The Wisdom of Solomon.
Imagine the scene, the Queen of Sheba had heard of the the wisdom of this Hebrew king. I suspect it started with the odd comment here and there in her royal courts, her officials who would trade with travelling merchants might have picked up snippets of information, stories told and re-told about how this king could give answers to any dilemma put to him. I imagine the story of the two prostitutes arguing over the baby and whose the baby was, was rampant throughout trade routes between Israel and the rest of the then known world. But the queen, she would keep her own counsel for many a long period. Listening to the stories, the tales that were been told of this Solomon, reputed to be the wises man alive!
Now bear in mind back then there was no mass media, no newspaper, no telegraph, no radio, no TV, no telephone, no internet, no e-mail, no instant messenger. It would have taken time for the reputation of Solomon to grow and become so great that the queen of another kingdom could no longer bear the mystery of it all and decided to set of on a journey to meet this man of such fame and basically test him!
Imagine it, a foreign dignitary arriving with all the pomp and circumstance that could be mustered at the time. I’m sure that as Solomon stood in the windows of his recently completed palace he would have seen the dust cloud first, the sand of the desert volatile in the air as the queen and her entourage disturbed the dusty sand drawing inexorably closer to the great city of Jerusalem. He would have stood and watched as his courtiers prepared for the visiting queen, making sure that the palace was impeccable, they after all would not have wanted to let their king down.
The Queen, I am sure would have been impressed, after all the world had not seen such a magnificent temple dedicated to any god built like this before and Solomon’s palace would have been second only to the temple in its magnificence and grandeur. I’m sure whilst on the outside she would have kept her feelings hidden she must have felt a jolt of excitement that at least on face value the stories of Solomon’s wealth were not exaggerated. But she had come, bearing gifts, to test his wisdom. And test it she would!
Following her arrival she questioned him exhaustively until as the Bible records:
1 Kings 10:1-5 (ESVST)
Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her.
Then she concludes:
1 Kings 10:6-7 (ESVST)
And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard.
Now those words are a study in themselves there is much to plunder them about seeing and believing and listening to the testimony of others, but that is not what I want to draw out in this post.
Rather I want to ask a question.
What was Solomon’s wisest act or decision?
Was it writing all those wonderful nuggets of wisdom in the proverbs?
Or maybe the writing of the greatest love poem ever written in Song of Songs?
Was it the recorded incident of the two prostitutes arguing over the baby? Solomon realised that there was no way of deciding which of the two was telling the truth from the way they were talking to him in seeking his counsel. So Solomon suggested something which on face value could be seen as an act of exasperation.
Picture it, you have two, presumably highly emotional women arguing over something as precious as a new born baby. Neither is seeing reason, one because she is desperate, she has lost her baby to the other woman and desperately wants her child back. The other, presumably because she was a scheming devious woman who, even in a highly charged emotional state of post child birth and being responsible for her own babies death, was going all out for making sure she came away with a child!
I can imagine Solomon, looking first to one, then the other and eventually throwing his hands up in the air and blurting out in a loud voice:
“Okay, okay, okay, just shut up the two of you, I know what I will do, fetch me my sword and I’ll cut the baby in half and you can both leave me in peace and quiet with your own half of the baby.”
If this had happened I suspect there would have been stunned silence. After all this was the king speaking. The implications of the argument would have laid heavily on the mind and heart of the true mother of the baby and unlike the woman who had stolen the baby she relented and said no, give the baby to the other woman.
But you know I don’t think this is how it played out. Why? Because if it had Solomon’s words would have been borne out of his exasperation in the situation not his faith in God. Instead what I prefer to believe is that Solomon knew he was in an impossible position and so he asked God to guide him. And God gave him the words to say. But more importantly he also gave him the wisdom to analyse the resultant reactions and to make the wise decision that the true mother of the baby would not wish any harm to come to her child, even if it meant losing that child.
But even in this, the story that is recorded in the Bible as an example of Solomon’s wisdom I do not think was Solomon’s wisest act or decision. I think we have to go back further in Solomon’s history way back to the beginning of his reign. Before he had even really started in earnest to rule the people of Israel, Solomon uttered these words to God:
1 Kings 3:9 (ESVST)
Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
This pleased God because despite his position of privilege Solomon asked for wisdom above all else. He did not think to feather his own nest or seek long life, he sought the wisdom to govern Gods people properly.
I think there is a principle here that we can all learn from. I think the same principle was uttered by Jesus in his words found in Matthew 6:33
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Put God first, others second and yourself last.
You see, I believe Solomon was putting God first because he knew he was being charged with ruling over Gods people and at this time in his life he really wanted to do it properly in accordance with Gods will. By default this put him in the position of putting others second, in Solomon’s case, the whole nation of Israel. And because he had not sought to ask God for riches, wealth or long life he was not thinking of himself or his own comforts.
I pray that through His grace, God can make me more like that.