Study Guide

King Solomon in Proverbs

King Solomon

To hearken back to what we said in our introduction to Proverbs, King Solomon—according to tradition—had an almost Yoda-like level of wisdom. That means a good number of the wise sayings in Proverbs are said to come from him, originally. Though most scholars think this was a traditional way of labeling the book as wisdom from a profound source, it's still perfectly possible that at least some of the proverbs may have derived from this Israelite Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Or, wait… was it Yoda? Close enough.)

At any rate, Solomon doesn't really play a very profound role in the book as a character—since there aren't, technically speaking, any characters. But if we humor the idea that Solomon came up with the proverbs attributed to him, a certain image of the king emerges. Here, he's a master of the classic wisdom tradition of the Near East. Like most of the contributors to Proverbs, he's all about righteousness, wisdom, and hard work.

A Complicated Guy

This contrasts interestingly with the way Ecclesiastes portrays Solomon's views. Although Solomon probably didn't write all of Ecclesiastes either, the book depicts Solomon as someone with a view of wisdom highly different from that of Proverbs, even opposed to it in many ways.

Whereas Proverbs and its version of Solomon continually assert that the righteous and wise will prosper and the wicked and foolish will be punished—even, apparently, in this life—Ecclesiastes typically sees no difference: time and chance frequently reward the unjust, and life seems like a crapshoot.

So, even though Solomon may or may not have made certain contributions to Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, both books present him as a prime representative of Near Eastern Wisdom. In Proverbs' case, Solomon sees the sunny side—he tends to agree with everybody else on the basics of wisdom—while Ecclesiastes provides a darker counter-wisdom. It's interesting to imagine Solomon as a character who could've contained both of these contradictory perspectives in one mind.

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