- Wisdom, Wealth, and Health
- Two Mothers Dispute
- Layered Interpretations and Symbolism
- Literal Meaning
- Spiritual Meaning
- Personal Meaning
- References and Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
if God said you could have anything you wanted, what would you ask for? A lot of people would ask for riches, some might request love or popularity, and some may even wish for immortality (or the immortality of a loved one). When put in this exact situation, Solomon asked for wisdom. This is interesting to me, because you have to be somewhat wise to know you need wisdom. Solomon was wise enough to know that he was young, inexperienced, and human; there was a great deal that he didn't know, and he couldn't judge Israel effectively without being able to discern right from wrong. Solomon became famous for his wisdom. He was wiser than any man living. During his time, it is estimated that he wrote 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. Many of these are contained in
Wisdom, Wealth, and Health
Unlike Solomon, we often think we are in a position to judge right and wrong. I've even seen Christian's boast that because they are Christian, they automatically know right from wrong and can thus judge right and wrong. The truth is, however, most of us are like Solomon before God granted him wisdom. We know what we think is right or wrong, but we don't know how to discern God's supreme authority.
God was so pleased with Solomon's humble request that he gave Solomon the wisdom and riches. When we focus on bettering ourself in our relationship with God, and seek out God for advice on how to be more righteous, He will bless us abundantly. The fact of the matter is, wisdom and riches go together. Obedience to God's word and longevity go together. Generating money and maintaining wealth takes wisdom, it doesn't just happened. There is an extensive list of celebrities and athletes who become millionaires only to end up broke. Discernment grants us the ability to make good decisions, and when we do so, we make healthier choices that lead to a longer life. Thus, buy seeking wisdom we implicitly seek wealth and longevity in the process.
Two Mothers Dispute
The first test of Solomon's wisdom comes when he is approached by two harlots. I must note that I'm not entirely sure why it was necessary to note that women were harlots. There may also be missing context from that time period that would give this description weight. For example, if I told you someone worked as a cashier at McDonald’s then proceeded to tell you how they jury-rigged something together to make do, you would fill in the details that they didn’t have much money because McDonald’s pays minimum wage. If I told you someone was in the army you’d understand why they weren’t home for the holidays and if I told you someone was an EMT, you’d understand why they worked in the wee hours of the morning. Similarly, the detail that these women were “harlots” may have provided extra information to the original readers that we don’t see today. My best guess is that is was used to explain why the two women lived together and why no men were present in the argument.
Each woman had given birth to a son, but one child had died. The women were disputing which child had died, with one woman claiming the other had switched the babies while she was sleeping so as to steal the living child. To solve the matter, Solomon suggests they divide the living child in half. At this point the true mother relinquished her claim on the child to spare the babies life, while the other mother was willing that both children would die.
Layered Interpretations and Symbolism
One of my favorite details about the Bible is that most stories can be read and studied in multiple layers—usually literal, spiritual, and personal.
The one who's child had actually died felt it was better that neither have a child than for her to suffer alone. While this is something most sane people would not admit aloud, many times when we are suffering, we become spiteful and lose our ability to be happy for those around us. Had Solomon actually split the child in half, later in life the woman who was ok with it probably would have felt bad. However, at the time, she was not thinking rationally.
In contrast, the mother who had not lost a child was overwhelmed at the thought of her child dying. She would have rather seen him grow up in the arms of someone else than to see him killed senselessly. This would identify the truth for Solomon to judge whom should have the baby. Not only was it a wise strategy, it serves as a reminder to us that motives and intent can always be fished out by testing a person's loyalties.
Throughout the Bible a woman is used to symbol the Church. We see this defined for us in Jeremiah 6:2 and reiterated in the New Testament with constant discussion of the “Bride of Christ.” If we think of the women in this story as two different Churches, what spiritual interpretation do we get?
I’ll admit there’s no go to scripture or example of what the baby might symbolize which makes it harder to to see a definite interpretation. However, we can nail down that the women must represent God’s real Church (the real mother) and a false church (the fake mother). In Revelation, we also see a juxtaposition of a real Church (Revelation 12) and a false church (Revelation 17) in the form of women. With this in mind, we can come up with some possibilities.
