Wealth brings many friends, but a poor man's friend deserts him.
It's hard to believe that King Solomon was only 12 years old when he was anointed King over Israel. One of the very first stories of his rule is the tale of the two mothers. I remember hearing it told on a felt board at Bible school. It was one of those stories you don't easily forget - "Cut the child in half..." The words echoed in my head - I couldn't imagine the feelings - to be called before the king, in the royal court, pleading for your child.... My mind was filled with this King and his order for what could have been a bloody mess. It was only later that I understood the wisdom - and the sacrifice in the mother's response. Later I understood the happy ending.
King Solomon - the wisest man who ever lived. King Solomon - the last King of a united Israel. King Solomon - builder of the temple of Jerusalem. Author of three books in the bible, diplomat, trader, husband. Wealthy. Beyond measure. Son of a King. He had everything - wives, concubines, horses, chariots, fleets of trading ships. The bible says he made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore trees. Almost impossible to visualize. Opulence. Excess.
I don't think Solomon ever did without. I don't think he ever had to make a choice between wants and needs. In fact, I'm not sure he could have. He just wasn't raised in a position to understand the difference. He was, after all, royalty; he had to keep up appearances.
Personally, I think he missed out. The year I turned 12 was the year my family went to Canada for vacation. We camped by a lake in Ontario - Rice Lake. We met some of my mother's family. We had driven up from New Jersey; they had come up from Indiana. We had a big tent, they had a camper on the back of a pick-up truck. My uncle brought his boat. We stayed for a little over a week - fishing, water-skiing, swimming, exploring. The lake was the site of an archaeological dig, so there was some interesting stuff going on... We hunted night-crawlers at dusk to use as bait in the morning. We ate fish - freshly caught and fried on a camp stove - for breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner... We made friends with fellow campers. We played cards and sang around the campfire. It was one of my favorite vacations ever. Family, friends, music and laughter.
Later, I understood that this was the kind of vacation my family could afford. Camping. No fancy hotel. No all-inclusive resort. No dinners out. We didn't have a lot of money - but I didn't know that. We were so richly blessed in other ways, I simply didn't know that we weren't considered wealthy.
King Solomon knew wealth. He knew what wealth could buy. He used his wealth for stuff - wives, concubines, horses, chariots, fleets of trading ships - appearances - friends. Where did it get him? Oh yeah, he wrote that proverb up there: Wealth brings many friends, but a poor man's friend deserts him. I feel sorry for that lonely, old King. Here's my take: Wealth buys friends, but a poor man's friend looks beyond a man's stuff for friendship. Poor King Solomon, he should have left all that wealth and all those bought friends, and gone camping with us.