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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 3

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-28


The Beginning Of Solomon’s Reign

1 Kings 3:1 to 1 Kings 5:14

A.—Solomon’s marriage, solemn sacrifice and prayer; first judicial decision

1 Kings 3:1-28

1And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the Lord [Jehovah], and the wall 2[walls] of Jerusalem round about. Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the Lord [Jehovah], until those days. 3And Solomon loved the Lord [Jehovah], walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. 4And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt-offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar.

5In Gibeon the Lord [Jehovah] appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God1 said, Ask what I shall give thee. 6And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in 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. 7And now, O Lord [Jehovah] my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child:2 I know not how to go out or come in. 8And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. 9Give therefore thy servant 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? 10And the speech pleased the Lord,3 that Solomon had asked this thing. 11And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; 12but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold I have done according to thy words:4 lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. 13And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.5 14And 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. 15And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord [Jehovah],6 and offered up burnt-offerings, and offered [made]7 peace-offerings, and made a feast to all his servants.

16Then came there two women that were harlots,8 unto the king, and stood before him. 17And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. 18And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together;9 there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. 19And this woman’s child [son]10 died in the night; because she overlaid it. 20And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child [son]10 in my bosom. 21And when I rose in the morning to give my child [son]10 suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son which I did bear. 22And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And11 this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king. 23Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. 24And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. 25And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. 26Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. 27Then the king answered and said, Give her12 the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof. 28And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.

Exegetical and Critical

1 Kings 3:1. And Solomon made affinity. After the rule of Solomon was established by the removal of his enemies from within (1 Kings 2:46), he sought to make it outwardly strong, also, by a family alliance with the king of Egypt. After David’s great victories over the surrounding nations, and especially after the Philistines were rendered powerless, Egypt was the nearest and most powerful neighbor of the kingdom of Israel. As the latter had increased so much in extent and power, the king of Egypt may also have desired an alliance with the king of Israel (Ewald, Gesch. Isr., iii. s. 279); but such an alliance secured Solomon against other nations, and was even productive of an enlargement of his territory (1 Kings 9:16). The Pharaoh named here “belonged certainly, following the synchronism, to the 21st Tanaitic dynasty, and may have been its last king, Psusennes or Psusennos, who reigned thirty-five years” (Winer, R.-W.-B., ii. s. 363).—This marriage with an Egyptian was not contrary to the law, since it only prohibited union with the daughters of the Canaanite tribes (Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-3). The supposition of some rabbins, that the Egyptian had become a proselyte, is unnecessary; it is certain, besides, that Egyptian worship was not introduced by her into Jerusalem; and even later no trace of it is found (1 Kings 11:4-7).—By the city of David we are to understand the ancient and fortified Jerusalem, the citadel of David—the upper city. The dwelling for the queen was but temporary; when the new palace was built she inhabited it (1 Kings 9:24).—“He made,” says Josephus, “the walls wider and firmer than they had been.” David had only fortified the upper city (2 Samuel 5:7; 2 Samuel 5:9).

