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Solomon and His Wisdom


Submitted By kcouser
Words 3565
Pages 15
Kaylee Couser
Biblical Literature
Professor Sheffield
Research Paper
December 13, 2013
Solomon and His Wisdom
Many individual throughout history have greatly impacted society and our lives. One such person is King Solomon. Ellen G. White in Prophets and Kings (Chapter 1) states that Solomon was anointed king when his father abdicated the throne. God had a great plan for Solomon to take him from strength to strength and glory to glory while inspiring the people of Israel to draw ever nearer to God and fulfill their covenant and destiny as His chosen people. Solomon’s early beginning was so full of promise and he did achieve a great deal of success during his reign.Solomon was anointed and proclaimed king in the closing years of his father David, who abdicated in his favor. His early life was bright with promise, and it was God's purpose that he should go on from strength to strength, from glory to glory, ever approaching nearer the similitude of the character of God, and thus inspiring His people to fulfill their sacred trust as the depositaries of divine truth. Throughout his reign, he achieved a great deal of success. Some of these achievements include great accomplishments in trading, expansion, and perhaps his most famous, his accomplishments in fair judgment. In addition, Solomon was viewed as an author of remarkable skill and noteworthy output. Several writings in the Bible recognize King Solomon as a contributor; these writings include the biblical Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, the Wisdom of Solomon, and the later Psalms of Solomon. King Solomon had several attributes that allowed him to be one of the greatest kings of all time. However, he received his greatest attribute, a divine gift, by making the right wish. His wish to God for wisdom, allowed him to become known as one of the greatest kings. Yet, because of this, Solomon may have become a little too taken with his own wisdom and too clever for his own good.
There is perhaps no king in all of historical literature whose story stirs up more controversy and contradiction than King Solomon. The Bible tells us that “Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:30) and, yet other passages make clear that Solomon lived contrary to Biblical law. For example, the king married foreigners, built shrines to pagan gods, and even condoned slave labor. How is it that a man blessed with such great wisdom from God could have acted so foolishly? The Book of Solomon tells of a reign that began with great promise, a ruler who was so worthy of praise, yet one who went on to betray every principle he held dear when his reign began. God blessed Solomon with infinite wisdom, but scholars suggest that this very gift inflated Solomon’s ego and he became prideful and, some scholars even accuse him of trickery. In the Biblical tradition, particularly in 1 Kings, Solomon is known not only for his wealth and wisdom, but also for his fall.
To understand King Solomon, we must first examine the story of how he came to receive his vast wisdom. The gift of wisdom was given to him by God. We learn in 1 Kings 3:11-12, “[God says]….I grant you a wise and discerning mind; there has never been anyone like you before, nor will anyone like you arise again.” When asked by God what he wanted, Solomon answered with great humility, acknowledging that he did not have what it took to lead a nation. He asked God for the wisdom required to make the right decisions and the ability to clearly discern right from wrong. God was pleased with this request and granted Solomon not only great wisdom and discernment, but also long life, great wealth, and victory over his enemies (1 King 3:5-14). In was not long after this, that the famed judgment of the two women who claimed 1 baby took place (1 Kings 3:16-27). This moment, arguably one of the most famous incidents in the Old Testament, showed to all of Israel God’ wisdom within Solomon (1 Kings 3:28).
It should be noted here that the “wisdom” granted to Solomon does not simply mean a high IQ or unique problem-solving abilities; this wisdom was the ability to judge fairly and live righteously in accord with heavenly wisdom. Just as all people – even kings – must stand before God on the judgment day; so too, the wisdom granted to Solomon meant that all the people in his land would receive a fair hearing and justice before him - paralleling the justice that all men will receive before God (Angel, 2011).
One of the greatest accounts of Solomon’s wisdom and justice can be found in his contract with Hiram (1 Kings 5:15-26). Parker (1992) asserts that Solomon accomplishes his goal to build the Temple “for the name of the Lord my God” (5:19) and, in doing so, fulfilled the Prophet Nathan’s prophecy to King David (2 Samuel 7: 12-13) due to ‘the virtue of the peace that surrounded him’. And the true justice of the contract can be found in the peace that thus ensues (1 Kings 5:26). This is confirmed by Hiram’s account of Solomon: ‘Blessed be the Lord this day, who has given to David a wise son to be over this great people’ (5:21). This speech clearly reaffirms Solomon as the ideal king; the leader of a ‘great people’, who is infinitely ‘wise’.
