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Wednesday, June 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 3

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-28



Same as for preceding chapter, and 1 Kings 3:1-28; 2 Chronicles 1:2-13

This discussion commences the exposition of Solomon’s reign. It will be well for you to have your book open. If you have no Harmony, open your Bible at 1 Kings 2.

1 Kings 1-11 and 2 Chronicles 1-9 constitute the scriptural basis of the life of Solomon. We introduce this discussion with three passages of scripture:

1. Deuteronomy 17:14-20:

When thou art come unto the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shall dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me; thou shalt surely set him king over thee, whom Jehovah thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee, who is not thy brother. Only he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he may multiply horses; forasmuch as Jehovah hath said unto you. Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear Jehovah his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them; that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children, in the midst of Israel.

On that law mark the method of succession in the Hebrew monarchy. It was not according to the law of primogeniture, i.e., the oldest son does not by law succeed his father. Indeed, we find that it is not according to heredity in a still larger sense. God changed the dynasty from Saul to David. Saul’s sons did not succeed him, but he created a new dynasty in David. When we come to study the divided kingdom we will notice quite a number of dynastic changes. But all the time in Judah the king is at least a descendant of David. The dynasty does not change in that kingdom. We have already seen the law of primogeniture set aside in God’s dealing with families. For instance, Isaac and not Ishmael becomes the head of the family, and Jacob and not Esau, and we see it extending even to the tribes. Not Reuben, who is unstable, but Judah, became the head of the tribes. Get before you clearly the kind of monarchy established. The king must not be a foreigner, like Herod the Idumean in Christ’s time. He must be one of the brethren, and then God must select him. A copy of the Pentateuch must be made especially for him and kept by him, in which he must read every day of his life and live and rule according to its teaching. The Pentateuch is the national constitution. And particularly, he is not to seek honor and riches for himself, and not to seek horses with a view of any return to Egypt, nor must he multiply wives to himself lest through his wives his heart be turned aside from God.

2. 1 Chronicles 22:9-10. Here is God’s selection of David’s successor:

Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days: he shall build a house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.

So you see there that God, before this child is born, elects David’s successor and gives his name. "Solomon" is the God given name. He is also called Jedediah and Lemuel. But God gave him the name of Solomon.

3. Psalm 72 is too long for me to quote, but you should read it and count it next in thought in the discussion. It is David’s prayer for this son, who succeeds him. The superscription says, "A psalm of Solomon," but that is not true. Solomon never wrote Psalm 72, but David did. The subscription says, "The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." David prays that God may give the king judgment and righteousness in order that he may properly judge the poor, and save the needy, and break in pieces the oppressor. And he goes on to describe that he shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth, and how the kings of the earth shall bring their gifts. Psalms 72:17 says,

"His name shall endure forever; His name shall be continued as long as the sun: And men shall be blessed in him; All nations shall call him happy."

It closes with "Let the whole earth be filled with his glory." The primary reference is to Solomon. It is more largely fulfilled in the antitype of Solomon, the true Prince of Peace – Jesus. Consider that law, that divine election and that prayer of the old father just as he is passing away, and you have not only the name of Solomon, and the character of his reign as a reign of peace, but you have also the prophetic element in Solomon and in Solomon’s reign looking forward to Christ.

Our text declares that Solomon was thoroughly established upon the throne of his father David. ’Solomon was quite a young man, and said to be wonderfully handsome and attractive. His establishment consisted first in the removal of inherited enemies, those that came to him from David’s side, who might have disturbed his kingdom. The first one of these enemies is his oldest brother, Adonijah. Adonijah thought that because he was the oldest son living after Absalom’s death, he ought to have the kingdom, and he prepared, as we learn in the history of David, to seize the kingdom, and as David was supposed to be in a dying condition he set up his claim, which, was forestalled by David’s having Solomon crowned king. Adonijah was forgiven for that offense, but the record tells us of a new offense. He comes to the mother of Solomon. People oftentimes try to reach those whom they wish to influence through the female members of the family, either the mother, the wife, the sister, or the daughter. The devil tried to get Adam that way – and got there. Adonijah comes to the mother of Solomon and asks her to obtain the king’s permission that he may marry that beautiful young girl taken into David’s home and bed in his old age. The ordinary reader sees this as only an innocent request, but you must consider the Oriental custom. The successor of the king took possession of the harem of the preceding king. It is that way now in northern Africa, in Turkey, and in other countries. Absalom, you remember, did that in order to certify his claim to succeed his father. The context suggests that Joab was privy to Adonijah’s request. It means that though pardoned for the first rebellion, they were still contemplating giving an object lesson before the people that Adonijah was entitled to be king. Solomon understood it in one moment, and commanded Adonijah to be put to death.

That removed all the cause of rebellion in the family. As soon as Joab heard of it, as a proof that he was a party in the matter, he ran to the altar and in accordance with what is called the "law of the sanctuary," took hold of the horns of the altar. Now comes a general library question: Find the law of the sanctuary touching the horns of the altar in the book of Exodus, and state whether Solomon violated the law of the sanctuary in having Joab put to death while clinging to them. It is a custom, not merely of infidels but of semi-infidel preachers, to charge Solomon with having violated the law of the sanctuary in putting a man to death while clinging to its horns.