1 Kings 3:2-4. Only the people sacrificed in high places, &c. 1 Kings 3:2-3 do not pronounce a judgment in general upon the condition of public worship in the beginning of Solomon’s reign (Keil), but form an introduction to verses 4–15. The connection is this: when the rule of Solomon was established from within by the extirpation of his foes, and outwardly by an alliance with Pharaoh, Solomon held a great festival for all Israel (2 Chronicles 1:2-3), not only to implore Jehovah’s further aid to his successful government, but also in gratitude for the past. But as Jehovah’s house was not yet built, and as the people, for want of a central sanctuary, still sacrificed on high places here and there, Solomon followed this custom, but chose the greatest, i. e., the most important height, that at Gibeon, where the ancient tabernacle and the altar of burnt-offering stood. 1 Kings 3:2-3 serve then to explain how it was that Solomon, who loved Jehovah, and, like David, kept the law, celebrated his great inauguration-festival on a high place. [Bishop Horsley remarks on 1 Kings 3:3 : This is not mentioned as a circumstance of blame either in the people or in the king. For had they not sacrificed and burnt incense on high places, they could not have sacrificed or burnt incense at all. And it appears by the sequel that the sacrifice at Gibeon was acceptable.—E.H.]—The high places are very often used in these books in the same sense; but not always. That בָּמָה does not mean “barred entrance,” and then “sacred forest” grove (Thenius, Böttcher), is easy to see from Micah 3:12, where it is synonymous with הַר, mountain; comp. Micah 1:3-4; Jeremiah 26:18, with Amos 4:1, where גְּבָעוֹת stands for בָּמוֹת. The fundamental meaning is and must be: height, high place. Among all ancient nations, heights and mountains were naturally chosen as the fit places for offering-up to the Deity who dwells on high, far above earth. But as all prayer to and worship of the Godhead took the form of sacrifice, for which an altar was requisite, בָּמוֹת became the expression for high places upon which altars were erected. By degrees, however, the use of the term became more extended, so that places of sacrifices, even if not on high places, but in towns, and even in valleys, were also called “high places” (2 Kings 17:9; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 32:35). In heathen worship, besides the altars for sacrifices, they had many dwellings for the Divinity, not regular temples, but cells, chapels, tents, in which the image of the Deity stood, and these also were named בָּמוֹת (Ezekiel 16:16); hence the expressions בָּתֵּי הַבָּמוֹת (1 Kings 13:32; 2 Kings 17:29), and בָּנָה בָּמוֹת (1 Kings 11:7; 1 Kings 14:23). Because the worship at the high places so easily became entangled with idolatry, the Mosaic law commanded that sacrifices should only be offered at Jehovah’s dwelling-place—the tabernacle (Leviticus 17:3). For the unquiet times of the Judges, however, this prescript could not be obeyed; and as the patriarchs sacrificed on high places before the law was given (Genesis 12:8), their example was followed; even Samuel did this (1 Samuel 9:12 sq.). Thus it happened that this more convenient practice took deep root, and it was not until much later that it was found possible to abolish it (2 Kings 23:4-23); it was always, however, an abnormity, though unavoidable, so long as an house for Jehovah’s name, i.e., a central sanctuary, was wanting (for this last expression see below on chap. 6).—A thousand burnt-offerings. In the entire ancient world, the greatest number of animals possible were collected for sacrifice at great festivals (see below on 1 Kings 8:62). The feast must have at least lasted more than one day. The passage we are considering has very unfairly been selected to prove that the king himself sacrificed, i.e., exercised priestly functions. Even the great number of animals offered contradicts this; so does 1 Kings 6:2; where king Solomon is said to have built the house of the Lord and made windows, &c., no more means that he performed masons’ and carpenters’ work than that he himself offered the animals in sacrifice.

1 Kings 3:5-10. The Lord appeared to Solomon, &c. The expression נִרְאָה does not mean that Solomon saw Jehovah in any bodily form, but that Jehovah revealed himself to him. If the reading here and in 1 Kings 3:10 be not יְהוָֹת, but אֱלֹהִים is to be subjoined to it; the last more general term serves to designate the words which Solomon understood to be really divine communications. For it is evident that the word יְהוָֹה does not specifically belong to the appearing, as Thenius thinks, from examination of the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 1:7, where נִרְאָה אֱלֹהִים occurs,—Solomon grounds (1 Kings 3:6) his request that Jehovah would grant him the gifts needful for a sovereign, upon the mercy shown his father David, to whom God had performed His promises, and raised up his son to sit upon the throne of Israel. He humbly calls himself a little child, not only as if he were just twelve years old, as some rabbins say, but because his youth was unfitted for the great and arduous task laid on him. Solomon died after a reign of forty years, and was named before (1 Kings 11:4) זָקֵן, which makes him, as is also the general opinion, twenty years old at least.—Going out and coming in is, like Deuteronomy 31:2; 1Sa 18:13; 1 Samuel 18:16; 2 Samuel 3:25; Psalms 121:8, descriptive of the entire manner of life. The conclusion, from 1 Kings 3:8, clearly refers to Genesis 32:13; Genesis 13:16.—The שֹׁמֵעַ with לֵב (like Job 12:3; Job 34:10; Proverbs 15:32, the seat of thought and knowledge, 1 Kings 3:9), as is to be seen from לִשְׁמֹעַ מִשְׁפָּט (1 Kings 3:12), must be connected with the following לִשְׁפֹּט, and is not to be translated, as Luther has it, obedient heart; or as the Vulgate, cor docile. A right sentence depends upon the hearing, that is, the trial of the parties, and for this, understanding and judgment are most requisite for the judge (comp. 2 Samuel 14:17). 1 Kings 3:7 refers to ruling, but 1 Kings 3:9 to judging: the two conjoined form the kingly office (1 Samuel 8:6; 1Sa 8:20; 2 Samuel 15:4. Artemid. Oneir., ii. 1 Kings 14:0 : κρίνειν τὸ ἅρχειν ἔλεγον οἱ παλαιοί).