This first half of the narrative portrays Solomon’s divinely bestowed wisdom in purely positive light, and stands in stark contrast to later accounts of the use of Solomon’s wisdom in the text and in scholar’s writings. Additionally, while the first half of the narrative firmly establishes Solomon’s reputation as a wise leader, some evidence supports scholar’s speculation that Solomon resorted to trickery during his reign and did not always act wisely – despite his great gift. According to some biblical scholars, Solomon has long been a controversial and contrary figure in the biblical tradition (Walsh, 1995). Though he was condemned by God as an idolater, Solomon’s legacy as the builder of The Temple stands in stark paradox. And though he was revered for his wisdom, Solomon was ultimately led away from God by his foreign wives.
While most scholars believe the literal interpretation that Solomon was the wisest human being of all time, some speculators have raised doubts and suggested that he was only the wisest person of the time period spanning the generation before and after him (Angle, 2011). After the fame of his wisdom spread, particularly after the ruling on the case of the split baby, Solomon became proud and began to believe that he could judge by his own intuition, without testimony from witnesses (Maller, 2011). According to Deuteronomy 17:6, a heavenly voice then called out to remind Solomon that two witnesses were needed before a proper ruling could be made.
The early narratives of portray Solomon as a paragon of wisdom who used God’ gift to help others. Stories such as the judgment in the case of the two harlots have cemented Solomon’s reputation as a wise and just ruler (1 Kings 3: 16-28); In fact, the narrator of this passages explicitly draws the connection: ‘the wisdom of God was in him, to render justice’ (3:28).
Solomon’s wisdom was also evident in his improvement of Israelite economy. During his rule, Israel enjoyed great prosperity due to Solomon’s wise investment and encouragement of international trade. Israel also lived in peace with its neighbors due to the alliances that Solomon forged with the rulers of the countries that surrounded Israel, alliances that were each sealed with a royal marriage (Maller, 2011).
However, even as his decisions were benefitting the nation, there is evidence of the changes that were occurring in Solomon’s character (Parker, 1992). One on the best examples of this lies in Solomon’s institution of slavery. This act once again enslaved the Israelites as they had been in Egypt; a situation from which God had freed them. Even worse, this slave labor was not solely directed toward the building of the temple, a noble cause, but was also used for personal endeavors such as the building of store-cities to house Solomon’s chariots and horsemen, special homes for his many wives, and a fleet of ships. These endeavors were clearly motivated by selfish causes: the store building of store cities for military prowess; the homes for his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh; and the ships for the gathering of wealth (1 Kings 9:28). Theses pursuits of ‘power, prestige, and money’ only served to illustrate just how far from God Solomon had drifted.
Miller (2011) also notes further evidence of changes to Solomon’s character: while the initial contract with Hiram was characterized by wisdom, justice and peace; the record of the second is characterized by unjust and shady dealings. According to the account in 1 Kings 9:10-14, when Hiram is owed 20 cities, he foolishly accepts them for Solomon. Solomon then short changes Hiram on the deal by giving him 20 worthless cities in Galilee. 1 Kings 9:13 provides evidence of Hiram’s displeasure with the bad faith deal, ‘What kind of cities are these that you have given me, my brother?’ Hiram was greatly angered by this deal and the bad faith demonstrated reflects poorly on Solomon’s character.
Even more astonishing and significant in the character development (or lack thereof) of Solomon is the story of the death of Joab in 1 Kings 2:28-35. The narrative tells us that Solomon ordered Joab’s death, without any apparent reason, after Joab took refuge and when he heard about the death of Adonijah and Abiathar. And in an outburst in verse 22, Solomon names Adonijah, Abiathar, and Joab as enemies and then has them assassinated. Solomon presents no compelling evidence of his innocence in these affairs, and thus, the reader is left to conclude that he borrows from David only to appease Benaiah and ease his own guilt (Walsh, 1995).
More significant for the characterization of Solomon is the fact that he first orders Joab’s death, mentioned in 1 Kings 2:28-35, without presenting any reason. Joab took refuge when he heard about Adonijah and Abiathar and surmised that Solomon was eliminating those who had opposed his succession. The reader has the same impression: in Solomon’s outburst in verse 22, he named Adonijah, Abiathar, and Joab as enemies, and in the subsequent narrative, the king disposes of the two. Since Solomon does nothing to counter this perception, we conclude that it is accurate, and we speculate that the reasons Solomon later borrows from David to assuage Benaiah’s scruples are simply cover-up for the kings ulterior motives (Walsh, 1995).
There is also evidence from scholars that the wisdom Solomon was gifted by God often affected his ego. Maller (2011) takes note of the fact that Solomon at times did not follow the wisdom given to him by God and, instead, began to forget that his wisdom came from God. Solomon believed that allying with foreign powers, and securing these alliances through multiple marriages, was a wise plan. In fact, his first marriage alliance was made with Egypt even before he was granted wisdom from God, and this foreshadowed the destructive path that Solomon would be led down because of his foreign wives (1 Kings 3:1). However, Solomon continued with this plan, and in chapter 11 for 1 Kings the Bible tells us that Solomon acquired many wives. Czovek (2002) tells us that Solomon’s marriages were politically expedient and secured peace with neighbor nations but, on the other hand, the acquisition of so many wives was just another expression of royal pride and power that went far beyond the norm of the day. Solomon’s many marriages symbolized his disobedience to God and the compromise of his covenant with the Sovereign. As 1 Kings 11:7-8 makes clear, by marrying foreign wives, Solomon opened the door to forsaking his covenant and, his own destruction.
