Some thirty years after penning his song, Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. After a verse of introduction, the second verse of that book records Solomon’s opening statement: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” How does one go from the heights of “the song of songs” to the depths of the “vanity of vanities?”
Solomon is a paradox of monumental proportions in that he started life well and finished poorly. In his early years he was humble and submissive to the will of God. During these early days of his reign, God approached him with the offer of whatever he wished and Solomon asked for wisdom. His humility and obedience were rewarded with supernatural wisdom from God (I Kings 3:5-12). His enthusiasm and love for God were expressed in the massive undertaking of constructing the temple in Jerusalem. This stage of his life matches the Song of Solomon.
During his middle years, King Solomon consolidated his kingdom and began to reach out around the world through trade. He began to gather many wives as well as an incredible fortune through his various business pursuits. His wisdom and fame began to draw great attention from other kingdoms, bringing the famous visit from the Queen of Sheba (I Kings 10) as well as others who sought out his wisdom and advice. This is the time of his life that roughly parallels his writing of the book of Proverbs.
In his later years, Solomon began to reap the fruit of his poor choices and his failure to keep his heart tender before God. As he amassed horses, wives and gold in disobedience to the direct command of God (Deut. 17:15-17), his wives began to influence him to disobey God through idolatry (I Kings 11:1-8). This of course drew him away from the Lord and brought the Lord’s disfavour upon his reign. (I Kings 11:9-14) Solomon became despondent and bitter and this attitude can be seen in the book of Ecclesiastes which was written near the end of his life.
Thus Solomon in his early life pictures Christ – the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” (Rev. 19:16) In his later life he degenerates into a picture of the Antichrist – empty idolatry that led others away from God. The wisest man who ever lived failed to keep tabs on his walk with God and allowed his flesh to slowly overwhelm his life and lead him into ruin. What a paradox!