I’ve got a couple of Wednesday’s worth of Wanderings for you. That comes from getting a bit behind in the old blogging enterprise.
On background, as a church we’re reading through the Bible this year, using the One Year Chronological Plan that’s published by Tyndale. The one with the NIV, not the NLT, and yes, that’s too confusing. Part of how we’re doing this emphasis has me fielding questions from the reading every week.
Side note to ministers: First, you want the flock you tend on behalf of the Shepherd to be well-versed in Scripture. It’s healthy for them and you. Second, there’s nothing quite like taking whatever questions are thrown at you for a year. Third, I’m not doing this again next year…I think we’ll find a different way to encourage Bible reading.
We were working through the life of Solomon and the Wisdom Literature the past few weeks, and the question raised was “When did Solomon lose his wisdom?” Looking at his life, I can see where the question came from. After all, he’s got an awful lot of wives. That’s strange for someone who also wrote Song of Solomon.
The responses to that issue—how can the same person be the author of Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes? And have 700 wives, 300 concubines, and be very wise?—vary. In the academic world, we often start looking for additional possible authors or other explanations. In that vein, other authors are suggested for Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, especially. Those arguments are often speculative and requires some study to deal with that we often can’t get into in local churches. It takes language study and such that is hard to get added as part of our discipleship.
Plus, it’s hard to work through this while keeping a focus on Biblical inerrancy. If it says “Solomon wrote this” and then you say he didn’t, some folks aren’t quite ready for that discussion. There are potential viable reasons for that, but I’m a fan of taking plain statements plainly.
The other possibilities are that the traditional authorships are correct. This means we understand Solomon in one of several ways. I posit two thoughts, though there could be others. First, we see Solomon as collapsing under his own weight. That is, he falls apart just because he’s human and weak. This is the typical way we see him.
The other, though, is to consider something a bit more imaginative. We have to keep in mind that Scripture is totally true and trustworthy in what it says. We also, though, have to admit that not every final detail is present in the text. We don’t know what Solomon typically had for breakfast, for example, so we do not know everything.
What if Solomon truly did have a love that is represented in Song of Solomon? Let us take that starting point. He marries Pharaoh's daughter, as is an unsurprising habit of the days. Political marriage alliances continue to this day—but I’ll refrain for now on that issue.
Imagine from that point what might have occurred. Here he has one or two political wives, and then finds a one true love—the Shulamite of the Song of Songs. There is no hard Biblical support here, but this is supported by the context and text of Song of Songs. Here’s a woman that is in love with and loved by Solomon.
Now, what happens if she dies in childbirth or early in their married life? How do the madly in love deal with that loss?
Typically, they react to the trauma with personality and behavior changes. Watch throughout history, throughout various and sundry cultures, and you see this as a consistent aspect of human nature. We react to trauma.
So, Solomon becomes embittered through the loss of his love. It hasn’t turned out like the storybooks say: death actually can stop true love. This bitterness leads to the feelings that result in Ecclesiastes. The behavior changes include the addiction to marriage (and sexual gratification) that we see in the carrying forward of marriages and taking concubines.
All because wisdom is not enough, and it takes a lifetime to realize that without truly building a relationship with God, suffering is inexplicable. Nothing covers it, and nothing hides it. But it can be healed.
That’s probably enough—it covers some questions on the wisdom literature, though it’s not definitely pegged to a textual location. I’m curious if any Old Testament scholar would touch that with a ten foot pole. Probably not, as it’s all speculation.