Forming Faith Blog

Solomon’s Wisdom (October 28, 2018)

Bible Readings: 1 Kings 3:4-28
Free Resource: Protecting the Vulnerable (Cross+Gen Education)
Unit Theme (October 14 – November 4): Living Faithfully in the Promise

The Judgment of Solomon

We continue in the Narrative Lectionary and our theme of Living Faithfully in the Promise. Joshua retold the story of Israel to the people before asking them if they would live faithfully with God’s covenant. Then, last week, we saw the opposite of faithful living, as King David used his power to take advantage of Bathsheba. However, when the prophet Nathan challenged his crime, David did repent and beg for mercy. This week, we follow David and Bathsheba’s son Solomon as he establishes his reign over all Israel.

Solomon’s Wisdom: The Request

We don’t know how much time passed between Solomon’s ascension to the throne and this episode, but it seems that it takes place near the beginning of his reign. We also don’t know how old he was (at least based on my brief search), though he considers himself young and inexperienced (v. 7). I can imagine how daunting it would be to find yourself at a relatively young age king over a large nation, following in the footsteps of your well-beloved father.

So, it is not surprising that, given the chance, he would ask for wisdom, the ability to rule well with justice. That he would request this of God shows a certain measure of self-awareness and humility. He was not just interested in the kingship for the money and power (at least at this time).

Solomon’s Wisdom: Leadership

The fact that God came to Solomon and asked this question demonstrates God’s continued love and care for the people of Israel, and God’s promise to the house of David. This story affirms that Solomon was a good and wise king (until he wasn’t). It makes for great PR. A request for wisdom is the mark of a good king, a good leader of any kind. It is a request we should all make, both for all leaders, as well as ourselves.

Solomon’s Wisdom: Limits

Solomon was granted wisdom to be a great king over all of Israel, but the third “bonus” gift of God, long life, was conditional on his obedience to God’s word. He did this for a time, but then he didn’t. His marriage to the daughter of Pharaoh was clearly stated to be a seal of a political alliance (v. 1), so his marriages to 700 princesses (2 Kings 11:3) were likely a result of a lust for power or greed. He violated God’s word (11:2) in these marriages and chose to worship their foreign gods. Clearly, he was not exhibiting godly wisdom at this point.

It is also interesting to me that Solomon fulfilled at least part of Samuel’s warning to the people when they demanded a king (1 Samuel 8:10-13). He conscripted Israelites for forced labor, and his opulent lifestyle must have been the result of taxation.

Solomon’s Wisdom: Justice for All

But, all of that came later. At the beginning of his reign, Solomon’s wisdom was legendary. We immediately are shown an example of this wisdom in verses 16-27. It is an odd case for the king to judge. The plaintiff and defendant are both identified as “prostitutes.” While there was a moral judgment against this, this identification serves more to define their social status. These women were likely widows or other women who did not have the means to provide for themselves. The person of the highest social standing is listening to those of the lowest standing. God’s gift of wisdom is for all people, no matter who they are.

His judgment, though, is odd, at least to our modern ears. An equal division of disputed property makes sense when we are talking about money or other things, but this is a human baby! There were three possible responses from the mothers: one showing love and compassion and the other not (what happened), both showing compassion (which I hope would be the normal response), or neither. If neither, would he have gone through with his threat? If both, what then?

Wisdom Today

The simple definition for wisdom in this story is being “able to discern between good and evil” (v. 9). A wise person is one who is able to perceive in a situation the ethical choice(s) and presumably to act justly. A wise person is one who champions justice. One wise choice is to work for justice for people who are oppressed and vulnerable. That is the aim of our free activity this week, “Protecting the Vulnerable.” This activity is from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education product, which you can also purchase as individual lessons. This resource is designed to be used in a cross+generational classroom setting, but “Protecting the Vulnerable” can be easily adapted to a different setting (e.g. worship) or different age group (e.g. elementary students).

 

In Christ,

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

 

It’s not too late to order your 2018-2019 (NL Year 1) faith formation resources! As soon as your payment is processed, you can download the Fall, Winter and Spring quarters immediately.

For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!

Be sure to download our free Narrative Lectionary 2018-2019 Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence as well!

Image: The Judgment of Solomon by Matthias Strom (17th century). Public Domain. Museum purchase funded by the Laurence H. Favrot Bequest