1 Kings 3:11-15. And God said, &c. Instead of the life of thine enemies (1 Kings 3:11), 1 Kings 3:13 reads בָּבוֹד; it is, therefore, military glory, victory which is meant. לִשְׁמֹעַ מִשְׁפָּט does not mean: “to exercise divine right” (Keil), but: to dispense justice.—Behold it was a dream, not that he only knew on awaking that it was but a dream; and not that he remembered distinctly on awaking what he had dreamed (Seb. Schmidt), but: “that it was more than a dream (an ordinary one)—something really divine; of this he became so convinced on awaking, that immediately after his return to the capital, he went to the place where the sacred ark stood, and worshipped the Lord anew with many sacrifices and thanksgiving-offerings. The thank-offerings were for this extraordinary proof of divine favor” (Hess). The sequel showed that it was not a mere dream.

1 Kings 3:16. Then came there two women, &c. This story is meant to show, by one instance, that Solomon had really received what he had prayed for, and what God had promised him (Theodoret: ἐπιδεῖξαι τὴν τοῦ βασίλεως ἐβουλήθη σοφίαν). Thenius counts the whole among those passages which the writer gave from oral tradition; but we must not overlook the fact that he did not take it, like other narratives, from the “book of the Acts of Solomon” (1 Kings 11:41). [The writer of the Book of the Kings refers only at the end of Solomon’s reign to the book of the Acts of Solomon, and not at each step in his career.—E. H.]—The rabbins derive זֹנוֹת from זוּן, to feed, nourish; and explain it thus with the Chaldee, here as in Joshua 2:1, by פונדקן, i. e., hostesses, evidently to avoid some offence. On this account, it can scarcely allude to harlots, because they, as Calmet remarks, seldom have many children, and if they have, do not usually care much about providing for them. As זָנָה is generally spoken of intercourse which is extra-matrimonial, or adulterous, so this passage refers to “those who have had children, being unmarried” (Gerlach).

1 Kings 3:17-28. And the one woman said, &c. She alleges that the other can persist so obstinately in her denial, because there was no one else in the house. The latter probably took the child away to avoid the just and heavy reproach of having killed her own child, and the consequent disgrace she would incur. This is at least more probable than that she wished to continue nursing for her health’s sake (Thenius), or that she thought to inherit something in the future from the child (Hess); or, finally, that she intended to sell it afterwards for her support (Le Clerc).—In 1 Kings 3:21, at first the time given is the morning, in a general way; but next, the expression is the same as clara luce (Vulgate), or, “as it was becoming brighter and brighter” (Thenius). רַחֲמִים (1 Kings 3:26) is the New Testament σπλάγχνα (2 Corinthians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 7:15). Comp. Genesis 43:30. Luther: “for her motherly heart yearned upon her son.” The words: neither mine nor thine, &c., do not only show want of maternal love, but also envy and dislike of her accuser.—They feared. Comp. Luke 4:36; Luke 8:25. The sentence made a deep impression; אֱלֹהִים is here the same as in Psalms 68:16; Psalms 65:10.

