In a previous post, I commented:
Kinda reminds me of Solomon and the baby. What we, as kids, have been taught was a demonstration of wisdom, was actually nothing short of a declaration of willingness to wage war.
Think of it: Baby = Israel; the weeping mother = the true successor of David; the brazen mother = Solomon, the usurper.
The message was simple: Solomon (the brazen mother) was willing to split Israel (the baby) in two in a bloody civil war, unless the rightful heir (the weeping mother) gave up his claim to the throne.
It was so simple and brutal that when that story spread, the bible says, all of Israel trembled in fear.
Jeg wrote in response:
That’s the first time Ive every heard of that interpretation of the Solomon judgement, rom. Where’d you get that? Wherever it is, I have to say, ‘Way to read too much into a little story there.’
BTW, the word translated in the KJV as ‘fear’ can also mean ‘revere’ or ‘hold in awe’. The modern translations such as the ESV states, “And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.” Makes more sense since the Israeli common folk wouldnt have thought, ‘Holy crap! ‘Tis a threat of war disguised as a wise judgment! Let us therefore be afraid!’. More likely they just went, ‘Wow.’
Way to read too much, eh? LOL. You mean, kinda like how every little thing is a manifestation of presidential malfeasance? Hahaha.
Seriously, though, this interpretation of the judgment of Solomon is really a product of Biblical Criticism – a school of biblical scholarship that holds the bible to be the product of human writers who had human motivations and were influenced by the circumstances – including the politics – of their times.
Putting the story of Solomon into it’s proper context therefore …
Solomon wasn’t David’s rightful heir. That distinction belonged to Adonijah, who was next in line of succession after the deaths of his elder brothers Amnon and Absalom (the one with gorgeous hair). Now when Adonijah heard that certain courtiers were conspiring to have David (who by then was old and sick) get a girl named Abishag preggo, Adonijah moved to be declared King. Bathsheba (the soldier’s wife that David seduced) quickly acted together with the prophet Nathan to have David order that Solomon be crowned King.
Adonijah grabbed the horns of the altar and begged Solomon to spare him. And spared he was, until later, when he asked to marry Abishag. Solomon flipped. He accused of Adonijah of continuing to plot against his crown basically by taking over where David had left off with Abishag (hehe. symbols matter), and so had Adonijah put to death. There followed a series of executions as Solomon tried to consolidate his kingship.
But then, he went and married an Egyptian princess and – going off-Bible now – once again stirred up nationalist feelings. That brought with it a renewed threat of revolt, and prompted Solomon to circulate the story of two prostitutes and a baby, causing fear and trembling throughout his kingdom.
Now Jeg makes much of alternative translations of the word used for ‘fear.’ Well, yeah, lots of words can be translated in lots of ways that effectively obfuscate the original connotation of the word being translated. And I think, this is one of those cases.
The Bible, throughout history, has pretty much been a product of its times – and Biblical criticism teaches that translators are not immune from the influence of an agenda. Now, I’m not saying that the substitution of ‘awe’ for ‘fear’ (as Jeg pointed out) was an error; all I’m saying is that the later adoption of ‘awe’ does not render the earlier use of the word ‘fear’ erroneous.
As for people being awed making more sense than people trembling at the clear threat of civil war, I suppose that’s a matter of opinion. However, considering the incendiary atmosphere – with the memory of blatant political murders still fresh in people’s minds – I find it hard to believe that everyone would simply swallow the fairytale lock, stock, and barrel. The ordinary folk, maybe. But then, as now, they had literati, scholars, and political thinkers (prolly the generals) who surely would not have missed Solomon’s warning.
Oh and, don’t get me wrong. In the sense that he was able to ‘pacify’ Israel without once again taking up arms, Solomon did in fact show great wisdom. I accept that part of the fairy-tale; it’s just that I think there’s a deeper significance than shows on the surface of things.