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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 3

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2990. B.C. 1014.

Solomon marries Pharaoh’s daughter, 1 Kings 3:1 . His religion, 1 Kings 3:2-4 . His prayer for wisdom, and the answer, 1 Kings 3:5-15 . He decides the dispute between the two harlots, 1 Kings 3:16-28 .

Verse 1

1 Kings 3:1. Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh As being a powerful neighbour. And took Pharaoh’s daughter To wife, which was not unlawful, if she was first instructed in, and made a proselyte to, the Jewish religion, as, in all probability, she was. For Solomon was not yet fallen from God, but loved the Lord, and walked in the statutes of David, (1 Kings 3:3,) and therefore would not have married a gross idolater, which would have been directly contrary to God’s law, and most pernicious in its consequences. It is true he afterward loved many strange women, and the wives he married alienated his heart from Jehovah, and drew him in to worship strange gods: but the gods of the Egyptians are not reckoned among them, nor does it appear that Pharaoh’s daughter was one of the wives whose example or conversation had such a pernicious influence. On the contrary, it is likely she was a worshipper of the true God, and that Solomon’s taking her to wife was designed by God to be a type of Christ calling his church to himself and to the true religion, not only from among the Jews, but even out of the Gentile world. This, it is thought, plainly appears from the forty-fifth Psalm, and the book of Canticles. And brought her into the city of David Into David’s palace there. Until he had made an end of building the house of the Lord The temple designed for the worship and honour of God. And the wall of Jerusalem round about Which, though in some sort built by David, yet Solomon is here said to build, either because he made it higher and stronger, in which sense Nebuchadnezzar is said to have built Babylon, (Daniel 4:30,) or because he built another wall besides the former, for after this time Jerusalem was encompassed with more walls than one.

Verse 2

1 Kings 3:2. Only the people sacrificed in high places Which were groves, or other convenient places upon hills. In such places the patriarchs had been wont to offer up their worship, and sacrifices to God; and from them this custom was derived both to the Gentiles and the Jews; and in them the Gentiles sacrificed to idols, and the Hebrews to the true God. But this custom was expressly forbidden by God to his people, except in some extraordinary cases, and they were commanded to offer their sacrifices and other oblations only in the place which the Lord should choose, and where his tabernacle, altar, and ark should be, Leviticus 17:3-5; Deuteronomy 12:10-14. It is, therefore, here mentioned as an exception to Solomon’s integrity and glory, and the happiness of his reign, and as a blemish to his government, that he permitted and practised what was thus so expressly forbidden. Possibly he permitted it because he thought it better to allow of an error in a circumstance, than occasion a neglect of God’s worship altogether, which he apprehended would follow upon a severe prohibition of that practice. For the people’s hearts were generally and constantly set upon these high places, as appears from the following history; and they were not willing to submit to the trouble and charge which the bringing their sacrifices to one place would cause, nor, indeed, would they yield to it until the temple was built: and, as that was speedily to be done, Solomon seems to have thought it more advisable to delay enforcing obedience to God’s law in this point for the present, than by force to drive them to it. These, however, and all other prudential considerations, ought to have given place to the will and wisdom of God. Because there was no house built to the name of the Lord For his service, and to the honour, and praise, and glory of his name; that is, of his majesty, and all his perfections, which were to be adored and manifested there. But this reason for their sacrificing in high places was not sufficient; because there was a tabernacle, to which they were as much confined as they were afterward to the temple.

Verse 3

1 Kings 3:3. And Solomon loved Or, Yet he loved, the Lord Although he miscarried in the matter of high places, yet, in the general, his heart was right with God. Walking in the statutes According to the statutes or commands of God, which are here called the statutes of David; not only because they were diligently practised by David, but also because the observation of them was so earnestly pressed upon Solomon, and fortified with David’s authority and command.

Verse 4

1 Kings 3:4. The king went to Gibeon Because the tabernacle was there, and the great brazen altar which Moses made. For after Shiloh was destroyed, they were carried to Nob; and the priests being there slain by Saul, they were removed to Gibeon, 2 Chronicles 1:3-6. That was the great high place The most eminent and frequented; and, possibly, was a high and raised ground. A thousand burnt-offerings did Solomon offer This undoubtedly includes the peace-offerings which were killed and dressed for the entertainment of the guests who were invited to the sacrifices; for it can hardly be supposed that so many were wholly consumed on the altar at one time of sacrificing.

