1 Kings 3:1. And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh— There are many who blame this action of Solomon's; observing, that whatever augmentation of power he might promise himself from this alliance, he certainly ran the hazard of having his religion corrupted. Others, however, have observed, that as the sacred Scriptures commend the beginning of Solomon's reign, in all other respects except the people's sacrificing in high places, which might be the rather tolerated because there was no house built unto the name of the Lord in those days, 1 Kings 3:2 and as they gave him this character, that he loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, 1 Kings 3:2 he would never have done an act so directly contrary to the laws of God as marrying an idolatrous princess, had she not been first proselyted to the Jewish faith. The Scriptures, indeed, take notice of the gods of the Moabites, Ammonites, and Sidonians, for whom Solomon, in compliance with his strange wives, built places of worship. See chap. 11: But as there is no mention made of any Gods of the Egyptians, it seems very likely that this princess, when she was espoused to Solomon, quitted the religion of her ancestors, to which Psalms 45:10-11 is thought to allude in its primary sense. However this be, it is certain that no where in Scripture do we find Solomon reproved for this match; nor can we think that his book of Canticles, which is supposed to be in its primary sense his Epithalamium, would have found a place in the sacred canon, had the spouse, whom it all along celebrates, been at that time an idolatress. It may seem somewhat strange, that in all the history of the Jews, from the time of Moses to that of Solomon, no mention should be made of the kings of Egypt, as if they had no concern in the affairs of Canaan, but were wholly diverted some other way: but for this their own historians account, when they tell us, that during this space of time the "Egyptian kings did nothing worthy recording." Diodor. Biblioth. lib. 1: p. 29. Clemens Alexandrinus, in a passage taken from Alexander Polyhistor, tells us, that the proper name of this Egyptian king, whose daughter Solomon married, was Vaphres. See Calmet.
1 Kings 3:4. To Gibeon—for that was the great high place— Of all the high places where the people sacrificed, Gibeon was the great and celebrated one, because the tabernacle and brazen altar were there. See 2 Chronicles 1:3. There is no reason to suppose, that the thousand sacrifices which Solomon is said to have made here, were offered in one day. The king, we may imagine, upon one of the great festivals, went in procession with his nobles to pay his devotion in Gibeon. Each of the great festivals lasted for seven days: but Solomon might stay much longer at Gibeon, until, by the daily oblations, a thousand burnt-offerings were consumed; and at the conclusion of this course of devotion, he might offer up his ardent prayer to God for wisdom, as recorded in the next verses. See 2 Chronicles 1:7.
1 Kings 3:5. The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream— 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. See Job 33:14. In a word, we cannot but allow, that God can approach the soul in many different ways, when the body is in a state of rest and inactivity; 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 prevent a man's doubting the reality of the vision. See Calmet.
1 Kings 3:7-9. I am but a little child, &c.— It is plain that Solomon means here, that he was only a little child, a mere infant, in understanding and abilities, to guide and govern so great a people. See Psalms 131:2. Houbigant observes, that the phrase, ובא צאת tseth vabo, to go out or come in, is not only a Hebraism frequent in the sacred writings, but also a similitude taken from a little child, yet unable to walk firmly, and ignorant of all things; such as Solomon professes himself to be, as the ruler of so great a people. It is generally agreed, that he was about twenty years of age when he began to reign. Though Solomon, in his great modesty, might request of God no more than the gift of government, or, as he expresses it, 1 Kings 3:9 an understanding heart, to judge the people, and to discern between good and evil; yet God, out of his abundant grace, gave him a general knowledge of all other things, as the succeeding history informs us; and that, whereas other men gather their knowledge from study and observation, Solomon had his by an immediate inspiration from God; insomuch that he who went to bed as ignorant as other men, awaked in the morning as an angel of God. But though his knowledge of things was in a great measure infused, yet he did not therefore neglect his study: he gave his heart to seek, and search out by his wisdom, concerning all things under the sun; in which search, as himself testifies, Ecclesiastes 1:13 he took no small pains: so that his gifts extraordinary did not supersede the use of other means in the acquisition of knowledge; but, by application and experience, he perfected what he had so advantageously received from the hands of God.
