Is He a Good Example for You or a Warning?
“The God of Jacob . . . will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”—ISAIAH 2:3.
1, 2. In what ways can you benefit from Bible examples?
YOU certainly agree that you can benefit from what is written in the Bible. You can read about faithful men and women whom you should imitate. (Hebrews 11:32-34) You can also read about men and women whose ways of thinking and acting you should not copy. Their examples are a warning for you.
2 In fact, some people mentioned in the Bible can be both a good example and an example of what to avoid. Think about David, who was a humble shepherd and later became a powerful king. He is a good example of someone who loved truth and trusted in Jehovah. But David was also guilty of serious sins, such as the adultery with Bath-sheba and the murder of Uriah; he also unwisely counted the people. In this article, we will study the example of David’s son Solomon, who was a king and a writer of parts of the Bible. We will first talk about two ways in which he was a good example for us to imitate.
“THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON”
3. Why can we say that Solomon is a good example for us?
3 The Greater Solomon, Jesus Christ, spoke of King Solomon as a good example for us to imitate. Jesus told some Jews: “The queen of the south will be raised up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it; because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but, look! something more than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42) Solomon was famous for his wisdom, and he encouraged us to become wise too.
4, 5. How did Solomon become wise? How is the way we become wise different from the way Solomon did?
4 When Solomon became king, God appeared to him in a dream and told him to ask for whatever he wanted. Solomon said that he wanted wisdom. He knew that he had a lot to learn. (Read 1 Kings 3:5-9.) God was pleased that the king asked for wisdom. So God gave Solomon not only “a wise and understanding heart” but also what he had not asked for, “riches and glory.” (1 Kings 3:10-14) Jesus said that Solomon’s wisdom was so great that when the queen of Sheba heard about it, she traveled a long distance to meet Solomon and listen to his wisdom.—1 Kings 10:1, 4-9.
5 The wisdom God gave Solomon was a miracle. Today, we do not expect to become wise the same way Solomon did. He said that “Jehovah himself gives wisdom,” but he also wrote that we should work hard to become wise. He said: “Pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment.” Solomon also said that we should “call out for,” “keep seeking for,” and “keep searching for” wisdom. (Proverbs 2:1-6) Clearly, this means that we can gain wisdom, or become wise.
6. How can we imitate Solomon’s good example?
6 It is good for us to ask ourselves, Do I love wisdom as Solomon did? Many people give a lot of attention to money and their job because of economic problems. Or they allow the economy to influence their decisions on the type of education and on how much education they should get. What about you and your family? Do your choices show that you are “searching for” wisdom like a treasure? Do you need to change the way you think about money and education so that you can work harder to gain wisdom? The wisdom we gain will benefit us forever. Solomon wrote: “In that case you will understand righteousness and judgment and uprightness, the entire course of what is good.”—Proverbs 2:9.
THERE WAS PEACE WHEN SOLOMON PUT TRUE WORSHIP FIRST
7. How was a beautiful temple built for God?
7 Soon after Solomon became king, he wanted to replace the tabernacle that had been used since the time of Moses. So he had the people build a beautiful temple. (1 Kings 6:1) We call it Solomon’s temple, but he did not build it to become famous. It was not even his idea to build the temple. In fact, it was David who first had the idea. And it was God who gave David the detailed plans for the temple and the things in it. David also gave a lot of money to the building project. (2 Samuel 7:2, 12, 13; 1 Chronicles 22:14-16) But it was Solomon’s responsibility to complete the building of the temple, which took seven and a half years.—1 Kings 6:37, 38; 7:51.
8, 9. (a) What good example of not giving up in doing good works is Solomon for us? (b) What happened when Solomon put true worship first?
