Bible Dreams – Solomon

Bible Dreams – Solomon

Bible Dreams – Solomon.

“That night God came to king Abimelech in a dream…” (Genesis 20:3); “As Jacob slept, he dreamed of a stairway…” (Gen. 28:12); “In my dream, the Angel of the Lord said to me, ‘Jacob!” (Gen. 31:11); “One night, Joseph had a dream…” (Gen. 37:5); “The previous night, God had appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream…” (Gen. 31:24); “Interpreting dreams is God’s business, so go ahead and tell me your dreams,’ said Joseph.”(Gen. 40:8); “Two years later, Pharaoh dreamed… (Gen. 41:1);“When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship before the Lord.” (Judges 7:15); “That night, Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream.” (1 Kings 3:5, and 9:2); “I have had a dream that deeply troubles me, and I must know what it means,’ said King Nebuchadnezzar. He sent for Daniel at once.” (Daniel 2:3, 14); “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream…” (Matthew 1:20, also in 2:19 and 2:22); “God had warned the Magi in a dream.” (Matt. 2:12); “Pilate’s wife sent him a message, saying ‘Let that innocent man alone! I suffered through a terrible nightmare about Him last night!” (Matt. 27:19).

Why would God, who has every means of revelation at His disposal, choose dreams as a way to contact a person and convey vital guidance? Dreams tend to be unreliable, unpredictable, illogical, and poorly remembered if at all. Many if not most dreams don’t seem like a very trustworthy vehicle for divine communication. They can be mistranslated so easily, and sometimes are so bizarre it’s hard to take them seriously. And we know now that dreams can be affected by external things like room temperature, what we ate or drank before bedtime, the events of the day, or even if there are any lingering aromas in the house. And because dreamers are in an unconscious state, dreams are outside of our control as the unfettered imagination runs wild.

Nonetheless, God speaking through dreams didn’t seem to raise any eyebrows in Scripture. Everyone from pagan kings to heroic saints were not surprised by this strategy of God to reach them. We now realize that after decades of so-called dream science, the whole topic of dreams are just as mysterious now as in ancient times. Dreams remain a fascinating frontier when it comes to scientific research, and we still simply cannot confirm why we have this ability to mentally experience vivid pictures, stories and images while in an unconscious state. God in His wisdom knows when to approach someone with divine intervention while a person is in a dream state. He knows who is a likely prospect for His appearance in a dream. Perhaps some people are more receptive to God’s guidance when in an unconscious state, which says a lot about a person’s stubbornness when in a conscious state. Perhaps it is only during a dream that a person doesn’t have much of a choice of whether to listen or not, knowing that dreamers are captive audiences. Maybe God waits for when a certain person’s resistance is down. Perhaps a person’s imagination might be more picturesque and creative during a dream, able to manage an other-worldly, heavenly message. We just don’t know for sure the motivation of God in using dreams, of course, because His very presence is a mystery as He somehow travels back and forth between spiritual, material and imaginative realities. But we do know that God often chooses to work in mysterious ways and in this matter of dreams, He has chosen, and continues to choose, dreams to warn, instruct, guide, reveal His presence, and encourage us. God loves us so much that He will do whatever it takes to reach us whether awake, or asleep, or everything in between.

“Solomon loved the Lord Yahweh and followed all the decrees of his father, David, except that Solomon also offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, the various shrines and local places of worship. So the king went to Gibeon and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings. That night Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, ‘What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!’ Solomon replied, ‘You showed a great and faithful love to your servant my father David, because he was honest and true and faithful to You. And You have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne. Now, O Lord my God, You have made me king to replace my father David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t even know his way around! And here I am in the midst of Your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding mind, a listening heart, give to me wisdom and knowledge, so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of Yours?’ Yahweh was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.” (1 Kings 3:3-10, and 2 Chronicles 1:10).

It appears that Solomon had forgotten the words of the Law in Deuteronomy 12, when Moses spoke very specifically about the proper places of worship in Israel. Moses addressed the importance of worshipping only in the Lord’s designated place where He was honored and that contained His presence. Israel was to destroy all the “high places” where other gods were worshipped.  Maybe Solomon had his heart in the right place when he visited all the high places that were once used to worship other gods. Perhaps he had good intentions as he sought to convert these shrines to Yahweh God. The people, though, started with proper God-worship, but soon returned to use those high places for other gods. It turned out that Solomon had unwittingly opened the door to the blending of Yahweh and pagan gods that was to plague them and be their eventual downfall. Jerusalem was the Lord’s chosen worship site, because it was where David had placed the all-important Ark of the Covenant that signified God’s Presence. Also, those shrines and remote worship sites were not under the careful guidance of God-appointed priests and faithful spiritual leaders. Most importantly, the high places did not enjoy God’s Presence, and Jerusalem was where He truly and exclusively dwelled to be worshipped. Sure enough, after a time, false teaching and spiritual distractions crept into the worship in those high places. These shrines developed into places of worship that placed Yahweh on equal footing with pagan gods.  This proved to be a spiritual snare to Solomon’s many foreign wives and eventually to Solomon himself. It is reported in 1 Kings 11 that he even stooped so low as to participate in the worship of the detestable god Molech.

