The Wisest Idiot

In the last entry here at Mouse & ManeI wrote about my family's nightly practice of catechesis, hymn-singing, Bible reading, and prayer. As mentioned, we are currently making our way through Solomon's Proverbs—instruction from a father to his son in wise living before God. 

Pondering his proverbial wisdom has lately caused me to consider the man himself. The conclusion I've arrived at after contemplating his life and words is somewhat of a contrariety; Solomon was the wisest idiot who ever lived.

Let me explain.

In James Hamilton's wonderful book, God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment, he postulates (very convincingly, in my estimation) that the book of Proverbs is Solomon's way of instructing his sons in obedience to the Torah—that is, the Old Testament writings, a word often rendered "law" in English translations of the Scriptures. Hamilton puts it like this, 

"The book of Proverbs results from Solomon's obedience to Deuteronomy 6, filtered through his obedience to Deuteronomy 17, as he creatively teaches the Torah to his son."

This king of Israel, this son of David, was eager to see his sons flourish under the bright, noonday son of God-fearing wisdom. That's the instinct (and a good one!) behind the Proverbs. To that end, the king exhorts them on an expansive diversity of issues—from sex (5:15–19) to money (3:9–10) to work ethic (10:4) to conflict resolution (15:1) to not joining a gang (seriously, check out 1:10–19). In these instructions, there was not one man or woman alive who excelled him in wisdom (1 Kings 4:29–31). Not a one.

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He was also a formidable idiot. The same guy who wrote again and again of the glory and joy of monogamous, married sex in his Proverbs and Song accumulated fully 1,000 sexual partners. 1 Kings 11:3 tells us that Solomon "had 700 wives... and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart." In fact, Solomon systematically disobeyed God's instruction for the kings of Israel on virtually every point (Deuteronomy 17:14–20).

We could even say that one of the main points God seems to be making through the history of the kings is the way sin is often amplified as it slithers its way through the generations. David's failure to be a one-woman man with the rape (yes, rape—could she have safely said no to the king?) of Bathsheba is extravagantly expanded with Solomon's thousand women. So the proud rapist rears the proud philanderer. And it doesn't stop there, the guy who wrote the parenting book in the Bible then raised proud Rehoboam, who proceeded to divide the entire country with his supercilious leadership. 

What's going on? I thought the Bible was supposed to give us heroes to emulate, not infantile, dysfunctional villains to abominate? If that's what the Bible is supposed to be and do, it does a raucously bad job of it.

But that's not what the Bible is. It has one Hero and a thousand preposterous fools and needy villains. In biblical antiheroes like Adam the coward, Cain the killer, Lamech the loser, Noah the wino, Abraham the wife-pimper, Moses the murderer, Samson the stupid, David the rapist, Solomon the pervert, Rehoboam the arrogant, and many more, God graciously reveals our tendency—not to ascend the heights of moral perfection from generation to generation—but to sound the abyssal trenches of debauchery.

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Solomon the Wise, life a blazing, orgiastic dumpster fire of folly, teaches us to yearn for a better Son of David, a better King of Israel, a better Preacher, a better Husband. The enormous chasm between his life and doctrine teaches us to doubt our strengths and trust our Savior. It teaches us that human strength, wisdom, wealth, ingenuity, and power is absolutely unable to produce life. And here's what you and I must reckon with: Even if God were to give you (yes, you) all wisdom, all wealth, and all power—without also giving you a new heart to obey—you and I would look at Solomon and say, "You think *that* was bad? I'll show you how to *really* screw up your life."

We are Savior-desperate-Solomons, one and all. Even our wisest are fools; even our greatest are lowly; even our richest are poor; even our humblest are arrogant. So we say with that blind beggar, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”