Solomon’s Wisdom

Steven Bouma-Prediger

Read: 1 Kings 4:29-34

He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. (v. 33).

The rainforest was abuzz with birds. This early morning I and some friends were bird watching in a rainforest in Belize. I, the novice birder, was just barely finding one bird in my binoculars, while my friend Joe was already identifying three others. I was amazed and humbled and inspired to learn more.

Solomon is known for many things: his wealth, his wives, his wisdom. What often gets overlooked is his reported acumen as a naturalist. In this text we are told that Solomon spoke of birds and animals and reptiles and fish. And he spoke of trees, such as the cedar of Lebanon and the hyssop.

One hundred feet tall and nine feet wide, with a broad crown and horizontal branches like a white pine, a mature cedar of Lebanon could live to be more than 1,000 years old. A mighty, beautiful, long-living tree, the cedar of Lebanon was the giant sequoia of ancient Israel. It took your breath away. It was the Tree of trees.

The hyssop, by contrast, was a shrub, one to two feet high, with slender branches and small white flowers. Strongly aromatic, smelling like mint, hyssop branches were cut and used as brushes to sprinkle blood for the Passover sacrifice. Small and seemingly insignificant, the hyssop had an important place in Jewish religious practice.

Trees of grandeur and humility. God made them all. —Steven Bouma-Prediger

Prayer: God of wisdom, help us to learn more about, and learn from, your trees.