Lesson 26: “King Solomon: Man of Wisdom, Man of Foolishness.” #BCCSundaySchool2018

Luca_Giordano_-_Dream_of_Solomon_-_WGA09004

Luca Giordano – Dream of Solomon

 

This week’s lesson overviews the life of David’s successor and son, Solomon. The overall theme of his life, as it is presented in the biblical text is, much like the story of David’s rape of Bathsheba, a theme of the King’s glory, favor with God, and ultimately, fall from grace.

Ascent to the Throne (1 Kings 1)

We’ve seen Solomon before, when he was born, back in 2 Samuel 12. He’s Bathsheba’s and David’s second son. The First Book of Kings begins about 14 or 15 years later, as David is old and about to die and there’s a bit of a succession crisis. David’s apparent heir, Adonijah, starts getting antsy to succeed his father. Adonijah is a handsome man, younger brother of Absolom whom David loved so much, and he’s able to command a significant following. He starts acting like a king, either diligently getting ready to step into his role, or prematurely usurping power, depending on your point of view.

But Adonijah has some enemies. In particular, the prophet Nathan (remember him, the one who cursed David after he raped Bathsheba and killed her husband) and some other religious and military leaders favor Solomon. So Nathan and Bathsheba collude to “remind” the possibly senile David of an alleged promise that he made to Bathsheba to make her son Solomon king. This promise is nowhere recorded in the bible. Anyway it works and after Bathsheba tells David he made that promise and Nathan corroborates the story, David believes he made the promise and declares Solomon his heir. Zadok anoints Samuel and he becomes king.

  • Does Solomon’s succession follow the same pattern we’ve seen before younger sons usurping older sons as heirs, at the request of their mothers, sometimes with their mothers deceiving their fathers to make it happen? (See Genesis 21 (Abraham disinherits Ishmael to make Isaac his heir at Sarah’s insistence); Genesis 27 (Rebekah helps Jacob deceive Isaac to disinherit Ishmael)). What does this pattern teach us?
  • Nathan was very much pro-Bathsheba and Solomon. Does this further confirm that Nathan saw Bathsheba as an innocent victim, not as some kind of temptress?

Solomon’s Theophany (1 Kings 3)

Anyway, Solomon becomes king and not long after he has a dream where God appears to him and tells him to ask God for whatever he wants. Solomon asks for wisdom that he might be a good king and judge. This pleases God. So God promises to give him that also riches and long life.

  • How does Solomon’s theophany compare with Nephi’s theophany in Helaman 10? Both men are told that God will give them whatever they will ask, and that God will give them power even that they do not ask for. The difference is that Solomon’s power is wealth, while Nephi’s power is in faith. Are we supposed to draw this comparison?

So next the narrative tells us the famous story of the dispute between two women over which one a child belongs to as proof that God did in fact bless Solomon was wisdom. The women lived together, each had a child, one child died during the night, and they disputed who the living child belonged to. Solomon calls for a sword to cut the living child in half, one women agrees and the other says “no, I’d rather she have the child than that the child die.” Solomon realizes that the child’s true mother would say that, and orders that the child be given to her.

The Temple and Solomon’s Second Theophany

So one of the main things Solomon does as king is build the temple. He does it using the finest materials, imported from all over the place. He build himself a palace as well. (See 1 Kings 5-7). When the temple is finished, Solomon dedicates it (1 Kings 8). In his prayer, Solomon essentially prays for the temple to become the focus of Israel’s religious life, the symbol of Israel’s covenant with God. But it goes beyond just mere symbolism. He wants it to be a symbol that carries with it real power, and so he prays for God to respond when Israel prays toward the temple in all kinds of different situations.

  • Are temples today a symbol of God’s covenant with the restored church? How? How is this similar to Solomon’s temple? How is it different?
  • Twice, Solomon asks God to “hear [Israel’s] prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.” (vv. 48, 49). Why repeat this? What does it mean for God to “maintain their cause”?
  • What similarities do you see between Solomon’s prayer and Joseph Smith’s prayer at the Kirtland Temple dedication (D&C 109)? What differences are there? Do you think Joseph Smith may have been thinking of Solomon’s prayer when he gave the temple dedication in Kirtland?

After the dedication, the Lord appears to Solomon again. (1 Kings 9). He says he has heard Solomon’s prayer and that essentially, he has accepted the temple. He promises to increase Solomon’s wealth and power and the power and glory of Israel, but warns that if Israel turns away from God’s commandments, he will take all that away and will exact vengeance so that the whole world will see what happens to those who don’t keep their obligations with Jehovah.

  • How is Solomon’s vision of God after the temple dedication similar to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery’s vision of Jesus following the Kirtland temple dedication (D&C 110). How is it different? Do you think Joseph and Oliver had Solomon’s vision in mind when they experienced their vision?

