The Politics of Solomon’s Dream

I’ve just guest posted a political reflection on 1 Kings 3:5-12 and the story of Solomon’s dream over on Political Theology Today.

While the Law enables the priest to perform his duties faithfully, it is Wisdom that equips the king to acquit the responsibilities of his office justly. Wisdom is consistent with the Law, yet advances beyond the Law in foregrounding the prudence and discretion of wise persons, whose intimate acquaintance with the deep structure of the Law equips them to apply fitting principles of justice appropriately to new situations. While the Law emphasizes receptive obedience and observant adherence to clear commands, Wisdom emphasizes the perceptive discernment, prudence, and insight required to act righteously and effectively when matters aren’t clear.

In 1 Kings 3, the Wisdom tradition is closely tethered to the story of King Solomon, who, in addition to being presented as the most prominent author of its associated literature, exemplifies its virtues in his person and reign. This prominence of the theme of wisdom in our passage brings it into a broader intra-canonical conversation on the subject, not least in relation to the book of Proverbs.

Read the whole thing here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in 1 Kings, Bible, Guest Post, OT, OT Theology, Politics, Proverbs, Society, Theological, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Politics of Solomon’s Dream

  1. Patrick M says:

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.


    I appreciated this particular piece. Upon rereading the account of Solomon’s nascent kingship this past week, it appears a great opportunity to display this wisdom was thrust upon him soon after this dream in the very next passage. In the Judgment of Solomon, he decides to split the child in two with a sword to determine who is the birth mother. My question is this, do you see parallels with Abraham and Isaac? On both accounts the child seems to bear the weight of the sin of the parents. In the case of Abraham, Isaac is to be a burnt offering which seems to imply Abraham has atoning to do for his sin. In the case of the prostitutes, the child is offered to settle a dispute birthed from sexual promiscuity and the familial ambiguity that comes from prostitution. In both cases, the execution was stayed. Am I right to see a parallel? This question leads me to my last question, do you believe this stay of execution foreshadows a Child who would one day receive the sword that these two children escaped? Keep up the great posts and I’m excited to read your book when it comes out.

    Warm Regards,


    P.S. I also posted this on the political theology block, but I don’t know if you frequent the comments posted there.

    • Patrick M says:

      One last thought on the perceptive nature of wisdom; both Solomon and the prostitute’s hearts were laid bare in a matter not directly addressed in he law. Do I obey the voice of God in the absurd? Abraham believed God would provide for himself the sacrifice. The prostitute believed the king would sheathe his sword at the pleas of a mother. It took this extralegal situation to determine the more weighty issues of love and charity inside of both Abraham and the prostitution.

    • I think that there is likely some intertextual interplay between the story of Abraham and Isaac taking place. I would need to give it some more thought, though.

  2. Thought-provoking piece, as usual. It was convicting to realize that my own political bias is in favor of technique rather than wisdom. A few issues come to mind as being applications of wisdom versus technique: virtue ethics versus deontological or consequentialist ethics, Keynesian macroeconomics versus Austrian economics, whatever the alternative to automating jobs is versus automating jobs, and pragmatic jurisprudence versus textualist jurisprudence. On each and every one of these issues, at least on the political level, I favor the technique side of things.

    I don’t think that necessarily means I’m wrong, nor do I think that, even if all my opinions on those issues remain unchanged, that I’d need to think that your piece was wrongheaded. But it’s enough to give me pause. The need for more prayerful reflection is obvious. For that I thank you.

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