From the House of Bondage to the Palace

“From the house of bondage he went to reign; even in his own kingdom, he was born poor.”

(Ecclesiastes 4:14)

The vast majority of English translations render the phrase, מִבֵּית הָסוּרִטם (mibeth hasurim), “prison,” but for our purposes here, I have chosen to render it more literally as “house of bondage,” or “house of imprisonment,” or “house of obligation.” In every sense, much the same notion is communicated, though with an important distinction. For if we are to understand these verses as speaking of Solomon himself (as we noted above), then we must recognize that the prison that Solomon was speaking of was not made up of block walls and chains, but instead was a “gilded cage” of privilege and responsibility. 

Do not forget the court intrigue that took place as King David’s death became immanent. Adonijah sought to establish himself as king and rallied people to his side. Were it not for some quick-thinking and action on the part of Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, Solomon might not have ascended to his father’s throne (at least not right away). One can only imagine the guard that was set over young Solomon to protect him from an assassination plot or a kidnapping. And it is in this context that Solomon was supposed to grow up as a child. 

While we do not know the exact age of Solomon when he began his reign, he describes himself as being quite young (1 Kings 3:7). Whether this is an exaggeration reflecting his own sense of humility or whether it is quite literal, the implication here is that Solomon began his reign when he was a young man and by his own admission, he was ill-equipped to take over the role apart from God’s blessing of discernment. And so, if we think of his house as a place of enforced obligations and protective custody, it is easy to see how one could describe this as a prison. And if we recognize his lack of preparation for the throne, one can make a compelling argument that he was born poor.

Do recognize that while today we are often taught to look at “poverty” only in the context of one’s material wealth, it is quite possible to be financially well-to-do and still be poor in the eyes of God and man. From the Bible’s perspective, poverty is measured most basically in the context of one’s eternal soul. What good will material wealth do you in eternity and when you must stand in judgment before your maker? What good will material wealth do you when going through times of trial and loss in this life? Of course, in the ultimate sense, who but Christ is the richest of all, yet for our sakes he became poor so that we might become rich in him (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.