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Bible Dictionaries

Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters

Solomon, and a Greater Than Solomon


WE have, as I believe, a suddenly passing, but a true and a deep glimpse into the working of our Lord's mind when He says, 'Behold, a greater than Solomon is here.' And there is nothing in heaven or in earth, in God or in man, so interesting to us as the working of our Lord's mind; especially when His mind is working upon Himself. Well, as it appears to me, we have here an example of how our Lord read, and thought, and saw, and felt about Himself, till He had fully discovered Himself, and had fully and for ever taken possession of Himself. The apostle says that it is not wise in us too much to measure ourselves by ourselves, or to compare ourselves with ourselves. But He who is the Wisdom of God itself here measures and compares Himself with Solomon, and that, to us, in a most intensely interesting and instructive way. As the Holy Child read the story of Solomon, as that so beautiful and so tragical story is still told in the First Book of the Kings-as He read and saw how Solomon was born of David and Bathsheba; how he was named first the Divine Darling, and then the Son of Peace: how the young king chose wisdom and understanding as his royal portion; how wise he already was, and how wise he became, above all the wise men of the East; what a great kingdom he had, and what untold wealth, and what far and near renown he had; what a service he did in building and furnishing the House of the Lord; how the Queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem to hear his wisdom; and then, after all that, Solomon's songs and sermons and proverbs-as the Child Jesus read all that, and asked questions about all that; and then, when He became a man, and saw Himself as in a glass in all that,-ere ever He was aware, the Holy Ghost had witnessed it and had sealed it on His mind and on His heart, that, in all that He, the Son of Mary, was made of God a far greater than Solomon. The same thing must have come to Him as He read, and prayed, and pondered about David, and Moses, and Abraham, and Adam, till our Lord stood alone among all men, and above all men, and till of the people there was none with Him. And this went on, and increased in all clearness and in all assurance, till He was enabled and constrained to say, I and My Father are One. In some such way as that, as I believe, our Lord was led up of the Spirit from strength to strength, till He stood before God and Man the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God, and the Saviour of all them that believe.

Let us, then, if so be it may be given to us, follow out some of the steps that our Lord took in His own mind till He was able to say to the Scribes and Pharisees who would see a sign from Him, 'Behold, a greater than Solomon is here.' They were all at one as to Solomon's extraordinary greatness in the matter of his birth. Now, though our Lord was not born at once in David's house, He was born none the less in David's line; so much so, that there was no name by which He was oftener named, and no name He was more ready to answer to, than just the name, Son of David. The Syrophœnician woman came out of the same coasts, and cried unto Him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David, And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David, the two blind men sitting by the wayside cried, and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him. Blind Bartimæus also: Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And after a short conversation he also received his sight and followed Jesus in the way. Hosanna to the Son of David, Hosanna in the highest, the multitude cried, singing at His last entry into Jerusalem. Now, Solomon in all his glory never went beyond that. Israel had no nobler salutation for any of her kings than to call him the Son of David. But our Lord was both Son of David and Son of God. It is on those two strong foundation-stones that Paul builds his Epistle to the Romans. 'Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power.' No wonder that Isaiah, who foresaw His glory, said that His name would be called Wonderful! To be at once begotten of God from everlasting, and to be born of Mary in the fulness of time; and to be, and to continue to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever, how wonderful is that! Yes; truly, it is far less than the truth to say that a far greater than Solomon is born here.

The exquisitely-told story of Solomon's choice leads us to think of the many untold dreams and visions that must have come to the Holy Child Jesus, and of the many sleeping and waking choices He must have made both before and after His first visit to Solomon's temple. It was after Solomon had offered sacrifices on the altar at Gibeon that the Lord appeared to him and said, Ask what I shall give thee. And we may well believe, that after Jesus at twelve years old saw Jerusalem and the temple and the passover for the first time, a dream would come to Him that night through the multitude of that day's business; a dream, and a voice, and a choice, and a benediction that would all send Him home to Joseph and Mary saying, Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business? And then, what with dreams, and visions, and temptations, and trials, and right choices, and victories day and night untold, our Lord came forth to begin His Messianic life in Israel, as much greater than Solomon as heaven is greater than earth, and as the Son of God is greater than the Son of David. What we know not now about the Mystery of godliness during those eighteen, during those thirty-three years-the most wonderful years this w`onderful world has ever seen-it will be our discovery and delight to know when Wisdom shall have builded her house, and hewn out her seven pillars, and mingled her wine, and furnished her table. 'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.'

