WISDOM MUST BE FOUNDATIONAL FOR GOVERNING GOD’S PEOPLE IN SECURITY AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
The foundation for Solomon’s reign is going to be its defining characteristic = Wisdom or Discernment. The ability to make righteous judgments in complex situations is a gift from God. It is to Solomon’s credit that he valued this gift over any type of personal exaltation or prosperity. He humbly confesses his inadequacy to effectively govern God’s elect people apart from this gift. He praises God for His faithfulness to his father David. He demonstrates a love for the Lord that will be compromised later in life as his wives and possessions corrupt his heart. But at the outset of his reign he seems positioned for governmental success and divine blessing. The proof of his wisdom comes by way of his bold solution to the convoluted dispute between the two harlots over the dead baby.
William Sanford LaSor: Solomon’s reign can be evaluated politically and spiritually. Politically, it is splendid. Spiritually, it deteriorates into idolatry. For some strange reason, Christian literature has idealized Solomon so that he hardly resembles the scriptural portrait.
Todd Stiles: We’re going to see that wisdom comes from God, is perfectly personified in the Son of God, and is available to the people of God to keep us from compromising our walk with God.
I. (:1-15) THE PETITION FOR WISDOM
A. (:1-4) The Road Leading to the Request
1. (:1) Consolidating the Kingdom via Political Alliances
“Then Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her to the city of David, until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem.”
This resulted in some complex political situations that required diplomatic skill and discernment.
Edersheim: Such a union was not forbidden by the law [which only forbade alliance with the Canaanites (Exod 34:16; Deut 7:3)], nor was the daughter of Pharaoh apparently implicated in the charge brought against Solomon’s other foreign wives of having led him into idolatry (1 Kings xi. 1-7). In fact, according to Jewish tradition, the daughter of Pharaoh actually became a Jewish proselyte. Still, Solomon seems to have felt the incongruity of bringing her into the palace of David, within the bounds of which “the Ark of the Lord” appears to have been located (2 Chron viii. 11), and she occupied a temporary abode “in the city of David,” until the new palace of Solomon was ready for her reception.
Constable: At this time Israel was stronger than Egypt.
“That this is the case is clear from his [probably Pharaoh Siamun’s, 978-959 B.C.] willingness to provide his own daughter as a wife for Solomon, a concession almost without parallel in Egyptian history since it was a candid admission to the world of Egypt’s weakness and conciliation. Normally Egyptian kings took foreign princesses but did not give up their own daughters to foreign kings.” [Eugene Merrill]
There is much evidence of the immense influence and prestige that Solomon enjoyed in his day. Solomon housed his bride in the City of David until he completed a special palace for her nearby (7:8).
2. (:2) Cultural Compromises
“The people were still sacrificing on the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the LORD until those days.”
Discernment was needed to guard against destructive syncretistic practices that would undermine genuine worship.
Brian Bell: During the period of the Judges, the Israelites adopted the Canaanite custom of offering sacrifices at…high places. These were on hilltops and other elevations. The pagan Canaanites felt that the closer they got to heaven the more likely was the possibility that their prayers and offerings would reach their gods.
R. D. Patterson: There were two basic problems with them:
(1) they detracted from the principle of the central sanctuary (Deut 12:1-14); and
(2) since worship at high places was a Canaanite custom, syncretism was not only a very real danger but an all too common occurrence.
Israel was specifically forbidden to utilize pagan high places and altars (Deut 12:2-4, 13) and as soon as God had established his people in the Land of Promise, they were to worship at a sanctuary in the place appointed by God.
3. (:3) Commitment to the Lord
“Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.”
Lange: He loved the Lord. This is the best and greatest thing that can be said of a man. So, everyone who loves the world, has not in him the love of the Father: this is only where God is loved above all things, His word observed, and His commandments fulfilled with joy and delight (1 John 2:5, 15; 5:3). Happy is he who, to the question of the Lord: Lovest thou me can return the answer of Peter (John 21:17). Because Solomon loved the Lord he honored also his father, and walked in his ways. The want of filial piety in our day comes from want of love to the Lord.
