Day 14 – For All His Wisdom: Reflection, Questions, and Art During Advent
About the Art: Jacob Willems. de Wet The Edler, The Idolatry of Solomon, c. 1671, oil on panel, 54 x 73.5 cm. Private collection. Click here to read more about this painting.
For all his wisdom, Solomon’s wealth played a role in his ruin. This painting by Jacob Willems. de Wet The Edler (1610-1691) majors in depicting luxury—lush drapery, a golden altar, grandiose architecture, robes embroidered in gold. Though the glory of Solomon’s temple was intended to draw men into the worship of a more glorious Creator, since the fall of man, we, like Solomon, have been content to stop short and worship the glory of what He has made.
The people in this scene appear intoxicated by the grandeur of the temple and the presence of important people. Solomon’s shadowy concubines populate the fringes of the scene as the king rocks back on his knees, eyes raised and fixed on a seated, golden god. The closer your eye moves toward the idol, the darker the scene becomes.
If he would only look down, Solomon would see a priest holding up the word of God, imploring him to return to truth of who he is. But the trumpets, the sex, the opulence, the incense, the people in the room, and the excitement of the moment have fooled the king with the illusion that he has at last ascended to the heights of glory.
For all Solomon’s opulence, this is a picture of great poverty—a man lost in the worship of things, surrounded by people who follow his lead as he places his confidence in gods who are locked inside their gold-fashioned sarcophaguses. None of this is his to keep.
“Solomon, like his father, began his reign with a singular devotion to the Lord. But later, also like his father, he exchanged his fidelity to the God of his fathers for the pursuit of his own glory. And glory he found. The opulence he amassed was unlike anything the world had ever seen. Gold adorned the walls of his home and temple. Jerusalem sparkled like a diamond in the sand. Solomon took more than a thousand wives and concubines. And eventually Solomon, for all his wisdom, showed himself a fool by turning to worship other gods.
“The cycle of sin and rebellion against the Lord continued as it had since the patriarchs. Solomon’s kingdom split in two—Israel to the north and Judah to the south. From that split came many other kings. Some honored God with their lives, but most did evil in the sight of the Lord. King Jeroboam reintroduced the worship of the Canaanite Baals, the same idols the judges died trying to eradicate.
“God’s people were fracturing, and none of the kings from the line of David seemed equipped to save them. But the Lord didn’t abandon them. He raised up prophets from among them to proclaim the judgment of the Lord. They called Israel to repent of their turning from God, and sometimes God’s people responded.”
Solomon had it all, and yet no amount of accomplishment or wealth could settle his heart to trust God’s leading. So he turned to his own way. What do you think it would take for your heart to be permanently settled in the matter of trusting God? What tempts you to turn away from God?
How does God respond to his people when they turn away from him? When he leads them into hardship, why do you think he does that? When he delivers them from trouble, why do you think he does that?
Does the fickleness of Solomon’s heart strike you as a mystery, or something you completely understand? Explain why.