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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
1 Kings 3

 

 

Verses 1-15

EXPOSITION

THE BEGINNING OF SOLOMON'S REIGN.—In the preceding chapter we have seen the establishment of Solomon's rule (verse 46) by the removal of internal foes, i.e; of disaffected and rebellious subjects. In this we see him strengthening his position by an external alliance, by a marriage with an Egyptian princess. This event, however, is related here, not because the historian had this connexion of ideas in his mind, but probably because the marriage came next in order of time.

1 Kings 3:1

And Solomon made affinity [Not "alliance" (as some have supposed) but relationship. Lit; made himself son-in-law] with Pharaoh king of Egypt [which of the Pharaohs this was, it is impossible to say with certainty. As, however, Shishak (1 Kings 11:40; 1 Kings 14:25) is undoubtedly the Sheshonk who succeeded to the throne of Egypt in the 26th year of Solomon (Poole), and who was the first king of the 22nd dynasty of Manetho, we may safely identify this Pharaoh with "a late king of the 21st dynasty." It has been assumed (Bunsen, Ewald, Brugsch, al.) that it was Psusennes II; the last king of that house, on the supposition that he reigned 35 years, (as stated by Eusebius), but according to Africanus, his reign was limited to 14 years. It is wiser to say, therefore, with Mr. Poole (Dict. Bib; "Pharaoh") that this Pharaoh "cannot yet be identified on Manetho's list." It is also impossible to decide whether the alliance was first sought by Solomon with a view to win over a powerful and dangerous neighbour (Thenius), to whose inroads his northern border was exposed, and especially to counteract the influence (1 Kings 11:21) of Hadad (Plumptre), or whether the marriage was proposed by Pharaoh because the 21st dynasty "had then become very weak" (Rawlinson) and its head desired "friendly relations with the kingdom of Israel, which had grown into a power to be dreaded" (Keil). But we may reasonably suppose that the alliance "must have been to most Israelites a very startling one" (Plumptre.) Egypt (Rahab, Psalms 89:10; Isaiah 51:9) was to every Israelite a name both of triumph and dread. The Pharaohs were their ancestral foes], and took Pharaoh's daughter [A marriage such as this was not without precedent (Genesis 41:45; Exodus 2:21; Numbers 12:1; Matthew 1:5; Ruth 4:13), nor was it condemned by the Law, which only forbade intermarriage with the nations of Canaan (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3), and sanctioned the union of an Israelite with a captive taken in war (Deuteronomy 21:13; cf. Deuteronomy 20:14). "At the same time, it was only when the foreign wives renounced idolatry, that such marriages were in accordance with the spirit of the law" (Keil). As Solomon at this period of his life faithfully observed the law, as he is never blamed for this marriage, and as there is no trace whatever of the introduction of Egyptian rites into Israel, it is a fair presumption that the Egyptian princess conformed to the religion of her adopted country], and brought her into the city of David [2 Chronicles 8:11 speaks of her dwelling in "the house of David," i.e; it would seem, the palace which David had occupied] until he had made an end [this hardly shows that he had begun to build, as Keil infers. He did not begin building the Temple until the fourth (1 Kings 6:1), nor his own house until the eleventh year (1 Kings 7:1) after his accession, and the marriage, though not at the very commencement of his reign, can hardly have been delayed to the eleventh year, and may have taken place before the death of Shimei] of building his own house [cf. 1 Kings 7:7] and the house of the Lord [cf. 1 Kings 6:1-38.; 1 Kings 7:51] and the wall of Jerusalem round about. [Probably, he both strengthened and extended the city walls, as Josephus (Ant. 8.6. 1) affirms. Acc. to the LXX. addition to 1 Kings 12:1-33; it was on this task that Jeroboam was employed (1 Kings 11:27; cf. 1 Kings 9:15). David had fortified a part of the city (2 Samuel 5:9).

1 Kings 3:2

Only [The word perhaps signifies "that there was one exception to the flourishing condition of things which the writer has been describing" (Rawlinson), though the people are nowhere blamed for sacrificing on the high places, and Solomon's sacrifice at "the great high place "was full of blessing. The idea rather is that just as he was obliged to bring his Egyptian wife into the city of David, because his palace was not yet finished, so the people were compelled to sacrifice on the high places, because the temple was not yet built (Keil), and "the place" where God would put His name had only just been chosen (1 Chronicles 22:1)] the people sacrificed [Heb. were sacrificing, i.e; habitually, constantly] in high places [All nations have chosen hill tops for act of worship, perhaps as being nearer heaven. "Even Abraham built an altar to the Lord on a mountain near Bethel (Genesis 12:7, Genesis 12:8; cf. Genesis 22:2, Genesis 22:9; Genesis 31:54)." And the use of high places for this purpose was not distinctly condemned in the Law. It is true the Hebrews were commanded to have but one place of sacrifice (Le 17:9; Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:13, Deuteronomy 12:26, Deuteronomy 12:27; cf. Joshua 22:29), and this no doubt was, if not an indirect prohibition, a discouragement of such sanctuaries. It has been held, however, that this command was purely prospective, and it is certainly remarkable that even when the Israelites were settled in the promised land, and the tabernacle was set up (Joshua 18:1), altars were constantly built and sacrifices offered on high places, and sometimes, as in the case of Gideon ( 6:26), and Manoah ( 13:19, 13:20), by express Divine command. Later on we find Samuel (1 Samuel 7:9, 1 Samuel 7:10; 1 Samuel 11:15; 1 Samuel 16:5), Saul (Hebrews 13:9; 14:35), David (1 Chronicles 21:26), Solomon and Elijah (1 Kings 18:30), offering sacrifices in various places, which they could not possibly have done had it seemed to them that this was condemned beforehand by the Law. It is highly probable, therefore, that though the contemporaries of Joshua took a different view (as Joshua 22:15-31 proves), the men of a later age excused themselves on the ground stated in the text, that "there was no house built unto the name of the Lord." It has been held by some that "had they not sacrificed and burnt incense on high places, they could not have sacrificed or burnt incense at all" (Bp. Horsley); but this seems to overlook the fact that there was one place provided for sacrifices—the door of the tabernacle -- and that for some reason or other they sacrificed elsewhere. And the reason, no doubt, was the one assigned by the historian. It should be added that this term "high place" ( בָּמָה) came to be used of all places of worship, not only on heights, but even those in valleys (2 Kings 17:9; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 32:35). The Bamah sometimes consisted of an altar only, but as a rule, there was a shrine or sanctuary, erected hard by (1 Kings 13:32; 2 Kings 17:29; 2 Kings 23:19), the Beth-Bamah, for which the word Bamah is sometimes loosely employed (1 Kings 11:7; 1 Kings 14:23; 2 Kings 21:3)], because there was no house built unto the name of the Lord until those days.