Verse 5

1 Kings 3:5. The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream As he had done to Jacob at Bethel, Genesis 28:13; and to others on different occasions, Genesis 20:3; Genesis 26:24. Sleep is like a state of death to the soul; wherein the senses are locked up, and the understanding and will deprived of the free exercise of their functions. And yet this is no impediment to God in communicating his will to mankind; for no doubt he has power, not only to awaken our intellectual faculties, but to advance them above their ordinary measure of perception, even while the body is asleep. Solomon had prayed the day before with great fervency, and desired of God the gift of wisdom: see Wis 7:7 . In the night-time God appeared unto him in a dream, and bade him ask whatever he would. Solomon, having his mind still full of the desire of wisdom, asked and obtained it: so that the prayer or desire he uttered in his dream was but the consequence of the option he had made the day before, when he was awake. In a word, though we should allow that the soul of man, when the body is asleep, is in a state of rest and inactivity; yet we cannot but think that God can approach it many different ways; can move and actuate it just as he pleases; and, when he is inclined to make a discovery of any thing, can set such a lively representation of it before the understanding, as shall make a man not doubt of the reality of the vision. See Calmet and Dodd.

Verses 6-8

1 Kings 3:6-8. According as he walked before thee in truth In the true worship of God, in the profession, belief, practice, and defence of the true religion. So truth here contains all duties to God, as righteousness doth his duties to men, and uprightness the right manner of performing both sorts of duties. In uprightness of heart with thee That is, in thy judgment, to whom he appealed as the witness of his integrity. I am but a child So he was in years: not above twenty years old, and withal (which he principally intends) he was raw and inexperienced as a child in state affairs. How to go out, &c. To govern my people, and manage affairs. Thy servant is in the midst of thy people Is set over them to rule and guide them. A metaphor from the overseer of divers workmen, who usually is in the midst of them, that he may the better observe how each of them discharges his office. Which thou hast chosen Thy peculiar people, whom thou takest special care of, and therefore wilt expect a more punctual account of my government of them.

Verse 9

1 Kings 3:9. Give to thy servant an understanding heart Whereby I may both clearly discern, and faithfully perform all the parts of my duty: for both these are spoken of in Scripture as the effects of a good understanding; and he that lives in the neglect of his duties, or the practice of wickedness, is called a fool, and one void of understanding. To judge thy people Or govern, as that word is often used. That I may discern between good and bad Namely, in causes and controversies among thy people; that I may not, through mistake, or prejudice, or passion, give wrong sentences, and call evil good, or good evil. Absalom, that was a fool, wished himself a judge: Solomon, that was a wise man, trembles at the undertaking. The more knowing and considerate men are, the more jealous they are of themselves.

Verse 10

1 Kings 3:10. The speech pleased the Lord For it manifested a disinterested mind and a public spirit, that desired, above all things, the honour of God and the good of his people, and to direct his conduct aright and to do justice.

Verses 11-12

1 Kings 3:11-12. Nor hast asked the life of thine enemies That God would take away their lives, or put it into his power to destroy them. Behold I have done according to thy word I have granted, and do at this present grant thy desire. And accordingly at this time God did infuse into him a far higher degree of wisdom than he had before possessed; and that not only to govern his people, and to know and do the several duties which he owed to God and them, but also the knowledge of divers arts and sciences, and of things human and divine, as appears from 1 Kings 4:29-34; and that in a far greater measure and proportion, than with the best natural understanding he could have attained by the most diligent study, if he had been employed therein from a child. So that there was none like thee before thee Either no king, or rather no man. For in these respects he is preferred, (1 Kings 4:31,) not only before all kings, but before all men. No mere man, it appears, since the fall of Adam, ever equalled him in universal knowledge, especially in the art of well governing his people. But, it may be asked, did not the apostles excel him? Not in natural and political knowledge, but only in the knowledge of the mysteries of faith, which were more freely and more fully imparted in these latter times; the ignorance whereof was no disparagement to Solomon’s wisdom, because they were not discoverable by any creature without that divine revelation which God saw fit not to afford in Solomon’s time.