Historical and Ethical

1. Solomon’s marriage with a daughter of Pharaoh was, strictly speaking, a political alliance; but it has, nevertheless, also significance in the history of redemption. The great and mighty king of the land, which for Israel had been “the house of bondage” in which it had eaten “the bread of affliction” (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 16:3), gives now to the king of this once despised and oppressed people, his daughter in marriage, and must, in the providence of God, contribute to the strengthening of the Israelitish throne, and to the increase of the power and glory of the Israelitish kingdom. Thus was this marriage a witness for the divine beneficence in the deliverance from Egypt, to the goal of which Israel had come in the reign of Solomon—the period of the richest bloom of the kingdom. It was likewise a divine seal upon the independence of the people, which had begun with the exodus from Egypt, and now had reached its completeness. [We beg leave to dissent from the position here taken by our author. (Comp. Exeget. on 1 Kings 3:1). Solomon’s alliance with the Egyptian princess for political purposes was after the fashion of worldly princes, and in direct hostility with the theocratic spirit. Egypt was quite as much an “abomination” as “Canaan,” and we are surprised that our author should apologize for Solomon in the matter.—E. H.]

2. That sacrificing and burning of incense in high places was forbidden in the Mosaic law rests, not upon the grounds of outward regulation, but was a natural, necessary consequence of the Mosaic fundamental principles. Jehovah is one, and beside him there is no God. He has chosen Israel, out of all the peoples of the earth, to be His people; He has made a covenant with them, and as a sign and pledge of this covenant will He dwell in the midst of His people. As He himself is one only, so also is and can His dwelling-place be only one. This is the place where He “meets” His people, i.e., exercises the covenant relation (Exodus 29:42 sq.). The concentration of the Jehovah-cultus is connected as inseparably with monotheism, as is the worship in high places, i.e., in any favorite spot, with polytheism. From the Mosaic standpoint, the worship in high places appeared as an ignoring, yea, as a denial, of the dwelling of Jehovah in the midst of His people, and, consequently, of the election and of the covenant of Jehovah, whereof it was the witness and pledge (cf. Joshua 22:0). If the law in question could not be carried out in times of unrest and of convulsion, nevertheless, as soon as the period of the undisturbed possession of Canaan was entered upon, it would remain the business of every truly theocratic king, as the servant of Jehovah, to put an end, as far as possible, to worship in high places. Hence, also, was David, after he had won for Israel victory over all enemies, most earnest to erect an enduring central sanctuary, for which the old tabernacle, especially since the removal of the ark of the covenant from it, was no longer serviceable. Since this, however, was denied him, he laid the charge of it upon Solomon, his son and successor, and made the building of a “house of Jehovah” the first and most pressing duty of his reign (1 Chronicles 28:2 sq.). After the building of the temple, sacrificing in high places should have disappeared totally; but it forever kept emerging, even under kings who in other respects adhered firmly to the worship of Jehovah. Nevertheless, it is constantly spoken of as a defect or an abnormity (1 Kings 15:14; 1Ki 22:44; 2 Kings 12:4; 2Ki 14:4; 2 Kings 15:4; 2 Kings 15:35; 2 Kings 21:3).