1 Kings 3:3

And Solomon loved the Lord [thus keeping the first and great commandment, the "Shema Israel" (Deuteronomy 6:5; cf. Deuteronomy 30:16; Matthew 22:1-46 :87; Luke 10:27], walking in the statutes of David his father [i.e; those which David had kept (Luke 10:6,Luke 10:14) and commanded him to keep (Luke 2:4)]: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. [These words clearly show that the worship of the high places, although condoned, and indeed accepted, by God (Luke 10:5) was not strictly lawful and right. It was an ignorance that God winked at. The historian, remembering what the worship of the high places became, notices this as an imperfection of Solomon's early reign, though he does not say that such worship was sinful.

1 Kings 3:4

And the king went to Gibeon [Joshua 9:3; Joshua 10:2; Joshua 18:25; Joshua 21:17; 2 Samuel 21:1. Now known as El-Jib, a commanding eminence (as the name implies) some six miles north of Jerusalem. Strictly, it consists of two heights, on one of which, it is conjectured, the town stood, while the other was the high place. Solomon was accompanied to Gibeon by "all the congregation," including the captains, judges, governors, etc., after the precedent of 1 Samuel 11:15; cf. 2 Samuel 6:2. His object was also to supplicate the Divine blessing on his undertakings. If his visit served at the same time as a farewell, or "honourable funeral to the tabernacle" (Wordsw.) this was an accident]; for that was the great high place [being the place of the tabernacle and brazen altar. In 1 Samuel 21:6 we find the tabernacle at Nob, though without the ark (1 Samuel 4:2). After the massacre of the priests it lost the ephod (1 Samuel 22:20; 1 Samuel 23:6). It could hardly remain in a spot stained by so much blood; but how or when it found its way to Gibeon, we do not know. See 1 Chronicles 16:37, 1 Chronicles 16:39; 2 Chronicles 1:3-6]: a thousand burnt offerings [such numbers were not infrequent at festivals. See on 1 Kings 8:62, and cf. 2 Chronicles 29:33, 2 Chronicles 29:34. Rawlinson reminds us that "Xerxes offered 1000 oxen at Troy" (Herod. 7:43).] did Solomon offer [not, of course, personally, as some (Ewald. e.g.) have sup. posed. He is said to have "offered" them, because he (together with the congregation, perhaps) provided them. The immense number alone shows that he cannot have offered in person. The festival probably lasted for seven or eight days,but even then a thousand victims can hardly have been offered whole ( עֹלוֹת) unless the altar was greatly enlarged, or additional temporary altars were erected. This latter supposition is not negatived by the next words. See on 1 Kings 8:63, 1 Kings 8:64.] upon that altar.

1 Kings 3:5

In Glbeon the Lord appeared unto Solomon in a dream [cf. Numbers 12:6. A vision is not necessarily implied (as in Genesis 28:12; cf. Genesis 15:12), though he may have seen some angelic form (angelus in Dei nomine ei apparuit loquens. Grotius)—of course, only in his dream. Cf. Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:12. Probably "appeared" is the equivalent of "revealed Himself." Bähr] by night; and God said, Ask what I shall give thee [cf. Matthew 7:7. This was the answer to the sacrifices. The night was probably that which followed the last day on which they were offered (Matthew 7:15).]

1 Kings 3:6

And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto [Heb. wrought with] thy servant David my father great mercy [marg; favour] according as he walked Before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee [cf. 2 Kings 20:3, where Hezekiah uses much the same language of himself. Also 2 Kings 11:4], and thou hast kept for him this great kindness [Heb. favour; same word as above. David himself had regarded this as a singular mercy (1 Kings 1:48)], that thou hast given him a son to sit [Heb. sitting] upon his throne, as it is this day. [Same expression Deuteronomy 6:24; Deuteronomy 8:18; 1 Samuel 22:8.; Ezra 9:7.]

1 Kings 3:7

And now, O Lord my Cod, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father; and I am but [Heb. and I … ] a little child: [These words are generally understood as indicating Solomon's humility rather than his age. No doubt, there is some exaggeration in the expression, which manifestly is not to be taken au pied de la lettre; at the same time it is questionable whether such words would be used of himself by a young man of twenty, which Solomon is commonly supposed to have been. See on 1 Kings 2:2, and 1 Kings 12:8] I know not how to go out or come in. [The same phrase is found in the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy 28:6; Deuteronomy 31:2. Also in 1 Samuel 18:13; 2 Samuel 3:25; Psalms 121:8. It is the formula for expressing behaviour, conduct, the outward life of man.]

1 Kings 3:8

And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen [see Deuteronomy 7:6], a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. [The promises of Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5, lived in the thoughts and language of the Jews, and were doubtless the original of this expression. Cf. also Numbers 23:10.]

