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The Scriptorium

What Kind of King?

Ecclesiastes 5.8, 9

8If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them.
9Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even a king is served from the field.

The Story:Emily Dickinson described the art of poetry as “telling truth slant.” Solomon is a master of the form. So many of his remarks are directed at Rehoboam – his vision of what he will be and have when at last he is king – but they are also “glancing blows” and have enough of generality to them to have wider applications. Look at these two verses like this: Verse 8 – How great is the king’s responsibility? Whatever goes wrong in remote provinces ultimately comes back to him. Verse 9 – How then to ensure a good reign? Be humble and be among the people you are called to serve, through all the levels of government and society. What is the application of wisdom for more general readers? Be mindful of how far your influence reaches and what you must do in order to have the best possible influence on others.

The Structure:These verses continue a kind of “under the heavens” mode as Solomon is trying to get Rehoboam to think in a larger perspective than the merely self-interested one he seems to be adopting. By writing to his son in this indirect manner he invites him to think carefully about his words. If Solomon were to confront his son directly – “Grow up, son! You’re living like a fool! – he might expect that, rather than listen attentively and with interest, Rehoboam would probably get defensive and resist his father’s counsel. Solomon’s method of teaching is in many ways like that of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we have wisdom to dispense and truth to convey, it’s a good idea to find ways of helping people receive our words with interest and think about them carefully.

How might you apply Solomon’s approach to his son to sharing the Good News of Jesus with lost people in your life?

Each week’s studies in our Scriptorium column are available in a free PDF form, suitable for personal or group use. For this week’s study, “Approaching God: Ecclesiastes 5,” simply click here.

T. M. Moore

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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