3. The divine revelation which Solomon received, came, as in so many other instances both in the Old and also even in the New Testament, through the medium of a dream. In itself the dream is, according to the Scripture, something wholly idle and vain (Ecclesiastes 5:6; Job 20:8; Isaiah 29:7-8); in so far, however, as man is then removed entirely from the sensible and outward world, and is in the condition of a pure psychical intuition, he can, more than in the natural, wakeful condition, become a more receptive soil for divine influences and communications. Hence, in Sirach 31 : (34) 2 sq., while the nothingness of dreams is taught, yet in 1 Kings 3:6 this statement follows: ἐὰν μὴ παρὰ ὑψίστου [sc. τὰ ἐνύπνια] ἀποσταλῇ ἐν ἐπισκοπῇ, μὴ δῷς εἰς αὐτὰ τὴν καρδίαν σοῦ. Dreams of the latter description are placed, consequently, on a level with prophecy and visions, which are the operation of the רוּחַ of Jehovah (Joel 3:1). But these invariably presuppose a certain spiritual temper upon the part of the dreamer. “The prophetic dream of the night, as a rule, is connected with the moral reflections and presentiments of the day” (Lange, on Genesis 20:3). A soul directed towards God and divine things in its wakeful state, is peculiarly fitted, in the stillness of the night, in its involuntary expressions, i.e., in its dreams, to receive purely spiritual, inwardly divine influences. Such was the case with Solomon. His dream shows what then agitated and filled his soul, and that the festivity he then held was not an empty political ceremony, but resulted from an actual religious need. An Adonijah, at his feast at the spring Rogel (1 Kings 1:9-25), would never have been able to dream so. If ever dream contained nothing chimerical (visionary), it was Solomon’s dream at Gibeon. [Bp. Hall, beautifully: “Solomon worships God by day: God appears to Solomon by night. Well may we look to enjoy God when we have served him.—E. H.]

4. The prayer of Solomon unites in itself all that belongs to a true prayer. It affords evidence especially of the genuine theocratic spirit in which this son of David had been educated, and was now entering upon his royal office. He recognises the greatness of the task to be the king of the people which Jehovah has chosen from among all peoples of the earth, and his first and greatest anxiety is to comply with this demand. He feels that he, especially in his youth and inexperience, cannot do this of his own strength, and he prays for enlightenment from on high, not so much for himself as for the sake of the people. It is not his own merit which gives him courage for this prayer, but he rests it upon the divine grace and mercy which his father had so richly experienced. His words are not many, but the few he utters are the expression of a living, child-like faith, as simple and substantial as it is inward and true.

5. The history of the two women “is genuinely Oriental, in which we must dismiss from our minds wholly, our forms of justice and processes of proof: since an accurate, striking flash, which solves the difficulty, in living, immediate insight with one stroke, as with the sharpness of a sword, is far loftier than a regular consideration and balancing of the grounds advanced, for and against. Therefore, this wisdom, as belonging to the period, to the land, and to the whole people, must be looked upon as a high gift of God, as, indeed, it actually was “(Gerlach). Examples of similar judicial decision are not wanting in antiquity. Grotius observes: Non dissimile illud Ariopharnis regis Thracum, qui de tribus filios se Cimmeriorum regis dicentibus eum pro filio habuit, qui jussus cadaver patris jaculis noluerat, incessere. Ouœ historia est apud Siculum Diodorum. Another instance “is adduced by Robertson from an Indian book. A woman in bathing left her child on the bank of a pond. A female demon who was passing by carried it off. Both appear before the goddess with their claims. She commands that each shall seize an arm and a leg and pull at it. The mother of the child is recognised by her refusal” (Philippson). Solomon demonstrated his capacity as judge in the case in hand, in so far especially that, in the absence of witnesses and of outward means of proof, he knew how to bring the secret truth to light in such way as to convince the contestants themselves. The words of Proverbs 16:10 are here confirmed. While Niemeyer, in the judgment of Solomon, recognises, if not “God’s wisdom,” at least “rapid decision, presence of mind, and an accurate insight into human nature,” other theologians of the illumination period, have seen nothing more than “the proceeding of an Oriental despot, a fancy which would not do much to subserve the interests of a European prince “(G. L. Bauer in Keil on the place). He who judges so unwisely, only shows in the act, that in like or similar circumstances he would scarcely have reached so wise a judgment as Solomon’s. Little as Solomon’s procedure may correspond to our present notions of the administration of justice, formally considered, nevertheless that which for all time remains the chief point was not wanting, 1 Kings 3:12—the divine gift of bringing to light the secret, inward fact, and of awakening the sleeping conscience, so that falsehood and misrepresentation vanish, and the truth comes forth. Without this gift all forms and rules of investigation avail nothing; yea, as experience has so often shown, they serve to pervert the conscience and to conceal the truth.

