Sheltering under the thorn bush

Ashley Beck

Churches are commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.? Ashley Beck questions this in the light of Catholic teaching and history. He is Assistant Priest of Beckenham in south London and a lecturer in Pastoral Ministry at St Mary?s University College, Twickenham.

The wisdom of Solomon?
As I write in February 2012, Britain has just marked the sixtieth anniversary of the accession to the throne of Elizabeth II. By chance this week?s Mass readings have told the story of King Solomon in 1 Kings, a figure of wisdom, famous for building the first Temple in Jerusalem ? presumably that is why the Bishops of England and Wales have asked that at one Mass on Trinity Sunday in June the first reading should be replaced by Solomon?s prayer for wisdom (I Kings 3.11-14)1. We are being invited to identify the Queen with Solomon in his wisdom, and in all his glory.?

There is just one problem: Solomon ends his life as a deeply flawed figure. He sets up shrines to Canaanite deities; God?s punishment is to divide his great kingdom.? Indeed, in the Old Testament monarchy is a very ambivalent institution, reflecting differing and contradictory traditions: the thorn bush parable in Judges (9.6-152) and Samuel?s warning to the people about wanting a king (1 Samuel 8.5-183) are very negative about kingship.

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