"I’m beside myself, Doc. I feel as though I’m being pulled several different directions at once. Affairs of state are going haywire, what with Hadad railing against me from the south and Rezon from the north. And there are divisions within my ranks, from one of my own commanders, yet! I’m trying to groom my son Rehoboam to take the throne, but there are many contenders for the title—including that bratty half-brother of mine, Adonijah, at one time. Plus hundreds of wives, wanting my attention all at once. I’m only one man, Doc! What do I do?"
The doctor nods, taking silent notes. "Being king over all Israel does take its toll."
"Not on me. They call me the wisest king who ever lived, so I should be able to think logically and reason my way through this. But I can’t. As the Lord lives, I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. You’d think that someone with my massive wealth and influence could come up with some solution, but it escapes me, Doc!"
"Mm-hm." Thoughtfully he scratches on the scroll. "Tell me … when do you think this trouble started?"
Solomon thinks for a moment. "Oh … I was always being picked on, I suppose. Especially by Adonijah when we were boys—the big bully! Always thinking he had better ideas than me. He would tease me ruthlessly about the affair Mother and Father had before I was born, as though I had something to do with it. Absalom, he was always preening in front of his reflection. Amnon was girl crazy. And a dozen mothers, always ready to take their own children’s side. No one cared about me."
"How did that make you feel?"
"Rejected. An outcast. Insecure. I suppose that’s why I felt so unsure of myself when Father called me in to discuss his plans for the Temple. You have seen the Temple, haven’t you?"
The doctor nods. "A fine piece of architecture."
"But it’s not mine! They call it by my name because I engineered it, but Father was the real architect. I just followed the plan. God granted me both wealth and wisdom, so I guess that’s how I got through it, but I’ve always felt insecure. Amnon said I needed to get married, so I started making treaties with all the nations around me, taking their princesses as part of the deal." His eyes drop. "But I must confess … I never really loved them. None of them. We’d have our wedding night, and that was it. I was always too busy to pursue it further."
"Were you EVER in love?"
The king’s eyes shine dreamily. "Oh, yes … once. A country girl. She’d had a rough childhood too, just like me, so we hit it off right away. The love of my life … so sweet … and that body. What a knockout body! It would be such a shame to waste all that, slaving away in a vineyard. Don’t you think?"
"What do you think?"
"I think yes, it would be such a shame. And she loved me too, as long as I paid most of my attention to her. I’ve always considered her the true queen above all others."
"But you did have other wives at the time?"
"Oh … about a hundred … hundred and fifty, I think. But she was the one I truly loved, and she knew it."
"I seem to recall something you wrote some time back. Um …" He raised his eyes to remember. "‘Rejoice in the wife of your youth’?* … ‘May her breasts satisfy you always** …’?"
Solomon frowns. "I was talking about marriage versus harlotry at the time." Abruptly he stands. "Thank you for your time, Doc. I don’t think you can help me."
"Where are you going? You’ve talked about all your siblings, all your wealth, all your wives. Maybe if you cut back …"
"No, Doc. Thanks for listening."
On his way out, Solomon pauses and faces the doctor again. "Have you ever gotten the impression that everything in life is vain and useless?" With that he turns morosely and leaves.
Studying his notes, the doctor purses his lips thoughtfully. He shakes his head and puts the scroll away.