Note word “except” – good indication that this practice of Solomon was inconsistent with his love for the Lord
Ron Daniel: What were the high places? They were areas up on hills or mountains in which the Canaanites worshiped their false gods (Num 22:41). These sites typically had altars, idols, buildings, and symbols of stone and wood. Of course, God hated the pagans’ high places (Lev 26:30; Num 33:52; Deut 33:29), but it apparently was a common compromise among the Israelites to sacrifice on the high places. Even the prophet Samuel sacrificed on the high places (1Sam 9:14).
We have a tendency to think that just because something is common among believers, it must be all right. We think that as long as there are some Christians that do this or that we must be on solid ground with that practice or behavior. But sin is certainly sin, regardless of how many people are doing it.
Another thing that can throw us is the fact that God in His grace will speak or minister to us while we are involved in that practice or behavior. When that happens, we begin to think that it’s actually the right place to be, since God met us there. But again, even though God is gracious and meets us where we’re at, sin is sin.
4. (:4) Centralized Worship
“And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.”
B. (:5-14) The Request for Wisdom (Discernment)
1. (:5) Ask Away
“In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night;
and God said, ‘Ask what you wish me to give you.’”
Guzik: This was an amazing promise. God seemed to offer Solomon whatever he wanted. This wasn’t only because Solomon sacrificed 1,000 animals; it was because his heart was surrendered to God, and God wanted to work something in Solomon through this offer and his response.
The natural reaction to reading this promise of God to Solomon is to wish we had such a promise. We do have them.
· Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)
· If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (John 15:7)
· Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (1 John 5:14)
2. (:6) Acknowledgement of God’s Faithfulness to David
“Then Solomon said, ‘Thou hast shown great lovingkindness to Thy servant David my father, according as he walked before Thee in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward Thee; and Thou hast reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that Thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.’”
L. M. Grant: When God asked Solomon what he desired, Solomon was careful and considerate in his request, for he first, commendably, showed his appreciation of God’s great mercy to his father David, recognizing the integrity of his father, and appreciating the kindness of God now in making Solomon king.
Rich Cathers: Solomon uses three words to characterize David’s life:
truth – ‘emeth – firmness, faithfulness, truth
righteousness – ts@daqah – justice, righteousness; righteous acts
uprightness – yishrah – uprightness; from yashar – straight, upright, correct, right
Dale Ralph Davis: Solomon’s prayer, then, is a proclamation of the fidelity of God. His prayer begins with praise of Yahweh’s dependability. That is proper in itself – God should be so praised. . . Praise then becomes the basis of confidence [as we petition God].
3. (:7-8) Anxiety Regarding Challenges of National Leadership
a. (:7) Personal Inadequacy
“And now, O LORD my God, Thou hast made Thy servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.”
Rich Cathers: Lesson: Usefulness starts with inadequacy —
Quite a few of the people God has used the most have all suffered from feelings of inadequacy.
When God called Isaiah, he said,
(Isa 6:5 KJV) Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
When God called Jeremiah, he said,
(Jer 1:6 KJV) Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.
When God called Moses, he responded by saying,
(Exo 3:11 KJV) Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
Moses and God went back and forth to the point where God even got a little upset with Moses because he was so reluctant.
If God has called you to do something, don’t be afraid of those times when you feel utterly useless and inadequate. That may make you the most useful to God because you will learn to trust Him the most.
b. (:8) Privileged and Populous People of God
“And Thy servant is in the midst of Thy people which Thou hast chosen, a great people who cannot be numbered or counted for multitude.”
Paul Kretzmann: He felt the responsibility and the obligation of governing the chosen people of Jehovah very keenly.
MacArthur: Based on the census, which recorded 800,000 men of fighting age in Israel and 500,000 in Judah (2Sa 24:9), the total population was over 4 million, approximately double what it had been at the time of the Conquest (see Nu 26:1-65).
R. D. Patterson: The responsibilities facing Solomon were all the greater in that Israel was God’s chosen nation. She had to be governed in accordance with God’s precepts if the people were to experience his blessing. A wisdom that God alone could give was needed here.
Stephen Gambill: The Wisdom of Solomon
1.) His realization of God’s mercies (to David in the past and present)
2.) His humility [as a young man]
3.) His sense of having an overwhelming task (too great and numerous)
4.) His request for understanding/wisdom/discernment – more than mere doing of laws 5.) His ultimate desire for God’s glory – they are His people
4. (:9) Articulating the Request
“So give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Thine?”
