1 Kings 3


Solomon’s Great Wisdom (3:1-4:34)

Solomon Asks for Wisdom

      • Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, by marrying the Pharaoh’s daughter. He brought her to the city of David until he could finish building his house, Yahweh’s temple, and the wall around Jerusalem. At that time, the people were offering sacrifices at the high places because a temple for Yahweh’s name had not yet been built. Solomon showed his love for Yahweh by following the statutes of his father David, but he offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places.

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “The Hebrew verb (khatan), translated ‘made a marriage alliance’ in 1 Kings 3:1, is translated ‘intermarry’ in Deut 7:3, where the command not to marry foreigners is explicitly tied to a warning that such marriages will lead the people to serve other gods (Deut 7:4). This becomes all too real for Solomon (1 Kgs 11:3-4). Even though Solomon ‘loved the Lord’…he is a king with a divided heart, failing to keep the Law of Moses wholeheartedly as David had instructed (2:1-4).”

        • However, Guzik notes, “Marrying a foreign woman was not against the Law of Moses – if she became a convert to the God of Israel.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds some interesting context, “Among royal families, marriage was a common means of establishing political alliances and formalizing treaties. It was rare for Egypt to hold the weaker position, but such was the case at this time (the 21st Dynasty). The country was divided between two rival families, one ruling from Tanis in the north and the other from Thebes in the south. Scholars largely agree that the pharaoh mentioned here is Siamun (979-960 BC) of Lower Egypt, who sought to improve his political position by aligning himself with Israel, the new regional superpower. By marrying his daughter to Solomon, he gained a powerful ally on his northern border.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “…Apparently, Solomon had previously married the Ammonite Naamah (see 11:42-43 with 14:21).” On the City of David this source says, “This section of Jerusalem was the old Jebusite city in the southern portion of the eastern ridge. When Solomon extended his building activities northward, he built a special palace for Pharaoh’s daughter (7:8; 9:24; 2 Chr 8:11).”

        • On the high places, NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “Throughout their history, the people of Israel navigated the fine line between adapting local customs and preserving their distinctive religious and ethnic identity rooted in Yahweh. The comparison between Israelite worship atop the bamah (Hebrew word ‘high place’ vv.2-4) and that of Ugaritic, Canaanite, and Akkadian cultures illustrates this tension. When the Israelites entered the promised land, non-Israelite high places were to be destroyed (Nu 33:52; Dt 7:5), whereas Israelite ones would be tolerated until such time that the temple was completed. It seems that problems did not arise from the bamah itself, which was merely an enclosed, stepped platform for worship and sacrifice, but rather from the temptation to adopt local pagan belief and practice.”

      • The king went to offer sacrifices at Gibeon because it was the greatest of the high places. Solomon used to offer 1,000 sacrifices on that altar. One night at Gibeon Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream. God said, “Ask. What should I give you?” Solomon replied, “You have shown great and loyal love to my father, your servant David, because he walked before You in faithfulness, righteousness, and sincerity. You have maintained this great and loyal love for him by giving him a son to sit on his throne. O Yahweh, my God, You have made Your servant king in my father David’s place, but I’m a young man and don’t know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here in the midst of Your chosen people, a people too numerous to number or count. So give Your servant a listening heart so that I can judge Your people and distinguish between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

        • Why was Gibeon considered the greatest high place? Guzik notes, “What made it different was that the tabernacle was there, even though the ark of the covenant was in Jerusalem.”

        • Guzik continues, “This remarkable visitation from God happened in a dream. This is one of the more significant dreams in the Bible…God seemed to offer Solomon whatever he wanted…Before responding to God’s offer and asking for something, Solomon remembered God’s faithfulness to both David and now to Solomon himself.”

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “Solomon feels inadequate in view of the great task that confronts him. Although he has used wisdom before in dealing with affairs of state, now he confesses basic ignorance.”