Nonetheless, Solomon enjoyed a strong beginning to his reign. But of course that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a strong ending. Following the faithful leadership of his father David, Solomon started on the right track. As he assumed the throne, he asked God for wisdom, and God indeed gave Solomon a wise, discerning mind. So much so that “no one will ever equal you,” said the Lord (1 Kings 3:12). Solomon became “wiser than all other men, and was given exceptional wisdom and understanding, and a breadth of mind like the sand of the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:29-31). Solomon became the ultimate success story when he began his reign. He was soon known around the world for his knowledge and wisdom. At the start, all of Israel was in awe of him (1 Kings 3:28). Tragically, even with his great mind, Solomon had a short memory.

In Solomon’s first dream when God appeared, he humbly and prudently asked Yahweh for an “understanding mind,” literally in Hebrew a “listening heart.” He had a strong desire to “govern well” and “discern between right and wrong.” In the 2 Chronicles 1 version of this dream, Solomon asked Yahweh for “wisdom and knowledge.”  We would probably be better able to read Solomon’s mind in his requests of God if we dig a little deeper into the meaning of those words in his conversation with the Lord.

Listening/Understanding: from the Hebrew word “shama,” a term that is rooted in one of those monumental terms of the Hebrew Bible, “shema.” Shema is the first word and title for what Jewish children said and continue to say in their prayers every morning and evening. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is One! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might!” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, NASB). Surely Solomon knew that the word he used in his request of Yahweh reflects a profoundly receptive attitude on his part to take in what God wants to teach him and then translate that into obedience. Solomon is basically giving himself a little pep talk, reminding himself to Listen up! Get ready to obey what the Lord says! Be receptive to God! Give me a heart and mind, Lord, to truly listen to You down deep in my heart in a way that activates my will and my obedience to You! Lord, I don’t want a mind in which Your words go in one ear and out the other! When I hear from You, Yahweh, help me to listen carefully and put Your words into practice! Shema, the classic Hebrew word that means more than one thing, in this case… Listen and do; Hear and obey; Take in and flesh out; Understand and apply.

Heart/Mind: from the Hebrew word “leb,” an ancient term for the heart, which was seen as the deep center of a person; the seat of one’s inner nature; the intellect; the emotions; the will; what moves one to obey. Solomon requested here to go beneath the surface with Yahweh’s words and instructions. He tells God here that he is not going to be satisfied with a casual hearing, or superficial listening, or shallow understanding. Solomon wants to go deep with God. Solomon desires to have God’s words be translated into his life experience at a profoundly meaningful level.

Judge: the Hebrew word here is “shaphat,” a term that means to rule, to govern, to dispense judgment, to settle controversies between people, to be a law-giver. The ancient meaning of the term is much more than a sitting judge, but actually includes all the facets of a government… the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. So Solomon earnestly desired to be a righteous ruler and competent king, one who ruled effectively over his people so his nation and all its members would flourish.

Discernment: the Hebrew word here is ”lehabin,” based on the root word “bin.” This word means to be able to distinguish between right and wrong, to understand the difference, to wisely perceive what is good behavior and bad behavior.

Wisdom: the Hebrew word in this passage is “hokmah,” which means much more than simple intelligence. A wise person is highly skilled in a particular area of expertise; is shrewd and insightful in the practical art of living and decision-making; makes a point of practicing the truth in daily life; has sensible judgment and moral discernment; is gifted in understanding life at a deep level; has clever street smarts; one is not naïve, taken in easily or gullible; is intelligent in the way our Creator intended; is astute in fleshing out a practical spirituality.

Knowledge: The Hebrew term used here is “madda,” which is rooted in the important biblical term “yada.” Yada is jam-packed with meaning. On the one hand it implies acquiring something factual through the intellect. It is mentally grasping some piece of knowledge and remembering it. When you know something, your mind says, “I got this.” So on the one hand, knowing is a mental exercise. But on the other hand, yada is so much more. In the Hebrew meaning, knowing implies an intimate understanding of something. Knowing is a deep personal union (Adam “knew” Eve), a personal experience with truth. In the Hebrew mind, one didn’t really know something until it became a part of you, until you could live it out. To “know” was to be involved, to participate in that truth. Something isn’t truly known unless it changes the knower. To know a truth means the knower is responsible to use it properly in his life. True knowledge is a personal relationship with the truth. Solomon wanted to know the facts of the world, and he wanted to go beyond the mental to the deeper experiential aspect of knowing the truth.