Solomon’s Fall from Grace

Chapter 10 goes into all kinds of detail about the wealth and power of Solomon and of Jerusalem under Solomon’s reign. It mentions the visit of the Queen of Sheba (Ethiopian tradition says that the Queen of Sheba became pregnant with Solomon’s child, and that the kings of Ethiopia all the way up through 1972 were Solomon’s descendants.) But then chapter 11 begins with an abrupt transition to discuss the fact that Solomon married many foreign women and built many temples to foreign gods. Eventually, the prophet Ahijah catches up with Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s officers, and prophesies that God will make good on his warning to Solomon after the temple dedication and that Solomon’s successor and son will lose all the kingdom save one tribe.

  • Is this the pride cycle? How is it like the pride cycle that Mormon describes in the Book of Helaman? How is it different?
  • If God knew that Solomon’s wealth and power would lead him to forget his obligations, why did he bless him with them in the first place?
  • How is Solomon’s fall from grace different from David’s? How is it similar?
  • Notice how despite David’s previous fall from grace, God is constantly talking up David when he deals with Solomon. Why?

 

From the archives:

Judge not, but still judge sometimes (just not too much)

The History and Symbolism of Temples

Lesson 18: “Establish … a House of God” #DandC2017

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    His name is interesting. In Hebrew it’s Shlomoh, meaning “peacable” (the name is related to Hebrew shalom “peace”). The form Solomon we’re familiar with from the KJV derives from the Greek form of his name. There was an old SNL skit called Hanukkah Harry Saves Christmas; Hanukkah Harry has three donkeys, named Moische, Herschel and Schlomo [ = Solomon].

    Interesting thought about Solomon usurping his older brother. I’m familiar with the pattern (which we also see in the BoM, with Nephi usurping Laman), but I don’t think I’ve ever thought to include Solomon as an example of that. I think doing so is correct. I view the pattern as a kind of commentary on the injustice that can be wreaked by the traditional law of primogeniture.

  2. Not shaking my testimony of Joseph Smith as a Prophet of God, but I do wonder how many OT parallels he saw in his own life, happenings that were either happenstance or of a purpose. For examples:

    The building of a temple and palace at the same time (the Nauvoo House)
    Younger son being placed over the older son (and establishing a “Patriarch”)
    Taking additional wives, etc.

    Makes me think of all the times we take some happening or part of out lives matching something in the scriptures and believe that we must be righteous because something happened similar to the scriptures. We forget the warnings of how it went wrong because we know better now.

    Lots to think about. Hope I can make it to church to participate.

  3. Solomon “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (11:6). Is this marrying foreign women, or building temple to foreign gods, or building foreign temples for his “strange” wives? The teacher’s manual say that “marr[ying] out of the covenant” showed that he had turned away from God. Do we believe that?

  4. This was great. I looked yesterday at the manual and as they say it is lacking.
    What is the pattern when king after king falls to some vice? Why can’t God select someone to help Israel out?
    On the pattern of younger brothers getting the birthright/kingdom over their brothers I heard from Peter Enns is that the authors organizing and writing the Bible just some years after Solomon is them legitimizing the king of Judah. Not some coincidence of history. Just that Solomon is a secondish son and his decendant needs solid ground to stand on. So all seconds sons Genesis on always get chosen before older ones.
    To sum up on the wives, Solomon took a second wife that was his mistake. To me polygamy is wrong all the way down. Are we really to believe he had 700/300 wives/concunines? (A few lessons ago our teacher justified David’s wives with section 132) Heaven save us!

  5. Oops, misspelled. We’ll say I coined a new term. concunines: is latinized mega-plural for 100+ concubines.

  6. Ryan Mullen says:

    JKC, I love the comparison between Solomon’s and Nephi’s theophanies. Very cool.

    James, “Why can’t God select someone to help Israel out?” Steelheart by Brandon Sandreson is an excellent, if extended, answer to your question. The BCC pinned tweet makes the same point in <140 characters.

    I see Solomon living during a transitional time for Yahwistic religion. Nathan and Zadok represent prophetic and priestly factions, respectively, that want to consolidate YHWH worship in Jerusalem. Naturally, there's resistance—e.g. from those who think YHWH can only be worshipped in a tent (cf. 1 Chronicles 17:4), those that want YHWH worship to remain at local hill alters, and/or those that see YHWH as one of many gods and goddess to worship. Solomon's "fall" stems from his being more aligned with those in the last group than with Nathan or Zadok.

  7. Solomon marrying non-Israelite wives is equivalent of a member marrying a non-member, yes? I get the impression that readers of BCC think that it’s small minded for other members to look down upon marriages outside of the church. Should Solomon be held to a different standard?
    If Solomon actually saw the Lord it’s odd that he built temples to other gods right? I don’t think that I would do that. On the other hand, he didn’t build them so he could worship the other gods, he built them so his wives and neighbors could worship the way that they seemed fitting. How different is that compared to the church donating funds to help other denominations and religions build their houses of worship?

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