1 Kings 3:9

Give therefore thy servant an understanding [Heb. hearing. Cf. verse 11 (Heb. "to hear judgment.") The idea is not docility, as the Vulg. (cor docile), but discrimination, penetration. Cf. 2 Samuel 14:17 (Heb.); Philippians 1:9, Philippians 1:10 (marg.)] heart [i.e; a judicial mind. The "hearing heart" was desired, not that it might "give heed to the law" (Keil), but to qualify him] to Judge thy people [The Hebrew king, like most ancient monarchs, was supreme judge as well as governor ("prince and judge," Exodus 5:14; and cf. Exodus 18:16). The Jews desired a king that he might judge them (1 Samuel 8:5). Their rulers so far had been purely "Judges" ( שֹׁפְטִים; compare the Carthaginian name, suffetes.) When they desired one who should, lead their armies, they still put his judicial functions in the first place (loc. cit. verse 20). And what were the duties of a king in this respect, Absalom's words (2 Samuel 15:4) show. In verses 16-28 we see Solomon sitting as Chief Justice], that I may discern between good and bad [i.e; right and wrong, true and false; cf. Hebrews 5:14): for who is able to judge this thy so great [Heb. heavy, i.e; numerous; compare graves greges] a people. [The number of the Israelites at this period is referred to in 1 Kings 4:20.]

1 Kings 3:10

And the speech [Heb. thing; same word as below] pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing, [Though in a dream the judgment and will were not suspended. Our dreams accord with our waking thoughts. This would have been Solomon's choice at any time.]

1 Kings 3:11

And God said unto him. Because thou hast asked this thing and hast not asked for thyself long life [Heb. many days]; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life [i.e; destruction in battle] of thine enemies [not so much personal enemies, like Hadad and Rezon, (Rawlinson) as military foes. The meaning is explained by the corresponding word, "honour" ( כָבוֹד glory) in verse 13]; but hast asked [The word is repeated, according to Hebrew usage, now for the sixth time] for thyself understanding to discern [Heb. hear; see on verse 9] Judgment.

1 Kings 3:12

Behold, I have done according to thy words [i.e; granted thy prayer, as the next words show]: lo [Heb. behold] 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. [Cf. 1 Chronicles 29:25; 2 Chronicles 9:22. But there is no need to restrict the reference to kings and princes.]

1 Kings 3:13

And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour [Heb. glory]; so that there shall not be any among the kings lure unto thee all thy days.

1 Kings 3:14

And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk [1 Kings 3:6; 1 Kings 15:4. This is the Divine confirmation of David's words to his son (1 Kings 2:3, 1 Kings 2:4) and of the son's description of his father's piety (1 Kings 15:6 supra)], then I will lengthen thy days [Solomon's days were not of an unusual length, as he can hardly have been more than sixty (if so much), although called זִקֵן.

1 Kings 3:15

And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream [That is to say, this passed while Solomon slept; but it was more than a dream. The same words are used of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:7) when God showed him what He was about to do (1 Kings 3:25, 1 Kings 3:28, cf. Genesis 40:8), and this was such a dream as Pharaoh's and as Joseph's (Matthew 1:20; Matthew 2:19). It was a dream, i.e; in which a Divine revelation was made to him. Wordsw. refers to Solomon's words, "I sleep, but my heart waketh" (Song of Solomon 5:2), and "He giveth to his beloved (Jedidiah) in sleep" (Psalms 127:2)]. And he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant [the other sanctuary of that period (2 Samuel 6:17; 1 Chronicles 16:37-40)] and offered up burnt offerings [probably in continuation of the sacrifices of Gibeon, 1 Kings 3:4], and offered peace offerings [in testimony of his thankfulness for the signal favour recently vouchsafed to him] and made a feast [lit; a drinking. After the example of David, 1 Chronicles 16:3. Cf. 1 Kings 8:65. It was not exclusively a symposium. The flesh of the animals offered in sacrifice was eaten by the worshippers and their guests (Le 1 Kings 7:15, 1 Kings 7:31; 1 Samuel 2:16; 1 Corinthians 8:13). This was "a sacrificial meal of the שְׁלָמִים" (Keil). See on ch. 1 Kings 8:63] to all his servants.

HOMILETICS

1 Kings 3:3

The Grace and Place of Love.

"And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in all the statutes of David his father, only… sacrificed," etc.

Of how many men, as well as of the wisest of men, may some such words be used. Of some few it may perhaps be averred that they have loved the Lord "with a perfect heart," of fewer still, if any, that they have loved Him with all the heart, and all the mind, and all the soul, and all the strength. But in the case of most, a qualifying clause must be added, an "only." Along with sincere piety, with devout love to Him who first loved us, how often are there found imperfections, infirmities, sins. Sometimes, e.g; the loved is tinged with superstition, as in the case of St. Theresa, Lacordaire, and many Romanists; sometimes, as in the case of Calvin and many Protestants, it is marked by harshness and intolerance; sometimes, as in the case of Schleiermacher and Bunsen, it is infected with rationalism. The love, that is to say, is not without alloy; it is not the pure refined gold. In some of the blessed saints we find narrowness and bigotry, in others fanaticism; in others, again, Pharisaism and presumption. Now all these "love the Lord only .... But observe. Solomon was loved of God; blessed, enriched, and prospered of God, despite this "only;" notwithstanding, i.e; that his sacrifice and service were marked by imperfection. Hence learn—

I. THAT GOD LOVES THOSE WHO LOVE HIM, DESPITE THEIR IMPERFECTIONS. Of course God loves men who do not love Him. "God commendeth His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners," etc. We often say to children, "God doesn't love you when you are naughty," but this is vicious theology. If this were so, there had been no hope for our world. But He is good to the unthankful and evil. Yes, the love must begin with God. "We love Him because He first loved us." And the love that bore with our sins, in the days of our impenitence, now bears also with our infirmities and ignorances. Neither superstition nor narrowness nor fanaticism "nor any other creature can separate us from the love of God," etc.