Joab was put to death. He was a mighty man. There was no general of his age equal to him. Cromwell resembled him more than any man of modern times, in sternness of character, in quickness of decision and action. He was a nephew of David. David’s sister, Zeruiah, had three notable sons, all mighty men – Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. David was put to shame more than once in his life through Joab, and on several occamions Joab was greater than the throne. Two of the crimes committed by him – the killing of Amasa and Abner – are punished in this death of Joab. It was on David’s conscience before he died that he had permitted this man to live. He had been of great service to David, and it did not seem appropriate that David should, even though justly, put to death one who had been so efficient in establishing him in his kingdom, and yet it was not right that this great man in his ill-doing should go unpunished, and so David bequeathed the solution to Solomon; in his wisdom he must find a way to punish Joab for his past misdeeds. Thus we come to the death of this great man Joab.

It was prophesied that not a man should be left of the house of Eli, the usurping high priest before Samuel, and yet in spite of that prophecy we see Abiathar come to David and join him in the days of his exile and act as high priest, but now this Abiathar who did not follow Absalom, but who did follow Adonijah, and was in the conspiracy to defer the installation of Solomon and his kingdom, is degraded from the priesthood. Because of the friendship he had shown to David he is not put to death, but a conspirer endangers the safety of a monarch and he is sent to his own home to live as a common man. He occupies office no more, which disposes of that enemy.

It becomes necessary, having disposed of these two enemies) to appoint successors to their great offices. The man after whom I was named, Benaiah, or as we spell it now, Benajah, was appointed to Joab’s office, and Zadok, a true lineal descendant of Aaron through his eldest son, is put at the head of the priesthood. This fulfils a prophecy that we considered in the book of Numbers. You remember Phinehas, concerning whom one of the three remarkable declarations on imputed righteousness in the Bible is made. It was prophesied that the descendants of Phinehas should occupy the high priesthood. That is fulfilled now for the first time when Zadok becomes the high priest of united Israel.

The internal matters all now having been composed, this young man, as young men generally do, proposed to marry. He selected a wife for political reasons. He married the daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Here a general question: Was the marriage of Solomon to the daughter of Pharaoh a violation of the law not to inter-marry with the people around? Form your own judgment. Some of his marriages we know were violations. He married women that were Edomites and Hittites. The Edomites were kin to him, descendants of Esau, but the Hittite was one of the old Canaanitish nations. He married women from every direction, and largely for political reasons. Touching his first marriage we have Psalm 45. Primarily it refers to the consummation of this marriage. Prophetically it refers to the marriage of our Lord, the true Solomon, with his glorified church. Let us look at some of the references in Psalm 45.

My heart overfloweth with a goodly matter; I speak the things which I have made touching the king: My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Thou art fairer than the children of men; Grace is poured into thy lips: Therefore God hath blessed thee forever. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O mighty one, Thy glory and thy majesty.

Another part refers to the Bride:

Kings’ daughters are among thy honorable women: At thy right hand doth stand the queen in gold of Ophir. Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house: So will the king desire thy beauty; For he is thy lord; and reverence thou him. And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; The rich among the people shall entreat thy favor. The king’s daughter within the palace is all glorious: Her clothing is inwrought with gold. She shall be led unto the king in broidered work: The virgins her companions that follow her Shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be led: They shall enter into the king’s palace. Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, Whom thou shalt make princes in all the earth. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: Therefore shall the peoples give thee thanks for ever and ever.

Now we have the king presented to us as a puzzled worshiper. That is to say, there was in Jerusalem the ark of the covenant, in a special tent made for it by David; but there was at Gibeon the old tabernacle that Moses built and also the great brazen altar that Moses had made. Both were places of worship. Solomon determines to have, as a fitting introduction to his reign in which all people shall participate, the most imposing and magnificient religious service known in the world up to that time, and he proposes to have it at both places, first at Gibeon and then before the ark of the covenant at Jerusalem. The old law required only one place of sacrifice. Solomon and others before him might claim that the law was to become operative only after the nation was thoroughly established. Our text says that as a house for God had not yet been built, the people worshiped in high places. All through the books of Judges and 1 Samuel, including all the life of David, we see worship occasionally offered at other places than one central place, and particularly was this so after the Philistines had captured the ark and carried it away. So Solomon determines to hold his first service in the old tent that Moses made, and where the old brazen altar was, and then he would come back to Jerusalem and hold a duplicate service before the ark of the covenant in the place where David had put it. In order that this service might be truly national, he sends out a summons to every part of his empire that all the princes and chief men of the nation should come together and participate in this national offering. The record in speaking of it says that he offered a thousand burnt offerings. In the history of Xerxes, the king of Persia, when he was on his way to invade Greece and had come to the Hellespont, he offered a sacrifice of one thousand oxen to the gods. This says, "And Solomon went up thither to the brazen altar before the Lord, which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings upon it." That is a parallel in history.

