Solomon's biography and Wisdom Literature

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Puritan Board Junior
To those of you who have studied/preached on Solomon's life, especially as it relates to Wisdom literature, I'd be interested in recommended resources.

Obviously, Solomon's life is inextricably bound up with a right understanding of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. Some of those connections are obvious on the face of it. I have read various things in the past that have hinted at biblical-theological allusions to Adam in Solomon's life. Certainly some of those themes seem borne out in Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon as well. I'd be interested in exploring those. This makes me curious to see how far and in what direction we can take those connections in interpretation. It has always seemed suggestive to me that Proverbs deals with wisdom and applying the law, seemingly early in Solomon's life, Ecclesiastes narrates Solomon's warnings against the vanity of sin (experienced in his backslidings) and Song of Solomon (in my view) deals with the sweetness of the believer's relationship to Christ. Of course that is extremely simplistic, and I realize nothing in biblical interpretation is ever quite that simple. But it has the wheels turning in my mind. Is there something to Solomon's own experience of exaltation and wisdom, followed by fall into sin and recovery into the sweetness of the gospel that in some respect mirrors Adam and a larger biblical-theological theme which is helpful in the interpretation of Proverbs-Ecclesiastes-Song of Solomon?

I'm certain I'm not the first one to think of such connections and I'd love the thoughts of those of you who have dealt with this in more depth or know of helpful treatments of such themes.

@greenbaggins? @Contra_Mundum? @iainduguid?
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Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Is it your hope to understand the Wisdom literature better, or Solomon?

All the types pointing to the Christ-to-come must also (after a fashion) be reminders of Adam and his failure. If any should succeed, they would not be the type but the reality.

Solomon is the prototypical son of David. He's also the first (of many) to rise no higher than his father. He sins appallingly like his father. David fell like Adam, and so did Solomon. Solomon will not be the son David calls "Lord."

Proverbs, at least by the central portion, appears to this interpreter to be what I've termed a "vocational manual," something like How to Be the King of Israel. Proverbs in certainly applicable in almost any person's life, as a book containing many useful maxims for living; but the many directions in it on serving up justice along with considering the particular person responsible for compiling it, fit best the king's function.

Ecclesiastes has always struck me as an older-and-wiser series of observations on "life under the sun," which is life in a fallen world. If only the younger set could understand, let alone adopt the wiser perspective, they might arrive at the point the Preacher (granting it is Solomon) is at, with possibly a little more grace. But in any case, one must live that life below. It cannot be detached from experience, as if one could live above that life.

Solomon was in a unique position to impart such observations to the church, as someone who had a certain pedigree, a certain religion, a certain calling, and an endowment of wisdom from on high. He also had the common temptations and human lusts, along with the opportunity to fulfill them to the highest degree; and he faithfully reported how vain they were and the seeking after them. Could Adam have done the same? Perhaps something similar; but Solomon sets forth this wisdom at a highly refined pitch. The head of the people desires to bring the body of the nation under submission.

I should leave all comment on the Song of Solomon to Dr.Duguid. I will say that I think the content is a love-story, but as Scripture it is bound to do far more than simply praise conjugal love. The king takes a bride; the bride is excited, delighted, has a sense of unworthiness, is made to feel loved, disappoints her lover, repents, rejoices in her bridegroom, etc. For his part the king rejoices in his bride, he favors her, he defends her, he chastises her, he loves her. It is a profound mystery, but it does speak of Christ and the church.

Scripture speaks at any length of but one of Solomon's wives, the daughter of Pharaoh (1Ki.3:1; 7:8; 9:16,24; 11:1; 2Chr.8:11). There is something here to consider, respecting the place Egypt has in redemptive history. From a sermon of mine about 7yrs ago:

It was a treaty-marriage, between Solomon and Egypt. I think it safe to say that it was not the kind of treaty forbidden to the Israelites in the law, where they either made peace with those who were not to be conciliated, or became vassals of a foreign lord.

Instead, I believe we ought to view it in a positive light. The kings of the earth took notice of God’s grace to this people. This Pharaoh found in this connection a blessing. All the more amazing when one considers how Israel had come out of Egypt so many centuries prior. Indeed, the bitterness of that death was past, and forgotten. But there is more to this, I believe. Why does this principal marriage take place with a Gentile, and not an Israelite? I think there is sign-value to this situation. I think it is a prophetic statement about bringing in the Gentiles to join to the covenant of grace, through union with Christ. It is putting a Gentile face on the bride of Christ, the Son of David.

No where do we read about Solomon building this wife a temple to her god or gods in Jerusalem (or elsewhere) as ch.11 tells us he did for other wives. Rather, we should presume that she like Ruth joined her heart to the God of Israel, the God of her prince. And also, I offer this suggestion: that Song of Solomon was possibly a love song for this alien woman.
So, while I do think that Solomon has a significant task to perform in Scripture, as both a type looking ahead to Christ, and a major failure like his first father Adam; I don't feel the attraction to putting the three Wisdom books usually attributed to him in a sort of "personal spiritual biography" order--as if they tell a hidden tale of Adam's or of Solomon's own faith progress, or of man-in-general. That seems like too much of a burden to put on the order of the books as it has been handed to us. The Hebrew OT book order is completely different than ours, these books are not even side-by-side.
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