Later in his life, Solomon sinned grievously against God. Does Solomon’s sinfulness late in his life and the lack of mention of his repentance mean that he died as an apostate and perished eternally?
Based on my study of Scripture, I believe that there are at least nine solid reasons to hold that he did not perish eternally.
Solomon Did Not Completely Turn Away from God
Scripture records the horrific sinfulness of Solomon later in his life in several passages. First Kings 11 is the primary passage.
Solomon disobeyed God’s commands not to marry women from certain nations who would surely cause him to turn after their gods (1 Kin. 11:1-3; 10, 11). Just as God warned, his foreign wives turned his heart away after other gods (1 Kin. 11:3, 4). As a result, he did much evil in God’s sight, building high places “for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods” (1 Kin. 11:5-8).
Solomon’s horrific sinfulness so angered the Lord that He decreed that He would certainly tear the kingdom from him and give it to his servant (1 Kin. 11:9-11). The Lord stirred up adversaries against Solomon who plagued him for the rest of his life (1 Kin. 11:14-25), and Jereboam rebelled against him (1 Kin. 11:26-40).
Three verses inform us about the rest of his acts, his death, and his burial in Jerusalem, the city of David his father (1 Kin. 11:41-43a-b). His son Rehoboam then reigned in his place (1 Kin. 11:43c).
Two other passages corroborate the dark record of Solomon’s later life (2 Kin. 23:13; Neh. 13:25, 26).
In spite of the darkness that these passages about Solomon record, First Kings 11 makes clear, however, that Solomon did not completely turn away from God:
1 Kings 11:4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
1 Kings 11:6 And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.
The statement that Solomon’s “heart was not perfect with the LORD his God” (1 Kin. 11:4) implies that it was still imperfectly “with the LORD his God.” The statement that he “went not fully after the LORD” (1 Kin. 11:6) also implies that he yet had a continuing relationship with Him.
Solomon did not perish eternally because he never did completely turn away from God. Many other Scriptural considerations confirm this interpretation.
God’s Promises to David about Solomon
Long before Solomon had been born, God made some special promises to David about a special son named Solomon (1 Chron. 22:9) that he would have:
2Sa 7:12 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.
13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:
15 But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.
God promised that He would have a Father-son relationship with Solomon, David’s son, who would build for Him a house for His name (2 Sam. 7:13; cf. 1 Chron. 28:6). His special relationship with that seed would include His chastening him if he would commit iniquity (2 Sam. 7:14).
Furthermore, God promised David that although He would chasten that son when he would commit iniquity, He would not take away from His lovingkindness, as He did with Saul (2 Sam. 7:15; 1 Chron. 17:13). These promises make it impossible for Solomon to have perished eternally.
God’s Loving Solomon at His Birth
Beyond God’s special promises about Solomon, God had a special regard for Solomon when he was born:
2Sa 12:24 And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him.
25 And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD.
Solomon is the only person of whom the Scripture explicitly specifies that the Lord loved him when he was born. Moreover, God’s sending a prophet to give him a special name Jedidiah, which means “beloved of the Lord,” highly emphasizes God’s special love for Solomon.
God’s special promises to David about Solomon and His special love for Solomon as a baby make it certain that we will see Solomon in heaven one day.
Solomon Loved God
The inspired writer of First Kings says that Solomon loved God:
1 Ki 3:3 And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.
In his natural state, no man loves God (Rom. 5:10; Rom. 8:7); Solomon’s loving God shows that he was a believer. Although his love for God was incomplete, it was genuine because God first loved him (2 Sam. 12:24-25; cf. 1 John 4:19).
As a believer who loved God, Solomon did not perish eternally when he died.
God’s Chastening Solomon
Solomon was David’s son who built the Temple (1 Kin. 5-6) and later committed iniquity. As He had promised to do, God chastened Solomon “with the rod of men and with the stripe of the children of men” (2 Sam. 7:14) through Hadad and Razon (1 Kin. 11:14-25).
God’s chastening Solomon in His mercy to him (cf. 2 Sam. 7:15) shows that Solomon was a true believer whose Heavenly Father chastened him because He loved him (Prov. 3:11-12; written by Solomon). Solomon was a true son of the Heavenly Father who chastens every child of His (Heb. 12:4-11, which quotes Prov. 3:11-12).
Furthermore, First Corinthians 11 teaches plainly that those whom God chastens, He chastens so that they will not be condemned with the world:
1Co 11:30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
Even those whom God chastens with death because they do not repent (“many sleep” [1 Cor. 11:30]) will not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32).
Scripture does not give any clear indication that Solomon repented of his sinfulness before he died. Even if he did not repent before he died, we would be right in inferring that God chastened him with death for his being an unrepentant believer so that he would not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:30-32).
Because of God’s faithfulness to chasten those whom He loves, Solomon, and all other true believers will be together in heaven one day!
The Record of Solomon’s Life in Second Chronicles
Amazingly, the lengthy record of Solomon’s life in Second Chronicles (2 Chron. 1-9) does not explicitly mention anything about Solomon’s great sinfulness. Because 2 Chronicles records at length the sinfulness of other kings of Israel and Judah (for example, 2 Chron. 33:1-9), the lack of mention of Solomon’s sinfulness suggests that God regarded Solomon in a special way so that He inspired the writing of this book of Scripture that does not say explicitly that he sinned against God.
Furthermore, Ecclesiastes also does not explicitly say that Solomon sinned against God. In fact, except for 1 Kings 11 and a few other verses in later Scripture, the vast majority of narrative Scripture passages (excludes Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon) present Solomon in a profoundly positive and spiritual light that does not support holding that he perished eternally when he died.
A Striking Passage That Includes an Emphatic Statement about God’s Love for Solomon
Nehemiah reiterated God’s special love for Solomon as part of his challenge to people who were sinning through mixed marriages:
Neh 13:26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.
Strikingly, this restatement of God’s love for Solomon that emphasizes the uniqueness of God’s love for him (“among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God”) occurs in a statement that has as its main point how his association with evil women made even him to sin. This passage thus explicitly reminds us of God’s special love for Solomon, which again points to his not perishing eternally when he died.
Solomon Was Not an Apostate Writer of Multiple Books of Scripture
Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, most of Proverbs, and he probably also wrote Psalms 72 and 127. Peter specifies that those whom God inspired to write Scripture were special men:
2Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
According to these statements, Solomon was a holy man of God whom the Holy Spirit moved to write the Scripture that he wrote. It is untenable to hold that Solomon was such a man of God when he wrote the Scriptures that he wrote but then he apostatized to perish eternally.
No Mention of Solomon in the NT as an Example of One Who Apostatized
The NT briefly refers to Solomon in seven verses (Matt. 1:6, 7; 6:29; 12:42; Luke 11:31; 12:27; Acts 7:47). Had Solomon apostatized from the faith to perish eternally, he would surely have been mentioned in one or more warning passages in the NT because he would have been a profound example of one who did so.
The lack of mention of his apostatizing in the NT makes it certain that he did not do so. We should not read into the OT record of his life what the Bible never says directly, that is, he apostatized, died unrepentant of his sins, and perished eternally.
Based on the reasons given above, I believe that Solomon did not perish eternally when he died. We will see Solomon in heaven one day because of God’s faithfulness to those whom He loves, even when they as believers sin profoundly against Him.
In His love, God chastened Solomon intensely because of what he did. Let us fear to sin as Solomon did through his ungodly associations with ungodly people.