The Extraordinary Wisdom of Solomon (1 Kings 3)

Scripture reading – 1 Kings 3

Our chronological reading of the Scripture brings us to 1 Kings 3. Solomon, following his father’s death, moved swiftly to shore up his throne and position himself as the King of Israel (1 Kings 2). Following the pattern of the kings of other nations, Solomon took a daughter of Pharaoh as his wife, and by marriage broached peace with Egypt (3:1a). He also began a campaign of construction projects that included his palace, the Temple, and the city walls of Jerusalem (3:1b).

Without the Temple, there was not yet a central place of worship and sacrifices in Israel (3:2). Like the people, Solomon offered sacrifices in “high places, because there was no house [Temple] built unto the name of the Lord, until those days” (3:3). We read, “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes [laws, precepts] of David his father: only he [Solomon] sacrificed and burnt incense in high places” (3:4). Among the places Solomon offered sacrifices was Gibeon, where the ancient tabernacle and altar from the wilderness years was located (3:4).

It was at Gibeon that “the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee” (3:5).

Of all Solomon might have requested (i.e., riches, possessions, and power), the young king requested that the LORD would grant him wisdom and discernment beyond his youth and experience (3:6-9). Confessing his inadequacy, and need of discernment, knowing he would face an extraordinary challenge to rule the people God had chosen, Solomon requested of the Lord this petition: “an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” (3:9)

Solomon’s request for wisdom “pleased the Lord” (3:10), and He granted him not only his request, but also all that he had not requested, “both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days” (3:13).

The Lord also offered Solomon that which he had not requested, a long life (3:14).

The promise of a lengthy life came with a condition: “If thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days” (3:14). Though wiser than any king or leader before or after him, Solomon would fail to obey the law and commandments that had characterized his father’s life, and upon his death Israel would be divided (1 Kings 11:1-11).

Awaking from his dream, Solomon left Gibeon and returned to Jerusalem where he “stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants” (3:15).

Testing Solomon’s Wisdom (3:16-28)

The first public test of Solomon’s extraordinary wisdom was a case brought to him by two disreputable women whose trade was harlotry (3:16). The women came before the king, representing themselves, and their plight. They lived within the same house, and were mothers of newborn children (3:17). One mother had, in her sleep, inadvertently smothered her child and it died (3:19). Waking from her sleep, she realized her child was dead, and determined to take the other woman’s child (3:20). Placing her own lifeless child in the bosom of the other woman, her deception went undiscovered until the light of the next morning (3:21).

The guilty woman protested her innocence, and claimed the child in her arms was her own (3:22). Because there was no witness (3:18), the decision of who was the mother of the living child fell to Solomon (3:23-28).

Summing up his understanding of the case (3:23), and testing the sincerity of the women that stood before his throne, Solomon demanded a sword be brought to him, and commanded saying, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other” (3:24-25). The one who was not the mother of the living child did not protest the command; however, the real mother protested and was willing to give the child up, forfeiting her rightful claim to be the mother (3:26).

Solomon had revealed his wisdom and discernment before the people, and the people “feared [and revered] the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment” (3:28).

Closing thoughts – Why did the people fear and revere Solomon?

They recognized in him the divine gift of discernment that they attributed to “the wisdom of God” (3:28). They realized the king, though young, was able to discern honesty and dishonesty, sincerity and lies.

Lesson – Spiritual wisdom, and discernment is given to those who walk in the light of God’s Truth; such men and women are beloved by the saints, and feared by sinners.

Ecclesiastes 7:1919Wisdom strengtheneth [prevails; is mighty] the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.

Ecclesiastes 9:18a – “18Wisdom is better than weapons of war…”

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith