“This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’“
1 Kings 9:8 (NIV)
I have recently been listening to a podcast called This is History with Dan Jones. For any fellow history geeks reading this, I highly recommend it. The first season tells the story of the “Plantagenet” kings of England, including the crusading Richard the Lionheart and his brother, Prince John, who are typically familiar to most people because of their presence in our regular, contemporary retellings of the legend of Robin Hood. The truth is that the Robin Hood legend was not originally set in the same period of time as Richard and John. Modern writers and producers have connected the two to give the story a little more pizazz.
How fascinating that most people today have better recall of the fictional Robin Hood legend than anything about the very real histories of Richard, John, and their Plantagenet family whose real stories are every bit as entertaining as that of the legendary outlaw.
In today’s chapter, Solomon receives a second appearance from God in which God acknowledges the now completed and consecrated Temple in Jerusalem and then warns Solomon and his descendants that if they are unfaithful and worship other gods the Temple will be reduced to rubble and publicly ridiculed. The rest of the chapter goes on to list other accomplishments of Solomon’s impressive 40-year reign.
As I was pondering these things in the quiet this morning, I couldn’t help but mull over the reality that there is scant evidence that King Solomon ever existed. In fact, I had teachers in school who proudly boasted that the entire story of King Solomon was as legendary a fabrication as Robin Hood. It is true that compared to other historical figures such as Richard the Lionheart and Prince John, we have little actual physical evidence to corroborate the story. Of course, Solomon lived a couple thousand years before the Plantagenet kings.
Having said that, modern archaeology has unearthed actual evidence of the building of fortifications at Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer that date to the time of Solomon and corroborate the text in today’s chapter. In addition, horse stables have been unearthed as described in the text (note: today’s featured photo is of unearthed horse stables at Megiddo). Recently unearthed clay seals have also provided historical evidence to prove the historicity of both David and Solomon.
What I find fascinating, however, is the spiritual lesson that lies at the heart of this modern doubt and dismissal of the great and successful Solomon. Solomon had a successful forty-year reign. He fortified the territory his father conquered. He pulled off extensive building campaigns. He established trade routes on both land and sea and established treaties and alliances with neighboring kingdoms and empires. He was, according to the text, the most successful king by earthly standards in the history of Israel.
And he’s popularly dismissed in modern times as nothing but an exaggerated religious legend.
God warned Solomon and his descendants that their lack of faithfulness would result in the destruction of the Temple. What was also destroyed was Solomon’s legacy. Everything Solomon worked for, everything he built, everything he accomplished, and all of his worldly success ended up on the scrap heap of history that is still publicly ridiculed as rubbish to this day. His legendary success is dismissed as nothing but a legend.
In the quiet this morning, I can’t help but think about Jesus telling His followers to be mindful of what I treasure on this earthly journey. It’s basically a riff on the message Solomon received. If I invest my time, energy, and resources in building God’s kingdom, the “treasure” is an eternal legacy. All of the earthly treasures I acquire in chasing worldly success will, on the other hand, end up completely forgotten on the scrap heap of history right next to Solomon’s.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.