Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible (Holman, 2011), Week 21, Day 4
Solomon traveled to Gibeon to worship the Lord God of Israel. While there the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give to you” (2 Chronicles 1:7). Solomon recognized his limitations and responded with a request for wisdom, “Give me wisdom and knowledge that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1:10). The Lord acknowledged the wisdom of Solomon’s request and granted him wealth, riches, and honor as well. Solomon returned to Jerusalem.
Wealth, riches, and honor are tangible and measurable. How would Solomon know when (or even if) he actually possessed wisdom?
Immediately upon Solomon’s return to Jerusalem he faced a challenging situation. Two prostitutes sharing living arrangements had babies within days of one another. During the night one mother accidentally smothered her baby and switched her dead child for the living one. The next morning each mother claimed the living child as her own. The case was brought to Solomon.
Solomon shocked everyone present by requesting a sword with which to divide the living child. This action revealed the maternal heart of each woman. The real mother was willing to sacrifice mothering the baby she loved in order for him to live, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” (1 Kings 3:26a). The chilling response of the other mother is shocking, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two” (3:26b).
God answered Solomon’s request in an most unusual way—-through two prostitutes and two babies. When this shocking scene and verdict reverberated throughout all of Israel, everyone recognized the manifest wisdom of God, “When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God, to administer justice” (3:38).
Later, in one of the few psalms written by Solomon, Solomon referred to this scene, “He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight” (Psalm 72:12-14).
This story urges careful attention to what happens immediately after praying. God’s answers may be as swift and surprising today as they were in Solomon’s day.
Wisdom Gone Viral
Solomon’s wisdom went viral before the existence of social media, “Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom” (1 Kings 4:34). Solomon’s wisdom, insight and understanding—his fame—”spread to all the surrounding nations” (4:29-34). No one existed who was as wise as he and everyone desired to benefit from his wisdom. Some believe that Solomon’s wisdom-teaching influenced the great wisdom traditions of the world as they took his teaching back to their lands.
- Solomon understood relationships and sexuality long before television relationship-guru Dr. Phil appeared on the Oprah show. He warned of the peril of sexual sin throughout Proverbs.
- Solomon was poet laureate before such an honor ever existed, “He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five” (4:32). The Song of Songs is an unparalleled work of literature.
- Solomon’s keen scientific observations preempted the Discovery Channel, “He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish” (4:33). Proverbs is replete with insight into the the animal world.
The Queen of Sheba took advantage of having access to such a resource. Traveling two thousand miles on the backs of camels was not too far a distance to go to obtain such wisdom. Other kings and leaders traveled great distances to hear Solomon’s wisdom. Solomon typically fulfilled the promise the LORD made to Abraham that his descendants would bless the nations, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3b).
Solomon began his series on wise sayings by defining their nature and intent, “for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined mind and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion of the young—” (Proverbs 1:2-4).
Like a parched land thirsty for rain, the ancient world longed for the wisdom of God. Contemporary humanity is just as parched, but rather than hear the wisdom of God, people run to science, government, and psychology, ignoring timeless truth in favor of temporary fixes. With today’s printing capacity, the Bible is more available than ever, but few avail themselves to understand its story and know its wisdom—Jesus Christ who “became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Wisdom cries out still. Who will listen?
Questions from today’ reading (1 Kings 3-4; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 72):
- What does the manifestation of wisdom do for Solomon as he begins his reign as Israel’s king?
- What does Psalm 72 reveal about Solomon’s character?