Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler

Mark provides a series of parables in chronological order matched to the overall story of the Bible. This one is about Solomon.

The Story

17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

18"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good -- except God alone. 19You know the commandments: `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"

20"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

21Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

22At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

26The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"

27Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." Mark 10:17-27 NIV

17And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

23And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.??Spaces in Greek text between tags 9 and 10 26And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 27And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. Mark 10:17-27 KJV


King David had started off a humble man, taking care of his father’s flocks. In the course of his life he had become king of Israel and as king consolidated the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah under his control. David had ruled in Hebron, the capital of Judah for over 7 years before taking over the northern kingdom capitaled at Jerusalem from the house of Saul. David also conquered the surrounding peoples placing those peoples under his subjugation. David’s exploits brought great wealth to David and David’s empire.

Because of David’s sin regarding Bathsheba, one of David’s sons attempted to take the throne from David while David was still alive. After fleeing Absalom David decided to set his son Solomon up as king.(cite) This lead to a 4 year period of co-regency while David was still alive. The Bible does not mention Solomon’s age when he began to rule, suggesting Solomon was quite young at the time he took the throne. The Bible does say that Solomon ruled for 40 years.[1]

The Rich Young Ruler

Solomon inherited from David all of David’s wealth. Solomon also inherited control of David’s empire including control of both houses of ancient Israel, the northern kingdom, Israel, and the southern kingdom, Judah. Much of that wealth had been gathered for a purpose, that purpose being the construction of what would become known as Solomon’s Temple, built at Temple Mount in Jerusalem. David was shown the plans for that temple, passing those plans onto Solomon. (cite) David also contributed out of his personal wealth a great deal of money that would fund the work on the temple. But, David was not allowed to begin construction on the temple because he had blood on his hands from his time as warrior king building up the empire.(cite)

At the death of Solomon the two kingdoms entered into a three year(cite) period of civil war and when that period ended, they were never again ruled by a single king. Never again was the wealth of these two kingdoms combined under the control of one person. This civil war and division that it brought to the kingdom was the result of the Mosaic covenant being broken. The people were divided in this first stage. After many more generations the people were deported from the land. Because of this future civil war and division of the kingdom, the wealthiest young ruler within the Bible is king Solomon. Solomon is the subject of Jesus’ parable.

When Solomon was born God have his name "Jedidiah" which means "beloved of God." This is what Jesus is referring to when he loves this rich young ruler. Curiously, Jedidiah became known as Solomon the name given him by David, instead of the name given him by God.

When Solomon was young God appeared to him and asked him to ask for anything he wished. Solomon asked for the wisdom needed to govern the people, since Solomon was faced with that great chore. (cite... and read again.)

Solomon’s wisdom became known across the ancient world. He became a teacher, instructing the people on numerous subjects. He collected parables, likely the bulk of the material that makes up the Book of Proverbs. The Queen of the Ethiopians even came to visit Solomon in order see for herself the great wisdom possessed by Solomon.

Good Teacher

When the man in Jesus’ parable asks "Good Teacher" he is referring through the parable to Solomon and especially Solomon’s wisdom.

The wisdom that Solomon possessed was the wisdom given him by God. That wisdom was God, himself, which is why Jesus puts himself in the place of Teacher in his response to the rich young ruler. But Jesus makes his first editorial point in this parable that no one wise is good but God alone.

The problem with all those who pursue wisdom is that it draws people away from God. Adam and Eve were using their own wisdom, wisdom given them by God himself, to understand what the Serpent was saying in the Garden of Eden. Apart from God, wisdom is not good.

Of course much of the modern world uses wisdom, given the world by God himself, to pursue many projects that are not Godly. Wisdom can never be divorced from God alone, which is why it is not good.

Jesus proceeds to rattle off the commandments, which is what Solomon was expected to know as ancient Israel’s highest judge. Of course the rich young ruler knows the commandments, Solomon used them every day to determine cases brought before him. Like the rich young ruler, Solomon knew the commandments since his youth.

Then Jesus tells the man to sell everything he has, pick up his cross, then follow Jesus. Here the man goes away sorrowful because he has much wealth. This too was Solomon’s trap, the thing that prevented him from entering into the things that God would have had for him.

The conditions that Jesus appears to place on salvation are so steep in this parable that the disciples wonder aloud how anyone could be saved. Many wonder from reading the Bible’s account of Solomon, if Solomon himself was saved. This is especially so after reading the Book of Ecclesiastes and reading about Solomon’s sins.

Jesus makes a closing comment that with God all things are possible, suggesting that even though Solomon ended his life poorly, that he was saved in the end.

1. F. Kings 11:42