The second Psalm, the forty-fifth Psalm, the seventy-second Psalm, and the hundred and twenty-sixth Psalm, all have Solomon's name associated with them in one way or other. But no New Testament man can read those Psalms without this coming up on his mind, that a far greater than Solomon is here also. How completely Solomon has passed out of the second Psalm, and how entirely Jesus Christ has taken possession of it till His enemies be made His footstool. 'Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said to me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.' And the forty-fifth Psalm has been made into action-sermons, into table-services, and into prayers and praises at communion-seasons, till, not once in a thousand, do we ever think for a moment of Solomon and Pharaoh's daughter. It is blasphemy to speak to us about 'Solomon in all his glory' when we see and sing Jesus Christ. 'Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips; therefore God hath blessed thee for ever. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house; for He is thy Lord, and worship thou Him.' And then The Song. Whatever may be the last word to be said about The Song, the Church of Christ has taken such possession of The Song of Songs for her Husband and for herself that it will be His and hers for ever. The Song of Solomon will be sung like the voice of many waters at the marriage-supper of the Lamb. 'I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting-house, and His banner over me was love.'

The Proverbs, also, of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel. 'A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; … to understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.… Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise; which, having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.… I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding. And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.… So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.… If the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there shall it be.' … And again, When the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden; or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.… All well worth coming from Sheba to Jerusalem to hear such parables as these, and much more as good as these. But those who went out among the vineyards, and the sheepfolds, and in the sowing time, and in the reaping time, and suchlike, in Galilee, and Samaria, and Judea with our Lord, they would be the first to exclaim to themselves, Behold, a greater than Solomon is here also. Solomon, at his best, was of the earth, earthy. Jesus Christ is always the Lord from heaven; and, carrying the kingdom of heaven always in His heart, He saw that kingdom everywhere and in everything-in land and sea and sky. What if earth, said the angel to Adam-

Be but the shadow of heaven, and things therein
Each to other like, more than on earth is thought?

But that is just how it is when the Lord of angels takes His disciples out among the things of earth, and points out to them how the kingdom of heaven is like this beast, and that bird; this herb, and that tree; this sower with his seed-basket, and that reaper with his reaping-hook; this enemy sowing tares, and that husbandman sifting with his sieve and winnowing with his winnowing-fan; this woman leavening her meal, and that woman sweeping the house; this lost sheep, and that lost son; this marriage with its five wise and its five foolish virgins, and that great supper where they were compelled to come in. No; never man spake like this man. And all men felt it. 'And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, How long dost Thou make us to doubt? If Thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. And many believed on Him there.' Yes. An infinitely greater than Solomon stood and spake in parables in Solomon's porch that day.

But it was the wisdom of Solomon that brought the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem, and it was her visit to Jerusalem to see Solomon, that gave us our present text. The Queen of the South, to her immortal honour, came from the uttermost parts of the earth, as our Lord so picturesquely has it, to see the wisdom of Solomon. Never king nor queen set out on a nobler errand than did she of the South; and, according to the beautiful history, she was not only wholly satisfied with what she saw and heard, but she testified to Solomon and said that the half of what she had seen and heard in Jerusalem had not been told her in Sheba. Now, there is no richer, finer, more beautiful, and more winning word in the whole of the Old Testament than just this same word 'wisdom.' And then, when we pass over into the New Testament, we find Wisdom exalted, and honoured, and glorified, and made one of the many names of Him, than whom, and than whose name, there is none other name given among men whereby we must be saved. The Solomonic books have some incomparably splendid passages on wisdom; and if Solomon had fallen, and repented, and risen again, and begun again, till he ended in living up to his own sermons on wisdom, what a glory, both in sacred letters and in a holy life, Solomon's name would have been! 'Wisdom,' says Sir Henry Taylor, one of the wisest writers in the English language, 'is not the same with understanding, talents, capacity, ability, sagacity, sense, or prudence-not the same with any one of these; neither will all these taken together make it up. Wisdom is that exercise of the reason into which the heart enters-a structure of the understanding rising out of the moral and spiritual nature. It is for this cause that a high order of wisdom, that is a highly intellectual wisdom, is still more rare than a high order of genius. When they reach the very highest order they are one; for each includes the other, and intellectual greatness is matched with moral strength.' And then this fine essayist goes on to point out how Solomon's great intellectual gifts, coupled as they were in him with such an appetite for enjoyment, together became his shipwreck. And Bishop Butler, as I think, the very wisest of all our English writers, though he does not, like Sir Henry Taylor, name Solomon, he surely had him in his eye when he penned that memorable and alarming passage about those men who go over the theory of wisdom and virtue in their thoughts, talk well, and paint fine pictures of it, till their minds are hardened in a contrary course, and till they become more and more insensible to all moral considerations. I wish the great preacher had gone on in the Rolls Chapel to a sixteenth sermon on Solomon and his fine pictures of wisdom. But in lieu of Butler let Sir Henry Taylor's Notes from Life be read by all men who lack wisdom. Our Lord also made fine pictures of wisdom, and virtue, and the kingdom of heaven; but He was constantly correcting His pictures and counselling His hearers that the true wisdom, and the true kingdom of heaven, stands not in the head, but in the heart; not in light, however immediately it comes from heaven, but in both light and love; not in theories, however brilliant and beautiful, but in practices; and in practices, the humbler, the more obscure and despised, and the more full of crosses and crooks they are, the better they are for the purpose.