- Treatment of people: the real church wants people whole, the false church is willing to rip you to shreds. So many “church” people are judgmental and rigid to the point that churches are some of the most anxiety-inducing places to visit. With the exception of the campus church I attended in college, I can think of multiple examples when members were unnecessarily rude and judgmental to people for every church I’ve attended. Most of the examples I can think of are examples where people were “pointing out sin” without concern for the person. For example, one person was quick to chastise a woman at our church about how short her dress was. The person doing the chastising wasn’t concerned with the heart, the safety, the wellbeing, or the spiritual growth of the woman. I know because they made no attempt to befriend her. They didn’t ask what brought her to the church. They didn’t offer to giver her “appropriate” clothes—what if she came from a life of immodesty and that was the most modest dress in her closet? Who has money to buy a whole new wardrobe on the spot? In these situations, the chastisers would rather break a person’s spirit to point out their flaws than nurture their spirit and trust the Holy Spirit to correct sin over time.
- Doctrine: the real church follows the whole of the Word, the false church picks and chooses. The commandments and law of God are not as straightforward as we might like, after all “thou shalt not kill”(Exodus 20:13) but “there is a time to kill” (Ecclesiastes 3:3). People often choose what parts they want to follow and leave the rest out. A friend of mine had a baby as teenager, needless to say she was not married to the father. The church she attended immediately disfellowshipped her. That denomination asserts that disfellowshipping is a Biblical principle based on Matthew 18:15-20. However they didn’t follow the exact protocol. No one spoke to her about what happened to see if she had repented—that would likely have been the task of her parents, but sure a representative of the church could have had the conversation. Because this initial conversation either went well (with the parents) or never happened at all, no one brought in another person to discuss the matter and it never had to be brought before the whole congregation. The pastor skipped the whole process a said you sinned so you’re disfellowshipped. Going back to possible interpretation 1, this was a moment when she and her baby needed the Church the most and they “ripped her to shreds.” The true church understands the dangers of cutting corners, adding to, taking away from, and otherwise being careless with the instructions God set for us. The true church understands that if you hack the Word up and separate out parts, it loses it’s power and no longer givers life.
Each of us has had a situation in life where we believe something is rightfully ours and someone else thinks otherwise. It may be a significant other, a job opportunity, even a solo at church. In those situations, what actions on our part prove that the object of our desire is truly ours? If we are willing to allow the destruction of the object to prove it truly belongs to us, it was never ours to begin with.
1 Kings 4 introduces us to Israel's leadership under the rule of King Solomon. In this chapter, we are told of Solomon's princes, but they are clearly not his own children. Biblically, a prince isn't a title that refers to a son of the king the way it does in Europe. Biblically, prince is an office reserved for chief men of power, perhaps it was more like what we could call a cabinet today. Solomon's princes are Azariah (the son of Zadok), Elihoreph, Ahiah, Jehoshaphat, Benaiah, Zadok, Abiathar, Azariah (son of Nathan), Zabud, Ahishar, and Adoniram. Below are the special tasks they were given in the kingdom.
Over the officers
Principal officer and confidant
Over the household
Over the tribute
Although Abiathar is mentioned as a priest, it is likely he had less influence than Zadok. A priest named Abiathar is discussed frequently in 1 & 2 Samuel during the reign of David. It is likely that this is the same Abiathar. There is also a priest named Abiathar mentioned in 1 Kings 1; this priest supported the coup started by Solomon’s brother near the death of David. In 1 Kings 2:26, Solomon has Abiathar banished. For this reason it seems odd that the Abiathar mentioned in 1 Kings 4 is the same man. There are a few things to note, however:
- There may have been multiple men named Abiathar; we don’t have a census or hospital records to tell us how popular (or unpopular) a given name was back then.
- Abiathar could be included simply because he was a priest during Solomon’s reign until Solomon stripped him of the position.
Solomon also appoints 12 officers over Israel; 12 was the number of completeness for leadership and governance (12 disciples, 12 tribes, etc.), so it makes sense that this how many officers he chose. These men provided the victuals for the king and his household for one month each. Each man was over a particular region.
The daily provisions they saw to (for Solomon) were quite excessive in number. While the quantity of food illustrates Solomon's wealth, it also begs the question "who was the food for?" Scholars believe the additional food was for the military.
Considering the time period, keeping the army strong and content would have been important for the continued existence of the nation. This link is hinted at in verses 26 and 27 which expound on military personnel. 1 Kings 4:26 implies that the army was large enough to substantiate this quantity of food because he had at least 12,000 horsemen.
References and Footnotes
- Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 584. 2014
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