8 Solomon is a good example of not giving up in doing good works and of keeping the most important things in first place. When the temple was finished and the ark of the covenant was put in it, Solomon said a public prayer. In his prayer, he asked Jehovah to listen to the prayers of his servants, who prayed toward the temple. (1 Kings 8:6, 29) Israelites and foreigners could pray toward this temple, which was built to bring honor to God’s name.—1 Kings 8:30, 41-43, 60.
9 What happened when Solomon put true worship first? After the dedication of the temple, the people were “rejoicing and feeling merry of heart over all the goodness that Jehovah had performed for David his servant and for Israel.” (1 Kings 8:65, 66) During the 40 years that Solomon ruled, the people had many good things and they had peace. (Read 1 Kings 4:20, 21, 25.) Psalm 72 tells us about that and helps us better understand the blessings we will have under the rule of the Greater Solomon, Jesus Christ.—Psalm 72:6-8, 16.
SOLOMON’S EXAMPLE IS A WARNING
10. What serious mistake did Solomon make?
10 Why can we say that Solomon’s life is also a warning for us? The first thing you may think of is his foreign wives and concubines. We read: “It came about in the time of Solomon’s growing old that his wives themselves had inclined his heart to follow other gods; and his heart did not prove to be complete with Jehovah.” (1 Kings 11:1-6) Of course, you do not want to make the same foolish mistake that he did. But there are some other things in Solomon’s life that we might easily forget and that can also be a warning for us. Let us talk about some of them.
11. What lesson can we learn from Solomon’s first marriage?
11 Solomon ruled for 40 years. (2 Chronicles 9:30) So, what can we learn from 1 Kings 14:21? (Read.) According to that verse, when Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king at age 41. His mother was “Naamah the Ammonitess.” This means that before Solomon became king, he married a foreigner from an enemy nation that worshipped false gods. (Judges 10:6; 2 Samuel 10:6) We do not know if she continued to worship these false gods or if she became a true worshipper, as Rahab and Ruth did. (Ruth 1:16; 4:13-17; Matthew 1:5, 6) But now, because of this marriage, Solomon likely had Ammonite in-laws and relatives who did not serve Jehovah.
12, 13. What serious mistake did Solomon make in the beginning of his rule? What excuses may he have used?
12 Solomon’s situation got worse after he became king. Solomon “proceeded to form a marriage alliance with Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to take Pharaoh’s daughter and bring her to the City of David.” (1 Kings 3:1) Did this Egyptian woman become a worshipper of Jehovah, as Ruth did? The Bible does not say that. Instead, the Bible tells us that Solomon built a house for her and possibly her Egyptian maids outside the City of David. Why? Because she was a false worshipper, and false worshippers were not to live near the ark of the covenant.—2 Chronicles 8:11.
13 Solomon may have thought that the marriage to a princess was a good thing because it would strengthen the friendship between Israel and Egypt. But this was not right. A long time before that, God had commanded his people not to marry Canaanites. He even gave them a list of the Canaanite nations they should avoid. (Exodus 34:11-16) Might Solomon have thought that he could marry an Egyptian because Egypt was not on that list? Even if he used this as an excuse, would God accept it? Solomon did not pay attention to the fact that Jehovah said it would be dangerous to marry someone from another nation. Someone who did not worship Jehovah could make an Israelite start worshipping false gods.—Read Deuteronomy 7:1-4.
14. How can we allow Solomon’s example to be a warning for us?
14 Will we allow Solomon’s example to be a warning for us? A sister might try to make excuses for disobeying God’s command to marry “only in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:39) Or we might make excuses about other matters. For example, someone may make excuses to join in sports or clubs in school when he really is not required to join them. Or someone may make excuses not to pay taxes on all the money he earned or to tell lies when asked about something he did that could be embarrassing. The important thing to remember is that we could be in danger of making excuses to disobey God, just as Solomon must have done.
