A Fool in Old Age
There's something that's always bothered me about King Solomon. How can the wisest man who ever lived be so foolish in his old age? Look at 1 Kings 11:4.
For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.
It's kind of cliché to question Solomon's wisdom for having 700 wives and 300 concubines. But even if it's cliché, it's a valid question. Why in the world would Solomon, the wisest man ever, have so many wives? 1 Kings 11:2 gives us a clue.
Solomon clung to these in love.
That's a curious insert by the author. He makes special note that Solomon "clung" to his wives "in love." It's worth noting that the Hebrew word for love used here is a broad term that can be used in many ways. Two meanings stick out in this context: Sexual love, and appetite for things like food or sleep. Solomon apparently had a ravenous sexual appetite. The wisest man to ever live was likely a sexual addict. But let's look a little deeper before we hand out labels.
Let's look at Solomon's family history. His father was King David and his mother was Bathsheba. Solomon was born from a marriage that began with his parents' lust and a scandalous affair where David had Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, murdered. David was also a man who had many wives (only eight of them are named). David's sin - polygamy and lust - became a generational sin that Solomon repeated but in a much greater magnitude.
The sins of fathers are often played on repeat in their children, only louder and larger.
Solomon's downfall had to do with his unchecked sin. Though God blessed him and made him the wisest of all men, Solomon's blind spot was his uncontrolled lust. And like his father, David, his lust created problems later in life. David's house was afflicted by violence for much of the rest of his life. In fact, that violence led to his oldest son Absalom leading a coup and ultimately losing his life. It's ironic that David's sin is what led to Solomon's ascension to the throne. And Solomon repeated his father's sin in far greater magnitude.
Solomon's lust led to his massive polygamy. And in his old age, his many wives persuaded Solomon to worship their gods alongside Yahweh. In the time of his life when his wisdom should have reached it's pinnacle, he slid into idolatry and angered the Lord against him, and became a fool.
I can hear your objection.
"But Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes in his old age, he wasn't a fool!"
I suggest you read Ecclesiastes again. One of the primary themes of Ecclesiastes is Solomon's foolishness! He calls himself out as having lived foolishly! Consider his words in Ecclesiastes 2:1-2.
I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?”
The end of the matter; all has been heard. 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. - Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
The lesson from Solomon's life seems to be this. Old age is no guarantee of wisdom. Wisdom is no guarantee against becoming a fool. Even in old age, wisdom can fail, foolishness can parade itself, and you can lose everything you worked for. What's the answer?
Solomon's final word in Ecclesiastes was fear God and keep his commands. Think about what might've been if Solomon had obeyed God's commands instead of his flesh? How would the history of Israel have been different if Solomon halted the generational sin of his father, David? We can't say. All we can say is that for all his wisdom, Solomon was still a fool because he didn't obey the voice of the Lord his God. A lack of obedience burned down the house that Solomon's wisdom built.
What about us?
Paul wrote something really important in relation to wisdom... "the world did not know God through wisdom." (1 Corinthians 1:21) That isn't meant as jab at the pursuit of wisdom. The New Testament encourages us to pursue wisdom in many places. But what that means is this. First, God isn't found in becoming wise. God is only found in Jesus Christ through the Gospel of his immeasurable grace toward us. Second, God isn't pleased by wisdom. God is pleased when we love him by obeying his commands. In Christ, we become wise through obeying the Word and the Spirit. Wisdom is a fruit of loving obedience.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. - James 3:17
Sounds like the fruit of the Spirit... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)
Don't think that just because you're old that you're wise. Don't think that just because you're wise that you're not a fool. Don't wait till the end of your life - like Solomon - to figure that out. But only measure your life through your loving obedience to Jesus. That's the only real protection against becoming a fool.
There is a weakness that is common among most men...but that weakness seems to be especially prevalent and even intensified among men who are highly intelligent or very talented in some area, such as writing, painting, music, etc...men who are possessed of a higher facility.
And that weakness is a deep allure and yearning for, and even a fascination with womanhood and the feminine essence...especially women who are in the full bloom or prime of young womanhood.
It's a weakness because it makes them especially vulnerable to even the slightest display of feminine charm that a woman might direct at them.
And it doesn't necessarily have to be a beautiful woman either. Look at the poet John Keats as an example, who unfortunately died at the age of 25, but possessed an eloquent and profound genius for poetry. He became captivated by a woman named Fanny Brawne. Brawne was described in a biography as "a woman who was not considered beautiful." She seemed to be light-hearted and fanciful, and Keats even said she could be "fippant and vain." I tend to think of her modern equivalent being a young woman who is a "free spirit," perhaps with a couple of tattoos on her arms, and maybe a piercing in her nostril...and yet Keats was captivated by her and almost intoxicated in her presence. To him she exuded womanhood and that feminine essence. Despite his profound genius for poetic writing, he'd become tongue-tied in her presence.
He frustratingly wrote to a friend, "When I'm in her presence I can not speak...and yet I can't remain silent."
She inspired him to write three of the greatest poems in the English language, he ended up writing over 30 love letters to her, and she became enamored with him because of the esteem in which he held her and the almost reverence he had for her. He used the full powers of his poetic genius to describe that deep yearning and allure he had for her womanhood in his poem "Woman!," wherein he eloquently described, even when she was at her worst, that she exceeded anything else in creation...and went on to describe how he viewed her as being at a higher level of humanity than himself.
And of course, the vast majority of the subject matter of songs written by the greatest songwriters is about womanhood...their esteem, allure, and fascination with it.
No, it definitely transcends lust, it might not start with love...although it can certainly progress to love...but it never starts with or remains stagnate at just the level of animal lust either...it transcends that.
If Solomon was indeed "the wisest man who ever lived," than his level of genius would have been extremely high, especially in the areas of logic and abstract reasoning...and yet a woman could turn his brain to mush with her feminine charms.
To me, Solomon describes in Ecclesiastes his frustration with himself, seemingly not understanding why he possessed such a sensitive and amplified capacity for the appreciation, reverence, and fascination with womanhood and the feminine essence, and his deep yearning and allure with it, so he ascribed it to lust...when in reality, it actually transcended mere lust.
After I received JESUS, I have always placed our LORD JESUS and the 'foolishness' of the cross, and JESUS' death burial and Resurrection ... as wiser than wisdom.
The Proverbs, while necessarily an expression of practical works, are weaker than the Gospel of Grace inferences throughout Scriptures.
I much prefer the Gospel Word to light up my foolishness and compounded sins. Thus I feel forgiven greatly...which quickens Charity...which is the greatest command.
In Heaven, the wise words of Solomon and the Law of Moses...must never supercede JESUS...whose 'foolishness' is GOD'S WISDOM and GOD'S LOVE from above.
When I study corrupted Moses and Solomon, Gospel Charity must break forth...else it's vanity of vanities.
Praise GOD, not wisdom nor Moses! In JESUS' Name!
1Corinthians, John3:16, etc.