A Cruciform View of Solomon’s Kingdom

Artist's depiction of Solomon's court (Ingobertus, c. 880)
Artist’s depiction of Solomon’s court (Ingobertus, c. 880)

The golden age of Israel is widely considered to have taken place during the reign of King Solomon. As the human representative of God, Solomon’s rule was said to describe “the various facets of the kingdom of God manifest in his time” [Morphew 2006, 28]. Years later while under the rule of Rome, the people of Israel would use Solomon’s kingdom as a model for what they hopped God’s future kingdom would look like. Jesus, however, challenged the typical view of God’s kingdom and “quite deliberately remodeled first-century Jewish expectations around himself” [Wright 2011, 117]. And since Jesus is the “one true and living avatar of the transcendent God” [Jersak 2015, 83] it is worth paying attention to how Jesus’ view of God’s kingdom contrasts with the view revealed through Solomon reign.

The zenith of Solomon’s kingdom is best recorded in 1 Kings 4. It was during this time that the people of Israel become as “numerous as the sand on the seashore” [verse 20, NIV] in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham [Ge 22:17]. King Solomon defeated Israel’s enemies and ruled over all the people from Tiphash to Gaza with foreign dignitaries and ambassadors flocking to his banquet table. Each day “85 bushels of fine flour, 375 bushels of meal, 10 grain-fed cattle, 20 range cattle, 100 sheep, and miscellaneous deer, gazelles, roebucks, and choice fowl” [verses 22-23, Message] was served. In addition to physical wealth, Solomon had great wisdom and insight given to him by God [verse 29-31]. He wrote 3,000 proverbs, 1,005 songs and knew the ways of the birds, plants, mammals, fish, and reptiles. There was “no aspect of creation” that Solomon could not understand, becoming an “epitome of the Hebrew understanding of the wholeness of life that flows from the rule of God” [Morphew 2006, 30].

In contrast to the riches and glamour of Solomon’s court, Jesus was born and lived among the common people of the land. The angels who announced his birth did so not in the palace of King Herod, but in the fields to simple shepherds [Lk 2:8-15]. The humility of Jesus continued throughout his life with his followers being called friends rather than servants [Jn 15:15]. This is a marked difference from Solomon who conscripted the people of Israel into building his palaces [1 Ki 9:15]. Solomon also enslaved people from neighboring nations [1 Ki 9:21] whereas Jesus brought freedom to the prisoner [Lk 4:18].

In Genesis 12 when God calls Abraham, he tells him that he will be a blessing to the nations [Ge 12:2-3]. This promise was thought to have been fulfilled by King Solomon in that the nations of world came to him seeking wisdom. Jesus, however, transformed the hegemonic kingdom of Solomon into a kenarchy with the people of God commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations” [Mt 28:19, NIV]. No longer were the children of Abraham to be defined by genetics, but the faith of Abraham would spread to all nations with everyone who follows Jesus being called children of Abraham [Rm 9:8].

By expanding the people of God to include the Gentiles, Jesus challenged the identity those who were called enemies of God. Under Solomon and those who followed him, the enemies of the people of God were the Gentile nations around them. Jesus removed the blinders from the eyes of his people to show that it was the devil, evil, sin and death who were their true enemy [1 Co 15:24-26, 1 Jn 3:8]. Through the cross, Jesus defeated the evil one and crushed the head of the serpent that deceived humanity [Jn 12:31-33, Ge 1:15].

celtic cross sunsetJesus’ banquet table also shows a marked contrast to the picture of God’s rule under Solomon. Rather than limiting the table to foreign dignitaries and members of the royal household, Jesus opened up God’s table to the weak, sick, outcast and the common people [Lk 13:29, 14:15-24, Mt 8:11]. Gone also was the Kosher meal restrictions that forbid the people of God from eating with the Gentiles [Ac 10:15]. Jesus himself was to be the bread on God’s banquet table which would bring life to all who partook of his flesh and blood [Jn 6:25-59]. Whereas Solomon’s table reflected the daily bounty of God’s kingdom, God’s table under Jesus transformed into a radically inclusive table from which no one will ever go hungry. The Eucharist feast celebrated by Jesus followers around the world testifies to the power of this new cruciform banquet table.

If there is one thing that history remembers about King Solomon, it is that he was a very wise man. 1 Kings 4:29-34 tells us that he was the wisest man on earth during this lifetime with a “breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore” [verse 29, NIV]. This wisdom, though a gift from God, was still human wisdom. The crucified Jesus, on the other hand, is the “wisdom of God” [1 Co 1:24, NIV] that puts to shame all other wisdom. St. James even goes further, saying that the “wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” [Ja 3:17, NIV]. Jesus, through the cross, shows us that the wisdom of God goes beyond knowing how to govern a country or settle disputes.

The temple is the other thing that history has remembered about King Solomon. This temple was huge, beautiful and considered to be one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was the symbol of God’s presence in Israel and a drawing card for the nations as declared by Solomon in its dedication [1 Ki 8]. Jesus transforms this symbol of God’s kingdom just like he did with all the other facets of God’s rule through Solomon. Through the cross, Jesus declared that the temple was no longer needed. The religious, political and cultural life of the people of God was now to be found in and through Jesus and not through a building. Furthermore the people themselves became the living temple of God, sealed with the Holy Spirit who dwells inside each follower of Jesus [1 Co 3:16].

The last remaining transformation that Jesus completes in our model of God’s kingdom has to do with creation itself. Under King Solomon, all the plants and animals of the land, sea and air were seen as being subject to the rule of humanity. Jesus transforms this view in that he not only was the one who created the heavens and earth, but he also is the one who continues to uphold it [Co 1:16-17]. Jesus is the one true King of the universe, having everything that was, is and is to come under his feet [Ep 1:18-23].

In conclusion, Jesus of Nazareth, “the image of the invisible God” [Co 1:15, NIV], transforms the model of God’s kingdom seen under King Solomon. Rather than being an exclusive hegemonic kingdom for a select few, Jesus transforms it into an inclusive kenarchic kingdom that actively seeks out the lonely, weak, outcast and poor. Gone is the controlling, power-over view of God; instead it was replaced by a consenting, participating, and loving model of a king – a king who died upon the cross for each one of us.

 

Bibliography

Jersak, Bradley. 2015. A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel. Pasadena, California: CWRpress.

Morphew, Derek. 2006. Breakthrough: Discovering the Kingdom. Cape Town, South Africa: Vineyard International Publishing.

Wright, N.T. 2011. Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, And Why He Matters. New York: HaperOne.

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