Wisdom in Proverbs: The book of Proverbs is the best example of wisdom literature in the Hebrew Bible, and Solomon is probably the book’s main author, even though there were undoubtedly a handful of other authors as well. Proverbs is centered on the makings of wisdom, about being wise and being unwise. We can easily see in Proverbs that God indeed gave Solomon an amazing amount of wisdom in answer to his request during that dream. Solomon posed the following qualities as being enemies of wisdom, the common foes of wisdom. The following traits make it difficult for a person to acquire wisdom. And they demonstrate what it looks like when a person’s character is lacking wisdom and is thus unwise. (passages below are all from the New Living Translation).

Pride: “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.” (16:18); “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” (29:23).

Stubbornness: “Only a fool despises a parent’s discipline; whoever learns from correction is wise.” (15:5); “If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself, but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding (15:32).

Laziness: “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” (13:4); “A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things.” (18:9).

Injustice: “Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the Lord understand completely.” (28:5); “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.” (31:8-9).

Ignorance: “It is senseless to pay to educate a fool, since he has no heart for learning.” (17:16); “Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.” (9:9).

Violence:  “Don’t envy violent people or copy their ways. Such wicked people are detestable to the Lord, but he offers his friendship to the godly.” (3:31,32); “Don’t envy evil people or desire their company. For their hearts plot violence, and their words always stir up trouble.” (24:1,2).

Dishonesty: “Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.” (12:19); “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.” (12:22).

Stinginess: “Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.” (11:24); “Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.” (21:13).

Foolishness: “The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.” (14:16); “Simpletons are clothed with foolishness, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.” (14:18).

Anger: “A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.” (12:16); “Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul (22:24)

Gullible: “The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.” (10:21); “Only simpletons believe everything they are told! The prudent carefully consider their steps.” (14:15).

Quarrelsome: “Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before a dispute breaks out.” (17:14); “Throw out the mocker, and fighting goes out too. Quarrels and insults will disappear.” (22:10).

Wicked: “When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.” (10:25); “Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots.” (12:3).

One has to admit that there were many spiritual high points in Solomon’s early career on the throne. He gave solid signs of walking in the Faith. He made it a priority to build the Temple, for example, the religious center of worship in Jerusalem, the designated place where God committed to make his earthly presence. At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon offered an extended prayer of worship, adoration and intercession that is unrivalled in Scripture (1 Kings 8). At that time, the cloud of the Lord’s glory and presence filled the Temple, and was so thick inside, there was no room for the priests to minister. Indeed, Solomon showed early promise as a great spiritual leader in Israel.

Solomon’s Second Dream with God. “The Lord Yahweh appeared to Solomon a second time, as He had done before at Gibeon. Yahweh said to him… ‘If you will follow Me with integrity and godliness, as David your father did, obeying all my commands, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever. But if you or your descendants abandon Me and disobey the commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot Israel from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor My name. I will make Israel an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations… All because the people have abandoned the Lord their God.” (1 Kings 9:1-9 for the full text).

Sometimes our eyes just skip over small words in Scripture when we are reading in a hurry. In other words, if we’re not careful, if we find ourselves skimming the Bible, we will miss what might be the most important word in our relationship with God. We might be blind to a little word that quite possibly is central to our discipleship of Jesus. The word is “IF.” If is not a word to skip over, because it is often followed by a “Then.” Lord Yahweh made many promises in the Hebrew Bible, and many of them have an “If” attached. If you do this, then I will do that, God says. He seems to offer many conditional promises, what seem to be promises with strings attached. Conditional promises highlight the fact that we need to do our part in our relationship with God. We need to accept our responsibility as we cooperate with Him. We are active participants in our walk with the Lord. God offers us unconditional love, but we do have obligations if we expect to receive what He has promised. When we do our part, we are not earning salvation. We instead are putting forth effort as we live into our life of deliverance. We are doing our part in order to receive God’s promises. Solomon either forgot about the Big If in his second dream with God, or he could be ignored it. That turned out to be a tragic mistake, proving that a smart man can also be enormously ignorant.

“When Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel. ” (1 Kings 11:4, 6, 9)

It’s okay to be strong-willed. It’s not necessarily wrong to be stubborn. One has to learn how to be stubborn in the right things. There is such a thing as holy stubbornness, being strong-willed about things of God, Scripture, virtues, mercy. Solomon was privileged to receive a wise charge from his father David as he assumed the throne: “Obey all the commands of the Lord; learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately; worship and serve God with your whole heart and a willing mind; take my words seriously.” (1 Chron. 28:8-10). How could anyone get a better start than Solomon’s humility before God and wise guidance from the outgoing king?

