Nay, thou must feel them, taste the smart of all:He that loves pleasure must for pleasure fall:And so I leave thee, Faustus, till anon;Then wilt thou tumble in confusion.”

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus 

Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus stands today as a classic Elizabethan tragedy. In literature, tragedy is a device that traces the rise and fall of a protagonist, often at the hand of a personal character flaw. The bible’s account of Solomon’s life follows such a pattern. He was a man of noble birth: son of the great King David and heir to the kingdom. He seemed to have the touch of Midas, tasting success at every turn. His rise to power was welcomed and swift, with any early day’s rivals quickly overcome. He was known personally for great wisdom and immense wealth. Under his leadership Israel also flourished; neigbouring nations respected them, with many bringing tribute and commerce to Solomon. He reigned forty years in such prosperity and peace that it is considered Israel’s golden age. Moreover, he was a great builder, bringing to fruition his father’s vision of a permanent temple for the Lord, as well as his own magnificent palace. He was also a scholar, philosopher, poet, and psalmist. When he spoke, people listened. Speaking of the people, Solomon was such a good king that instead of envying the great man, the people revelled in the glory of the kingdom: “they blessed the king and went to their homes joyful and glad of heart for all the greatness that the Lord had shown to David his servant and to Israel his people. (1 Kings 8:66)” 

Something to See:

Sadly, it does not take much further reading to see it all end so badly. By chapter 11, Solomon’s “heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel (11:9)”. By the time he passes to “sleep with his fathers” he rules over a fracturing kingdom held together only by the promise God makes to save the final tearing away to the reign of his son Rehoboam (11:11-13). Where did it go wrong? Did Solomon have a ‘fatal flaw’? His sins are on great display in chapter 11. His outsized, wanton sexual appetite (1000 wives and concubines) mirrored his personal worship. His heart went after the many gods of his wives; even to the point of establishing altars of worship to foreign gods our true God called abominations (see 11:1-8). When reflecting upon Solomon’s tragedy, Philip Ryken writes: “We start falling into sin long before we ever fall into disgrace.” Solomon started well by seeking wisdom and discernment for his kingship and would have done well to heed his own proverbial advice: “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge. (Proverbs 19:27)”