II. THAT GOD FORGIVES THOSE WHO LOVE HIM, NOTWITHSTANDING THEIR INFIRMITIES. It is not meant here that our love can make any atonement or reparation for our sins. We know of no merits or mediation but His. "Your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake." But where there is love, there is forgiveness (Luke 7:47). Why, love involves penitence and faith, and ensures obedience. (Observe the next words, "Walking in all the statutes," etc.) Thus, the three conditions of forgiveness are all comprehended in love.

III. THAT GOD WILL RECEIVE THOSE WHO LOVE HIM, DESPITE THEIR IGNORANCES. The gate of heaven is never shut against love, and only love will open it.

"O merchant, at heaven's gate, for heavenly ware

Love is the only coin that passes there."

It must be so, for "love is heaven, and heaven is love"

IV. THAT WE OUGHT TO LOVE THOSE WHO LOVE GOD, DESPITE THEIR IGNORANCES, INFIRMITIES, AND IMPERFECTIONS. If the Eternal Love overlooks our "only," surely we ought to overlook the "only" of others. We may regret their views, we may think them unsound in the faith, we may lament their superstition, their lack of "sweetness and light," their vulgarity, or fanaticism, but if God loves them, and receives them notwithstanding, what right have we to do otherwise? If they love our Lord, then they are entitled to our love. "Grace be unto all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." We find, consequently, in the religion both of the Old Testament and of the New—

V. THAT LOVE IS EVERYTHING. It is

1. The fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:8, Romans 13:10; Matthew 22:37-40). We cannot break the law if we love. "Habe caritatem et fac quicquid vis," said St. Augustine.

2. The stamp and seal royal of the Christian. "He that loveth, is born of God." "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love," etc. It has been said, "Pectus est quod theologum facit." It is equally true that the heart makes the Christian.

3. The glory of the man. It was the greatest glory of Solomon. The highest praise recorded of him is, not that "he was wiser than all men" (1 Kings 4:31), nor yet that he "exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and wisdom" (1 Kings 10:1-29 :33), but that he loved the Lord. "The best thing that can be said of a man is that he loves God." Solomon in all his glory is not greater than the poorest of the saints.

4. The one thing needful. The one thing God demands is the heart. (Adelaide Proeter's beautiful poem," Give me thy heart," affords a fine illustration here.) It is the mainspring of the man. The life depends on the heart. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when the Roman Catholics were commanded to attend Church under pains and penalties, some of their leaders applied to the Pope for guidance. "Let the Catholics of England," was the astute reply, "give me their hearts, and the Queen may do what she likes with the rest."

1 Kings 3:5-15

God's Gifts and Solomon's Choice.

"And God said, Ask what I shall give thee," etc. "Happy Solomon!" we exclaim, as we read these words. He had all that earth could give already—youth, wealth, prosperity. glory, greatness. He stood already on the topmost pinnacle of human felicity. And now Heaven offers him his choice of blessings; now the treasure house of the infinite God is opened, and he is bidden to take what he will. Behold the favourite of Heaven! It is indeed true "there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee" (1 Kings 3:12). But stay! Solomon's is not an exceptional case. If we have not his temporal advantages, we may share his spiritual blessings. For to us—to all, that is, who, like Solomon, "love the Lord"—does the same voice speak, saying, "Ask what I shall give thee." Yes; He who spake to this new crowned king in the night visions hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, saying, "Ask, and it shall be given you." Let us consider—

I. LIKE SOLOMON, WE ARE COMMANDED TO ASK. It is not that we are permitted so to do: it is made a positive duty. If we do not ask, we sin. "Ask," "seek," "knock"—these are the injunctions of our Lord and Master. Asking is an essential part of our religion. "Prayer is the Christian's vital breath."

II. LIKE SOLOMON, WE HAVE BUT TO ASK, AND GOD WILL GIVE. Solomon was not a favourite of Heaven. God has no favourites—that would argue imperfection in the Deity. "Every one that asketh receiveth," etc. "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord," etc. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God ....and it shall be given him." If we have not wisdom, blessing, pardon, peace, it is all for want of asking. God is "more ready to hear than we to pray." And observe here: we are commanded to ask, and God is sure to give, because He loves to give; it is His nature and property to give. Not only (as has been beautifully said) is "the greatest Being in the world the greatest giver." but it is an essential part of His perfections to give. We often say "It is more blessed to give than to receive," but God acts on this principle. It is the nature of man to take. The first lesson the child learns is to grasp. Covetousness, the desire to have, is a part of our being. It is a part of His being to desire to impart. He abhors a vacuum.

III. LIKE AHAZ, MANY SAY, "I WILL NOT ASK." They will not believe in the wonderful charity of God. To some it seems too good to be true. But many have no room for God's gifts. Their heart is full already. "No room for Him in the inn."

IV. LIKE SOLOMON, LET US ASK THE BEST GIFTS. That is an instructive fable which tells how Hercules, on attaining manhood, went out into solitude, and sitting down there, deliberated long and anxiously with himself which of the two ways before him it were better to take—the way of pleasure, or the way of virtue. Such a crisis, involving such a choice, happens in every life. Solomon must now make his choice, and it really lies between pleasure and duty, between temporal and eternal blessings. He may choose glory, wealth, renown—in a word, earthly pleasure and prosperity—or he may choose character, wisdom, goodness; in other words, heavenly and abiding treasure. We know which he chose. So each one of us has to choose in turn between the showy and the solid, between the higher and the lower, between God and Mammon.

"Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide

In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side.

Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,

Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified."