After this imposing ceremony Solomon slept, and sleeping, dreamed. More than once the Bible tells us that the most of dreams have no significance, but it also teaches us that in a number of special cases God makes his revelations through dreams; for example, the cases of Jacob, Joseph, and Nebuchadnezzar. Solomon’s dream was perhaps suggested by his father’s exhortations (See Proverbs 4:3-7) and his own impressions at this great gathering. For the first time in his reign be saw a national assembly, the great convocation of Israel. What a mighty people! What vast and varied interests! How complicated the problems of administration! How great the responsibility on him! He seemed to be appalled at the situation, and was asking himself how he, a boy, could meet it. Thinking thus he fell asleep, and in his sleep came this dream:

In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in & dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said (and I do wish we could always have him as presented here), Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great kindness, according as he walked before thee in truth, and m righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given, him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O Jehovah my God thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant ie in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this thy great people?

It is impossible for any candid mind to read that without being impressed by it. Let me assure you that whoever, on the threshold of any great enterprise, is without the spirit of true humility, is certain to fail. One of the best forecasts of success is that he sees the magnitude and difficulty of the work and realizes his own personal insufficiency and his entire dependence upon the divine help. Would that all of us had that spirit all the time! There is this thing about it: Whenever you lose humility, and begin to say, "All these things have I done," then remember that "Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." The feet of pride are sure to slip in due time. Take the lesson to heart.

I can’t conceive of anything more noble than Solomon’s sense of responsibility and humility before God. A boy made king, king of the elect nation, king of so great a people; in other words, the destiny of the whole world is involved in the mighty religious influences to go out from him and his people. Well might he say, "Lord, I am a little child. I don’t know how to go out and come in. Give me wisdom." The saying pleased the Lord. I suggest a sermon: "Ask what I shall give thee."

One Christmas when we had services in the old church at Waco and I preached the sermon, I took that text: "Ask what I shall give thee," and I told them that every family represented in the congregation had either propounded or heard that question in connection with the day. The parent had said, "What shall I give thee, my son?" and all the young people had pondered the question: "I am to choose my gift and I have a large margin; what will I take?" My own little boy would say, "Give me an automobile." "Ask what I shall give thee." What a wonderful thing it is that God permits to us the statement of the desires of our hearts. Even if we keep on praying for an evil thing, in his anger he will sometimes give us what we ask.

God’s answer not only gives Solomon what he asks for, but a number of other things – honor and riches – things that he did not ask for. He gave him wisdom, the capacity to rule this great people. Our record says, "I give thee a wise and understanding heart, so that there hath been none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee." In this connection consider 1 Kings 4:29-34:

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore. And Solomon’s wisdom exceeded the wisdom of all the children of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan, the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the nations round about. And he spake three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of birds, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And there came of all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.

Of that remarkable wisdom we speak particularly in the next chapter. An exemplification of his wisdom marks the beginning of his reign, which is here given. There came up a case to which there were no witnesses beyond the contestants themselves. Two mothers living together in the same house had children born to them, and one of the children dies. Then both mothers claim the living child. Nobody knows anything about the circumstances except the two women, and they come before the king to decide the contention. The first one claimed that it was her child. She says, "This other woman lost her baby; it died and while I was asleep she came and took my baby and put her dead baby in my baby’s place, and after awhile when I waked up I looked intently at this baby in my arms, and found it was dead, but it was not my baby." Now a mother is certainly able to know her child. "I looked intently at it, it was not my baby, and I looked over there and I saw this other woman had my baby." The other woman contended: "I say her baby died, and I am the mother of this live child." Under the law everything must be confirmed by two or three witnesses, but here there is no evidence except the two parties in court. How will the young king handle the matter? He says, "Bring me a sword." The sword is brought. "Cut that baby into halves and give each woman a half" – not that he intended to kill the baby; he was only trying to get evidence. As soon as he said that both women speak. One of them said, "No! No! don’t kill the baby. I had rather give it up to the other woman." The other woman said, "Yes, kill it and let each one of us have a part." This gave Solomon his evidence. He knew what to decide. He says, "Give this baby to the woman who prefers to lose it rather than see it die. She is the mother." The decision naturally attracted great attention, and the report of it spread Solomon’s fame far and wide.


1. What was the first scripture used to introduce this lesson?

2. Rehearse the items of the kingdom charter given in this scripture.

3. What was the second scripture, and its import?

4. What was the third scripture? Describe the kingdom according to this psalm. Who fulfilled this primarily? Who more largely fulfils it?

5. In what did the establishment of Solomon on the throne consist, who was his first enemy, and how was he disposed of?

6. Where do we find the law of the sanctuary? Did Solomon violate it in having Joab put to death while holding on to the horns of the altar?

8. Who was appointed to fill Joab’s office? Abiathar’s?

9. Was the marriage of Solomon to the daughter of the king of Egypt a violation of the law not to inter-marry with the people round about? What psalm touching this marriage?

10. Describe Solomon as a puzzled worshiper.

11. What was God’s proposition to Solomon, and Solomon’s request? What the lesson for us? What God’s answer to this request? Give an example of his wisdom as exercised.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Kings 3". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/1-kings-3.html.
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