Kings David and Solomon: Lightyears Apart

Posted on May 8, 2020


By David Ettinger

Nothing Alike
When King David heard the news that his beloved friend Jonathan and Jonathan’s father, King Saul, were dead, he wrote a stirring lament to them. One of the lines of that lament reads, “How the mighty have fallen” (2 Samuel 1:19).


These words, written favorably of its subjects, can as aptly apply – in its most negative sense – to David’s 10th son, Solomon. It is quite possible that no other personality in all of Scripture had started off so stunningly magnificent and ended up so miserably wretched. It is doubtful that anyone in the Bible had fallen as much as Solomon.

A Matter of the Heart
Why? How could Solomon have stumbled so greatly where his father, though sinful and flawed, held fast to his faith until the day of his death? The answer lies in the heart, and Solomon’s was oceans removed from David’s. Spiritually speaking, father and son were lightyears apart.

Even before we meet David, we are told that he was one who thoroughly loved God. After Israel’s first king, Saul, was rejected by God, the prophet Samuel told him that God had already selected his successor, describing this future king as “a man after his [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). We never read of Solomon being described in such terms.

David had the opportunity to hone his love for God in the fiery trials he faced as a young man. Forced to flee Saul for 10 years, his life hanging ever in the balance, David learned to depend on God for everything. In Psalm 32:7, David stirringly expressed his utter reliance on God this way: “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” David had learned to love God in the deepest way possible.

We never read of such longings for God by Solomon. By the time Solomon was born, David had already been Israel’s king for about 20 years. Whereas David was raised a shepherd and later had to hide in caves and the wilderness from fear of Saul, Solomon was raised in luxury. He had everything he needed and never lacked for anything. Where David sought God, Solomon sought to satisfy his flesh.

Wasn’t Always So
Yet, we don’t see this at the beginning of Solomon’s reign. Coming to the throne between the ages of 18 and 20, Solomon got off to a rousing start. During those early days, Solomon “showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David” (1 Kings 3:3). David’s influence on his son is noteworthy. Much of what his father taught Solomon stuck – at first.

However, just before this, we read something ominous: “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter” (1 Kings 3:1). The Mosaic Law prohibited Hebrews from marrying foreigners.[1] Though perhaps politically savvy, the decision proved spiritually disastrous for Solomon. Having already compromised God’s word, doing so again – and again and again – became much easier.

Eventually, Solomon amassed a mindboggling 700 wives and 300 concubines.[2] These pagan women would prove his downfall: “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been” (1 Kings 11:4).

psalm 51

A Terrible Bitterness
By the end of his life, Solomon, a man of unparalleled wealth and wisdom,[3] had become bitter and cynical, as reflected in the book he authored, Ecclesiastes. There he wrote: “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). To his credit, he did finish his teaching by imploring men and women to, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 14:13-14).

Well said and logical, but something is missing. When David sinned against God by ordering the murder of Uriah, once confronted with his sin he penned his masterpiece of repentance, Psalm 51. Such was David’s heart. With Solomon, however, there is no Psalm 51. There is no dirge of regret for his many great sins. There is logic and wisdom, but no repentance. Such was Solomon’s heart.

And this – their “hearts” for God – is what made David and Solomon, father and son, so very, very different.

[1] Deuteronomy 7:1-4

[2] 1 Kings 11:3

[3] 1 Kings 4:20-34