Our Lord did not absolutely shut great and gifted men like Solomon in all his glory out of the kingdom of heaven, but He did the next thing to it. For, while admitting that all things are possible with God, at the same time, both His own life and all His preaching went to proclaim that great intellect, with great station, and with great appetite for enjoyment, divine possibility and all, were, and would be, all but absolutely fatal to Solomon, and to all Solomon-like men. A far greater intellect than Solomon's was in our Lord; He was ordained and anointed to a far greater station and seat; and He had the capacity, if not the appetite, for far greater enjoyment But all that was all balanced in our Lord, and built up into moral character, by great humility, great submissiveness, great labours, and great love. As I do the will of my Father; as I in everything submit Myself to the will of My Father; and as I thus learn more and more of the will of My Father, both to submit Myself to it and to do it; so do ye, He was constantly teaching. And ye also, like Me, shall both know the doctrine that it is of God, and shall come at last with Me to His heavenly kingdom. Here, then, is wisdom, as John says in the Revelation. And here is the mind which hath wisdom. A greater than Solomon in all his wisdom is indeed here.

And when the Queen of Sheba, so we read, had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built, and the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up into the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her. Solomon had built two houses-one a house for the Lord and another a house for himself. And what the Queen of Sheba saw we also see to this day in the sixth and seventh chapters; and, at this distance of time and space, as we read them we feel like her about them. But, proud of his house of God as Solomon was, he had grace enough to say that the heaven of heavens could not contain the God of Israel, much less this house that he had built. And as time went on in Israel, it became more and more clear that Solomon's temple, from heaven as it was at that time, became more and more a hindrance, rather than a help, to God dwelling on the earth; till Christ came in the temple of His body, and till Paul built up beside that temple, and leaning upon it, the similar temple of the believer's body. And then John Howe comes to us in our own day, and in our own tongue, with his Living Temple, a piece that Paul would have given orders to read to all the churches. And I promise the student of these things, who will begin with Solomon and go on to John Howe, that he will write to me after he has read it all, and will say, that there is no spirit left in him as he lays down the Plato of the Puritans on That Notion that a Good Man is a Temple of God.

But my time has failed me. And all I shall attempt to say more at this time is this, that if the Queen of Sheba was so overpowered as she saw the meat of Solomon's table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, what would she have said had she ever sat down at the Lord's Table? I wonder what she would have said when she went south about the Lord's Table, and the meat upon it, and the sitting of His servants, and the attendance of His ministers, and their apparel, and His cupbearers. No, she would have said, the tenth of that had not been told me. Thy wisdom, O Thou Greater than Solomon, she would have broken forth, and Thy prosperity, far exceedeth all the fame that I had heard. Happy are Thy men, happy are those Thy servants, which stand continually before Thee, and hear Thy wisdom. And blessed be the Lord Thy God which delighted in Thee, to set Thee on the throne of Israel.

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Bibliography Information
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'Solomon, and a Greater Than Solomon'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. 1901.

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