John Schultz: He needed divine guidance to be able to govern a nation that had the tendency to divide itself into separate groups, as it did after Solomon’s death. The unity between the twelve tribes had never been particularly strong. As a matter of fact there were thirteen tribes, if we consider Joseph to consist of the two tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim. This was compensated for by the fact that Levi did not function as a tribe on its own. They had not been allocated to one specific area in the Promised Land. As priests and Levites, her members were spread out over the land.
John Dummelow: Solomon’s prayer exhibits:
(a) a strong sense of responsibility and a conviction that high position involves corresponding duties;
(b) a consciousness that truth and falsehood, right and wrong, are not always easy to distinguish, and that to discern between them there are needed special gifts of the heart and understanding;
(c) that such gifts are derived from God, who bestows them in answer to prayer.
Lange: When is our prayer pleasing to God?
(a) When we pray in the feeling of our weakness and helplessness, and in confidence in the mercy of God and His promises;
(b) when before all things we ask for spiritual blessings and gifts (Matt. 6:33; Eph. 1:3)
The true wisdom for which we have to ask God (James 1:5), does not consist in manifold and great knowledge, but in the understanding of what is good and bad (Job 28:28; James 3:17; Eph. 5:17), and is a fruit of the renewal of our mind (Rom. 12:2).
A ruler who does not ask God for an obedient heart for himself, can and ought not to hope for or expect that his people will yield him a submissive heart.
Youth, which as a rule places freedom in lawlessness, needs before all things to ask God daily for an obedient heart.
Dale Ralph Davis: Our primary point, however, is: the welfare of the people of God drives Solomon’s prayer. Not: how may I enhance my life? But: how may I make God’s people secure? The king is a model here. We should not worry over how to succeed but over how we may most profit the people of God.
5. (:10-12) Answer Granted
a. (:10) Pleasing to the Lord
“And it was pleasing in the sight of the Lord
that Solomon had asked this thing.”
b. (:11) Prioritizing Justice for the People
“And God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice,’”
c. (:12) Passing All Other Leaders in Wisdom and Discernment
“behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you.”
Constable: [quoting Baxter] — J. Sidlow Baxter distinguished between spiritual wisdom (insight into divine things) and practical wisdom (administrative discernment, sagacious judgment, intellectual grasp, aptitude for the acquisition of knowledge, and prudence in the directing of affairs). He claimed, and I agree, that Solomon asked for and received less of the first kind but more of the second kind. . .
Wisdom in Israel and the ancient Near East was not synonymous with knowledge or education. It involved the ability to live life in a skillful way, so at the end, one’s life would amount to something worthwhile. To the Israelites this was possible only if a person knew and responded appropriately to (i.e., feared) Yahweh. [referencing James Crenshaw]
6. (:13-14) Additional Blessings Promised
a. (:13) Surpassing Riches and Honor
“And I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days.”
b. (:14) Super Long Life Conditioned on Obedience
“And if you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.”
MacArthur: In contrast to riches and honor that were already his, a long life was dependent on Solomon’s future obedience to the Lord’s commands. Because of his disobedience, Solomon died before reaching 70 years of age (cf. Ps 90:10).
C. (:15) The Response of Gratitude and Sacrifice and Celebration
“Then Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and made peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.”
Constable: Solomon’s expression of gratitude included more offerings. He presented these before the ark in Jerusalem. They expressed further personal dedication (the burnt offerings) and gratitude for fellowship with God (the peace offerings). They probably accompanied a covenant renewal ceremony that involved the commitment of his servants (i.e., government officials) to the Mosaic Law (v. 15).
Philip Ryken: presumably, this is where the king and his people should have been worshiping all along, at the tent of meeting in Jerusalem. But they started out worshiping at the high places. This is an ominous foreshadowing of their coming apostasy, for both Solomon and his people would later go back to the high places and commit idolatry.
II. (:16-28) THE PROOF OF WISDOM
A. (:16-22) Difficult Case to Adjudicate Based on Conflicting Testimony
1. (:16) Test Case to Prove the Wisdom of Solomon
“Then two women who were harlots came to the king
and stood before him.”
Brian Bell: The social position of these women (very low in social standing) demonstrates that Solomon believed justice and sound judgment should be applied to all cases and made available to all subjects, regardless of gender or social status.
