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believe his God to be “altogether such an one as himself.” In the age of Solomon the Jew did not consider it immoral to hate and curse all those who were unfriendly to him, nor did he see any impropriety in representing Jehovah as cursing those whose conduct was displeasing to him. “ The curse of Jehovah is in the house of the wicked.”
Chap. iii. 33. This expression does not require to be softened: it is in harmony with the prevailing mode of thought and feeling of the time in which it was written, and no other interpretation than its literal signification can be put upon the words, without introducing our own thoughts into the Bible. It is also said
“ Jehovah hath made all things for himself: yea, even the
wicked for the day of evil.”– Chap. xvi. 4. This proverb seems to assert that Jehovah predestinated the wicked for punishment. That such is the intended meaning of the writer is probable, for expressions of similar import occur in some of the other ancient books of the Old Testament. We are told that God hardens the hearts of the wicked, in order that he may punish them: that they hearken not to reproof, because Jehovah will slay them. That he closes their eyes that they should not see, and shuts their ears, that they should not hear, in order that they should not obey and should not be healed. At this time there existed no distinct notions of God's moral government, or of man's
The necessity of religion, which is described as “the fear of Jehovah," is much insisted upon in the Proverbs. Sacrifices and offerings for sin are not to be onnitted, but they alone cannot secure the forgiveness of Jehovah; it is by amendment of life, obedience to his laws, justice, and judgment, that his mercy is to be obtained.
“The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom.”—Chap. i. 7.
Fear Jehovah and depart from evil.”—Chap. iii. 7. “ To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to Jehovah than sacrifice.”-Chap. xxi. 3. Such are the views of God and of religion taught in the book of the Proverbs. It certainly contains much that is true and beautiful, and, though only a portion of the book was
written by Solomon, we cannot but acknowledge him to be entitled to be regarded as a wise man and a philosopher.
Religious Notions attributed to Solomon in the Historical
Books of the Kings and the Chronicles. The prayer offered by Solomon at the dedication of the temple contains some elevated conceptions of the Deity, but in the historical books which narrate the life of Solomon, the religious views ascribed to him are far less enlightened than those found in the Book of the Proverbs. He is generally represented as regarding Jehovah, not as the only God, the Creator of the universe, but merely as a national-God, the God of Israel. Jehovah appears twice to Solomon in dreams, or visions.
“ In Gibeon Jehovah appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.”—
1 Kings iii. 5 ; also 2 Chron. i. 7. “ Jehovah appeared to Solomon the second time, as he had appeared unto him at Gibeon."
1 Kings ix. 2 ; also 2 Chron. vii. 12. Jehovah is pleased with Solomon's request, and promises him an extraordinary communication of wisdom ; also riches, and power, length of days, and the establishment of his temporal kingdom to his posterity for ever, if he will keep the statutes and judgments of Jehovah.
“ Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel. But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them : then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people."
i Kings ix. 5-7; also 2 Chron. vii. 18-20. When Solomon offers sacrifice to Jehovah at the conclusion of his prayer at the consecration of the temple, Jehovah
kindles the sacrifice with fire from heaven, as a proof of his acceptance.
“ Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of Jehovah filled the house.".
2 Chron. vii. 1. Jehovah also says unto Solomon in answer to his prayer
“I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there for ever : and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.”—2 Chron. vii. 12-16. Yet, in spite of this warning, Solomon allows himself to be seduced into the worship of idols by his wives, and concubines, and strange women. The anger of Jehovah is excited, for Solomon had erected altars to Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon: and, as a punishment, Jehovah threatens to wrest from him ten of the tribes over which he reigned, and to give them to another king
“ And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces; for thus
will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there.”—1 Kings xi. 31-36. It is difficult to understand how Solomon, who in the Proverbs wrote so justly of God, could yet worship Jehovah as the national-God of Israel; and it is still more incomprehensible, that he should abandon himself to the most disgraceful idolatry. These are inconsistencies which we do not attempt to reconcile, but we would remark that the historical books express the general and popular religious opinions of the times to which they refer, rather than those ideas which the wiser and more contemplative among the Israelites had, by means of reflection and cultivation, wrought out for themselves. These books represent Solomon as speaking of God, in conformity with the prevailing notions among the people; and it is very probable that Solomon, when he prayed or offered sacrifice in public, accommodated the expressions he used to the false notions of his subjects, and dwelt more on the relation of Jehovah to the Israelites than on his character as the universal Father.
With respect to Solomon's idolatry. We believe that in him it was rather tolerance than idolatry. Among the numerous inmates of his harem were many foreign women, Ammonites, Moabites, Zidonians, and others. It belonged to the splendour and state of an eastern monarch or despot to possess an immense harem, whose inmates were chosen by preference from foreign nations. These women were unwilling to abandon their own worship and superstitions : slaves in a strange land, they clung closely to the religion of their childhood and nation, and they entreated Solomon to secure to them religious freedom. He yielded to their solicitations and commanded high places and altars to be erected, upon which they might sacrifice to their own deities, after their own manner. Though such an indulgence might have been sanctioned by the laws of humanity, and to a benevolent and reflecting mind might have appeared a reasonable concession, this erection of altars to foreign Gods was a direct violation of the Jewish constitution, and led to much sinful idolatry among the people of Israel. The orthodox sighed over this act of their monarch, and regarded the subsequent desertion of the ten tribes, in the reign of his son (who, for his despotism and folly, merited such a lesson), as the punishment inflicted by Jehovah for this permitted and sanctioned idolatry; and our historiographers do not fail to consider this misfortune, as well as every other evil which afterwards befel the kings and the state, as the consequences of the insult offered by Solomon to the orthodox faith.