1 Kings 3 Commentary: Solomon’s Wisdom and Leadership Exemplified

1 Kings 3 Commentary

1 Kings 3 explores the early reign of Solomon, a pivotal figure in biblical history known for his wisdom and complex leadership. This chapter captures a transformative period marked by significant political alliances and profound spiritual encounters and introduces Solomon’s strategic marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter, reflecting the intricate balance of political savvy and religious adherence.

The chapter is perhaps most famous for the account of Solomon’s dream, where he is granted exceptional wisdom by God – a defining moment that shapes his legacy.

1 Kings 3:1-4, Solomon’s Political Alliances and Worship Practices

Solomon’s early reign was marked by strategic political alliances, notably through his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter. This alliance with Egypt, a powerful neighboring nation, was significant, indicating both political acumen and a departure from traditional Israelite practices.

Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the Lord and the wall around Jerusalem.

1 Kings 3:1, ESV

His decision to marry Pharaoh’s daughter, while politically astute, raises questions about adherence to the Law, which cautioned against such foreign alliances and marriages, potentially leading Israel away from God.

In addition to his political maneuvers, Solomon’s religious practices are highlighted. He and the people worshiped at high places, significant religious sites on elevated ground, which were common before the construction of the Temple.

The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the Lord.

Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.

1 Kings 3:2-4, ESV

While high places were not inherently wrong, they later became associated with idolatrous practices. At this time, however, the central temple in Jerusalem had not yet been built, rendering these sites important for worship. Solomon’s offering of a thousand burnt offerings at Gibeon, a major high place, underscores his devotion, yet foreshadows complexities in his religious commitments.

1 Kings 3:5-15, Solomon’s Dream and Request for Wisdom

The narrative shifts to a pivotal moment in Solomon’s life: his encounter with God in a dream at Gibeon. Here, God’s direct communication with Solomon marks a significant divine endorsement and interaction, setting the stage for Solomon’s request.

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.”

1 Kings 3:5, ESV

God’s offer to Solomon – “Ask what I shall give you” – is an extraordinary moment, presenting Solomon with an almost limitless array of choices. Solomon’s response reveals much about his character and priorities.

And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

1 Kings 3:6-9, ESV

Solomon’s request for an “understanding mind” to govern and discern between good and evil demonstrates humility and a recognition of the immense responsibility of kingship. His request focuses not on personal enrichment or power but on the wisdom to lead God’s people justly.

God’s response to Solomon’s request is overwhelmingly positive. God not only grants him unparalleled wisdom but also riches and honor, with the additional promise of a long life contingent on Solomon’s faithfulness.

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

1 Kings 3:10-14, ESV

This section not only emphasizes God’s generosity but also sets a precedent for how God values and rewards the desire for wisdom and understanding above material gains.

1 Kings 3:16-28, Solomon’s Wise Judgment Between Two Women

This well-known story of Solomon’s judgment between two women, each claiming a baby as her own, is a practical demonstration of the wisdom God granted him. The narrative showcases Solomon’s discernment and ability to administer justice effectively.

Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.” But the other woman said, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.” Thus they spoke before the king.

1 Kings 3:16-22, ESV

The initial presentation of the case to Solomon is filled with drama and emotion, with both women passionately arguing their case. Solomon’s response to this seemingly impossible situation is a masterclass in wisdom and understanding of human nature.

Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’” And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.”

1 Kings 3:23-27, ESV

Solomon’s proposed solution – to divide the living child – seems shocking, but it’s a strategic maneuver to reveal the true mother’s identity. His understanding of a mother’s love, which would prefer to lose her child than see him harmed, leads to the revelation of the truth.

The final verses of this section not only resolve the case but also establish Solomon’s reputation as a wise and discerning ruler. His wisdom, given by God, becomes known and revered throughout Israel.

And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.

1 Kings 3:28, ESV

This story, while specific in its details, broadly illustrates the effectiveness of Solomon’s rule and the divine wisdom that underpins it. It also serves as a reminder of the importance of justice and discernment in leadership.

Practical Applications of 1 Kings 3

1 Kings 3 can offer valuable lessons on wisdom, discernment, and justice that can be applied to our daily lives. Here are some practical applications to consider:

  • Reflect on your own desires: Like Solomon, take some time to reflect on what you truly desire and why. What motivates your desires? Are they aligned with God’s will?
  • Ask for wisdom: Follow Solomon’s example and ask God for wisdom. Make it a regular prayer to seek His guidance and understanding in your decisions and actions.
  • Practice discernment: The story of the two women and the baby demonstrates the importance of discernment. When faced with difficult decisions, take time to seek God’s wisdom and guidance.
  • Act with justice: Solomon’s judgment in the baby case reveals his commitment to justice. As we seek to follow God’s will, let us act with fairness and justice in our relationships and interactions with others.
  • Reflect on the broader themes: Consider the broader themes of wisdom, discernment, and justice present in 1 Kings 3. Reflect on how these themes relate to your own life and experiences.
  • Study and reflect: Use this study guide as a starting point to dive deeper into 1 Kings 3. Take time to study and reflect on the chapter, using the questions and prompts to guide your thinking.
  • Apply the lessons: Finally, apply the lessons of 1 Kings 3 to your life. Seek opportunities to act with wisdom, seek discernment, and practice justice in your relationships and interactions with others.

By following these practical applications, we can integrate the lessons of 1 Kings 3 into our daily lives and grow in faith and understanding.