August 30, 2018
Episco-fact (info): Who was Solomon and why are there so many books of the Bible attributed to him?
Solomon, the son of King David and Bathsheba, formerly the wife of Uriah the Hittite, succeeded his father as King of United Israel, over his older half-brother Adonijah. He ruled the Kingdom, the last period of its united existence from around 930 B.C.E. to about 970 B.C.E. In the initial chapters of 1 Kings he is portrayed as an Eastern King, with central personal authority, wealth, a large harem, and inscrutable wisdom. He was important enough in the Hierarchy of contemporary Middle Eastern Kingdoms to marry a daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh. In the latter part of his reign, he is described as having devoted himself to his worldly ascendancy to the point of building Temples and other Cultic sites for his foreign Queens on Mt. Zion, or close to the Temple ascribed to him, the holy place of the Lord. His building programs and Apostacy lead to disgruntlement among his subjects and the split of the Kingdom after his death.
Regardless of the true history of Solomon, the extended narrative surrounding him is begins with his prayer for a wise and understanding heart which he prays in 1 Kings 3:9 ff. Wisdom becomes an important theological character of God, especially in the developing Judaism of the Hellenistic period. Wisdom becomes so important a concept, it becomes an almost a separately deified aspect of God. This development is still around when Paul, the Apostle, has his spiritual moment to understand that Jesus assumes the role of wisdom.
In the Old Testament, three books express aspects of the Solomon narrative. The first is the Song of Solomon, a love poem. Biblical types have often explained it has a love poem from God to Israel, although it sounds like a love poem from one lover to another. The second aspect of the wisdom of Solomon is in the book of Proverbs, all those pithy wise saying about life, which will be read next Sunday and the Sunday after. The last aspect of Solomon's wisdom is from Ecclesiastes, a work of an old Solomon looking back on life and what he has learned. It has an air of weariness in it, and, without putting fine a point on it, Ecclesiastes' Solomon thinks that one might as well live well now because this world is all there is. We will read about that view in three weeks.
Central to Jewish theology are the weight of stories, both real and magnified, around Abraham, covenant bearer, Moses, law giver, David, ideal King, Solomon, wisdom bearer, and Elijah, the proto-prophet. When authors of the Old Testament and the New Testament encapsulate the stories of the people of God and their characteristics, they often use these names to convey information quickly. For Solomon, his character bears the weight of Wisdom, whether the historical Solomon was wise or not. That is why we hear a lot about him in weekly readings.