About the man
Before we get to the meat of this book, which is titled Song of Songs, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes – daily meditations on Solomon’s three Bible books for a reason that will become clear, it is worth reflecting on Solomon, the man. As with all writers, his experience and outlook on life had a big effect on what he wrote. We are helped, insofar while he lived 3000 years ago, we know a lot about him.
Solomon was a wealthy and wise king of the united kingdom of Israel, who succeeded his father, King David, who had effectively secured the Kingdom and opened the way for Solomon to rule at its height of prosperity and security. Solomon began his reign as a young man, around 970 BC, and reigned until his death in 931 BC. Tragically, the united kingdom, divided soon after his death into the northern Kingdom of Israel (10 tribes) and the southern Kingdom of Judah (2 tribes). Following the split, his patrilineal descendants ruled in Judah until taken into Babylonian exile, yet his line remained traceable to Jesus.
Solomon was Bathsheba’s second son (the first died) and he had other half brothers, some older than him. But it was Solomon who David chose to succeed him, and if it were not for some timely interventions it may not have happened. We are told in 1 Kings 1, David was old and soon to die. Another of his sons, Adonijah, had other ideas and attempted to stage a coup so he could be king instead. He craftily managed to get the support of several high-ranking people, e.g. Joab the Army Commander, Abiathar the priest and many of the royal officials, and looked set to succeed. But others rallied round Solomon, urged on by Bathsheba and these included Nathan the prophet, Zadok the priest and David’s special guard, and as a result the coup was reversed. Soon after, he firmly established himself as king, putting down any rebellion. God appeared to him and asked Solomon what he wanted from Him. Instead of asking for riches, Solomon asked for wisdom so could rule effectively. God gave Solomon both.
Solomon secured the kingdom and for a time its citizens lived in peace and prosperity. Many of the projects Solomon turned his hand to were successful, including international trade and major building and infrastructure projects. Arguably, Solomon’s greatest achievement, was building the First Temple in Jerusalem, beginning in the fourth year of his reign, using the wealth he and David had accumulated and based on the plans that had been made and preparations started by his father, who God did not allow to build because he had shed too much blood. Solomon dedicated the temple to Yahweh, who responded favourably by manifesting His glory. We read just after of Solomon’s amazing prayer interceding for his people and of God’s wonderful response.
Sadly, these promising beginnings, which we read of in the books of I Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, for example: “the Lord magnified Solomon exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed upon him such royal majesty as had not been on any king” 1 Chronicles 29:25, were not sustained. He sinned, which included idolatry, partly brought about by marrying foreign women who God said he should not marry and, ultimately, he turned away from God and blessing was replaced by cursing. This led to the Kingdom being torn in two during the reign of his son Rehoboam. Some of the seeds of Israel’s future demise were sown as a result of Solomon’s foolishness. Tragically, the one who possessed and preached wisdom, did not pass this onto a son, who was anything but wise.
About the books this man wrote
From what we can make out, Solomon was a prolific reader and writer. He studied natural history, plants and animals, and by todays standards would be seen as a leading expert in these fields. He wrote 1005 songs and compiled (many first hand) 5000 proverbs. He likely wrote some of the Psalms and had a hand in writing the apocryphal book, titled: Wisdom. But there are three of his books, included in the Bible, which are the focus of this book, which Solomon had a major hand in writing: Song of Songs, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. These form part of the Writing section of the Hebrew Bible, complementing nicely the Law and the Prophets, and needful for understanding the wisdom of God.
More than one bright spark has come up with the notion that he wrote Song of Songs as a young man as it reflected some of the passions and preoccupations we associate with youth, Proverbs when he was middle aged, having been round the block as it were and having accumulated enough experience to know what’s what and many of the pitfalls one could fall into and strategies to succeed, and Ecclesiastes as an old man, or at least entering his dotage and slowing down, recognising the vanities and vagaries of life and, to use modern parlance, has “been there, done that, got the T-shirt”. Given my own reading of these three books and Solomon began reigning young and ended old, this could be true.
About the book this author is writing about the books this man wrote
This author writes to encourage readers to meditate on Solomon’s books. One helpful explanation of the biblical meaning of meditation that may help when introducing this section is: “It’s never mindless; instead meditation means that your mind is focused on God and his Word. Not only is biblical meditation about focusing on God through contemplation on his Word, it’s about quieting our hearts with Scripture and a deeper intimacy with Jesus. The particulars of biblical meditation can vary, but the practice isn’t complicated”.
In writing my book, I could have gone down the path of attempting a learned commentary. I chose not to go there because many have done so before and better than me and besides taking more time and effort, may not be the best approach. But I recoil sometimes when reading what people write devotionally concerning their thoughts on various texts on the Bible, for sometimes it comes across as self-indulgent, sentimental and patronising and this may not properly relate to how I view the text. But I have to confess, in writing something to help people meditate on the Word, which is a commendable and needful discipline, that accusation could be thrown at me, and something to try to steer away from.
Few though will disagree that Solomon’s three Bible books provide many rich pickings when it comes to meditating, typically on a day-by-day basis. What I have come up with tries (how successfully is for readers to decide) to cover a lot of the significantly amazing stuff that can be gleaned from meditating on these three books, which are veritable treasure troves, well worth exploring, noting (later) each have their respective challenges. I have no doubt readers will see things I miss but at least I may have helped open the way for them by covering these three wonderful wisdom writings by sound exegesis, that serve to bless.