Bible Commentary: 1 Kings 3 and Related

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1 Kings 3 and Related

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Solomon Requests Wisdom

The Egyptian pharaoh gives his daughter in marriage to Solomon, cementing an alliance between Egypt and Israel. "In the ancient Middle East, political alliances were often ratified by the marriage of the son of one king to the daughter of another" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 1 Kings 3:1 1 Kings 3:1And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.
American King James Version×
). Yet this case is remarkable in two respects. First: "Except in unusual circumstances, the pharaohs of Egypt did not observe this custom (but see 1 Chronicles 4:17-18). Therefore, the giving of Pharaoh's daughter to Solomon attested to the Israelite king's growing prestige and importance to the Egyptian king" (same note). Second: The pharaoh is the one giving his daughter to a foreign ruler along with a dowry, making Solomon appear to be the senior partner in the alliance. It is perhaps even likely that the pharaoh is the one who first proposed the alliance and marriage, rather than it being something Solomon sought. In any case, as part of the dowry, the pharaoh gives Solomon a captured, albeit destroyed, city of the Canaanites located near the Philistine border, which Solomon rebuilds as a fortress city (1 Kings 9:15-17 1 Kings 9:15-17 [15] And this is the reason of the levy which king Solomon raised; for to build the house of the LORD, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer. [16] For Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up, and taken Gezer, and burnt it with fire, and slain the Canaanites that dwelled in the city, and given it for a present to his daughter, Solomon's wife. [17] And Solomon built Gezer, and Bethhoron the nether,
American King James Version×
). Solomon provides well for Pharaoh's daughter, building a special house for her patterned after his own (1 Kings 3:1 1 Kings 3:1And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.
American King James Version×
; 1 Kings 7:8 1 Kings 7:8And his house where he dwelled had another court within the porch, which was of the like work. Solomon made also an house for Pharaoh's daughter, whom he had taken to wife, like to this porch.
American King James Version×
; 1 Kings 9:24 1 Kings 9:24But Pharaoh's daughter came up out of the city of David to her house which Solomon had built for her: then did he build Millo.
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).

Consider what this development means as far as Solomon's power and prestige is concerned. The image of Israel as an insignificant nation in the time of David and Solomon is simply incorrect. David was already allied with King Hiram of Tyre, the ruler of the Phoenician Empire, which dominated ancient maritime commerce (2 Samuel 5:11-12 2 Samuel 5:11-12 [11] And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons: and they built David an house. [12] And David perceived that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake.
American King James Version×
). This close alliance continues under Solomon (1 Kings 5:1 1 Kings 5:1And Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon; for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the room of his father: for Hiram was ever a lover of David.
American King James Version×
). Assyria remains weak and subdued at this time, David apparently even achieving dominance over the powers of Mesopotamia (see highlights on 1 Chronicles 19 and 2 Samuel 10). And now Egypt, the other great power of the ancient world, joins the Israel-Phoenician alliance—with Solomon apparently sitting as the dominant figure among the partners. This is rather astonishing. And the true greatness of Solomon's reign has not even been experienced as of this point in the story flow.

We next see the point made that the people sacrificed at high places (1 Kings 3:2 1 Kings 3:2Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built to the name of the LORD, until those days.
American King James Version×
). While this originally denoted hilltop shrines, it eventually became a generic term for any place of worship. Since the destruction of Shiloh and the separation of the tabernacle and the ark, and until the temple was built at Jerusalem, no single established place of worship existed. So multiple sites were employed for sacrificing and burning incense—perhaps even some formerly pagan worship places.

Indication that the current practice of the people was not acceptable is found in 1 Kings 3:3 1 Kings 3:3And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.
American King James Version×
, where we are told that Solomon "loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places." Still, Solomon's overall attitude at this time was one of seeking and obeying God. (It should be noted that later righteous kings of Judah allowed such high places to remain—apparently not understanding the problem with them.)

