Diogenes: The Wisdom of Solomon

5 February 2017

King Solomon is generally considered to be the personification of wisdom. Solomon had a vision, in which the Lord offered him his choice of gifts. Realizing the enormity of his task, Solomon chose an understanding mind. He was very young when he was endowed with extraordinary wisdom, which was far greater than anybody’s before him or after him. The biblical story of the two women’s dispute over the baby has become a classic example of his superior insight. Similar stories can be found in different parts of the world. All of them deal with the ability of the wise to outwit and expose falsehood and calculated manipulation.

Solomon’s wisdom is preserved in proverbs as short and digestible expressions. We have a magnificent collection of his maxims in the book of Proverbs. At the very beginning it is stated that the proverbs listed may help the simple acquire some prudence, give knowledge and discretion to the youth, increase the knowledge of the wise, and finally grant skill to those already in possession of deep understanding to grasp the hidden meanings and the riddles of existence. Thus all strata of society and all levels of mental capacity are included and addressed.

Each of Solomon’s proverbs is a precious pearl and they are a wonderful read to every person alive, regardless of sex, level of education, nationality, religion or race. In other words, they do not refer to the accidental characteristics but to the essence of human existence. They offer guidelines for every aspect of human life. That is their particular beauty and everlasting value. Let’s look at a few examples to illustrate their global reach.

“Diverse weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good.” This proverb reminds everyone to be honest and not to cheat his fellowman, but it also reminds the authorities to be just and treat every member of the society equally.

Another universally relevant proverb is: “Happy is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gets understanding, for the gain from it is better than silver and its profit better than gold, she is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare to her.”

This may sound a bit too romantic and over-idealized, however, any reasonable person will agree that understanding the miracles of this world would grant greater satisfaction than being in possession of material goods that exceed a thousand times one’s needs. The great Greek philosopher Democritus, said that he would rather understand one single cause than gain the throne of Persia, emphasizing the difficulty and value of gaining knowledge to guide, for example, decision making, theorising, analysis and methodologies. However, this idea may not easily be supported by wealthy individuals who can’t imagine life without their large houses, yachts and millions of dollars or euros or yuans in the bank.

Reportedly Solomon was also a great poet. His Song of Songs is probably the greatest piece of love poetry ever written, for it unites the beauty of the body with the beauty of the soul, the individual desire to get one with the beloved person and the longing of the passing body to be reunited with its eternal source.

King Solomon’s wisdom spread far beyond the borders of his country. The beautiful princess of Sheba came from far away to meet him. Despite the criticism from influential religious circles at that time, Solomon accepted the beautiful princess and united with her. As legend has it, this union brought his number of wives to exactly one thousand. However, very few people are aware of the fact that in the language in which stories about this wise king are reported, the word for a thousand is exactly the same as the word for one.

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