Saturday, 10 February 2007

Lenten discipline of assassination

This morning I had a go at culling some of my books. I started on the Bibles on shelf seven of one of the two stacks of shelves in my study (each has 8 shelves), and twenty minutes later I was half-way along that same shelf and not a single volume had been discarded. Instead I had browsed, and read a section from a Ferrar Fenton 1906 translation of the Bible that was given to me many years ago in Brighton by two elderly ladies who were aunts of a friend of mine. Dolce and Nen were not church people, but they clearly thought that this book was something I should have, and they inscribed their gift on the front flyleaf.

I have numerous Bible translations, and this one by Ferrar Fenton is one I hardly ever pick up. Yet this morning I got engrossed in the tale from the First book of Kings of Solomon’s coming to power, and how he got rid of all those who were a danger to his throne. I hadn’t realised it before, but his right-hand man, Beniah-ben-Jhoiadah, was nothing less than a professional assassin. First of all he is sent to kill Adoniah, then he slays Joab as he clings to the altar in the Temple for sanctuary, and two years later, he is sent to dispatch Shemai, and thus, says the text “the kingship was secured to the hand of Solomon.”

We tend to have this image of Solomon as a ruler who governed with wisdom and tolerance, not only because we’re told that he prayed for the gift of wisdom, and the Lord granted it, but also because of the story of his judgement in the case of the two women who were arguing over the parentage of a baby. Maybe what we tend to forget is that the threat he uses to bring about the resolution of this case, the slicing of the baby in half, would not have had the desired result had he not had some reputation for being ruthless. Like all the rulers of his age, and since, when he came to power he carried out a cull of his enemies. Like Hitler with his “Night of the Long Knives” in June 1934 when he purged the SA of its leadership, Solomon systematically removed those who could raise rebellion against him.

My own attempt at a cull was a dismal failure. I have so many books and I need to thin them out, but every time I pick up one and look at it I think, “That may be useful, I’d better keep it”, no matter that I haven’t referred to it once in over 20 years of full-time ministry. I need to be more ruthless. Perhaps it should be my Lenten discipline to dispose of one book every day. That would get rid of 40 volumes, and it would be a start.

1 comment:

  1. It gives the saying 'more to a book than its cover' a whole new meaning. And I thought Solomon was all songs of love.....