Small World: Solomon’s wisdom

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

The other Sunday my wife brought home from church a leaflet containing verses from 1 Kings 3:5-12. Her oral addition was that someone should present the message to President Trump. Here follows the pertinent language. King Solomon is speaking.

“And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil: for who can govern this your great people?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.”

That last phrase is a bit of a downer: no one wise and discerning like you shall arise after you. However, maybe, just maybe, God would grant us a later king who was close to Solomon, if not quite up to that Biblical standard.

What qualities would place our president at, say, “A-minus” on the discerning list? Plenty of journalists and savants have tried to figure him out; how much time has he spent trying to understand his great people and assess the difference between good and evil? Enough time and effort to get himself elected (if not by a popular majority), you might reply. I doubt that would be enough for God, unfortunately. Bear in mind, He (God) was no democrat; He was a royalist to the core — with the proviso that He was determined to look out for the well-being of his chosen people and depended on sanctified kings, his assistants, as it were, to implement His desires.

Take health care, for example. God would surely expect His rep, the king, to understand the people’s desire and need for a scheme at reasonable price and high quality, not subject to ideological manipulations. Mr. Trump does not seem to have understood correctly his people on this point (except for the portion of the people who don’t want to have to pay an extra tax so that all of the people may share in the right to much-desired health care). A truly discerning king, studying his people, might well conclude they would prefer a single payment system like Medicare for all.

Turning to foreign affairs, let’s see if our discerning king has grasped the difference between right and wrong. His people, properly understood, I believe, have had enough of war, especially in the Middle East (God’s very own turf). Yet by moving against the deal with Iran, which was scrupulously and artfully negotiated by the Obama team and five other nations, Mr. Trump is bringing the danger of war ever closer. You might say that the idea of new sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea was Congress’s doing. You would be right, but isn’t it the job of a discerning leader to lead his people, (including members of Congress) towards actions that make good sense, rather than make good campaign contributions?

Returning to the 1 Kings passage, we get quite clearly the message that God, in appointing a king, is not interested in that deputy gathering in wealth. In other words, God would favor divestment of riches by a king/president before he takes office. I suspect that would be another demand that a discerning president might also grasp if he applied himself to understanding his people.

Finally, there is between the lines — always a good place to read in Biblical studies — a strong preference in God’s way of thinking for a king that is humble. That may turn out to be the biggest stumbling stone towards greatness in the way of our president. Giving credit to others when due, stepping out of the stage lights from time to brief time, admitting error — these are big, perhaps much too big, hurdles, I fear, if Solomonic status is to be the president’s goal.

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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