V. IF, LIKE SOLOMON, WE CHOOSE THE BEST GIFTS, THE OTHER AND INFERIOR BLESSINGS ARE THROWN IN WITH THEM. Consider: God gave Solomon wisdom because he asked for it, and at the same time gave him wealth because he did not ask for it. His choice of the higher showed he was fit to be entrusted with the lower. The gifts men covet most, viz; "riches and honour," are of so little account with God that He adds them as a make weight. Just as when we buy a jewel the case is thrown in as part of the purchase, so those who choose the better part receive at the same time all that is necessary for them. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." And here again observe, that not only is it God's nature to give, but to give "exceeding abundantly, above all that we ask or think." He is "wont to do more than either we desire or deserve." Thus the disciples asked for a form of prayer (Luke 11:1). Our blessed Lord gave them their desire, and gave at the same time what they never dreamed of asking for—some precious directions as to the spirit of prayer, as to perseverance in prayer, etc. (ib. 1 Kings 3:5-18). The same idea is embodied in a stanza of Wordsworth's—

"I knelt before Thy gracious throne,

And asked for peace with suppliant knee;

And peace was given; not peace alone,

But love and joy and ecstasy."

It was in the night visions that God spoke to Solomon. It is in no dream, no vision, but in His own written word, He says to us, "Ask what I shall give thee." Which shall we imitate, Solomon or Ahaz? Shall we have all or none? But it may be said, Solomon's wisdom did him no great service after all. His prayer did not keep him from falling. But why was this? It was just because he ceased to care for wisdom and piety, and ceased to ask for it. Learn, then, in conclusion—

VI. IF, LIKE SOLOMON, WE CEASE TO COVET THE BEST GIFTS, AND CARE ONLY FOR THE LOWER, WE SHALL CERTAINLY LOSE THE FORMER, AND MAY POSSIBLY LOSE BOTH. So that Solomon's prayer may teach us this last lesson, that "men ought always to pray, and not to faint." Yes, it seems, as we think of the beginning and then of the end of this puissant prince—it seems as if his father's last words must have been prophetic—"If thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever" (1 Chronicles 28:9); and Solomon's fall solemnly echoes and emphasizes the words which follow—O that he had laid them to heart!—"Take heed now" (1 Kings 3:10).

HOMILIES BY J. WAITE

1 Kings 3:5-16

A wise prayer.

Gibeon, the scene of this incident, was one of the "high places" of the land. Worship in high places had been forbidden. Law against it not rigidly enforced until the place was chosen "where the Lord would cause his name to dwell." That Solomon's act in sacrificing at Gibeon was not condemned is proved by his being favoured with this direct Divine communication. Every scene of real worship may become the scene of special Divine manifestation. "The Lord appeared unto Solomon in a dream of the night." Whatever our theory of these dreams of the olden times, it was evidently an articulate and intelligible Divine communication that Solomon had, and his spirit was intensely active. His choice of wisdom rather than riches, etc; was an act of judgment, a decision of the will, and therefore indicative of moral character. The whole spirit of his prayer most honourable to him. The prayer is, in a sense, answered before it is presented. Every holy yearning of the pious soul contains within itself the pledge of its own fulfilment.

I. THE NATURE OF TRUE WISDOM. A power of moral discernment. "An understanding heart to judge," etc. This was the virtue of Solomon's prayer—it craved a moral rather than mere circumstantial, or even intellectual, endowment. He had the wisdom of the man of science, the "minute philosopher" (see 1 Kings 4:33). But higher wisdom was wanted for higher work—for guiding and governing the people—and this is what he prayed for. Little trace in Solomon of the pure, fervent spirit of devotion that glowed in his father David. The yearning of David's heart was not so much for wisdom as for holiness. But Solomon has a lofty ideal of kingly rule before him, and this is how he seeks to realize it.

1. Wisdom is a practical quality; not merely theoretical; consists less in true ideas than in the ability to embody them in a real and living form; not knowledge or insight, but power to turn what is known and understood to highest account. In common affairs of life—in matters of business, science, art—how many clever theoretical men are there whose cleverness never takes a tangible, practical form! You can point to nothing that they have ever done as a worthy expression of their native capacity. Only in a qualified sense are such men "wise." How much more in the higher sphere of moral and religious life. Here also a science and an art, the ideal and the practical. Wisdom is the combination of the two. It is thought and it is life—the science of spiritual truth and reality married to the divine art of living under the influence of what is real and true.

2. Wisdom deals with those eternal principles that underlie the surface appearances of life. The judgment of Solomon in the dispute between the two women about the child (1 Kings 3:16 to end) is suggestive here. Its peculiarity is, that instead of trusting to appearances to decide the doubt, he leaves the decision to the deep instinct of the mother's nature, i.e; his wisdom is seen in calling to its aid a principle profounder and less fallible than itself. Apply this to the higher conduct of life. We want something more reliable than our own observation or reason as a guide. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Lay hold on God. Walk by faith. Let there be a divine element in your life:

"There is more wisdom in a whisper'd prayer

Than in the ancient lore of all the schools."

How great the wisdom of him whose whole daily life is a heaven ascending prayer!

II. THE DIVINE ORIGIN OF WISDOM. "Ask what I shall give thee." God is the infinite Fount of Wisdom, and He "gives" from His exhaustless fulness. "The Father of Lights." What a world of wonders is the book of Nature! What creative thought, constructive skill, wise adaptation are here! A world of profounder wonders is the Book of Truth. "O the depth of the riches," etc. But this is revelation; we have to think of impartation. God will give wisdom, "Ask what I shall give thee." "If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God," etc. All true light that guides man in any right path is His gift. Most of all those right thoughts, high aspirations, holy energies, which are the very life of men. Man can only disclose his mental riches. The philosopher cannot "give" the rustic wisdom, nor the father or teacher the child. God sheds the light of His Spirit into the soul. "If ye being evil," etc.

