I have Chris to thank for the suggestion of revisiting “the Wisdom of Solomon” – Chris is a mate from the same theology faculty I attended (many) years ago. We were talking about the Queen’s Speech and in particular this ongoing question of whether or not dads will end up with meaningful relationships with their children post divorce and how that might be brought into legislation. The phrase “the Wisdom of Solomon” popped up in our conversation. It is, of course, a subject that comes to the attention of OnlyDads on an hourly basis!
So, if you are sitting comfortably, Bible at the ready, I’m going to offer a whistle-stop summary of what wisdom we can learn from King Solomon.
A Splattering of Theology v Family Law
Now that you have all turned to 1 Kings Chapter 3 v 16-27 we can read again the allegorical story for which King Solomon is best known: the potential slicing of a baby in half.
The story begins with two “Harlots”. There are, of course, always Harlots in the Bible. For good reason though. They are women (in a patriarchal society), sinners (in a moralistic society) and poor (in a society where wealth bought both power and privilege). Harlots are biblical shorthand for describing the bottom rung of society, real low-life. Think Abu Hamza on housing benefit and you will get the picture. Harlots were despised!
We go on to read, that the very next day after “babyswap” both mums, sorry Harlots, went before the King for judgement to be given.
The story ends with Solomon’s judgement. Solomon has been able to determine who the rightful mother is, with a side-ways glance at the issues before him. Baby goes back to the rightful mum, and Justice has been done. Bish bash bosh!
For the phrase “the wisdom of Solomon” to have been in circulation for 2,500 years, it is safe to presume that his reign must have been a bit special. Coming to the throne directly after King David, very much the star of Judaic history, it is indeed astonishing that anyone remembers Solomon at all. My guess is Solomon’s kingship must have been marked out by something, and we can only presume that it must have been this fabled “wisdom”.
Being an allegorical tale, the story tells its readers, that under the reign of Solomon, Justice was:
Offered freely – even to the poorest in the land.
Quickly delivered, and
The right decisions were made. Albeit via some curious manoeuvres from the bench, with the King’s threats of sword swinging!
In Chapter 4 (following on from this story) we get to one of those lists, so beloved of television comedians and folk wanting 40 winks on a Sunday morning during Matins!
What the list actually tells us though, is that Solomon re-organised his Kingdom with a bureaucracy that completely ignored the existing tribal boundaries. This was radical politics – something completely new.
Of equal interest when looking at the wider context is that the writer of the book of Kings (Chapter 3 v 5) has added a story about a dream Solomon had in which he came to God “as but a little child” (little child is yet more biblical shorthand – this time denoting total humility) to ask for “an understanding mind to govern his people”.
Dispensing justice with an acute sense of humility is something that clearly marked Solomon out to the writers at the time. There is a lovely phrase used of Solomon later on in the Book of Kings…it describes him as having “a largeness of mind.”
I said to my theologian mate Chris, that I would write this small article, as I dare say, in the next Parliament, there will be another Norgrove-type report commissioned, and yet another round of debate about this, that, and the other. I have more than a suspicion children seeing their dads will still be an item up for discussion.
Perhaps, when that time comes, the following guiding principles may serve such a debate well:
- Be bold enough to try something new.
- Keep it free for those who can’t afford to buy themselves justice.
- Keep it simple and keep it quick.
- And above all, deliver it with humility.
I would welcome any thoughts and comments 🙂