It is written:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
A critic of the Bible has objected that king Solomon never repented of his wickedness, since such repentance was not recorded in 1 Kings.
What shall we say to this?
First, the Book of Ecclesiastes stands as powerful evidence that Solomon repented of his wickedness. This Book, which Solomon wrote near the end of his life, counsels all of its readers to turn away from a life of sin as Solomon himself had done He learned that such a life is ultimately devoid of true meaning and is truly a “vanity of vanities.”
Second, there are any many other reasons to believe that Solomon did repent before his death.
Morris has noted:
“It is worth considering the possibility, at least, that Solomon may, in his last years, have turned back to the Lord in true repentance and faith. There are several indications that this could really have happened, even though the biblical accounts of his life and death never say so specifically. For example, it seems significant that the Lord himself, in His human incarnation as Jesus the Christ, referred to Solomon’s glory and his wisdom, but never to his apparent apostasy. It is also interesting to note that the account of Solomon’s career as recorded in the two Books of Chronicles, covering some 13 chapters in the two books, never refers to Solomon’s foreign wives at all, except for the one verse (2 Chron. 8: 11) that mentions Pharaoh’s daughter, the first and most important of these wives. And that is the verse that tells us how Solomon took her out of Jerusalem, building a special house for her. The reason he did this was because of the holy places in Jerusalem and the presence of the ark of God’s covenant there, the implication being that her presence as a pagan religionist in Jerusalem was incompatible with these sacred items in the city. Neither does the Chronicles account refer at all to Solomon’s apostasy as caused by these foreign wives or God’s rebuke to him because of them and their idols. Furthermore, the Chronicler never mentions Bathsheba and the rather unsavory background of her affair with David that eventually led to Solomon’s own birth. Neither does it mention the rebellion of Adonijah and the subsequent executions of Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei that were ordered by Solomon. All this is found only in 2 Samuel and 1 Kings. It seems very much as though Ezra (who is believed by most scholars to have written 1 and 2 Chronicles) deliberately omitted all the “negative” aspects of Solomon’s birth, life, and career, recording only the “positive” items, as far as possible. Yet he surely had access to the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings when he compiled the Books of Chronicles. A number of passages in these earlier books are quoted almost verbatim in Chronicles (for example, compare 2 Chronicles 10: 1–19, describing the initial acts of Rehoboam, who succeeded Solomon as king, with 1 Kings 12: 1–19). Thus, Ezra certainly knew about Solomon’s problems, so why did he omit them in his own account? It seems most likely that Ezra wanted the exiles returning from Babylon, for whom he was first writing, to dwell only on the positive things in the life of Solomon. Yet he did not hesitate to write about the sins and weaknesses of Rehoboam, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Uzziah, Ahaz, and the other later kings of Judah. So why did he spare Solomon? After all, it was through his initial disobedience that the idolatrous practices that later led to the Babylonian exile had been introduced into Jerusalem. One reasonable answer might be that he knew somehow—or at least had reason to believe—that Solomon had indeed repented and received forgiveness in his later years. A later evil king of Judah, Manasseh, had been worse than any of the kings before him, according to 2 Kings 21: 9, causing God to pronounce the certainty of Jerusalem’s coming destruction. No offsetting goodness was ever found in King Manasseh, at least according to the record in 2 Kings (21: 1–18). Yet Manasseh did later repent and turn back to God, and Ezra the scribe recorded this in his account (2 Chron. 33: 12–17), happy to be able to show his people that even such a wicked king as Manasseh could and did repent and return to the God of his fathers. Now, even though he did not have positive evidence of Solomon’s repentance (as he did for Manasseh, who had lived much nearer his own lifetime), he evidently felt that he had enough reason to believe that Solomon had returned to the Lord to warrant omitting the unsavory items and only “accentuating the positive” in his life…“Remember also that Solomon had a great deal to say about children, especially in his Book of Proverbs, as well as the importance of being true to the “wife of thy youth.” Was all of this nothing but hypocrisy on his part? The mother of his son Rehoboam was Naamah, an Ammonitess (2 Chron. 12: 13). Although she was from another country, Ammon, she could not have been one of the foreign wives he married later in life, for Rehoboam was 41 years old when he began to reign (2 Chron. 12: 13), and thus had been born a year before Solomon began his reign of 40 years (2 Chron. 9: 30). Now, as already noted, Solomon was no more than 20 years old when he became king, which means that he was in his late teens when he wed Naamah. Thus she must have been his first love, the “wife of his youth.” Most likely, she was the beautiful young woman praised by him so highly in his “Song of Songs.” This will be discussed more fully in chapter 2 of this book, as we try to look in greater depth at this beautiful love song of the young King Solomon. But if the Song of Solomon was written early in his life, his Book of Ecclesiastes was surely written very late in his life. In this book, he is clearly looking back at the “vanity” of his former dedication to wisdom, riches, and fame with apparent deep regret. He finally concluded his book (and probably his last written words) with the admonition to young people to “fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it will be evil” (Eccles. 12: 13–14).” (Henry M. Morris, The Remarkable Wisdom of Solomon: Ancient Insights From The Song Of Solomon, Proverbs, And Ecclesiastes, 484-534 (Kindle Edition); Green Forest, AR; Master Books)
Third, it is not surprising that 1 Kings did not mention the repentance of Solomon, since that was not the main focus of the Book. The author of 1 & 2 Kings was attempting to focus primarily on the nation of Israel, and not necessarily on individual kings and their relationship to God. There are some interesting parallels here with 2 Chronicles that deserve consideration. The Bible tells us in 2 Chronicles 33 that the wicked king Manasseh repented of his sin, yet 2 Kings makes no record of this.
