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The Heart of a King

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“Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb! Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers! Do not spend your strength on women, your vigor on those who ruin kings. He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.” (pg. 186)

I've always wondered why King Solomon in all the wisdom God gave him at the beginning of his reign, was foolish in disobeying God's laws in the end. Jill Eileen Smith explores this question in The Heart of a King, taking literary license since scripture doesn't expound on many facets of his life or those of his wives. As I read this fictional account of a true story, I had to shake my head at Solomon whenever he justified his actions in disobeying what God so clearly told him not to do. As in the case of his second wife Abishag; she worshiped the goddess Bastet and he built her a palace outside the walls of Jerusalem for her to honor her goddess and to display Bastet's images. In his thinking, as long as it wasn't seen or placed inside the walls, it was okay. He also justified that since his heart remained true to Adonai, he could take many foreign wives, horses and chariots as gifts from the kings & dignitaries to keep his kingdom peaceful.  For anyone who knows scripture, would know that Solomon was unwise in these things. 

Ultimately, this reminded me that in many ways we can be the same in making excuses or justifying our actions and decisions. The more we justify, the more our hearts turn from the Lord. For me, this book laid bare my own failings in taking seriously what God has said not to do or say or see in my own life. And how many ways even the most seemingly insignificant compromise can have devastating effects. It was a real eye-opener for me! I know oftentimes when I read how the Israelites turned from God in the desert and complained, I shake my head. But how often do I do that in my own life? How often to I complain when God has given me so much or answered my many prayers? Oh that we would be the opposite of Solomon! 

I love how the author can bring what is in Scripture to life and flesh out the people we only read about. They were real with feelings, failures, struggles, and shortcomings. I think every time I read Jill's biblical fiction novels, she makes me look inward to my own self and evaluate my own heart. And that's a good thing in my book! It brings me closer to the heart of God every time. 

“To those who have tasted what is forbidden only to find it meaningless. May Solomon's wisdom and the love he craved show you a better way.” ~Jill Eileen Smith

*I received a complimentary copy from Revell on the authors behalf and was under no obligation to leave a favorable review. All opinions are my own. *
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3.5 Stars for this biblical historical fiction novel. This novel follows the life of Solomon and 4 of the prominent women in his life - Naamah the Ammonitess, the mother of Rehoboam (who followed Solomon as king); Abishag - the shunamite  who was in David's harem and was the subject of Adonijah's downfall; The Pharaoh's daughter (Ms. Smith named her Siti), who received her own palace and had the city of Gezer as part of her dowry, and the Queen of Sheba (named Nicauala in this book). While there was some overlap in the women's stories, it seemed that each woman got approximately a quarter of the book, starting with Naamah and ending with Nicaula. The book stayed as true to scripture as it could (there was a good bit of speculation, which is what makes it biblical FICTION) and told the story in a fresh and realistic way.

I did struggle to get into this one as I did not like any of the main characters very much until Nicaula showed up in the last quarter of the book. Though the representation was likely accurate, I felt the women were too whiny and needy (but that is no doubt what caused Solomon to give in to worshiping other gods). Another struggle I had is that I recently read another biblical fiction author's book about Solomon and this one took a different take on some things, so it was difficult for me to wrap my head around those differences. Both stayed true to scripture, but took different avenues on the speculation.  I would recommend not reading different authors' takes on the same biblical story in such close proximity in order to not have that struggle!

All in all, this was a well-written biblical fiction account of the life of Solomon and 4 of the women in his life. If you enjoy biblical fiction that brings scripture to life and are intrigued by the wisest king in history and how he was influenced by the women in his life, I would recommend this one! Special thanks to NetGallely,  the author and publisher for a complimentary copy of this book. I was in no way obligated to write a review and the thoughts contained herein are my own.
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How could a king who asked God for wisdom be so utterly lacking in it? This was my constant thought as I read The Heart of a King by Jill Eileen Smith.

The author did a marvellous job of showing how Solomon went from asking for wisdom from God, to better serve his people, to ignoring God and twisting that same wisdom for his selfish pleasures. It was a perfect study of how easily those whom God blesses with every good gift, can fall away from Him, all while believing they are still in good standing with God.

I have read the story of David and Solomon before, but the author, through her careful reading of the Scriptures and research, brought them to life. Solomon was the ultimate gigolo! A truly disgusting man. The author did an excellent job of getting me to dislike him, fully exposing how Solomon made excuses as to "why" he needed to build temples and altars to foreign gods. He did it to please his foreign wives but thought God wouldn't be angry if he built places of worship for them outside of Jerusalem. It is so easy for us to make excuses for sin when we want to. With Solomon it started with the excuse, "I must marry these foreign wives to keep peace among the nations." It then progressed to building temples for their foreign gods (but outside Jerusalem so God wouldn't be angry) to finally embracing those gods and forsaking God entirely.

The author was thorough in her examination of Solomon's fall from grace, which unfortunately made the book somewhat tedious and repetitive. There is no happy ending to Solomon's story, and so it left me feeling rather flat. Hence the four stars.

