READING THE FIGURE OF SOLOMON: A PROPOSAL: Conclusion

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January 27, 2013 by jmar198013

A New Testament Appropriation of the Figure of Solomon: Matt. 6.24-29

The impetus behind the approach to Solomon in this study was curiosity as to Jesus’ reference to Solomon in Matt. 6.29. The interpretive crux is the contrast between “Solomon in all his glory,” who clothed himself, and “the lilies of the field,” which are clothed by God. Given our findings concerning Solomon’s double-mindedness toward Yahweh, and the exploitative means by which he amassed his wealth, Solomon’s appearance in Matt. 6.29 presents a perfect illustration of the vicious cycle presented in 6.24: “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Solomon’s reign serves as a clear illustration of this dilemma:

[T]he rhetoric serves to deconstruct Solomon, to suggest that his unparalleled wealth is in fact a pretentious, empty show that does nothing to relieve anxiety . . . the tradition of Matthew portrays Solomon as a model of failed life, defined by acquisitiveness that would not rely on the gracious gifts of the Creator.[1]

Conclusion: The Pragmatic Task

Beyond the negative appropriation of Solomon in the New Testament (Matt. 6.29), the conclusions drawn about the king in this study invite further development, especially in regard to his imprint upon the canonical sapiential tradition (e.g., his contrast with the foreign sages in Proverbs, what role he plays in the articulation of the figure of Qoheleth, and his function in the Song of Songs), and the motives behind the seemingly whitewashed treatment he receives in Chronicles. There is plenty of ore in those critical mines, and it does not seem to me that the consensus positions regarding those matters have sufficiently tapped into this reserve.

On the level of praxis, the figure of Solomon functions as an embodiment of unhealthy accommodation to the dominant power structures in our world. In terms of Deuteronomic theology, his kingship was part of Israel’s disturbing bent toward assimilation, and conformity to other nations (Deut. 17.14). His policies were not only the basis for subsequent prophetic critique;[2] they also invite the people of God today to read themselves in light of Solomon’s shortcomings. In short, the account of Solomon’s reign and the consequences of his accommodativeness and acquisitiveness can provide for God’s people a biblical rubric for self-critique.


[1] Walter Brueggemann, Solomon, 246-47.

[2] Helen Graham, “The Solomonic Model of Peace,” in Voices from the Margin: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World, ed. R. S. Sugirtharajah (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991), 219-22.

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