Homiletical and Practical

1 Kings 3:1. Cramer: Although marriage with persons of unlike faith be allowed, and is in itself no sin (1 Corinthians 7:14), it is, nevertheless, better that one avoid it, because the unbelieving perverts the believer more frequently than the believer converts the unbeliever.—Starke: God has the hearts of all men in His hands, and can bring it to pass that they who have been inimical to us, and have despised us, shall hold us in great honor (Proverbs 16:7; Genesis 31:24).—As soon as Solomon saw his existence secured, he proceeded to matrimony.

1 Kings 3:2-4. Solomon’s Sacrificial Festivity: (a) When he celebrated it (at the beginning of his reign to return thanks for the past assistance of God, and to implore its continuance); (b) where he kept it (upon the high place at Gibeon, because no temple was built as yet: the place of prayer in the Old and in the New Testament).—Though God dwell not in temples built by human hands, yet it is needful for each congregation to have an house, where with one mouth it praises the name of the Lord. Where this need is not felt, there is a defect in faith and love for the Lord

1 Kings 3:3. He loved the Lord. This is the best and greatest thing that can be said of a man. So, every one 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; 1 John 2:15; 1 John 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.

1 Kings 3:4. If we should begin our daily work with the sacrifice of our prayer, how much more our life’s calling, and every weighty undertaking upon which our own and the well-being of other men depends (God grant it, He who can help, &c.).

1 Kings 3:5-15. The Prayer of Solomon: (a) Its contents (1 Kings 3:6-9); (b) its answer (1 Kings 3:10-14).

1 Kings 3:5. Starke: Those who love God (1 Kings 3:3), God loves in return, and reveals himself to them (John 14:21).—Hall: The night cannot be otherwise than holy to him whom the previous day has been holy.—In our dreams we often speak and act in such way that we must be frightened, upon awaking, at how much that is impure and corrupt is still within us. Upon this account we should pray in the evening: Ah! may my soul in sleeping also do that which is good, or, if I dream, be it from thee, so that my senses even in sleep may acquire love for thee, &c. (Psalms 63:7).—[One is here reminded of Bp. Ken’s beautiful evening hymn: “Glory to thee, my God, this night.”—E. H.]—A dream like Solomon’s does not happen when the day just past has been spent in revel and riot, in gross or in refined sin.—Lisco: What happened here in dream, Christ commands in “Our Father.”—Starke: God well knew what Solomon needed; but he bid him ask, (1) to show how negligent men are in praying for what is spiritual; (2) that he would only bestow His gifts in the ordinance of prayer; (3) that great personages might have an example of what they should ask of God, above all others. Ask what I shall give thee: (a) a test-word, for as man wishes and prays, so does he show of whose spirit he is the child (Psalms 139:23); (b) a word of warning, for we not only may, but we should also ask for all which we have most at heart (Psalms 37:4).

1 Kings 3:6-10. 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 (Matthew 6:33; Ephesians 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; Ephesians 5:17), and is a fruit of the renewal of our mind (Romans 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.

1 Kings 3:8-9. Pfaff: Subjects are not simply creatures of the authorities, nor are they designed for the exercise of their pleasures and the splendor of their position (Hoheit); but they are God’s people, and as such, are to be governed and judged.

1 Kings 3:11-14. The granting of Solomon’s prayer teaches and assures us: (a) That God grants more than they request, over and above praying and understanding, to those who call upon him with earnestness, and for spiritual gifts (Ephesians 3:20; Matthew 6:33); (b) that God gives to him upon whom He confers an office, that is, to one who does not rush into an office or calling, but is called thereto by God, the necessary understanding, if he humbly seek it.—Where there is wisdom, there comes, indeed, also gold and silver (Proverbs 3:16 sq.), but not the reverse.

1 Kings 3:15. Hall: A heart conscious in itself of the living evidences of a special grace of God, cannot forbear feeling that it should be authenticated through outward signs, and especially through munificence.

