Was Solomon Wrong to Ask for Wisdom?

I finished David Carr’s From D to Q yesterday. I made an error in my last post: I said that Carr thought that the Deuteronomist inserted the part of I Kings 3 in which Solomon goes to Jerusalem to sacrifice. Actually, he says that an Adonai editor did that. The Adonai editor overlaps with the Deuteronomist in areas, but they’re not the same.

What stuck out to me yesterday was Carr’s treatment of the Book of Ecclesiastes. According to Carr, Ecclesiastes is a “counter-textual” reading of I Kings 3. In I Kings 3, Solomon asks for wisdom rather than riches, and God applauds his request. In Ecclesiastes, however, the author (who may purport to be Solomon) says that wisdom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I glanced over Ecclesiastes 1-2 to see what he means, and there’s a sense that wisdom leads to despair. Moreover, the author wonders why wisdom is so great, when everyone is going to die anyway, both the wise and the fools.

This reminds me of a sermon that I heard many years ago. The speaker was at David Antion’s church, and his argument was that perhaps Solomon erred when he asked God for wisdom. Many in my family loved the sermon because it thought outside of the box. I thought it was off-base, though, because God explicitly told Solomon in I Kings 3 that God approved of Solomon’s request. But the idea that there were different perspectives in the Bible wasn’t on my radar at the time.

I may ask my dad if he still has that sermon when I go home for Thanksgiving. Why did the preacher of that sermon think that wisdom was flawed? Critical scholars of the Bible maintain that the author of Ecclesiastes did not believe in an afterlife, and that’s why he thought life was so futile and adopted an “eat, drink, be merry, and enjoy God while you’re alive” sort of attitude. But I don’t think ministers in the Armstrongite tradition had that interpretation of Ecclesiastes. Maybe the preacher of the sermon said that Solomon’s wisdom led to despair because he saw how pointless so many things are: Solomon got bored.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
This entry was posted in Bible, Ecclesiastes, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.