The chief high place—that is, the main worship center—was now at Gibeon, since that is where the tabernacle and original bronze altar were currently located (1 Kings 3:2-4 1 Kings 3:2-4 [2] Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built to the name of the LORD, until those days. [3] And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. [4] And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer on that altar.
American King James Version×
; 2 Chronicles 1:3-6 2 Chronicles 1:3-6 [3] So Solomon, and all the congregation with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon; for there was the tabernacle of the congregation of God, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness. [4] But the ark of God had David brought up from Kirjathjearim to the place which David had prepared for it: for he had pitched a tent for it at Jerusalem. [5] Moreover the brazen altar, that Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, he put before the tabernacle of the LORD: and Solomon and the congregation sought to it. [6] And Solomon went up thither to the brazen altar before the LORD, which was at the tabernacle of the congregation, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.
American King James Version×
). Clearly this was an acceptable place of worship. Solomon goes there often in his early years as king to worship God. At one such visit, God appears to him in a dream and offers to grant him whatever he wants. Solomon focuses on the immense task of governing the people, and has the humility and sense, thanks to his father David's instructions (compare 1 Chronicles 22:12 1 Chronicles 22:12Only the LORD give you wisdom and understanding, and give you charge concerning Israel, that you may keep the law of the LORD your God.
American King James Version×
; Proverbs 4:3-9 Proverbs 4:3-9 [3] For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. [4] He taught me also, and said to me, Let your heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. [5] Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. [6] Forsake her not, and she shall preserve you: love her, and she shall keep you. [7] Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all your getting get understanding. [8] Exalt her, and she shall promote you: she shall bring you to honor, when you do embrace her. [9] She shall give to your head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to you.
American King James Version×
), to ask for wisdom, knowledge and an understanding heart to carry out his responsibilities in governing God's people (2 Chronicles 1:10 2 Chronicles 1:10Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this your people, that is so great?
American King James Version×
; 1 Kings 3:9 1 Kings 3:9Give therefore your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this your so great a people?
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).

David would have preferred Solomon's focus be on acquiring the understanding and wisdom to remain faithful in keeping God's laws (1 Kings 2:3 1 Kings 2:3And keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do, and wherever you turn yourself:
American King James Version×
; 1 Chronicles 22:12-13 1 Chronicles 22:12-13 [12] Only the LORD give you wisdom and understanding, and give you charge concerning Israel, that you may keep the law of the LORD your God. [13] Then shall you prosper, if you take heed to fulfill the statutes and judgments which the LORD charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed.
American King James Version×
; 1 Chronicles 28:7-9 1 Chronicles 28:7-9 [7] Moreover I will establish his kingdom for ever, if he be constant to do my commandments and my judgments, as at this day. [8] Now therefore in the sight of all Israel the congregation of the LORD, and in the audience of our God, keep and seek for all the commandments of the LORD your God: that you may possess this good land, and leave it for an inheritance for your children after you for ever. [9] And you, Solomon my son, know you the God of your father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts: if you seek him, he will be found of you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off for ever.
American King James Version×
; 1 Chronicles 29:19 1 Chronicles 29:19And give to Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, and to do all these things, and to build the palace, for the which I have made provision.
American King James Version×
). It is not enough to judge righteously. A leader must be righteous himself. Nevertheless, God is impressed with Solomon's unselfish request at this point, and not only grants him knowledge and wisdom, but also the tremendous riches and honor he could have asked for. And if he should continue in God's way, he would also be granted a long life (1 Kings 3:14 1 Kings 3:14And if you will walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as your father David did walk, then I will lengthen your days.
American King James Version×
).

An example of the wisdom to judge that God granted the king is shown in the case of the two prostitutes and the baby, a case still famous even among those with little biblical knowledge.


Supplementary Reading: "King Solomon's Reign--Israel's Golden Years”, Good News Magazine, March--April 1998, pp. 24-27.

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