In today’s reading we hit a climactic point in the Old Testament narrative. We have followed Israel out of Egypt and a later generation into the promised land. We’ve seen the taking of land in Joshua and Israel’s ambiguous tenure in it. At the end of Judges we see two disastrous signs: civil war and rape. Israel demands a king and gets one in Saul. Order and unity is brought to the nation, but this begins to unravel as Saul’s unrighteousness and short sightedness leads to his judgment, and with him Israel’s as well. Then comes David, who like Israel before him is driven into the wilderness. But unlike the first generation of Jacob’s children, David prevails in the wilderness overcoming numerous temptations. David eventually triumphs over Saul, inherits the throne and proves himself a lover of mercy like the LORD. But David’s unfaithfulness again brings judgment upon his house, and by 2nd Samuel civil war and rape rear their ugly heads again. But unlike Saul (and Pharaoh?) David’s heart is not hard. He repents of his sins subsequent to their committal and thus is the recipient not merely of God’s judgment but God’s mercy. Today we are left with Solomon on the throne, and we read of Israel’s state of blessing under him:
20The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. 21And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life…29God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Kalkol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. 32He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom. (1st Kings 4:20-21, 29-34)
God commands human beings to be fruitful and multiply before and after the flood. (Gen 1:28; Gen 9:2) When creation takes a downward turn in Genesis 11 God calls Abram and Sarai to be the new parents of a new humanity. Abram, who would become Abraham is promised that he will become a great nation, one through which all the earth’s people will be blessed (Gen 12:1-3). This barren couple will have numerous descendants, so many that they will be nearly uncountable (Gen 15:5).
The Old Testament tracks the ever increasing fulfillment of the blessing and the promise, despite sin and the curse. There is a pattern of sin, exile and restoration, with the restoration continually bringing greater blessings to the people of God despite persistent disobedience. Here the blessing begins to reach its widest scope. Israel takes full possession of the land promised to it and occupies it in peace. Abraham’s children are numerous as the sand, and the nations are blessed through this family become a nation. Solomon, a type of the Second Adam, takes to studying the creation, and through such study and understanding demonstrates his wisdom to the nations. Unlike Adam who attempts to procure the gift of wisdom apart from the giver, Solomon’s wisdom is requested and received from the LORD. King Solomon prefigures King Jesus who is the living embodiment of divine wisdom, and who would ultimately lead all the nations to repentance. (1 Cor 1:24).