I was reading these chapters, and starting to think I wasn’t going to find anything that wasn’t a direct repetition of 1 Kings 8-10. All I’d spotted was that there’s a shift to showing Solomon showing the primacy of Israel. So the reason for Pharoah’s daughter having her own palace is now that she should not come into the place made holy by David bringing in the sacred vessels. The Queen of Sheba now comes to test Solomon (and fails to defeat his wisdom) rather than coming simply to seek advice. And we’re told that Solomon rules over all the neighbouring kingdoms.
Then the story of Solomon comes to an end.
And this is the biggest change. 1 Kings 11 is left out of the Chronicler’s version of Solomon’s story, which up to now has been copied almost word for word from the earlier text. Why? Well, that’s the chapter which the NRSV subtitles ‘Solomon’s Errors’, and which tells of his slide in later life into polygamy and worship of foreign gods – perhaps as wisdom becomes superficial sophistication.
The Chronicler leaves this out, giving us a picture of Solomon built on his early achievements and untarnished by his later failures. Does distance in time make it easier to remember people in starker black and white terms? Perhaps we need to be reminded that great things can be accomplished by compromised people – like us.
I think I instinctively prefer the Chronicler’s Solomon – wisdom should last and lead to integrity of life. But I find it easier to recognise the reality of the Solomon of 1 Kings – a man of incredible ability, who in the end neglected his depths and lost touch with the LORD who was the source of his wisdom.
How would I prefer to be remembered? Just for my achievements, or for my achievements despite my failures? I’m genuinely not sure – but it won’t be up to me anyway.