Q: #432. Is Solomon in Hell?
A: Based upon what is said in (1 Kin 11:1-13), some people believe that Solomon is in Hell now. Here is a small summary of what he did:
He had 700 wives and 300 concubines, most from nations that God told His chosen people not to intermarry with because they would turn their hearts to other gods.
Solomon’s wives did just that, and he started following “Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.”
He built high places for himself and his wives to worship Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, and Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.
As a result, the Lord became angry with Solomon because “his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel,” and He told Solomon He would tear his kingdom from him and give it to his servant.
These certainly don’t sound like the activities of a man who would go to Heaven at his death. In addition, those who believe Solomon is in Hell say there is no clear verse showing that Solomon ever repented of these sins.
However, I disagree with those who say that Solomon is in Hell, as I see a number of things which point to the opposite. I believe that he is “likely” in Heaven, and here are my reasons.
1. Perhaps most importantly (to me at least), Solomon wrote most of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and two Psalms (72 & 127). Do we really want to say that a Holy Spirit inspired author of Scripture is in Hell? This would be unprecedented.
2. Solomon built God’s Temple (1 Kin ch. 6-7). Do we really want to say that the man who did this is in Hell?
3. In the New Testament, we see that part of the Temple was named “Solomon’s Porch” (Jn 10:23)(Acts 3:11)(Acts 5:12). If the Jews in New Testament times thought that Solomon was in Hell, would they use this name?
4. In (1 Kin 3:4-15,28), Solomon asked God for “wisdom,” and God granted it (Also see: 1 Kin 4:29-34). In the New Testament, we see that “wisdom” is a “spiritual gift,” given by God to people who belong to Him (1 Cor 12:8). There is no evidence that God ever removed Solomon’s God-given gift of wisdom,
5. Look at several promises God made to David in (2 Sam 7:12-16): “And when thy days be fulfilled (David’s), and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels (Solomon), and I will establish his kingdom. (13) He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. (14) I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: (15) But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. (16) And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (Also see: 1 Chr 17:11-14).
Notice several things in these verses. In verse 14, God says He will be the Father of Solomon. In verse 15, God promises “His mercy would not depart from Solomon, as He took it from Saul.” In (1 Sam 13:13-14)(1 Sam 15:10-34), we see that when Saul turned from God, God turned away from Saul and abandoned him. He promises not to do this with Solomon. Logically, this would seem to include even if Solomon turned away from God like Saul did.
In addition, in verse 14, we also see God saying, “If he (Solomon) commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.” Of course, we see Solomon doing this very thing in (1 Kin 11:1-13), which made the Lord “angry.” How did God respond? God raised up two adversaries against Solomon: Hadad and Rezon (1 Kin 11:14-25). Solomon’s servant Jeroboam also rebelled against him (1 Kin 11:26-40). God “chastened” Solomon just as He promised He would if Solomon rebelled.
6. We also see several places saying how much God loved Solomon. (Neh 13:26) says, “there was no king like him (Solomon), who was beloved of his God” (“nevertheless foreign women caused him to sin”). The Lord loved Solomon from the moment he was born (2 Sam 12:24). God’s prophet Nathan named Solomon “Jedidiah,” meaning “beloved of the Lord” (2 Sam 12:25). Solomon also loved God (1 Kin 3:3).
7. Notice two more things in (1 Kin ch. 11). (1 Kin 11:4) says, “and his (Solomon’s) heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” (1 Kin 11:6) says, “… Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father.” In other words, Solomon’s “heart was not perfect with the Lord,” nor did he go “fully after the Lord” like his father David did. However, the flip side of this could be that Solomon’s heart was “imperfectly with the Lord,” and he still went after the Lord, just not “fully.”
8. Finally, and this is IMPORTANT: Did Solomon ever repent from his sins? While a bit controversial, many people believe that the whole book of Ecclesiastes is about Solomon’s repentance. Many prominent Bible commentators believe it was the last book he wrote, written near the end of his life (quotes below). When many think of Ecclesiastes, they think of it as a “negative” book (a lady in my Bible Study said this very thing last night). However, there is a reason for this “negativity,” and that is because Solomon is trying to warn his readers of the uselessness and misery of a life apart from the true God.
Solomon uses the word “vanity” (KJV), meaning “emptiness, unsatisfactory, meaningless, purposeless, (like a) breath,” 33 times in 12 verses in Ecclesiastes. And, he is using this word to describe a life without the Lord. Solomon also uses the phrase “under the sun” 29 times in Ecclesiastes. Basically, he uses this phrase to say that there is nothing on Earth (under the sun) that can fulfill us. Only God can. He goes into great detail to tell us that he literally had ANYTHING and EVERYTHING He could possibly want: the most money, the most stuff, the most power, the most wisdom, the most women, the most influence….., but none of it satisfied him. It was all “vanity.”
The last two verses of Ecclesiastes sum it all up: (Ecc 12:13-14) “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (14) For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
When you read Ecclesiastes, and look for Solomon’s sorrow and repentance for a life partially lived apart from God, you can find it. Solomon’s misery seems somewhat like his father David’s in Psalm 32, written after his affair with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband Uriah. Notice what verses David says about his life before he confessed these sins to God: (Ps 32:3-4)(NASB) “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. (4) For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.”
Many of you reading this have probably been there at one time, or have known someone who has. A life apart from God is miserable. I once heard this quote many years ago and have never forgotten it, “The most miserable man in the world is not a non-Christian; the most miserable man in the world is the Christian who is walking apart from God.” How true this is…. And, I believe this applied to Solomon.
Let me close with quotes from some historic Bible commentators who hold to the same position that I do, that Ecclesiastes is a book showing Solomon’s repentance of his time apart from God.
First, the John Wesley Commentary, “So this book was written by him, as a publick testimony of his repentance and detestation of those wicked courses to which he had addicted himself: wherein he followed the example of his father David, who, after his sad fall, penned the fifty – first psalm. And the truth of this opinion may be confirmed by that expression, 2Chron 11:17. They walked in the way of David and Solomon; that is, wherein they walked, both before their falls, and after their repentance.”
Also, in his commentary on (1 Kin 11:43), Wesley says: “This seems to be put out of dispute by the book of Ecclesiastes; written after his fall; as is evident, not only from the unanimous testimony of the Hebrew writers, but also, from the whole strain of that book, which was written long after he had finished all his works, and after he had liberally drunk of all sorts of sensual pleasures, and sadly experienced the bitter effects of his love of women, Ecclesiastes 7:17, etc. which makes it more than probable, that as David writ Psalms 51:1-19. So Solomon wrote this book as a publick testimony and profession of his repentance.”
Matthew Henry: “The account we have of Solomon’s apostasy from God, in the latter end of his reign 1 Kings 11:1, is the tragical part of his story; we may suppose that he spoke his Proverbs in the prime of his time, while he kept his integrity, but delivered his Ecclesiastes when he had grown old (for of the burdens and decays of age he speaks feelingly ch. 12), and was, by the grace of God, recovered from his backslidings.”
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown: The Song (of Solomon), (was written) in the fervor of his first love to God; Proverbs, about the same time, or somewhat later; but Ecclesiastes in late old age, as the seal and testimony of repentance of his apostasy in the intervening period.”
Fausset Bible Dictionary (on Solomon): “Solomon probably repented in the end; for Chronicles make no mention of his fall. Again Ecclesiastes is probably the result of his melancholy, but penitent, retrospect of the past; “all is vanity and vexation of spirit”: it is not vanity, but wisdom as well as our whole duty, to “fear God and keep His commandments.” (See ECCLESIASTES.)”