2. (:17-21) Testimony of the First Woman
a. (:17-18) Only Two Witnesses to the Event
“And 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. And it happened on the third day after I gave birth, that this woman also gave birth to a child, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, only the two of us in the house.’”
b. (:19) Tragedy Occurred
“And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on it.”
John Schultz: One of the women stands out for her carelessness and emotional detachment. For a mother to roll on her child and not wake up in time to do something about it shows extreme carelessness. To exchange one baby for another also indicates that there had been little or no natural affection. The important thing for one of the women was to have a baby, no matter which.
c. (:20-21) Treachery Ensued
“So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead son in my bosom. 21 And when I rose in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead; but when I looked at him carefully in the morning, behold, he was not my son, whom I had borne.”
3. (:22) Conflicting Testimony of the Two Woman
a. Facts Disputed by the Other Woman
“Then the other woman said, ‘No! For the living one is my son,
and the dead one is your son.’”
b. Back and Forth Argument with No Substantiation
“But the first woman said, ‘No! For the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.’”
c. End of the Case with No Corroborating Evidence
“Thus they spoke before the king.”
Ron Daniel: Here are two prostitutes who have a dispute over whose baby remains alive. There is no photographic evidence, no hospital records, no DNA testing, no lie detectors. Both women stick to their stories, each arguing that they are in fact the true mother of the remaining baby. What will you do? How will you decide? Will you order that the women be given joint custody? Make your best guess?
B. (:23-27) Insightful Solution Demonstrated Solomon’s Wisdom and Discernment
1. (:23) Unsolvable “She Said . . . She Said” Case
“Then the king said, ‘The one says, This is my son who is living, and your son is the dead one; and the other says, No! For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’”
2. (:24-25) Unimaginable Ruling
“And the king said, ‘Get me a sword.’ So they brought a sword before the king. 25 And the king said, ‘Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.’”
Adam Clarke: This was apparently a very strange decision, and such as nothing could vindicate had it been carried into execution; but Solomon saw that the only way to find out the real mother was by the affection and tenderness which she would necessarily show to her offspring. He plainly saw that the real mother would rather relinquish her claim to her child than see it hewn in pieces before her eyes, while it was probable the pretender would see this with indifference. He therefore orders such a mode of trial as would put the maternal affection of the real mother to the utmost proof; the plan was tried, and it succeeded. This was a proof of his sound judgment, penetration, and acquaintance with human nature . . .
3. (:26) Unthinkable Reactions Differentiate the True Mother from the False
a. True Mother Willing to Give Up the Child as Long as it Lives
“Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, ‘Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him.’”
b. False Mother Has No Concern for the Life of the Child
“But the other said, ‘He shall be neither mine nor yours;
4. (:27) Unclear Decision Now Crystal Clear
“Then the king answered and said, ‘Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother.’”
Philip Ryken: It was a simple solution to a difficult dilemma. With brilliant insight and wise discernment, Solomon had devised the test that would reveal each woman’s heart.
– Jesus has promised us justice, and we long for justice to be done. This is a fallen world, where we see so much injustice that sometimes we wonder when or even if everything will be made right. . . Sometimes we see justice done in this life, and sometimes we don’t, but justice will be done in the end. The wisdom of God is in Jesus to do justice, and he will make things right.
– What we are desperately hoping to receive, therefore, is not justice but mercy. However much we want other people to get what we think they deserve, deep down we know that what we need is not what we deserve, but the mercy of God.
– Marvel at his wisdom I providing such a simple solution for the most difficult dilemma of all – the problem of our sin. How could God maintain his perfect justice while at the same time showing mercy to sinners?
C. (:28) Reputation of Solomon Solidified
“When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down,
they feared the king; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to
L. M. Grant: A case of this kind was of course reported widely, so that all Israel was made aware of the wisdom of Solomon, and people realized it would but be easy for them to get away with wrong doing by deception. They recognized that it was God’s wisdom that was in Solomon (v.28).
Robert Hawker: Well might all Israel admire Solomon’s wisdom on this occasion. And well may you and I, Reader, admire and adore Jesus, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is indeed both the wisdom of God and the power of his salvation, to every poor sinner that believeth; and the grand object and design of redemption is, to display the grace and goodness of Jehovah in this stupendous work, to the intent, that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. So that every heart interested in this great salvation may well exclaim, Oh! the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! Ephesians 3:10 ; Romans 11:33.