Verses 13-14

1 Kings 3:13-14. I have given thee that which thou hast not asked Or rather, I will give thee, as it is expressed in the parallel place, 2 Chronicles 1:12; I will as certainly give them as if I had already actually done it. For future things, which God is engaged to bring to pass, or foresees will take place, are often expressed in Scripture in the past time. So that there shall not be any among the kings The succeeding kings of Israel, of whom he speaks. Or, hath not been, as it is in the Hebrew: and so it may be true of all the kings that then were or had been in the world, whereof none were like him in the things here mentioned, namely, riches and honour, or renown, as well as wisdom. All thy days Whereby he signifies that these gifts of God were not transient, as they were in Saul, but such as should abide with him while he lived. And if thou wilt walk in my ways This caution God gives him lest his great wisdom should make him proud, or careless, or presumptuous, as if he were out of all danger; and to oblige him to more care and circumspection, to avoid the snares and mischiefs to which so much prosperity and glory would probably expose him; and withal to justify himself, in case he should afterward alter the course of his providence toward Solomon.

Verse 15

1 Kings 3:15. Behold, it was a dream He perceived that it was a dream; not a vain dream, such as those wherewith men are commonly deluded, but a divine dream, assuring him of the things promised, which he knew, by a divine impression, after he was awaked, and by the vast alteration which he presently found within himself in point of wisdom and knowledge. And stood before the ark Which was there in the city of David, (2 Samuel 6:17,) before which he presented himself in a way of holy adoration. And offered up burnt-offerings Chiefly for the expiation of his and his people’s sin, through the blood of Christ, manifestly signified in these sacrifices. And peace-offerings Solemnly to praise God for all his mercies, and especially for giving him quiet possession of the kingdom, and for his glorious appearance to him in the dream, and for the promise therein made to him, and the actual accomplishment of it.

Verse 16

1 Kings 3:16. Two women that were harlots Or, victuallers; for the Hebrew word signifies both. Yet that they were unmarried persons seems probable, both because there is no mention of any husbands, whose office it was, if there were any such, to contest for their wives; and because they lived a solitary life in one house. Unto the king Probably they had presented their cause to the inferior courts, and as they could not determine it, they now bring it to the king as the supreme magistrate, and famous for wisdom. And stood there before him Desiring and expecting his sentence in the case.

Verses 18-22

1 Kings 3:18-22. On the third day this woman was delivered also So that the children could not be distinguished by their age. No stranger was with us in the house Therefore there was no witness on either side; and although there might be some difference distinguishable by an exact observer between the features of the two children, yet it is not probable that was much attended to by the neighbours who might be present to assist either or both of them in their labour; as they were persons, it seems, of suspected fame. And the testimonies of the women were of equal credit, that is, of no credit at all. Because she overlaid it And so smothered it: which she justly conjectures, because there were evidences of that kind of death, but no appearance of any other cause thereof. Thus they spake before the king Both peremptorily and vehemently affirmed the same thing; oft repeating the same words.

Verse 25

1 Kings 3:25. The king said With seeming sincerity, though with a design far above the reach of the two women, or of the people present, who probably with horror expected the execution of his sentence. “Solomon knew at once that the only sign whereby to discover the true mother, would be her affection, and compassionate tenderness for her child; and therefore, in order to distinguish between the two, his business was to make trial of this. And if we suppose that, when he commanded the child to be divided, he spake with a sedate countenance and seeming earnestness, as the true mother’s petition to the king makes it apparent that he did; then we may suppose further, not only the two women, but all the people present, with dread and admiration expecting the execution of the thing; which when it ended in so just a decision, quite contrary to what they looked for, raised joy in every breast, and gave a more advantageous commendation to the judge. And yet Abarbinel, the Jewish commentator, thinks that all this was no great proof of Solomon’s extraordinary wisdom, nor could it beget that fear or reverence which the text (says 1Ki 3:28 ) it procured to his person. His opinion, therefore, is, that Solomon made a discovery of the truth antecedent to this experiment; that by observing the countenance, the manner of speech, and all the motions of the women, he discerned the secret of their hearts, and penetrated to the bottom of the business; and that his commanding the child to be divided afterward was only to notify to the company what he before had discovered.” See Patrick and Calmet.

Verses 27-28

1 Kings 3:27-28. She is the mother As is evident from her natural affection to the child, which she had rather have given away from her than destroyed. Wisdom of God Divine wisdom, with which God had inspired him for the government of his people.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-kings-3.html. 1857.
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