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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable
1 Kings 3

 

 


Verses 1-3

Solomon"s attitudes3:1-3

Should Solomon have married Pharaoh"s daughter? In view of 1 Kings 11:1-2 and 2 Chronicles 8:11 there is no way we can say yes. Furthermore, Solomon already had a wife when he married Pharaoh"s daughter ( 1 Kings 14:21; cf. Genesis 2:24). Why then did the writer not point out this sin here? He may have not done so because his purpose in this part of his history was to show the greatness of Solomon. In chapter11he emphasized Solomon"s failures. Here it is the fact that he could marry such a person as an Egyptian princess, that shows the social and political height to which God had elevated him. A descendant of former Egyptian slaves now became Pharaoh"s Song of Solomon -in-law!

"Under Song of Solomon , the relationship between Egypt and Israel reached an apex with the marriage alliance between the two nations ( 1 Kings 3:1)." [Note: James K. Hoffmeier, "Egypt As an Arm of Flesh: A Prophetic Response," in Israel"s Apostasy and Restoration: Essays in Honor of Roland K. Harrison, p81.]

"This illustrates both the relative importance of Israel and the low estate to which Egypt had sunk: Pharaohs of the Empire did not give their daughters even to kings of Babylon or Mitanni!" [Note: John Bright, A History of Israel, p191.]

At this time Israel was stronger than Egypt.

"That this is the case is clear from his [Pharaoh Siamun"s, 978-959 B.C.] willingness to provide his own daughter as a wife for Song of 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." [Note: Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, p292. Cf. Alan Schulman, "Diplomatic Marriage in the Egyptian New Kingdom," Journal of Near Eastern Studies38 (1979):190-91.]

There is much evidence of the immense influence and prestige that Solomon enjoyed in his day. [Note: See Alberto Green, "Israelite Influence at Shishak"s Court?" Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research233 (1979):59-62.] Solomon housed his bride in the City of David until he completed a special palace for her nearby ( 1 Kings 7:8).

The Israelites were offering sacrifices to Yahweh on the "high places" that the Ras Shamra tablets describe as open-air sanctuaries throughout the land. The Ras Shamra tables are important inscriptions that archaeologists discovered at the Canaanite site of Ugarit, just east of Cyprus on the Mediterranean coast. They contain much helpful information about Canaanite life and culture. These sacrificial sites were normally on hilltops. The Israelites evidently took them over from the Canaanites and converted them into centers of Yahweh worship. Before the giving of the Mosaic Law, worship on high places was not evil (cf. Genesis 12:7-8; Genesis 22:2-4; Genesis 31:54). However, the Law forbade offering sacrifices at places other than those God approved, and especially at sites of Canaanite altars, after Israel built the temple in Jerusalem ( Deuteronomy 12:1-21; 2 Chronicles 7:12). Evidently at this time the people justified their disobedience on the ground that they did not have a permanent palace where Yahweh could dwell (i.e, a temple). Another possibility is that they did not consider worship at high places wrong until the king reunited the ark and a tabernacle in a central sanctuary (i.e, the temple; cf. 1 Samuel 9:11-25). [Note: Patterson and Austel, p44.]

The only deviation from the Law that the writer ascribed to Solomon at this early time in his reign was his worship at the high places ( 1 Kings 3:3). Otherwise Solomon followed God faithfully, except for his polygamy.

"Silently, invisibly, like an incubating virus, sin was at work throughout Solomon"s reign and in the end broke out in violent, destructive force. Such is the nature of sin." [Note: Rice, p31.]

Love here ( 1 Kings 3:3) does not express a feeling only but more fundamentally a commitment to Yahweh that manifests itself in obedience to His Word (cf. 1 John 5:3). Solomon"s commitment, like David"s, accounted for much of the blessing that came on the king and through him to the people.


Verses 4-15

Solomon"s petition for Wisdom of Solomon 3:4-15

A tabernacle, evidently the Mosaic tabernacle, and the Mosaic tabernacle"s bronze altar still stood at Gibeon (lit. little hill; 1 Chronicles 16:39-40; 1 Chronicles 21:28-29; 2 Chronicles 1:3; 2 Chronicles 1:5-6). Gibeon was one of the Song of Solomon -called high places where the people offered sacrifices to Yahweh. Burnt offerings symbolized the dedication of the worshipper"s person to God ( Leviticus 1). By offering1 ,000 of these sacrifices Solomon was expressing his personal allegiance to Yahweh (cf. Romans 12:1-2).

