Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

Photo by Chris Harvey, Science Clarified

Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
1 Kings 3:9-10

God comes to Solomon in a dream, and asks what gift he would like. Solomon asks for the wisdom to govern God's people. Notably he does not ask for long life, riches, or the death of his enemies, the expected responses when one is granted a wish—and the kinds of responses we hear in a multitude of folk and fairy tales. Of course, the difference here is that unlike the characters we meet in these stories, who are usually people stricken by poverty and hunger, Solomon already has great wealth, inherited from his father; he is young (some sources say as young as fifteen when he inherited the kingdom); and for the most part he is on good terms with the surrounding nations. So although, yes, Solomon wished wisely and selflessly, there really wasn't much else he was in need of. And yet God, impressed by his selfless wish grants him wealth, honour and long life anyway—on the condition he walks as thy father David did walk.1 With that one wish, Solomon gets it all. Well, potentially. As it turns out he is unable to live up to God's condition, ultimately walking his own way.

Solomon is best remembered as the wise king of Israel, and credited with writing the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, as well as the beautiful poem known as Song of Songs, yet he was a complex, paradoxical character, one who taught wisdom while living distinctly unwisely, who preached love and loyalty to God while worshipping other idols, finally his downfall and disgrace. There is some of Solomon in all of us: wise one moment, rogue the next, oscillating between love of God and love of self. Perhaps this is the nature of being human, to dwell in a state of conflict and paradox, the tension itself being our very life force.

1 1 Kings 3:14