15. How did Jehovah show Solomon mercy? What should we remember?
15 It is interesting that even though Solomon had already married that foreign princess, God still gave him the wisdom that he asked for and also riches. (1 Kings 3:10-13) Solomon had disobeyed God’s commands, but Jehovah showed him mercy. Jehovah did not immediately reject him as king or punish him. This is because God knows that we are imperfect humans, made from dust. (Psalm 103:10, 13, 14) But remember that what we do can affect us now or maybe later in our life.
SO MANY WIVES!
16. What command did Solomon disobey when he married many women?
16 In the Song of Solomon, King Solomon praised a girl by saying that she was more beautiful than 60 queens and 80 concubines. (Song of Solomon 6:1, 8-10) This could have been the number of wives and concubines that he had at that time. Even if most of those women or all of them were true worshippers, Solomon was still disobeying God’s command. God had said through Moses that a king of Israel should “not multiply wives for himself, that his heart may not turn aside.” (Deuteronomy 17:17) But again Jehovah did not reject Solomon. In fact, God still blessed Solomon and used him to write the Bible book Song of Solomon.
17. What truth should we remember?
17 Does this mean that Solomon could disobey God and not suffer bad consequences or that we can do the same? No. It just shows that God is very patient. The truth is that someone may disobey God’s commands and not immediately suffer the consequences. But this does not mean that there will be no sad results later. Remember what Solomon wrote: “Because sentence against a bad work has not been executed speedily, that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad.” He continued: “I am also aware that it will turn out well with those fearing the true God, because they were in fear of him.”—Ecclesiastes 8:11, 12.
18. How does Solomon’s example show that the words at Galatians 6:7 are true?
18 Sadly, Solomon did not pay attention to this truth. He had done good things and had received many blessings from Jehovah. But as time passed, he started to make one mistake after another. He got into the habit of disobeying Jehovah’s commands. It is just as the apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) Later in his life, Solomon suffered the sad results of disobeying God. The Bible says: “King Solomon himself loved many foreign wives along with the daughter of Pharaoh, Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian and Hittite women.” (1 Kings 11:1) Many of those women probably never stopped worshipping their false gods, and that had an influence on Solomon. He “began to do what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah” and no longer had the approval of our patient God.—Read 1 Kings 11:4-8.
LEARN FROM THE GOOD AND THE BAD THINGS HE DID
19. What good examples does the Bible have?
19 Jehovah inspired Paul to write: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Those things that “were written for our instruction” include many examples of men and women who had great faith. Paul said about these servants of Jehovah: “What more shall I say? For the time will fail me if I go on to relate about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David as well as Samuel and the other prophets, who through faith defeated kingdoms in conflict, effected righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, stayed the force of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from a weak state were made powerful.” (Hebrews 11:32-34) We can and should learn from the good examples in the Bible and imitate them.
20, 21. Why do you want to keep learning from the examples in the Bible?
20 But some Bible examples are a warning for us. Some of them were men and women who at one time served Jehovah and had his approval. When we read the Bible, we can learn what they did wrong so that we do not make the same mistakes. We learn that some slowly started to think the wrong way and then made decisions that had sad results. To learn from these examples, we can ask ourselves such questions as: How did this person start to think the wrong way? Could the same thing happen to me? How can this example help me to avoid that mistake?
21 We have good reasons to study these examples carefully. Paul said: “These things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Corinthians 10:11.
SOME WORDS EXPLAINED
▪ Examples: Lessons we can learn by studying about people in the Bible. We should imitate their good actions and avoid repeating their mistakes
▪ Excuses: What we think are reasons why doing something bad is not wrong
▪ Wisdom: The ability to use knowledge and understanding to solve problems, avoid dangers, and make good choices
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?
▪ Why can we say that there are good examples and bad examples in the Bible?
▪ Why did Solomon make one mistake after another?
▪ What can you learn from Solomon’s mistakes?
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We could be in danger of making excuses to disobey God
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What we do can have consequences now or maybe later in our life
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What can we learn from Solomon about how to gain wisdom?
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How can you show that you are learning from Solomon’s mistakes?