III. THE ABUNDANT REWARD OF WISDOM. "And I have also given thee," etc. (1 Kings 3:13). God's beneficence exceeds the expectations of His children. "Able to do exceeding abundantly," etc. (Ephesians 3:20). "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," etc. (Matthew 6:33).—W.

HOMILIES BY A. ROWLAND

1 Kings 3:5

SERMON FOR CHILDREN. Waiting for God's voice.

Little children are sometimes intended to do great things. God has a special place foreveryone to fill. Sometimes the child who is least thought of in the home or in the class is to have the noblest destiny. Two brothers once lived in the same tent. One was brave and manly, a great hunter, and a popular, generous man, but his younger and feebler brother, Jacob, became greater than he. In Jesse's family at Bethlehem there were young men, tall, comely, and heroic, yet their shepherd brother, whom they despised, was chosen to be their king. Now in David's own family God made His choice; and overlooking the beautiful Absalom, and the ambitious Adonijah, he selected Solomon, their youngest and gentlest brother, to be king over one of the richest kingdoms in the world, and to rule His own people in the time of their greatest prosperity. It may be that some lads here, who are little thought of, may become the leaders of a nation to a nobler life, the teachers of their age, to whom the world will gladly listen. But whatever sphere you have to fill, you will only be ready to fill it well when you begin, as Solomon began his reign, by listening to the voice of God. This was the most interesting part of Solomon's life. He was now at his best. Ascending his father's throne, he was conscious of his responsibility, and asked God to give him wisdom (James 1:5, James 1:6). In youth our future is generally decided. If we go wrong then, it is not easy to be set right. An injury done to a living thing during its growing time is irreparable. The man who was crippled when he was a child, the tree blasted when it was a sapling, cannot by any subsequent care be made straight and whole. Solomon, however, started well—going up to the ancient tabernacle in Gibeon, to offer sacrifice to the Lord.

Let us see what preparation Solomon had for the dream spoken of here. Many a child says, "I wish God would come to me, and tell me I might ask for whatever I liked. I often say my prayers, but God does not seem real to me. I never see Him or hear Him." You will not see Him as did Solomon, nor hear Him as did Samuel. But you may feel Him in your thoughts—in the prompting to do right, or to speak the truth when doing this may get you into trouble; and in the relief and rest you know after telling God about the sorrow you have. [Quote part of Faber's hymn: "Dear Jesus, ever at my side." Tell some story of a child who has found help, relief, and rest in prayer. This will bring the old story of Solomon near to the experience of children.]

Three things prepared Solomon for listening to God.

I. SOLOMON HAD COME FROM WORSHIP. Describe the old tabernacle, now pitched on the top of the hill at Gibeon; the coming of the procession of nobles, soldiers, priests, etc; to the sacred festival; the offering of the thousand victims; the song of praise, the united prayers, etc. This worship prepared the young king for his dream. Children go to Sunday schools who are seldom found in God's house. Trace the lads and girls leaving the senior classes to spend their Sundays in pleasure and sin—their forced merriment, their aching hearts. Trying to forget God, they are not prepared to see Him as Solomon did. Contrast with this the day spent in worship. The children whose hearts are uplifted by songs of praise, who have been hearing of the love of God in Christ, who have been reminded of those who knew the Lord, are prepared to say, as Samuel said, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth!"

II. SOLOMON WAS ALONE WITH GOD. The crowd had dispersed. The shouts, and songs, and music were silent. The stars shone down on the camp, and in his own royal tent the young king had retired to rest. As he slept he dreamed, and a happy night followed a holy day. Dreams were often used by God in olden days. Give examples. These were overruled, but they were natural. A dream is the product of familiar thoughts. Boys don't dream of protoplasm, of which they know nothing, but of cricket, lessons, companions, etc. The elements of a dream are in the mind before sleep; e.g; the Midianitish soldier dreamt of a barley cake, which was his ordinary food; the Egyptian butler, of Pharaoh's cup; the baker, of his white baskets of bakemeats, etc. So Solomon had been thinking about his kingdom—the greatness of his father, the overruling providence of God; he had been filled with a desire to rule wisely, had been fired with devotion during the day, and all these things re-appeared in his dream. If you have never had such dream, you have had quiet times when you were ill, or before going to rest, when God seemed real to you. Recall the first time when the old form of prayer had a new meaning, when God seemed close, and loving, and gracious. An example from child life may be readily found.

III. SOLOMON WAS LISTENING TO GOD, who said, "Ask what I shall give thee." Sometimes children wish that the fairies, of whom they read, actually existed; that one, with her fair form and beautiful wand, would come and say, "Ask what I shall give thee." Many, like Cinderella, would exchange drudgery for glitter. God does not do this. If He did, many of us would ignorantly ask for foolish things. We do not know what we shall be doing or wanting even tomorrow. If you were going abroad and did not know for what country you were destined, nor even whether it was hot or cold, civilized or uncivilized, it would not be wise to provide things on the chance they might be useful. You might get weapons of defence for a country where they would not be wanted, and have to wear in the tropics clothing only suited to the polar seas. It would not be really kind for your father to say, "Now go into that shop, and get whatever you like." You would say, "No, thank you; as you know where I am going, and I don't, I would rather trust you; though if you think it would be good, I should like this, or that." So we are taught to pray to our Heavenly Father. Give examples. Sometimes God does give us what we foolishly choose, as the father did to the prodigal, and then sorrow teaches us the folly of our self will The freedom to ask anything can only be given safely to those who are like Solomon. He had just given himself up to God as a living sacrifice, and had asked God to accept him and use him for His service; for it was this which he expressed by his offering of a thousand burnt sacrifices. (Romans 12:1.) If you can say in your heart, "Lord, I want to become like Jesus Christ, and always to be obedient to Thy will;! long to be earnest and humble, and pure, and loving, and to live altogether for Thee;" then He says, of all that will keep you toward that, "Ask and ye shall receive, and your joy shall be full."

