Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Challenge of Money in the Old Testament: Solomon

When Solomon was a young man, his father David died and Solomon succeeded him as king of Israel in 1015 BC. Shortly after Solomon became king, Yahweh appeared to him in a dream and asked him what he wanted most (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon said he most wanted wisdom so that he could justly rule the people of Yahweh by being able to discern the difference between good and evil (v. 9).

Yahweh was very pleased with Solomon’s response. He promised to give him the wisdom he asked for. In addition, he promised to give Solomon the riches, honors, long life, and death of enemies he didn’t ask for (10-14).
Jesus tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and God will take care of all our other needs (Matthew 6:33). This is what Solomon did and what God did in response.
Yahweh made Solomon’s wealth legendary. During his lifetime, so much gold flowed into Jerusalem that silver was considered worthless (1 Kings 10:21).
This fabulous wealth, however, was not a reward for individual virtue. Yahweh did not give Solomon this wealth because he was such a good man or because he worked hard and invested wisely. Instead, as Jacques Ellul points out in Money and Power (trans. LaVonne Neff, 1984), Yahweh flooded Jerusalem with such wealth as a sign, as an anticipation, of the magnificence of the New Jerusalem yet to come. He made Solomon rich, not because Solomon was such a good or clever fellow, but because Solomon represented the whole people of Yahweh (p. 41).
All this wealth was also a sign that Yahweh is the one true god and not to be confused with Pluto who is only a false god doomed to destruction. Yahweh chose to make Solomon wealthy. Solomon became fabulously so. There was nothing Pluto could do to stop that. In the age to come, the New Jerusalem will be even more splendid. Pluto won’t even exist.
Yahweh chose to bless Solomon with wisdom and wealth. Despite all his wisdom, however, Solomon’s wealth corrupted both him as ruler and the state of Israel he ruled. “The state bases its wealth on the work of its subjects, and the richer and more powerful it grows, the more its subjects are crushed by fees, taxes and forced labor. This is what happened in Solomon’s case” (p. 43). The prophetic sign remains but the one true Son of David and his one truly glorious Jerusalem are yet to come.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.