Unfortunately, Solomon grew to be weak-willed where he should have been strong. True, living up to his name, which means “peace,’ Solomon ruled in peace for forty years. But his personal life didn’t meet the standards of God. Way back in Mosaic Law, the Lord made clear His expectations regarding kings of Israel: “The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself, or send his people to Egypt to buy horses; the king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord; the king must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver or gold for himself.” (Deut. 17:16-17). The king acceptable to God was not to build up a big military, he was to be a one-woman man, and he was not to be excessively wealthy. How did Solomon stack up to these expectations from the Lord? Did these prove to be temptations? As it turns out, Solomon yielded to temptation and dramatically disobeyed all three laws in grand fashion. Solomon may have gotten straight A’s in his royal life, but he definitely flunked in spiritual life. He failed in what matters most, obedience and devotion to God.

It is true that Solomon built a magnificent Temple and a lavish palace. But he also constructed and promoted pagan shrines, encouraging idolatry throughout Israel. All of these building projects and vanity projects were on the backs of the citizens of his country… heavy taxes to pay for the opulence, and forced labor to construct these buildings, which was more like the slavery that they escaped from long ago in Egypt. Then he started forcing Israel’s young men into military service. Solomon became a common, ordinary despot, wasting all Israel’s resources on his own “unholy self-indulgence.” (Amplified Bible notes). Solomon did not have compassion for his people, his heart was not in the right place regarding how he governed the populace of Israel. Under Solomon, peace and prosperity paid a heavy price in the lives of his people. The Israelites became bitter at this oppression, and the people began to oppose his autocratic rule. In all his wealth, power and fame, Solomon forgot the God of his father David.

Solomon obviously had a weak will regarding the women in his reign of power and prestige. Solomon reportedly had a harem of 1,000 wives and concubines (1 Kings 11:3), many of whom were not Israelites. The Lord even made two personal appearances to Solomon, warning him about the consequences of acquiring so many wives and sexual partners (1 Kings 11:9). Those two divine appearances were not meant to be pleasant experiences for Solomon. God was very angry with him, and told him he needed to turn back to the Lord. But Solomon merely shrugged it off and continued on his merry way. Even when face-to-face, “Solomon did not listen to the Lord’s command.” (1 Kings 11:10). Once again, Solomon was weak when he should have been strong.

As punishment for his disobedience, the kingdom of Israel was divided after Solomon’s death. The once proud nation was divided into the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom. As Israel discovered, sooner or later God keeps His promises. At Solomon’s death, the once proud and united nation of Israel divided, and Solomon’s throne didn’t last forever after all. Both nations were cursed with a long string of wicked kings, idolatry, and vulnerability to conquering empires in the neighborhood. The disaster of Solomon’s reign resulted in national weakness, idolatry, ignorance of God, captivity, and destruction. As Eugene Peterson observed, “Ironically, the wisest man in the world became the most foolish. Wisdom doesn’t safeguard us from waywardness, for we, like Solomon, can be mentally brilliant but morally bankrupt.” 

Solomon started well but tragically finished poorly. He was clever but foolish. Technically, he was filled with knowledge, but he had little discernment. He could solve a perplexing riddle, but he didn’t understand the things of God. As a leader, he was a visionary, except he was surprisingly blind to the consequences of his actions. He was stubborn in the wrong things, and weak in the right things. He could literally write over 3,000 wise and witty proverbs for others, but he usually didn’t take his own advice. Solomon started humbly and seeing himself as a mere child, only a beginner and dependent on God. But after a while he lost a sense of that dependence and wanted to be the only adult in the room. Solomon may have been technically smart, but he didn’t have follow through, he wasn’t a life-long learner in the ways of God.

Solomon was a prodigious writer during his reign. In addition to his 3,000 proverbs were over 1,000 poems/songs. His memoir Ecclesiastes is accepted as his final reflections on life. He meditates on how meaningless and futile life is when lived “under the sun,” apart from God. Life is empty without the Creator, no matter how thoroughly one might search for purpose in existence, whether the search is for meaning in pleasure, success, wealth, fame, or knowledge. “In Ecclesiastes we find a man proving through bitter experience that finding meaning in life apart from God is a vain pursuit. Security and contentment are found only in a personal relationship with God.” (TNL notes).

Solomon’s conclusions in Ecclesiastes pack a punch. On the one hand he says “Everything is meaningless, completely meaningless.” (Eccl. 12:8). He sees life apart from God and concludes that everything is futile, temporary, empty. But he didn’t end his final thoughts with that. He decided that humanity will only find fulfillment in faith and obedience, fearing God and keeping His commandments. The only antidotes to emptiness and meaninglessness is humble reverence of the Lord and faithful submission to His commands. “All has been heard. The end of the matter is, Fear God – know that He is, revere and worship Him – and keep His commandments; for this is the whole of man (the full original purpose of his creation, the object of God’s providence, the root of character, the foundation of all happiness), and the whole duty for every person.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, Amplified Bible).