        • What does Solomon mean by a “listening heart”? This portion of verse 9 is rendered in various ways, such as “understanding heart,” “understanding mind,” etc. But, Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges explains, “The participle rendered ‘understanding’ is literally ‘hearing,’ and the LXX. has paraphrased the clause thus: ‘a heart to hear and judge thy people in righteousness.’ But the hearing of the heart must refer to the following of the Divine guidance and promptings from within. That this was Solomon’s meaning seems certain, from the end of this verse ‘Who is able to judge this thy so great people?’ unless (that is) he have thy constant leading, and attend thereto?”


      • Yahweh was pleased that Solomon had made this request. So God said to him, “Because you have asked for this- the ability to make wise judgments- and not long life or wealth for yourself, or for the death of your enemies, I will grant your request. Look, I give to you a wise and discerning heart, superior to that of anyone who has come before you or who will come after you. In addition, I give to you what you didn’t ask for- both wealth and honor- so that no king will compare to you as long as you live. And if you will walk in My ways like your father David did, obeying My statutes and commandments, then I will give you a long life.”

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “…This wisdom is a supernatural gift from God. It is not innate (as it is implicitly in 1 Kings 2:6-9); and it is not acquired by patient hard work, utilizing careful observation and self-discipline (as it is explicitly in much of Proverbs and in 1 Kings 4:29-34). In the possession of such wisdom Solomon was unparalleled in Israelite history…”

        • Guzik says, “God was pleased by what Solomon asked for, in that he knew his great need for wisdom, discernment, and understanding. God was also pleased by what Solomon did not ask for, in that he did not ask for riches or fame or power for himself…God not only answered Solomon’s prayer, He also answered it beyond all expectation…Solomon wisely asked God regarding his character, not his possessions. What we are is more important than what we have.”

      • Then Solomon woke up and realized it was a dream. He went to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant, offered burnt and peace offerings, and held a feast for all his servants.

        • Guzik writes, “It was a dream, but it was at the same time also a message from God. God answered Solomon’s prayer and made him wise, powerful, rich, and influential. His reign was glorious for Israel.”

A Wise Ruling

      • Two prostitutes came before the king. One of the women said, “My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I gave birth to a baby while she was in the house and three days later she also gave birth to a baby. We were alone- there was no one else in the house other than the two of us. This woman’s baby died during the night because she rolled on top of him. She got up in the middle of the night, while your servant was asleep, took my son from beside me, she laid her dead son by my breast, and put my son by her breast. When I got up in the morning to nurse my son- he was dead! But that morning, when I examined him carefully, I realized that he was not my baby.” Then the other woman said, “No! The living baby is my son, the dead one is yours.” But the first woman argued, “No! Your baby is dead. My baby is alive.” So they argued before the king.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “While the law condemned prostitution (Lev 19:29; Deut 23:18), it still existed in ancient Israel. Though these women were of the most despised class of women in Israelite society, Solomon demonstrated his kindness and availability to all people by dealing justice to them as mothers, not as prostitutes.”

        • ESV Study Bible adds, “They stood before him because, in the absence of a second witness to corroborate their testimony (Deut 19:15), the normal legal procedures could not be followed. The Israelite king illustrated the highest court of appeal and was the foundation of all administration and justice.”

      • Then the king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive, and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead, and mine is alive.’ Bring me a sword.” So they brought the king a sword. Then he said, “Cut the living baby in two, and give half to one and half to the other.” Then the real mother of the living baby, deeply moved out of love for her son, said to the king, “Please my lord! Give her the living baby! Whatever you do, don’t kill him!” But the other woman said, “Cut him in two! Neither one of us will have him.” Then the king answered saying, “Don’t kill the baby. Give him to the first woman; she is his mother.” When all of Israel heard about the verdict the king had rendered, they stood in awe of him because they realized God’s wisdom was in him to carry out justice.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “One of the most important ways wisdom is demonstrated is in keen understanding of human nature. This is exactly what Solomon demonstrates here. The ideal king is also a fair and consistent judge, as Solomon is shown to be in this passage.”

        • Guzik says, “The true parental relationship was proved by love. The true mother would rather have the child live without her than to die with her. She put the child’s welfare above her own…Solomon knew that the offer to cut the child in two would reveal the true mother, and he rewarded the mother’s love accordingly.”

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