Show the necessity of prayer to children; point out their special temptations to neglect it; and close by the story of Esther going into the king's presence with trembling, only to see the golden sceptre extended, and to hear the gracious encouragement, "What is thy petition, and what is thy request? and it shall be done unto thee!" "When thou saidst, 'Seek ye my face,' my heart said unto Thee, 'Thy face, Lord, will I seek.'"—A.R.

1 Kings 3:6, 1 Kings 3:7

The reverent prayer of a royal petitioner.

Solomon had a more peaceful reign and greater outward glory than David. Yet much is said in Scripture about the father, and little about the son. This revelation of God's truth about men and things is less concerned with splendid surroundings than with secret struggles. Few, if any, are made great by splendour. Hence a few verses suffice to tell of Solomon's ships and palaces, and gold and ivory; but many chapters are devoted to accounts of David's temptations, deliverances, and prayers. We have God's estimate of Solomon's magnificence in the memorable words of Christ, "Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these." From these words we infer that human greatness does not claim God's regard, but that He cares for lilies as well as for kings; so that from none of us, however lowly our lot, is the privilege of prayer, granted to Solomon, withheld. The prayer before us was characterized by the following excellences:—

I. GRATITUDE. (1 Kings 3:6.) Solomon thanked God for what his father had been. David was far from being a sinless man, but his son loyally veiled his faults, and praised God for what he had been to himself and others. What reasons for gratitude many have in this respect. Loving care during the feebleness of infancy; provision for education, etc; often the result of habitual self denial; protection of the home not only from physical, but from moral evils, in the shape of bad literature, companions, etc. These are the ordinary blessings from parenthood, but often there are more than these, e.g; the moral heritage of wholesome tendencies; the good name, to be chosen rather than great riches; the repression of evil, and encouragement of good habits of thought and action; the counsels and warnings to the inexperienced; the Christian truth revealed in the holy life, proclaimed by the loving lips. Few blessings are greater than these; but few are less thankfully recognized. Gratitude should reveal itself in tender consideration, in graceful courtesies, in prompt obedience, etc; in the home, and should express itself in praise to the Giver of all good gifts. [This is but an example of subjects for graft. tude: others may be suggested.]

II. SOLEMNITY. The young king seemed overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility. He was about to succeed a father renowned as a warrior, as a statesman, as a poet, as a ruler of men. He was about to rule a numerous and prosperous people, who had been specially declared to be the Lord's, so that he would be henceforth the representative of Jehovah. He foresaw that there would be snares not easy to avoid, difficulties hard to surmount; and therefore he dared not go forward without the prayer, "O God of my father, stand by me." Contrast this with the light spirit in which life work is often undertaken. Describe a father about to vacate his plan in business, or in the Church, whose honour has been unstained, who has been a king amongst men, and urge on any who are about to succeed to such an inheritance the responsibility incurred, that they may feel "who is sufficient for these things?" To go on to unknown temptations, to unattempted duties, in a flippant, godless spirit, is to show the foolhardiness of the captain who, in strange waters, wrecks his vessel on the hidden shoal, because he scorns to employ a pilot.

III. HOPEFULNESS. In 1 Kings 3:4 he tacitly refers to what God had done for his father, as an example and pledge of what God could do for him. He implies that the promise, like the throne, came by inheritance. This was the teaching of the patriarchal dispensation. It was not withdrawn by Christ, who came "not to destroy, but to fulfil." Hence, in the first sermon preached after the baptism of the Church by the Holy Spirit, Peter refers to, and endorses for this dispensation, the declaration of Joel, "The promise is unto you, and to your children." Show how the privileges of Christian parentage keep pace with its responsibilities. What God had been to David was a sign to Solomon, his son, of what God would do for him; and therefore he prayed with eager hope.

IV. HUMILITY. "I am but a little child." Solomon had enough to make him proud. He was immensely rich, was flattered by courtiers, was obeyed by a disciplined army, was strikingly handsome (Psalms 45:1-17.), and was at an age (twenty years old) when no one thinks least of himself. But he recognized that God made him what he was ("Thou hast made Thy servant king"), and that, so far as wisdom and ability were concerned, he was "but a little child." Such has been the spirit of all truly great men, e.g; Moses, when called in Midian (Exodus 3:11); Isaiah, when he saw the Lord in the temple (Isaiah 6:1-13.); Jeremiah, when invested with prophetic office (Jeremiah 1:1-19.) This humility should characterize all who approach God. Refer to the Pharisee and publican (Luke 18:10-14); also to declaration that except we become as little children we cannot enter the kingdom. Contrast Solomon with his brothers, Absalom and Adonijah. He was content to wait God's time, and so was prepared for the place prepared for him. The chrysalis waits—is kept back—in its inactive stage, till both the wings are ready for the sunshine, and the sunshine ready for the wings. Humbly let us wait for the higher spheres of earth and the highest spheres of heaven.—A.R.

1 Kings 3:9-13

The wisdom of Solomon's choice.

Solomon was never more kingly than when he made this choice. Subsequently he became enervated by prosperity, corrupted by heathen associations, etc; but now he ruled as a king over himself. The bright promise of life is often gradually overcast, till it ends in the gloom of a hopeless night. Examples from Scripture, e.g; Saul the King, Esau. It is well to know the kind of choice that "pleased the Lord." In Solomon's there was true wisdom, for it had these elements—

I. THE CHOICE WAS FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS RATHER THAN FOR THE ADVANTAGE OF HIMSELF. It was not like asking for knowledge and wisdom that he might himself be admired as a sage. This followed, but this he did not seek. He wished to rule God's people well for their good, and asked that he might do what was just in judgment, what was equitable in law. Such equity establishes any rule on a sure foundation. Our hold on India is chiefly due to the righteousness of our magistrates, and the trustworthiness of men like the Lawrences, Lord Mayo, etc. Natives would not hesitate to bring an action in one of our English law courts against an Englishman, so certain are they of even-handed justice. This Solomon sought, and the peace and prosperity of his kingdom (1 Kings 4:25) arose from the fact that God gave it him. To ask God to make us wise and capable for the sake of others, is a prayer consonant with His will. Unselfishness is commended and exalted under the new dispensation as it never was under the old. Christ Himself came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life "a ransom for many." The prayer of selfishness, greed, avarice, can never be put up in Christ's name.

