Since pencils were invented about five hundred years ago they have needed regular sharpening. For most of this period, sharpening was accomplished by a person wielding a knife and whittling away the wood to uncover more of the graphite core. Finally, in the 19th century, people began trying to build a mechanical pencil sharpener that would require no skill to operate and that would deliver consistently sharp pencil points.
The earliest were clumsy contraptions attempting to mimic the reciprocal movement of a hand holding a blade. It finally dawned on inventors that they were not trying to build a duplicate of a human sharpening a pencil; they were trying to build a better way of sharpening a pencil. And they did. What they came up with was the now-familiar device into which you insert your pencil and which contains two or three helical cylindrical cutters that rotate about the pencil when the handle is turned.
The first versions of many inventions like the tractor, sewing machine, and airplane all failed because their inventors remained locked into the old way of doing things. Subsequent versions succeeded as innovators discarded the old visions opening their minds to solving the problem rather than merely improving the old system.
We’re all susceptible to the trap of not being open to entirely new and revolutionary ways of solving problems. Do I really need a full-time secretary and an office in which to house her or could I use a virtual assistant? Do I really need a car or could I make do with Uber? Let’s see how even the smartest man in the world, King Solomon, slipped up by clinging to an old model.
Any king of Israel is prohibited from doing three things: He may not acquire a large number of horses. He may not marry many wives. He may not acquire much silver and gold. Here is the relevant Biblical text:
When you come to the land the Lord, your God, is giving you…you shall choose a king…he may not acquire many horses for himself…and he shall not take many wives for himself…and he shall not acquire much silver and gold…
God blessed King Solomon with wisdom (I Kings 5:26) so he certainly knew the above few verses, yet…
And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses
(I Kings 5:6)
King Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to the daughter of Pharaoh…and he had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines…
(I Kings 11:1,3)
And the weight of gold that came to Solomon every year was 666 kikars of gold…
(II Chronicles 9:13)
How is it possible that the great King Solomon stumbled over precisely the three restrictions that God placed over kings?
An unexpected sequence of facts provides us with a clue.
And Solomon became a son-in-law to Pharaoh king of Egypt by taking Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David…
(I Kings 3:1)
Only later do we read:
And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father…
(I Kings 3:3)
Shouldn’t Chapter 3 have rather begun with the information that Solomon loved the Lord? Instead it first tells us of his entanglement with the daughter of a nation that enslaved Israel and which Israel is repeatedly admonished to spurn.
It’s even worse than we suspected. While building his palace he naturally would have built quarters for all his wives. It is an ominous sign that he singled out Pharaoh’s daughter by building her special accommodations.
And his house in which he would dwell, was in the other court within the porch…and the house he made for Pharaoh’s daughter…was like this porch.
(I Kings 7:8)
While we are told very little about Solomon’s many other wives, this we know:
Pharaoh’s daughter came up from the City of David to her house,
which Solomon had built for her…
(I Kings 9:24)
Notice that she is never named. Instead she is constantly referred to as Pharaoh’s daughter. This is yet another sinister suggestion: she remained more deeply connected to Pharaoh than to her husband. Sure enough, here’s a piece of news that confirms just that:
Pharaoh, king of Egypt conquered Gezer and burnt it with fire,
and slayed the Canaanites who inhabited the city;
and he gave it as a gift to his daughter, Solomon’s wife.
(I Kings 9:16)
Pharaoh didn’t gift the city of Gezer to his son-in-law but to his daughter.
Clearly, Egypt and its leader had a channel of communication right into the heart of Israel’s governmental administration. Equally clearly, Solomon’s connection to his Egyptian wife was not personal and romantic as much as it was philosophical and political.
Solomon was hoping to build a Godly empire. He planned an entire God-centric nation, sculpted to a Biblical vision and governed according to Godly principles emanating from a grand temple in Jerusalem. At that time of history, approximately the mid-10th century BC, Egypt provided the closest model of a large empire. Instead of envisaging something entirely new and fresh, Solomon was seduced into trying to redesign the Egyptian civic and royal model into his Godly society. Hence the baleful presence of Egypt in Solomon’s administration in the form of his wife, Pharaoh’s daughter. Not surprisingly, his kingdom was doomed.
It turned out that a mechanical bird didn’t need flapping wings—it needed a propeller.
One’s marriage doesn’t have to be based on one’s parents’. It might be something completely new and vastly superior. If our parents’ relationship with money was unhealthy, we don’t need to tinker with their behavior patterns but to abandon them. When the model is wrong, and certainly when it contradicts God’s instructions, we must unshackle ourselves from the existing paradigm and be willing to break with what we know and create different templates.