REFLECTIONS.—Solomon having waited upon God, he mercifully visits him in return.
1. The same night after he had spent his day with him, in a vision, by a supernatural dream, God reveals himself to him, and makes him a gracious offer to grant whatever he should request. Note; (1.) They who wait upon God in prayer and praise, will find him speedy in his returns of benediction. (2.) When the outward senses are locked up in sleep, the souls of God's people are still capable of divine manifestations, and may, and sometimes do, receive gracious communications from him. (3.) God still says to every praying believer, What is thy request, and it shall be given thee?
2. Solomon's pious choice is recorded. Though asleep to the eyes of men, yet awake to God, he pours out his grateful acknowledgements, and puts up his fervent prayer. Note; That which engages us most when we are awake, will even in sleep still be our employment. Many a fervent prayer the spirit has breathed, when the body has been wrapped in slumbers. He mentions with deep gratitude God's mercy to his father David whilst alive, and now after his death, in bringing himself, his son, to the throne. His father's piety he honourably speaks of, as what he wished to imitate; his own insufficiency for the high station in which God had placed him, he humbly confesses, being but a child in his own eyes in wisdom and understanding, and his vast kingdom requiring the deepest judgment to govern it aright; therefore he requests an understanding heart, that he might be enabled to administer impartial justice, and to reign in uprightness to God's glory, and for his people's good. Note; (1.) A good child will remember his father's excellencies to imitate them, and draw a veil over his sins. (2.) The wisest men are most sensible of their own ignorance. (3.) They who feel most the weight and difficulty of their office, will be best enabled to fulfil it, because they will be looking for strength and wisdom from above. (4.) An understanding heart is the gift of God.
3. God favourably accepted his request. He was pleased with the wisdom of his choice, in preferring spiritual blessings before temporal, the glory of God before his own advantage; he therefore not only bestows the wisdom that Solomon asked, but superadds riches and honour; and promises farther, long life to enjoy them, on condition that he should approve himself faithful. Note; (1.) When we seek God's kingdom in the first place, he has promised to add all other things thereto. (2.) Riches and honours are then truly blessings, when God bestows the wisdom and grace to improve them aright. (3.) If any man want spiritual wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth liberally, beyond all we can ask or think.
4. Solomon awoke, and behold it was a dream; yet not, as dreams usually are, empty and vain, but followed by the real communication of the wisdom then promised him. On his return to Jerusalem, therefore, he offers a great and grateful sacrifice, and rejoices before the ark of the covenant, with all his servants, who partook in his joy, and shared in his entertainment.
1 Kings 3:16-28. Then came there two women, &c.— See Joshua 2:1 respecting the word זנות zonoth rendered harlots. 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 that the two women, but all the people present, with horror and admiration expected the execution of the thing; but when the whole ended in so just a decision, quite contrary to what they looked for, it raised joy in every breast, and gave a more advantageous commendation to the judge. It may not be improper, upon this occasion, to cite an instance or two from prophane history, of a singular address, though much inferior to this, in discovering such secrets as seemed to be past finding out. Suetonius, in his life of Claudius, chap. 15: tells us, that the emperor discovered a woman to be the mother of a young man, whom she would not own for her son, by commanding her to be married to him: the horror of committing incest obliged her to declare the truth. In like manner, Diodorus Siculus relates, that Ariopharnes, king of the Thracians, being appointed to arbitrate between three men, who all pretended to be sons of the king of the Cimmerians, and claimed the succession, found out the true son and heir, by ordering them to shoot each man his arrow into the dead king's body; which one of them refusing to do, he was deemed the lawful claimant. See Patrick and Calmet.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany