Solomon, empire, and the number of the beast

I’m reading through 1 kings.  I’d never read it with much of a critical mind set before.  I’d always sort-of accepted the premise that because he was wise, everything he does is good.   Within the last year or so, I’d heard somebody take a rather critical view of many of the things which happened within Solomon’s reign. 

The beginning of this is the over-arching context that the Isrealites wanted a king to be just like other nations.  In this debate, God tells them that all sorts of ugly things happen in other in nations and will happen to them.  Of course, God is right.

People spend lots of time focusing on what a mixed bags of “good” and “bad” the Israelites had in David.  But until this more recent critique of Solomon’s reign, I’d mostly just accepted that what he did were just “the way they did things.”

So I might have noticed that slavery was bad but kind-of glossed over the utter hypocrisy that Solomon ends up enslaving his own people in the construction of the temple.  Centuries after leaving Egypt, he put his own people back in chains.  (1 kings 6: 13-16 “King Solomon conscripted laborers from all Israel—thirty thousand men. 14 He sent them off to Lebanon in shifts of ten thousand a month, so that they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. 15 Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, 16 as well as thirty-three hundred [d] foremen who supervised the project and directed the workmen.”)

If I stopped to think about it I would have thought that chariots are really only used in war.  But I wouldn’t have really noticed that Solomon effectively become an arms dealer in the ancient world. ( 1 Kings 10: 26-29: ” Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, [h] which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem. 27 The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and cedar as plentiful as sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. 28 Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt [i] and from Kue [j]—the royal merchants purchased them from Kue. 29 They imported a chariot from Egypt for six hundred shekels [k] of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty. [l] They also exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and of the Arameans.)

When reading before, I probably skimmed  over lots of numbers.  But as I was reading through this time, I noticed something.  “The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents, [d] 15 not including the revenues from merchants and traders and from all the Arabian kings and the governors of the land.”

666 talents.  666.  Hmmm.  Haven’t we heard that number before?

The excellent “Jesus for President” has this really mind-blowing read on Revelations.  Clairborne says that the book isn’t prophecy in the easy sense of the word.  It’s not a prediction of future events.  Rather, it’s a critique of the current empire the first Christians were living under.  There is a complicated and convincing argument which ties that number: 666 to the present emporer they were living under.

But how perfect is it that this is also the wieght of the gold that was sent to Solomon each year!  Suppose England made 87 million pounds off Indian exploited labor last century.  Suppose further that we knew this; it was enshrined in holy scripture which everybody new.  If I could further connect our current leader to the number “87” (perhaps it is our 87th president or something) If I wrote “87 is the number of the beast” I would be connecting past empires with current empires and drawing a line between these Earthly empires and the way that Christians are supposed to behave.  This is what’s going on, I think in revelations: a connection between Rome’s empire, Solomon’s empire, and where Christians are supposed to be: outside of both empires.

The number “666” is so perfect because it critiques the current empire that they were living under through the connectiuon to the emporer.  But also reminds them that when their ancestor ran an empire, it hardly ran much better.  It’s a short hand way of saying “Christians need to stay out of worldy empires.  That kingdom is not our kingdom.”




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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Solomon, empire, and the number of the beast”

  1. There are many key elements that direct a person to what and who the beast and its mark is. One element is an image is made that people bow down to and worship and another is it has a name. Bio-chips, social security numbers, government brandings, and other concoctions do not fit. If you take the number 666 and write it in the Hebrew numbering system using letters you come up with vstr, or vav samech tav resh. Vav is a prefix while the root str means secret or hidden. If you then look up the symbols of the letters they are nail, prop, cross, and head, and mean nail, prop, mark or sign, and head or leader. If you put these together it is the crucifix, the image of the beast. If you then take the name of the image, jesus, and add it up it comes to 616. The True Messiah warned that if another came in his own name he would be accepted, and he said many will come saying they are him. He gave us the tools to figure out who this deceiver would be and said that he would sit in the temple of God making himself out to be God and that the whole world would be deceived.


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