Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, May 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 3

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-9

First Kings - Chapter 3 AND Second Chronicles - Chapter 1

Solomon’s Dream, 1 Kings 3:1-9 AND 2 Chronicles 1:2-10

While these two passages under study are parallel and complementary, both also provide supplementary information about the event being recorded. The Chronicles account tends to provide more about the tabernacle and worship, possibly because it was likely written after the Babylonian exile, when the priests and scribes of the Levites had a great deal to do with its writing. Kings begins with a purely secular statement, on its face, in that it tells of an initial mistake of the young king at the very outset of his reign. He made a treaty of friendship with Pharaoh of Egypt, a part of the bargain being, it seems, Solomon’s taking of an Egyptian princess into his harem. This was contrary to God’s will and law against marriage with pagan people. He seems to have kept her with him in the palace in the city of David while he was building his own palace, the temple, and the city wall, after which, it will be found, he built her a palace of her own.

The situation with regard to worship in Israel at the time was somewhat confused. Although David had brought the ark into a tent he had prepared for it in Jerusalem, the remainder of the tabernacle and its furniture was located in Gibeon. The ark had been separated from the tabernacle while it was at Shiloh, during the judgeship of Eli the priest, when it was captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:10-11). When the Lord sent plagues on the Philistines they returned it to Israel, where it was housed in Kirjath-jearim until David brought it to Jerusalem (1 Samuel 6:1 ff; 2 Samuel 6:1-11). Meanwhile, the tabernacle was removed to Nob, where it was when Saul slew the priests (1 Samuel 22:18-19), and at some unknown time it was moved again to Gibeon, possibly so it could be tended by the Gibeonites (who were temple servants), at a time when eligible priests had been largely exterminated. And here it was when Solomon became king.

The tabernacle in Gibeon is called the "great high place," a pagan designation, possibly because of the bent of mind in Israel, who had been so long separated from true worship and under influence of pagans still among them. The Kings account is careful to note that Solomon "loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David," so that, although he led the congregation in assembly for worship at "the great high place," it was for the purpose of worshipping God in the proper manner, not in paganistic ritual. Here he sacrificed a thousand burnt offerings in leading the people in worship.

During the night the Lord came to Solomon in a dream offering to do for him whatever he might ask. Solomon showed astuteness even here in his humble request. While the Chronicles account emphasizes Solomon’s concern for the covenant the Lord had made for David, that of Kings has considerably more details. First, Solomon recalled the great mercy and kindness from the Lord to his father, because of his righteous walk before Him. Then he recognized an extension of that mercy and kindness in his own succession to the throne of his father. Next Solomon remembered the momentous task of ruling over a great people of the Lord like Israel, with his own mediocrity in comparison. On this basis, the young king concluded, it was expedient to seek wisdom to discern between the good and the bad in his judgment, and that he might set the proper example for his people as he went in and out before them. Solomon sought true wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18 ff).

Verses 10-15

Wisdom Promised, 1 Kings 3:10-15 AND 2 Chronicles 1:11-13

The devotion and humility of young king Solomon was pleasing to the Lord, and He honored his request. Because Solomon realized his need of wisdom to rule the Lord’s people he relied on God. Had he been selfish and ambitious he might have requested a long life, or riches, honor, fame, or power over his enemies. These would have been expected of the worldly minded, but they seem not to have entered the mind of the new king. He might be said to have had the mind of Christ before the Christian era (Philippians 2:5-8), a mind of humility.

Though Solomon had but just requested wisdom the Lord made him to know it was an accomplished fact in His divine program. There were no stipulations attached to that gift of wisdom. There had been no king like him before his time, he would have no peer throughout his reign, and there would be none after him. Also without reservation the Lord promised to give Solomon most of the things for which he had not asked, as riches and honor, which would insure that none so great as he would arise to challenge his position. But there was one other thing Solomon had not requested which the Lord would grant with qualification. His life would be lengthened, if he followed the ways of the Lord and kept His statutes and commandments as David, his father, had kept them (De 30:19-20).

The Kings account tells of the awakening of Solomon, whereupon he realized it was a dream. Nevertheless he knew it was a significant revelation from the Lord. He returned to Jerusalem and went to the tent of the ark of the covenant. There he again stood and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. In celebration of the Lord’s goodness he did a benevolent thing for his servants by making a feast for them. In his youth Solomon bore a godly testimony before others (Matthew 5:16).

Verses 16-28

Wisdom Demonstrated, Verses 16-28

Proof of Solomon’s divinely-given shrewdness and insight soon appeared in his judgment. It was a very simple case, the truth of which might have been apparent, but it is the manner. of the young king’s bringing it out that marks his wisdom. The environment in which the problem arose and its disreputable characters enter into the resolution of the problem. Here are two immoral women whose unsavory profession is not conducive of a good environment for rearing children. Understandably with the harlots children were not desirable, and ordinarily they would have been happy to be free of them. King Solomon was undoubtedly mindful of this.

Here then appear the women before the king to decide a knotty question, the answer to which was well know by both women, but in which the two told conflicting accounts. The plaintiff told of giving birth to a child three days before her companion in harlotry, who lived in the same house with her, also bore a child. It appears that it was the very night of birth of the second child that the mother had carelessly laid upon it and smothered it to death. Stealthily, however, she had slipped out the dead baby and exchanged it for the three-day old baby without waking the mother. The mother of the living baby discovered a dead baby in her bed when she awoke to let it nurse. Then when morning light was sufficient she found that the dead baby was not her child at all and that her companion had exchanged babies with her.

The defendant argued just as vehemently that the living baby was hers indeed and that the dead baby belonged to the plaintiff. Their argument appears to have become heated in the very presence of the king, and there was no agreement whatsoever between them. On what evidence could the king decide the real mother of the baby. Here is where the shrewd wisdom God had given him could be demonstrably applied.

A sword was called for, and King Solomon proposed to sever the living baby and give half to each woman. Would he have slain the baby? Likely not, for had both women agreed to this settlement it would have proved neither fit to keep the child, which might have been given to a third patty who would have nourished it. But the plaintiff woman’s heart yearned for her baby, and she could not bear to have it slain. Rather than have it killed she would relinquish her claim to it and allow the other woman to have it. However, the other woman proved that the child meant little to her anyway. Rather than give up the baby to the rightful mother, whom she must have resented, she was willing that neither of them have it. At once wise Solomon had proved two points; the plaintiff was the rightful mother, and she was also capable of loving and nourishing her child. He commanded that the baby be given to the mother who loved it.

The episode illustrated the evil of prostitution to the nation of Israel also. The law of Moses which prohibited the practice of harlotry (De 23:17, 18) was not being enforced, although the women may have been non-Israelites. One could hope the woman ceased her nefarious practice and reared her child properly, though nothing more is known of them. The incident was narrated around the land and the shrewd wisdom of the new king remarked, so that people understood the king was not one who could be easily deluded or deceived. Those who might have opposed him thought better of it after this, and gave him due respect (1 Timothy 4:12).

Learn these lessons from these chapters: 1) God is willing to give His people the things needed for their service to Him; 2) God will add many blessings in one’s life if he is faithful to Him; 3) one is ever due thanks to God for the wonderful promises He has given and His deeds of love toward him; 4) real parental love will always yearn for its children, whatever the circumstances; 5) sexual sin is apt to destroy real love.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-kings-3.html. 1985.
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