God responded by blessing Solomon in a way that He would not have had the king failed to dedicate himself to God. God"s revelation to him was in response to his offerings. God"s offer constituted a test for Solomon ( 1 Kings 3:5). Would he request something for his own glory or for God"s glory? He showed his heart for God by asking something for God"s glory ( 1 Kings 3:9). His words show that he viewed himself as dependent on God, not self-sufficient ( 1 Kings 3:7), God"s servant ( 1 Kings 3:8-9), and a servant of God"s people rather than his people ( 1 Kings 3:9). In 1 Kings 3:7 the Hebrew word na"ar, translated "little child" (NASB, NIV, NKJV), means immature person. Solomon acknowledged God"s past action, asked for His continuing favor, expressed humility, and requested the ability to carry out his duties. [Note: Wiseman, pp84-85.]

""To go out and to come in" [ 1 Kings 3:7] refers to life beyond the doors of one"s household and the city gate in the discharge of one"s duties ( Deuteronomy 31:2; 1 Samuel 18:16)." [Note: Rice, p33.]

This is an idiom that refers to the skills of leadership (cf. Numbers 27:17; Joshua 14:11; 1 Samuel 29:6; 2 Kings 11:8). [Note: House, p110.] Solomon also requested an understanding (lit. a listening or obedient) heart ( 1 Kings 3:9). Significantly, in Hebrew, "hearing" and "obeying" come from the same word. Furthermore, Solomon viewed God as lovingly loyal, just, and gracious ( 1 Kings 3:6), his God ( 1 Kings 3:7), and the true King of Israel ( 1 Kings 3:8-9). [Note: For a good explanation of the meaning of hesed ("lovingkindness," 1 Kings 3:6), see Patterson and Austel, p47.]

"The heart (leb) in Israelite thought is the center of the psychic self. It includes especially mental activity but is broader in scope than English "mind," embracing the feelings and will as well. The heart is susceptible to become hardened, to be made fat ( Isaiah 6:10), and to dwell on evil ( Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21); indeed, it is "deceitful above all things" ( Jeremiah 17:9). It is over against these capabilities of the heart that Solomon"s request is to be understood. A "hearing heart" [ 1 Kings 3:9] is one that is open, receptive, teachable ( Isaiah 50:4). That to which the heart of the king should be open above all else is God"s torah. The king ideally rules not on the basis of his own understanding but administers his realm in the light of God"s revealed will." [Note: Rice, p34.]

"The king was the supreme judge and final arbiter. Within his domain, the ideal king sought to achieve what was right, to vindicate the just, to protect the rights of the weak. And this was achieved in practice by a series of shrewd and just decisions or verdicts or judgments (mishpatim in the plural) all of which are examples of what our text calls "right" (mishpat in the singular)." [Note: A. Graeme Auld, I and II Kings, p23. J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book, 2:99 , 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.]

God promised to bless Solomon for putting His interests before Solomon"s (cf. Matthew 6:33). He gave him much more than he asked ( 1 Kings 3:13). Furthermore, He promised to give Solomon long life if he continued to obey His Law ( 1 Kings 3:14).

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 ( 1 Kings 3:15).

Notice that this section ends as it began: with a journey and sacrifices. This helps the reader identify it as a section, by the inclusio.


Verses 16-28

God"s provision of Wisdom of Solomon 3:16-28

This incident demonstrates that God did indeed give Solomon the unusual wisdom He had promised ( 1 Kings 3:28). [Note: Wiseman, pp85-86 , wrote a short note on the wisdom that is in view here.] The writer did not specify when during Solomon"s reign this event took place, but probably it occurred shortly after God appeared to the king at Gibeon ( 1 Kings 3:4-15).

"The chronology of the reign of Solomon does not pose nearly the difficulty as does that of David. With the exception of the narrative passages, which appear as usual to be inserted topically, the order found in both1Kings and2Chronicles reflects the general flow of events. It does seem, however, that Solomon"s alliance with Siamun of Egypt ( 1 Kings 3:1) did not come to pass until after he had begun negotiations with the Tyrians to help on the temple. This in turn presupposes Solomon"s having sought and been granted Wisdom of Solomon , for Hiram takes note of that fact ( 1 Kings 5:7)." [Note: Merrill, p290.]

Solomon demonstrated insight into basic human nature, here maternal instincts. This insight enabled him to understand why people behave as they do and how they will respond. This was a gift from God and is an aspect of wisdom.

"The fact that the two mothers were prostitutes is important in this story ... because it shows how the wise king would act on behalf of the very lowest of his subjects..." [Note: DeVries, p61.]

This incident resulted in the Israelites having great respect for their king (v31). Solomon became a blessing to the people because he related properly to Yahweh.

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. [Note: See James L. Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom: An Introduction.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/1-kings-3.html. 2012.

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Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
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