This is the kind of passage Donald Trump would love. Even better, the Koch brothers would adore this story: a young, up and coming politician coming before a super wealthy, ideologically driven political donor who offers this new king fortune, fame, and glory. If you buy into the premise such men read the Bible, this would be their kind of story. I’m convinced Donald would see himself as the modern day King Solomon. The Koch brothers would read themselves into the narrative as God. For this reason, I’m skeptical of a text claiming to be scripture which equates God with the acquisition of wealth, earthly wisdom, political authority, and social privilege. I believe I am reading a biased account of human history seeking to give divine legitimacy to Solomon’s rise to power. This is the story of an ancient middle eastern tyrant asking for a blank check from his God. It may be in the Bible but it’s certainly not God’s word.
In 1 Kings, God comes off like a glorified version of Aladdin. The creator of the universe appears to Solomon in the dream and says, “Ask whatever you wish, and I’ll give it you.” What’s wrong with that? How could anyone take exception with God saying, “I’ll give you whatever you want”? Shouldn’t we want and expect everything we can get from God? Perhaps, if you view your relationship with God as a narcissistic partnership built on someone being left out of the blessing you are going to receive. Solomon doesn’t live or preside over a democracy. His people aren’t equal and have no say in his role as a leader. He is the wealthiest, most powerful man alive. Everyone below him is dirt poor, starving, and through passages like this encouraged to embrace this crushing poverty because God ordained him to be rich, smart, beautiful, and wise. Getting what you want, in the Solomon paradigm, means using your own understanding of God to justify your wealth and everyone’s misery in the name of religion. That’s not scripture worth emulating.
What would you say today, about any political leader, of any political persuasion who came to their electorate (kingdom, dictatorship, etc.) and said, “God appeared to me and told me I could have anything I wanted in a dream. I have been given the gift of unsurpassed wisdom. I’m now the smartest man who has ever lived.” You’d easily dismiss this leader as megalomaniacal, crazy, and on par with the leader of North Korea. Yet this is exactly what we’ve been presented in this week’s lectionary text; a man who had done just this. In many places in the English speaking world, the text will be read and these words said in reply, “this is the word of God for the people of God.” I’m not sure that’s the best response. “This is the story of political corruption, systemic economic oppression, and lies told in God’s name all to the people of God.” That would be a much better reply.
Solomon’s faux sense of humility while talking to God is nauseating. “You showed so much kindness to your servant, my father David.” The dialogue is stilted. It has the air of two organized crime figures trying to get down to business on the day of their daughter’s wedding. How much respect does Solomon really have for David’s treatment, especially in the later years? Does Solomon give a damn about David? It gets worse from there. “But I am young and inexperienced,” Solomon says. How much deference and respect does Solomon need to show before he gets what he really wants, the keys to the kingdom? Suddenly, Solomon is captain obvious. Does he honestly think God doesn’t know he’s inexperienced? Why these rhetorical games? Because you and I, middle class white people in the southern United States, playing the lottery and riding golf carts, this passage wasn’t written for us.
Much later, the illiterate people who Solomon governed would hear stories of their wise king prostrating himself before almighty God. This would confirm what they had already been led to believe. The wealthy dictator who led them was in really good with “the man upstairs”.
In the official press release (1 Kings 2: 3-14) of this story, we’re told it pleased God how wise Solomon was with his requests. It always looks good for the people you’re ruling to know the God they are worshiping and the God you have an inside track with is happy about how you make decisions. Especially when the people on the ground, those without wealth, privilege, power, and wisdom, can’t question the Holy man running the show.