In response to the question, “Why is there no mention of Manasseh’s repentance in 2 Kings?,” Gleason Archer has provided the following helpful and relevant insights:
“Second Chronicles 33: 13–16 tells of King Manasseh’s repentance and dedication to God after his release from captivity in Babylon (cf. v. 11). In despair Manasseh cast himself on the mercy of the God he had hated and mocked during the decades of his wicked reign. Amazingly, the Lord responded to his cry and released him. According to vv. 15–16, Manasseh then removed all the idols he had installed in the Jerusalem temple and all the pagan altars throughout the city and cast them into the trash heap outside the city walls. He then restored the worship of Yahweh in the temple according to the law of Moses and ended his days in restored fellowship with God. But why was this final conversion of that wicked king not mentioned at all in the account in 2 Kings 21? The first nine verses of this chapter detail his sinful violation of God’s covenant and the baneful influence he exerted for the spiritual downfall of his people. The next six verses record God’s stern sentence of total destruction for Jerusalem and the southern kingdom because of Manasseh’s unparalleled wickedness. The account closes (vv. 16–18) with a summary of the unchecked bloodshed and crime that afflicted Jerusalem under his rule and makes no mention whatever of a change of heart before his death and burial. It seems a bit strange that such an important development as the latter-day repentance of this long-reigning king receives no mention whatever in 2 Kings 21. But the reason seems to lie in the different focus of interest that guided the author of Kings. He was not quite so concerned with the personal relationship of individual leaders to the Lord as he was with the response of the nation as a whole to its responsibilities under the covenant. From the standpoint of lasting results, Manasseh’s reign added up to a severe spiritual setback for Judah; and even his personal reform and restoration to fellowship with God came as too little and too late, so far as influencing the nation was concerned. Under his son and successor, Amon, the people reverted to their immoral, idolatrous lifestyle, just about as they had done before Manasseh’s return from captivity. The curse of God was not lifted from the city, and the disaster of 587 B.C. came upon them just the same. The author of Chronicles, however, takes more of a personal interest in the relationship each leader or king maintained toward God. Thus in 1 Kings 15: 9–24 there is a relatively short account of Asa’s reign, which centers attention on Asa’s grave blunder in bribing Benhadad of Damascus to invade Israel from the north, thus compelling Baasha of Israel to give up his fortification of Ramah on his southern border. The maneuver seemed successful, and Baasha’s fortress was later completely dismantled by Asa’s troops; but there were sinister consequences for the future. In 2 Chronicles 16: 7–9 God’s prophet Hanani had to rebuke Asa for relying on the king of Syria for deliverance rather than on God. Hanani reminded Asa of the wonderful way Yahweh had come through for him in his combat with the huge army of the Ethiopians and Egyptians, when he had cast himself wholly on God’s faithful mercy (an episode described at length in 2 Chron. 14: 9–15 but entirely omitted in 1 Kings). Going still further back, we find in 2 Chronicles 13: 2–20 a long, detailed account of a victory won by Abijah son of Rehoboam over Jeroboam I. This was completely omitted by 1 Kings because it had no lasting results for the political struggle between the divided kingdoms. But for the Chronicler it was important because it showed how wonderfully God delivers those like Abijah who trust in Him in the presence of great difficulties and discouraging odds. Thus we can discern a pattern of selection as between the two historians. First Kings focused on the overall result of each king’s reign, in the light of his faithfulness to the covenant. But the Chronicler was interested in recording great moments of faith, even when no lasting consequences ensued for the nation as a whole. Omission of an event in Kings is therefore not to be regarded as casting doubt on its historicity in Chronicles—anymore than the omission of an event in one synoptic Gospel justifies doubt as to its historicity when it appears in another gospel.” (Gleason Archer, Jr., New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, 469-472 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
The fact that 2 Chronicles shows the repentance of the wicked king Manasseh, while such is not mentioned in the accounts of the Books of the Kings, simply reminds us that we must accept and analyze the teaching of all the Word of God. Clearly, the repentance of Manasseh shows us that just because the repentance of a king is not mentioned in 1 and 2 Kings, does not suggest that such repentance did not occur.
If a person should wonder why 1 and 2 Chronicles did not mention the repentance of Solomon, it is likely because Ezra and Nehemiah (the traditional authors of 1 and 2 Chronicles) knew that the Book of Ecclesiastes clearly documented his repentance, and felt no need to mention it further!
The example of king Solomon reminds us that no matter how deeply into sin a person slides, God is willing to forgive if the sinner will simply submit to God (Acts 2:38; Ezekiel 18:23; 1 John 1:9).
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.