Solomon is ready to become the new king after his father, David. He begins with a show of dedication to God. The external act of faith seems to us to be an overstatement, but it wasn’t so to Solomon. He was acting on behalf of himself as well as the entire nation. He did not want there to be any confusion as to whom Solomon would serve. 2 Chronicles 1:4-6 tells us about this act of devotion, “But David had brought up the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the place that David had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem. Moreover, the bronze altar that Bezalel, the son of Uri, son of Hur, had made was there before the tabernacle of the Lord. And Solomon and the assembly sought it out.  And Solomon went up there to the bronze altar before the Lord, which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.”

The “place” that Solomon went to offer his sacrifices was Gibeon because the temple had not been built yet. We can trace the locations of the Ark of the Covenant from its creation in the wilderness to Gibeon. Joshua brought both the ark and the tabernacle to Shiloh. In the days of Eli, the ark was captured by the Philistines and taken to Kiriath-jearim, where it was destroyed. Samuel tells us that Saul restored the tabernacle at Nob, after which he moved it to Gibeon. This “high place” becomes the semi-permanent site for the tabernacle and the altar of sacrifice. Gibeon is located in the Judean hill country, about seven miles northwest of Jerusalem. Underwood says, “The text does not tell us exactly what the burnt offerings are, but likely they are animals, probably young bulls. The entire animal is burned to ashes in this offering, giving it all to God. For Solomon to do this with a thousand bulls is a large, impressive display of his wealth, devotion, and the seriousness of the occasion.”[1]

Solomon’s early devotion to Israel’s God is clearly seen in this act. As a result of this act of devotion, God sends Solomon a dream and gives him the option to choose whatever he wants, be it possessions, power or pleasure. He chooses wisdom, and God honors him with everything. We read that at the end of his life, Solomon shares his remorse over the fact that none of these things brought meaning and purpose to his life. His extraordinary wisdom did not save him from the trap that has ruined many men’s lives. MacDonald says, “His wives seduced him to idolatry. He went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom, the abomination of the Ammonites. He built a high place for Chemosh, the idol of the Moabites, and for Moloch, another idol of the Ammonites. He burned incense and sacrificed unto the idols of all his strange wives. He who had built God’s temples, and his altars, now build altars to Moloch and Chemosh. He, who had offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar at Gibeon to the true God, now offers sacrifices to Ashtoreth and Milcom.”[2] How incredible that a man would show such extraordinary devotion at the beginning of his life and would end with acts of devotion to foreign gods. He wanted the whole nation to know where he stood when he offered sacrifices at Gibeah, but by the end of his life, his many sacrifices to the idols of his many wives showed that his devotion to the one true God was not all it seemed. Even with every blessing from God, Solomon got bored and looked for fulfillment and satisfaction in the things of the world. It’s interesting to me that the Messiah will sit on the throne of David, not on the throne of Solomon.

[1] Underwood, Jonathan, and Ronald L. Nickelson, eds. 2006. The KJV Standard Lesson Commentary, 2006–2007. Cincinnati, OH: Standard Publishing.

[2] MacDonald, James M. 1856. The Book of Ecclesiastes Explained. New York: M. W. Dodd.