, he focused on what he needed to serve God and others, but his gaze eventually shifted to what was missing to procure his own happiness. Solomon evidently felt he lacked something essential to his happiness (the forbidden non-Israelite wives), and that this was worth betraying God. How would this perception of scarcity be possible in the face of the greatest abundance? Somehow all his honor, wealth, and many wives couldn’t satisfy his deepest needs, like a man who remains hungry at a feast.
When those who appear to have it all can feel unsatisfied with their lives, like David longing for Bathsheba, it’s not surprising that most people spend a considerable portion of their lives feeling that they do not have the blessing they most desire to bring them happiness. When we see our weaknesses and the blessings we lack such as children, a spouse, or better health, especially when many others around us seem to have an abundance of these blessings, it can seem easier to be motivated by fear rather than love.
My son Aaron recently turned seven, and my husband and I have long prayed for more children. I often dreaded sending Aaron to kindergarten and being alone in the quiet house. I feared what would happen if my life became so fulfilled with a career that I lost the feeling of emptiness. I clung to each milestone in case I only got one chance to see a baby take a first step. I feared taking the wrong approach to my fertility and somehow this being my fault. I truly am at a feast, and yet the one thing I felt I lacked made me feel as though I had to hoard the rolls at the table for fear that the basket would never be refilled.
Then my house was empty. We had moved to a new state only days before kindergarten started, and even though it was painful to sit with the loneliness, I knew the Lord was offering me a gift of time to commune with Him. I was finally in a position to admit like Solomon that I’m like a child and don’t know how to fix myself. I read, wrote, prayed, meditated, and cared for my family while shrugging off others’ inquiries of “How do you stay busy?”
Two years later, my husband and I still wait upon the Lord for more children. But an understanding heart gives me reason to enjoy every moment more freely, knowing that nothing can take the feast away because my basket is full of Christ. I recognize when negative thoughts or fears begin creeping up again, and I know where to turn when they do. One of my favorite scriptures is Psalms 27:14: “Wait upon the Lord: be of good courage and He will strengthen thy heart.” As I wait on Him, He helps me bear more of His light and love with more of His love.
I know that many experience trials that seem far greater. Regardless of whether we seem to be as abundantly blessed as Solomon or in as dire need as the harlot who tragically lost her son, our love alone is not strong enough to bear the weight of the loneliness, childlessness, ill health, or lack of any other longed for blessing. Our hearts can fail us without courage (Latin root “cor” meaning heart) and a love greater than our own to serve as single adults sitting in a family ward, childless couples among friends with children, and under many other circumstances. And even when our heart has been strengthened, when we feel we have been given a more understanding heart, it can turn away like Solomon’s if we are not vigilant. I like the yoga imperative to “come back to heart center,” not looking for fulfillment outside ourselves like so many forbidden wives, but returning to the Spirit within until we feel and heart-think as God does.