​However, if you are a fan of Biblical fiction, you will enjoy the journey of how one man, blessed by God, took everything he was given and through it away all in the name of "love."
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This is one of my favorite genres - Biblical stories which are fiction but based on fact, and Jill Eileen Smith is masterful at this! This story tell part of the story of King Solomon, arguably one of the greatest Biblical kings in history, and knows as the wisest man who ever lived. But just because God blessed Solomon with great wisdom, that didn't mean that he didn't have problems. The man had about 700 wives, so you know he had some problems.! This story centers around his relationship with four of those wives and her own story with him, from the first love of his youth, to the powerful Queen of Sheba. The story kept me turning the pages and it's one of those that you hate to reach the last page. I'm looking forward to reading more and more from this author.
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Reading through the book of Ecclesiastes has always made me wonder about King Solomon. How could this king, to whom God Himself spoke and grant the gift of wisdom, write a book that reads so very much like the futility in our society today?  Jill Eileen Smith has written an intriguing book about the life of King Solomon.  Following the Biblical account very closely, she brings his story to life as we follow him through the politically turbulent years of his reign; his many marriages; and his search for true peace of heart and mind.

I love the way that Jill Smith makes me feel that I’m an observer in the palace watching all these events take place.  We not only see this story from Solomon’s point of view, but a large part of the story is from the viewpoints of four women in his life:  Naamath, his first wife; Abishag, who took care of King David in his last years, Siti, his Egyptian wife; and the Queen of Sheba.  Following their storylines helped me to better understand how all of Solomon’s marriages influenced the political situation of the nation of Israel.  As we read through this book, the author never lets us forget that Solomon, in spite of all his wisdom, chose to ignore God’s clear commands about how a king of Israel should live in regards to marriage and material gain,  I was by turns very aggravated at Solomon or felt great pity for him.  I have to admit that I’ve wondered how a man who had that many wives would find peace, and there’s a slight glimmer of humor as Solomon has to deal with all their requests.
This is a balanced story about Solomon, showing both his mistakes but also his desire to stay true to God.

Two things you need to know about this book:
First: There are details and characters in the story that aren’t in the Bible.  Jill Smith’s done a great job of explaining this in her “Note to the Reader” at the end of the book.  Don’t miss reading this. She explains her heart for this story and the spiritual emphasis that was her guideline for writing it.

Second:  In telling the story of Solomon’s relationships with his wives, there is mention of his desire and love for them. The author does a great job of never stepping over a line or being inappropriate in any way.   I appreciated the author not using these scenes to sensationalize the book.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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The Heart of a King, (The Loves of King Solomon 1-4), Jill Eileen Smith

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre: Christian

Well, confession time. I didn't notice the Christian genre category. I'm not one for reading books in that genre usually but adore historical ones, especially ones set so far back in time. Its fascinating to see how much – and how little – people have changed. Although its termed Christian, its more from the Biblical connection I think, the author isn't throwing God and Faith as the answer to all life's issues, but of course being a key biblical figure the story of Solomon and his wives can't be told without elements of Christianity and Faith. For me, the balance worked perfectly and I enjoyed the story. 

Like most folk I mainly thing of Solomon in connection with wisdom, its one of those facts of life, the two are synonymous. I knew little of him as a character and I enjoyed seeing that he was fallible, even though he wanted to be devout. 
The taking of so many wives, the way he struggles with first his desire for another woman, and then the need to not upset neighbouring kings by offending them if he refused to take their gift of a daughter for a wife, set against the fact that God specifically prohibits it. It proves he's genuine to me, we all struggle to find reasons, justifications of we want to do something we know inside is wrong. 
It made him feel very real, even though I didn't like what he was doing. Its that marrying of wive from current perspective, one at a time, preferably just one in life, against the times back then when the more wives a king had the more power he was said to have. He wanted to be a good king, wanted peace but also wanted to stay true to God so he creates justification for his actions, even though he knows its wrong. I didn't like that aspect of him, how he would just put aside how Namaah, and later his other wives, felt just because he was attracted so someone new. Later in the book it isn't even chance that draws his eye, he specifically sets out to find women he's attracted to. I lost respect for him over that. 

I hadn't realised he has so many women either, over 700 wives and 300 consorts!!That's a lots of excuses....I really felt for Namaah, she knew from the outset he probably would have more wives because of tradition, and yet having converted to his faith she knows God says only one wife. Looking at it from the point of now he seems to me to have been wise in everything but his personal life. Would things have been so bad if he stuck to God's tenets? Surely God would have given him assistance for peace. 
I wasn't sure how he could justify Egypt and the horses to himslef, he doesn't stop at that first visit and gifts of them, but goes on to buy many more horses, yet he's so devoted to God who has specified against this very definitely. 

As usual there's the harshness of God back then, who punishes Solomon's father and mother for their adultery by letting their first child die. Hard on them but what about the poor baby, he'd done nothing? I find that kind of “mercy” hard to take, but the Old Testament is full of such stories. When he kills all the first born sons in Egypt, for example. That doesn't feel like a Godly thing to do, all those sons from babies to adults, who had done nothing, killed, just like that. I guess that's still what affects my beliefs now, how can a merciful god allow such terrible atrocities to happen every day? And that's why I avoid christian books. In this instance I'm glad I missed the genre, because its a story I really enjoyed. 

Stars: four, I really enjoyed the story but there was such a lot to pack in that sometimes the necessary gaps in time felt like I'd missed too much. 

Arc via Netgalley and publishers
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