“Discerning Between Good And Evil”: Solomon As A New Adam In 1 Kings -- By: John A. Davies

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 73:1 (Spring 2011)
Article: “Discerning Between Good And Evil”: Solomon As A New Adam In 1 Kings
Author: John A. Davies


“Discerning Between Good And Evil”: Solomon As A New Adam In 1 Kings

John A. Davies

John A. Davies is Principal Emeritus of the Presbyterian Theological Centre, Sydney, Australia, where he teaches Biblical Studies. He is a graduate of Westminster Seminary (M.Div.) and the University of Sydney (Ph.D.).

Is the Solomon we encounter in 1 Kgs 1-11 Israel’s ideal king, presiding over the nearest thing to paradise Israel ever got, or a self-serving tyrant, the chief culprit in Israel’s downfall? Traditionally Solomon’s reign has been perceived largely in positive terms, with negative impressions restricted to ch. 11 or at most (following Noth) chs. 9-11 or some intermediate position.1 A growing number of scholars, however, see the Solomon portrayed in Kings as a deeply flawed character from the outset,2 or at least as a character depicted with deliberate textual indeterminacy.3

Solomon is David’s successor, endowed with wisdom from God, presiding over a united kingdom unprecedented in its wealth and influence (and cf. later tradition such as Matt 6:29), and above all seeing through to completion the construction of the temple, the central sanctuary of Yahweh, which is considered a primary concern of the writer of Kings. Yet there are sufficient indications in the earlier chapters of 1 Kings that point beyond the congratulatory language of the surface text to the disturbing ways in which Solomon does not measure up to the task of being the leader of God’s people that he could and should be. We need to interrogate the text closely as to the function of its over-the-top language in its depiction of Solomon’s accession and glorious reign throughout 1 Kgs 1-11 and be alert to the use of rhetorical devices such as hyperbole, irony, intertextual allusions, and the subtle innuendos that sound disquieting notes suggesting the need for a more nuanced appraisal.4

It has been suggested, for example, by Langlamet, that the discordant notes sounded within the Solomon narrative are to be explained by a pro-Solomonic redaction of an earlier anti-Solomonic matrix.5 It is equally possible that the material in 1 Kings that is seemingly more enthusiastic about Solomon may derive from a source which did seek to celebrate Solomon’s glory days (perhaps the Acts of Solomon,

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