1 Kings 3:16-28 : Lisco: Solomon’s Wise Judgment: (a) The question in dispute (1 Kings 3:16-22); (b) the decision (1 Kings 3:23-28).

1 Kings 3:17-22. Such sin brings together, but it unites only for a short time; for it produces discord, wrangling, and controversy. Abiding peace dwells only in the house where the God of peace binds hearts together.—He who takes from the heart of a mother her child, or estranges or deprives her, will not escape the righteous tribunal of the judge to whom the mother (das mutterherz) calls and appeals.—Litigation is generally associated, with envy, falsehood, and unrighteousness, hence the Lord says, be ready, &c. (Matthew 5:25; Luke 12:58).

1 Kings 3:26. If an immoral woman be merciful for the son of her body, and cannot forget her little child (kindleins), how much more should every Christian mother be ready to offer, when necessary, the heaviest sacrifice to deliver her child from moral ruin.—Seiler: If in the hearts of sinners the love of father and mother be so strong, how strong must the fatherly love of God be (Isaiah 49:15)?—Envy hardens all human feeling, and makes one hard and heartless.

1 Kings 3:27. When a child, apparently given over to death, is restored to its parents by divine providence, so much the more must their chief solicitude be to educate and bring it up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.—Not power and force, not great pomp, and pride, and tyranny, but wisdom and righteousness, give to the government authority, and call forth genuine fear and the voluntary obedience of the people.—If it were given to a Solomon to bring to disgrace lying and misrepresentation, by judicial wisdom and knowledge of the human heart, and to deliver a righteous judgment, how much less shall liars and hypocrites stand up under the tribunal of Him who could say, A greater than Solomon is here! who, without needing witnesses and judicial examination, will bring to light what is hidden in darkness (1 Corinthians 4:5), and before whose judgment-seat we must all appear (2 Corinthians 5:10).


1 Kings 3:5; 1 Kings 3:5.—[The Sept. and Chald. here repeat Lord; the Syr. follows the Hbr. In reading God; while the Vulg. and Arab. avoid repeating the divine name.

1 Kings 3:7; 1 Kings 3:7.—[Some MSS., followed by the Sept. and Vulg., prefix the conjunction ו.

1 Kings 3:10; 1 Kings 3:10.—[Many MSS. read יהוה instead of אדני, and are followed by the Chaldee.

1 Kings 3:12; 1 Kings 3:12.—[Many MSS. and editions, followed by the Vulg., have כדבריך in the plural.

1 Kings 3:13; 1 Kings 3:13.—[The Sept. put this clause in the past tense: ὡς οὐ γέγονεν�, the Vat. ending the clause here; but the Alex., by retaining the last words of the Hbr., πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας σου, makes nonsense.

1 Kings 3:15; 1 Kings 3:15.—[The Sept. add ἐν Σιών.

1 Kings 3:15; 1 Kings 3:15.—[The Hbr. וַיַּעַשׂ is the same before “peace-offerings” and before “feast,” and is quite different from the וַיַּעַל before “burnt-offerings.” The distinction is accurately preserved by the Sept. and the Vulg.

1 Kings 3:16; 1 Kings 3:16.—[This translation is sustained here, as in Joshua 2:1, by all the VV. except the Chald., and is undoubtedly the invariable and distinctly-marked sense at the frequent Hbr. word. The Chald. renders inn-keepers. The author’s objection to the sense of harlots seems insufficient.

1 Kings 3:18; 1 Kings 3:18.—[Many MSS., followed by the Sept. and Vulg., prefix the conjunction ו.

1 Kings 3:19; 1 Kings 3:19.—[It is better to retain throughout the passage the same rendering of the same Hbr. word.

1 Kings 3:22; 1 Kings 3:22.—[One MS., followed by the Vat., Sept., and Arab., omits the second clause of 1 Kings 3:22.

1 Kings 3:27; 1 Kings 3:27.—[The Sept. remove any possible obscurity by paraphrasing, “Give the child to her that said, Give her,” &c.—F. G.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-kings-3.html. 1857-84.
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