12 ¶ I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. 14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. 15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. 16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. 17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. 18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
Solomon was king over the people of Israel in Jerusalem.
1Kings 1:39 And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon.
Solomon was eager to be a man of learning and wisdom for the sake of his people. He requested this of God. This was not just for himself, for his own ego or personal satisfaction.
1Kings 3:9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
God promised that He would do that very thing, and much more.
1Kings 3:10 And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; 12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. 13 And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
And God gave it to him and more.
1Kings 4:29 ¶ And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. 30 And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about. 32 And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. 33 And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. 34 And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.
Did this wisdom and knowledge produce joy and contentment in him? No, it did not. It only made him realize the pointlessness of it, as the more he learned, the more unsatisfied he was. The more he learned, the more his ignorance became apparent. Learning in all of its forms cannot change the human tendency to wickedness and pride. In fact, it can increase it. His advanced education, his understanding, could not change the spiritual nature of those over whom he ruled.
He thought that his knowledge and wisdom could produce great benefits for his people and perhaps, physically, it did, but there is a deficiency in such efforts that shows its weakness. Great leaders who wanted to accomplish things for their people like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for instance, could try to relieve their people’s misery and discomfort but they could never get past the fact that mankind’s heart is inherently wicked.
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
And without the Creator’s direction and instruction mankind stumbles along blindly.
Jeremiah 10:23 O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
So that the government can provide us with an education, our basic food needs, shelter, and even healthcare and we will still destroy our lives and the lives of our children with our sin and carelessness. Government cannot change the human heart.
Solomon’s wisdom gave him much grief and his understanding much sorrow in how his efforts to seek out and search out wisdom left him frustrated and his vision of his rule unsatisfied.
The fundamental weakness of human government is its inability to effect a change on the inside of a person. Only an individual’s personal relationship with God can affect that change. A wise leader, an understanding ruler, no matter how brilliant he is, cannot elevate the human heart by law or judgment, welfare or compassion.
The founders of American government believed through the teachings of philosophers like Locke and Montesquieu that they had created a workable government that would be of the most benefit for the American people, at least the ones that were not in chains or being driven out of their own lands. But, human government, for all its good intentions, if there be any, cannot substitute for God. God is our three branches of government in a verse never quoted in the debate over the Constitution of the United States.
Isaiah 33:22 For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.
This verse does not say that the Supreme Court is our judge, the Congress is our lawgiver, and the President is our king, does it? Do you honestly believe, like the Christians of the 19th century did, and the American socialists of the 20th, that you can insert government for LORD in that passage? A great preacher once said that the only difference between civilized men and savages are some nifty buildings.
Imagine Solomon’s frustration and disappointment, and even his sense of failure.