In 1 Kings 11:1-13, we learn that “[loving] many foreign women” (11:1) was the beginning of Solomon doing “what was displeasing to Yahweh” (11:6). The same passage of 1 Kings tells us that Solomon acquired, “Seven hundred wives of royal rank and three hundred concubines.” (v.3). These wives were inappropriate partners for Solomon, and he himself even seemed to acknowledge this in his writings in Proverbs 12:4, where he describes a good wife. In later chapters, Solomon even seems to lament his mistakes; In Proverbs 18:22 he writes, “He who finds a good wife finds happiness.” Though his foreign marriages advanced foreign relations, they were more examples of unwise decision making on Solomon’s part (Maller, 2011).
According to Parker (1992) the construction of the temple was the greatest achievement of Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 8: 1-11). The completed Temple was his crowning glory and the fulfillment of the plan laid out in Deuteronomy 12:2-7 that would eliminate the high places and provide a single location for the offering of sacrifices. The Temple was also built to hold the Ark of the Covenant containing the Law of Moses (1 Kings 8:9). The installation of the ark and the law inside the innermost sanctuary explicitly implied that they would become the heart of the nation of Israel and Solomon’s reign and, Solomon testifies to God in his great prayer that he followed the building instructions for the temple to the letter (8:20-21).
However, certain Bible text provides evidence that Solomon also used the building of the Temple for his own self-centered purposes (Czovek, 2002). Maller (2011) also argues that while building a temple for the Lord in Jerusalem was a noble and holy endeavor, there is indication that Solomon was also self-serving. Specifically, 1 Kings 6:38 – 7:1 tells us that Solomon devoted 7 years to building the Temple of the Lord, yet he devoted twice as much time, 13 years, to the constructions of 2 palaces for himself, along with stable for his horses and chariots (1 Kings 5:6). The first palace was named the Forest of Lebanon Palace because it was built with thousands of cedar tree from Lebanon (the same source for the trees used in building the Temple). The second palace was even more extravagant, built with stone covered in golf leaf, it featured a throne made of ivory and overlaid with pure gold; even the goblets and dishes in the palace were made from solid gold (1 Kings 10:18-21). Everything Solomon built was built to impress, even as he ignored his own words of wisdom in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is more desirable than great riches and a good reputation is better than silver and gold.” However, it should be noted that Walsh (1992) argues that Solomon’ focus on his own palaces in the text may reflect the narrator’s view of Solomon, rather than Solomon’s own principal; conversely, if the text does in fact reflect Solomon’s point of view, it also expresses the narrator’s subjective disapproval. argued that the suggestion of the palace’s precedence could reflect either the narrator’s values and viewpoint or Solomon’s; if it reflects Solomon’s values, it may also imply the narrator’s disapproval of them.
1 Kings 3-8 tells us the story of Solomon as an ideal king who live in accord with his God and lives in divine wisdom to the benefit of Israel. Yet, in 1 Kings 9:1-11; 13, we can see how Solomon forsook God and became the antithesis of the ideal king; his regime is tyrannical and his “wisdom” is used for self-centered purposes. By regarding the wisdom given to him by God, Solomon displays his own folly and the potential blessings bestowed to Israel through such a wise king are undone. Solomon essentially becomes an evil king whose wisdom degenerated into folly, as seen in 1 Kings 11: 1-6, and does great harm to his people and after his death, the kingdom of Israel was forever divided. Perhaps the best explanation of this great failure of potential is found in Miller (2011). In an exhaustive study of the cycle of Solomon in 1 Kings, scholar Jung Ju Kang (as cited in Miller 2011) concludes that Solomon was never a great king who failed, nor was he destined to be a total failure from the start, rather Solomon was fatally flawed from the start.
