Recently, I had the privilege to share some thoughts regarding King Solomon in the context of the study, The Story: Getting to the Heart of God’s Story. The chapter in the story emphasizes the fall of Solomon into the worship of other gods and its repercussions on the stability of the ancient kingdom. The author equates this descent to a frog in a kettle: incremental environmental changes that ultimately corrupt the truest of believers. While this may be true, I’d suggest another possibility for consideration.
When you look at the Old Testament you see the frequent adoption of other gods and worship styles. Behind every lost battle, enemy encroachment and famine is Israel’s turning from God and/or turning to other gods. In all these writings it doesn’t come across to me that devout monotheists turned to polytheism or changing religions. It reads more like polytheists who are dedicated to one god, but decide to shop around. With this in mind it doesn’t seem as far of leap for the ancient Hebrews to keep turning from and returning to God. It was as easy as switching your car insurance to Geico…or so I hear.
Despite our claims about fidelity to Scripture, everyone comes into faith with views not explicitly endorsed or refuted in it. While the Bible is clear about loyalty to the Lord, it isn’t nearly as clear about the existence of other deities allowing room for orthodox Jewish polytheists. So if you believe in ghosts, hold onto to any superstitions, or that the day of the year in which you were born makes your personality, temperament and destiny the same as anyone else born around the same time, you are holding onto extra-Biblical beliefs. In many cases these kinds of beliefs are harmless but there are times were our priorities and prejudices come in conflict with Scripture and we have to wrestle with it.
In Solomon’s case, perhaps he was simply a wise man who in the end couldn’t resolve a cognitive dissonance within himself that had both spiritual and political consequences. The political maneuverings and treaties with other people groups and their gods came into conflict with his own values to remain singly loyal to the Lord. How are we any different? We face political challenges at work or conflicts at home, and we choose the more expedient option rather than the best option. We may even let our fears keep us from experiencing and expressing love.
Whatever the multitude of beliefs are that we hold on to, may they be ones that build us and our communities up. May we all finish well.