Why does the History Channel know so much?

Sunday night I visited one of our high school small groups. They have been talking about ancient texts that aren’t in the Bible. That night they were watching a History channel show about it, to spark the conversation. One of the stories on the show was about Solomon. Apparently, there’s a text that says Solomon could control demons and that he had such control over them that he commanded them as they built the foundation of the Temple. That text was well known enough, or was traditional enough, to be common knowledge back in Jesus’ day. He makes reference to Solomon’s demon controlling skill. It was really interesting; the guys in the group were engaged and it sparked a bit of excitment about Solomon.

Cool moment by itself but not particularly noteworthy. Yet.

One of the books I’m reading a little at a time is The Arabian Nights. There’s a story in there that’s one of the premier stories Scheherazade told the Sultan-The History of the Fisherman. The fisherman happens to be having a really lousy day at the shore. Every time he throws his nets in he gets a heavy load and is excited that he may have a great haul of fish this time. Each time he’s let down. There’s always something there but it’s the carcass of an ass or a basket full of mud. Never anything of worth. On the fourth try, his last try of the day, just after sunrise he hauls in a big vase with a lead stopper in the top that has a seal on it. He’s interested because it just might have something in it that he can sell to buy some corn for his family. Since it’s sealed, he doesn’t know if what’s there is valuable. He shakes the vase (what all good gift guessers do), and hears nothing. The Fisherman decides he has to pry off the lead stopper and try to dump out whatever is in this vase. The stopper comes out easily and he turns the vase upside down. Still nothing. So, he flips it back over and sets it down. A dark smoke begins to rise out of the vase. So dark that the Fisherman takes a few steps back. The smoke continues to rise and then collects itself into a form- a huge genie twice the size of a giant. The Fisherman is so terrified that he is frozen to the spot. The Genie speaks:

“‘Solomon, Solomon’ cried the Genie, ‘great prophet of Allah, pardon, I beseech thee. I will never more oppose thy will but will obey all thy commands.'”

Whoa.

So, it’s Biblical and Islamic tradition that Solomon was a maestro of demons. Regardless of what the reality was for Solomon, it confirms that this background story/myth/legend was common knowledge and commonly believed to be possible. Although, maybe they would be superstitious enough to half-believe it?

The whole thing leaves me wondering about who Solomon was, how much of this backstory is true, how much is worth retelling, why it would have surfaced at this time and, ultimately, why it is that the History Channel can make us think and wonder about our Bible and our faith, when our churches are struggling to do the same.

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