King Solomon in the Bible: His Story and Words of Wisdom

Solomon was the third and final king of the unified nation of Israel. Learn about King Solomon's reign of Israel and his renowned wisdom including famous Bible quotes we can benefit from today.

Updated Aug 12, 2021
King Solomon in the Bible: His Story and Words of Wisdom

Solomon was the third and final king of the unified nation of Israel, succeeding King Saul and King David. He was the son of David and Bathsheba, the former wife of Uriah the Hittite whom David had killed to cover his infidelity with Bathsheba while her husband was on the battlefront. Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon, the book of Ecclesiastes, and much of the book of Proverbs. His writing of Ecclesiastes is disputed by some, but Solomon is the only “son of David” to be “king over Israel in Jerusalem” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-12), and many of the descriptions of the author fit Solomon well. Solomon ruled for 40 years (1 Kings 11:42).

Who Was King Solomon?

When Solomon rose to the throne, he sought after God, and God gave him an opportunity to request for whatever he desired. Solomon humbly recognized his inability to rule well and nobly asked God for the wisdom he would need to govern God’s people righteously. God gave him wisdom and also wealth (1 Kings 3:4-15). In fact, "King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth" (1 Kings 10:23). God also gave Solomon peace on all fronts during most of his reign (1 Kings 4:20-25).

A well-known example of Solomon’s wisdom is his judgment in a dispute over the identity of the actual mother of an infant child (1 Kings 3:16-28). Solomon offered to split the living child in half, understanding that the true mother would prefer to lose her son to another woman than to have him killed. Solomon was not only wise in his rule as King but had excellent general wisdom as well. The Queen of Sheba traveled 1,200 miles to confirm the stories of his wisdom and dignity (1 Kings 10). 

"Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed" (1 Kings 10:3-5). Solomon showed not only his knowledge but also his wisdom into action in the way his kingdom operated.

The Judgment of King Solomon

From 1 Kings 3, the Bible story of Solomon's judgment illustrates his profound wisdom.  Two mothers living in the same home, each the mother of a newborn son, came to Solomon in a dispute over the custody of a baby boy. One of the babies had died, and each claimed the remaining boy as her own. Calling for a sword, Solomon announced his judgment: the baby would be cut in two, each woman to receive half. One mother did not oppose the ruling, stating that if she could not have the baby then neither of them could, but the other begged Solomon, "Give the baby to her, just don't kill him!"

The king declared the second woman the true mother, as a mother would even give up her baby if that was needed to save its life.  "All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king because they perceived the wisdom of God was in him to do justice." (1 Kings 3:28)

Famous Bible Quotes from King Solomon

"A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back." ~ Proverbs 29:11

"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice." ~ Proverbs 12:15

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." ~ Proverbs 3:5

"Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words." ~ Proverbs 23:9

"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." ~ Proverbs 27:17

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." ~ Proverbs 1:7

"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor." ~ Proverbs 22:6-9

"Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." ~ Proverbs 31:9

"Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it." ~ Proverbs 21:20

"Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established." ~ Proverbs 16:3

Solomon Asks for Wisdom: 1 Kings 3:1-15

1 Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the LORD, and the wall around Jerusalem. 2 The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the LORD. 3 Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.  4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 7 “Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.  8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.  11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.

King Solomon’s Wise Ruling: 1 Kings 3:16-28

16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us. 19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.” 22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.” But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king. 23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’ ” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” 26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” 27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.” 28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

What Can We Learn from King Solomon's Mistakes?

Well, it's a warning to all of us that knowledge is not a safeguard by itself. And so what are the answers are to those difficult questions? I think it's written in the Bible to warn us that reading commentaries and listening to videos about the Bible is not itself the final guarantee that we will not at least sin, if not become reprobate. 

And so we have to guard our hearts, watch our life and doctrine closely. And not assume because we've been put in a position of authority or being given great gifts, that necessarily authority and status and gifts equate to the fruit of the Spirit. Perhaps the unanswered questions are intended to cause us to be careful.

Image Credit: 'The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon', oil on canvas painting by Edward Poynter

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