King Solomon's Game of Chess
One afternoon their chess game was nearing its inevitable conclusion of yet another checkmate by King Solomon, when their attention was suddenly interrupted by a heated argument that was taking place in the street below. Solomon walked briefly to the window to observe this argument, but while he was away Benaiah cunningly removed one of Solomon’s knights from the board and placed it with his captured pieces. When the game resumed King Solomon’s strategy of checkmating his opponent could no longer be implemented, so he lost the game to his general. Benaiah was jubilant at winning his first victory, but Solomon was troubled, as he did not believe that anyone could beat him at chess. After Benaiah had left the room Solomon went through the final sequence of moves in his mind, then he repositioned the pieces on the chessboard to re-enact the end game. Now Solomon clearly perceived that one of his knights had been removed from the board, and realized that Benaiah could only have taken this knight when he went to look out of the window.
This act of deception worried Solomon. He did not like to think that his chief minister would cheat against him, nor did he like to suspect him. And yet, whichever way he looked at it, he could not get away from the fact that Benaiah had deliberately removed his knight in order to win. Solomon decided not to directly challenge Benaiah with this accusation, but to discover a ruse whereby his minister would admit to cheating of his own accord. For several weeks Solomon brooded over this event. He played no more games of chess with Benaiah, and he suffered from depression.
Then late one night Solomon was lying awake in his bedroom when he saw two robbers stealthily creeping along one of the palace’s balconies. He quickly got out of bed, dressed himself in the clothes of a servant, and silently slipped from his room in order to confront the robbers.
“Wait friends,” he whispered as he reached the robbers: “I am a servant who works in this palace. For a long time I have been planning to rob the king, but I realized that I could only do this with some outside help from accomplices. The palace guards would search my room and I would almost certainly be caught. But you two can take the stolen objects outside of the palace walls and hide them. Why don’t we join forces? I know my way around the palace, and I also have a set of duplicate keys.”
The robbers were both relieved and delighted to receive this information, so they readily agreed to join forces with the disguised king. Solomon led them through the rooms of the palace to the door of his treasury, and when he unlocked this door the robbers began to tremble with excitement at the sight of the vast wealth of gold, silver, jewels and other treasures stored there.
“Quickly,” whispered Solomon: “Fill your bags, while I keep watch outside the door.”
Solomon then slammed the door on the robbers, locking them in. Then he summoned his guards, telling them to keep watch over his treasury throughout the night in case the robbers tried to escape.
Early the next morning King Solomon summoned his ministers to council, and said: “I would like you all to sit in judgment upon an important matter. What punishment should be inflicted on a person who has stolen something from the king?”
When Benaiah heard these words he began to tremble, and thought: ‘Solomon knows that I cheated at chess by removing his knight from the board. If I remain silent the council will pass sentence upon me. So I had better confess and beg for the king’s mercy.’
Benaiah then threw himself at the feet of Solomon, saying: “My Lord. I confess that I am a thief. I took your knight from the board while you were looking out of the window the other week. I beg for your mercy and forgiveness.”
King Solomon smiled when he heard this, and said: “My dear Benaiah, this case is not about you. It is about two thieves who are at this very moment locked in the treasury under guard. I know that you removed my knight and won that game by cheating, but I forgive you for this. It is not you who are on trial right now.”
The council then passed judgement that the two thieves should hang. King Solomon’s depression lifted, and he resolved that he now had to find another skilful opponent, for Benaiah could never play against him again with a true determination to win.