20 The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. 21 And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life.
22 Solomon’s daily provisions were five tons of the finest flour and ten tens of meal, 23 ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl.
25 During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree. 26 Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses.
27 The district governors, each in his month, supplied provisions for King Solomon and all who came to the king’s table. They saw to it that nothing was lacking. 28 They also brought to the proper place their quotas of barley and straw for the chariot horses and the other horses.
1 KINGS 4:20-23, 25-28
Nowadays, the words ‘seasonal food’ do not indicate products that are ‘in season’, but are a marketing designating a section of the supermarket for Halloween sweeties, Christmas cakes, Easter eggs, Mothering Sunday flowers, Father’s Day real ale, Valentine’s Day chocolates or New Year champagne.
Sadly, most of our festive seasons have been converted into opportunities to consume extra chocolate and alcohol and, in the case of Halloween, supermarkets and other retailers have done a disgraceful job of glorifying that which is evil.
For King Solomon, each day, his large entourage of courtiers, servants, soldiers and huntsmen got through thousands off litres of flour. There was plenty of meat on the tables and acres of space on which the annual requirement of 3,610 oxen, 36,500 sheep and 7,200 cattle might roam. Even if some of these figures are exaggerated, we get a sense of an expensive, large-scale operation that could only really be sustained in peace-time. High and varied demand and supply can be met only where trade and resources are secure. Solomon, like us, lived in relative security and peace. He ensured that his people were well fed, and thus presided over one of the greatest periods of prosperity in their history.
Solomon seems wealthy and generous, spending all this money on his people. Yet his money came from them and they effectively permitted him to be so generous. They liked living well, so the relationship between leader and people flourished. Leaders who keep the table full are invariably popular, whether elected or not. Economic prosperity prevents revolutions and wins votes whereas poverty and starvation breed unrest, bloodshed and insecurity.
Lord God, grant that all your people may live in prosperity and peace, ever mindful of your goodness towards us revealed in creation and incarnation. Amen