In conclusion, Solomon was a great king who greatly impacted society in his time. He accomplished much during his reign such as, trading with other nations, building of the temple, and perhaps most significantly, his wisdom, which was a gift from God. Ellen G. White in Prophets and Kings (Chapter 1) states that lived in strict harmony with God, and he lived in uprightness and obedience to God’s law. His wise direction of the kingdom’s business, the incredible building and public works that he constructed, his great wealth, the respect of foreign ruler, loyalty of his subjects and the great generosity of spirit that he manifested in every word and deed only illustrate the truth of his magnificent potential. for many years Solomon's life was marked with devotion to God, with uprightness and firm principle, and with strict obedience to God's commands. He directed in every important enterprise and managed wisely the business matters connected with the kingdom. His wealth and wisdom, the magnificent buildings and public works that he constructed during the early years of his reign, the energy, piety, justice, and magnanimity that he revealed in word and deed, won the loyalty of his subjects and the admiration and homage of the rulers of many lands. Scripture, as well as other sources give evidence that although Solomon was granted with wisdom, at times it affected his character. He instituted slavery, had many foreign wives, built shrines to pagan gods, dealt unfairly with other nations, and even took people’s lives without justifiable cause. Like Solomon, Satan tries to gain control and distract us from God. In Ellen G. White’s writings she says that when Solomon formed an alliance with a heathen nation, and committed to that alliance through marriage, he acted in total disregard of God’s plan for him. Solomon believed that he might convert his Egyptian wife, yet this was his downfall – and a weak excuse to justify the violation of a direct command God gave to Israel to separate from foreign nations and live in purity. Solomon conformed to the weaknesses of the flesh, and yet, for a time, God in his mercy forgave Solomon’ mistake, his wife was converted, and much was done to right the wrong. But Solomon lot forgot the great mercy and love shown him began to grow prideful of his own skill and reason – He thwarted the purpose of the Lord and sought to carry it out in his own flawed way and continued to forge alliances with unholy nation after unholy nation in a feeble attempt to spread the word of God. in forming an alliance with a heathen nation, and sealing the compact by marriage with an idolatrous princess, Solomon rashly disregarded the wise provisions that God had made for maintaining the purity of His people. The hope that this Egyptian wife might be converted, was but a feeble excuse for the sin. In violation of a direct command to remain separate from other nations, the king united his strength with the arm of flesh. For a time, God in His compassionate mercy overruled this terrible mistake. Solomon’s wife was converted; and the king, by a wise course, might have done much to check the evil forces that his imprudence had set in operation. But Solomon began to lose sight of the Source of his power and glory. Inclination gained the ascendency over reason. As his self-confidence increased, he sought to carry out the Lord’s purpose in his own way. He reasoned that political and commercial alliances with the surrounding nations would bring them to a knowledge of the true God; and so he entered into unholy alliance with nation after nation.

Angel, H. (2011). Cut the baby in half: Understanding solomon's divinely-inspired wisdom. Jewish Bible Quarterly, 39(3), 189-194.
Czovek, T. (2002). Three charismatic leaders: Part three: Solomon. Transformation, (02653788), 19(4), 248.
Maller, A. S. (2011). Solomon: The too wise king. Jewish Bible Quarterly, 39(2), 91-94.
Miller,Robert D.,,II. (2011). Solomon the trickster. Biblical Interpretation, 19(4-5), 496-504.
Parker, K. I. (1992). Solomon as philosopher king: The nexus of law and wisdom in 1 kings 1-11. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, (53), 75-91.
Walsh, J. T. (1995). The characterization of solomon in first kings 1-5. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 57(3), 471-493.
White, E. G. (1923). Lessons from the life of solomon. Fundamentals of Christian Education (pp. 498-499). Nashville: Southern Pub. Association.
White, E. G. (1998). Solomon. Prophets and Kings as Illustrated in the Captivity and Restoration of Israel (pp. 25-32). Mt. View, Calif.: Wiretap.

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...Ho Man Chan RELI 1301 05 J. Jonathan Kim, Ph.D. 11-12-2010 Books of Wisdom Literature Wisdom Literature is a style of Hebrew literature. It was originated from 6th century BC, when the Israelites in exile after being swept into the AD era. These literary works are such as "Wisdom books." "Wisdom literature" has four main characteristics: 1. The writing time should be after the Israelis were swept and before the birth of Jesus Christ; 2. The contents should focus on ethics, but not designed to focus on theology; 3. The way of expression are mainly the maxim, aphorism, metaphor, fables, poems, eulogy, etc; 4. The writing object is not only limited to Jews. There are five main books of Wisdom Literature, Book of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms and Song of Songs. First, Job is a faithful servant of God who is known for piety and patience. At that time, the Israelites were polluted to worship the Egyptian demons, but only Job is adhered to worship the God purely. The most ancient tradition believed that Moses is the author of this book. Many Jewish and early Christian scholars also agreed with this proposition. It is because the style of Job is very similar with the Pentateuch. So, the time of writing should be estimated around 1500 BC of the Patriarch Period. Most of this book (3:1-42:6) is a form of play or epic written. The front (1:1-2:13) is a prelude and (42:7-17) is the end. These two parts is written in prose form. Job not only teaches a great truth. “The Book of Job...

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