II. THE CHOICE WAS MADE OF INWARD WORTH AND NOT OF OUTWARD SHOW. He did not ask for himself riches and honour. What will make us noble is always more readily given by God than what will make us wealthy. A wise father would rather that his son should be truthful than that he should win popularity among his schoolfellows by anything surreptitious and deceitful. So our heavenly Father cares little that we should make money, or win applause; but He cares much that we should be wise, and true, and loving; and these graces He will in no wise withhold from those who seek. Sometimes He answers our prayers for these inward blessings in modes we resent. The illness that throws us back upon Him, the failure that proves a man's life does not consist in the abundance of things that he possesseth, etc; may work in us the peaceable fruits of righteousness. The Lord Jesus, who was at once the King of Glory and the village carpenter, showed us this; and in the inward gladness His disciples experienced amid their outward woes, we have confirmation of it. Show how, in New Testament history, and in the lives of the saints, the words which begin the Sermon on the Mount have been fulfilled. Blessedness of the highest kind comes to the poor in spirit, to them that mourn, to the meek, to them which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, to the merciful, to the pure in heart, to the peacemakers, and even to those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.

III. THE CHOICE MADE OF THE HIGHER BROUGHT WITH IT THE LOWER BLESSINGS, (1 Kings 3:11-13) Because Solomon asked wisdom God gave him that, but added to it wealth and honour. If we ask grace to fulfil our mission, and rightly do our life work, our heavenly Father will see that we do not want for life's necessities. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." The teaching of Christ (Matthew 6:24-34) goes to show that a man who is chiefly concerned to please God need have no anxiety or care about lower things. If God feeds the birds, He will feed you; if He clothes the lilies, He will clothe you; if He gives the life, He will give the "meat" that is less than life. Ask God for the higher blessings: pardon, righteousness, reverence, wisdom, etc; and He will give you not only these, but all things necessary for us, and all the riches and honours that are good for us.

Solomon's wisdom was great, but there has come into the world one greater than Solomon, more worthy far of our adoration and love. As the child in Nazareth, Jesus grew in wisdom, and in stature, and in favour with God and man. His wisdom was purer, deeper, truer than Solomon's, because it was united with purity of life, with victory over sin, and with sacrifice of self. He is the true Shelomoh, "the Prince of Peace;" the true Jedidiah, "the well beloved of the Father;" and to Him now let us humbly bow the knee, as to One worthy to be exalted both as Prince and Saviour.—A.R.


Verses 16-28

EXPOSITION

IN this section we see how remarkably the gracious promise of Gibeon (1 Kings 3:12) was fulfilled. The "understanding to discern judgment" has been richly bestowed. And this, no doubt, is the reason why the story is related here. ἐπιδεῖξαί τὴν τοῦ βασιλεως ἐβουλήθη σοφίαν (Theodoret). It is just possible, as Thenius maintains, that the narrative was handed down to a succeeding age by tradition, and was not incorporated into any of the documents from which our historian compiled his narrative; but this argues nothing against its authenticity or its inspiration. It is, as Bähr observes, a thoroughly Oriental story.

1 Kings 3:16

Then came there two women that were harlots [The Jewish writers here, as in the case of Rahab (Joshua 2:1), would understand "hostess," "innkeeper" ( פונדקיתא, not פונדקן, as Bähr, which=, πανδοκεῖον, "inn"). In support of which it is alleged that prostitutes never have children, or if they have are not solicitous about them. The meaning "hostess," however (as if from זוּן, to feed), is not to be entertained for a moment, but we may readily admit that these children, though born out of wedlock, were not necessarily the offspring of professed harlots, though the fact that their mothers dwelt together and alone (1 Kings 3:17) is certainly suspicious; and see Gesen. s.v. זָנָה. Grotius, from Deuteronomy 23:17, concludes that they must have been foreigners. But it is equally probable that the law was constantly violated] unto the king [as supreme judge] and stood before him.

1 Kings 3:17

And 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.

1 Kings 3:18

And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. [Emphasis is laid on this fact, as showing the possibility of the fraud and the impossibility of producing proof. Hebrew women have always required but little assistance in childbearing. That which is written in Exodus 1:19 is true to this day.

1 Kings 3:19

And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it.

1 Kings 3:20

And she arose at midnight [rather, in the middle, i.e; dead of the night. The sleeper could not know it was midnight], and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my besom.

1 Kings 3:21

And when I rose in the morning [while it was still dusk] to give my child suck, behold it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning [i.e; in broad daylight; Vulg. clara luce] behold [this second "behold" marks a second discovery] it was not my son which I did bear.

1 Kings 3:22

And the other woman said, Nay, but the living is my son and the dead is thy son. And this said, No, but the dead is thy son and the living is my son. [It is somewhat difficult to account for the pertinacious claim to the child, preferred even before the king by the pretended mother. The most probable explanation is, that having taken the child in the first instance on the spur of the moment, in order to avoid the reproach of having killed her offspring by her clumsiness and neglect, she found it difficult to draw back from her false position—which indeed she could not do without owning herself both child stealer and liar—and so she put on a bold face and maintained the imposture even before the monarch himself. That she did not really care for the child is evident from 1 Kings 3:26.] Thus they spake [Heb. "And they spake," i.e; affirmed and contradicted] before the king.

1 Kings 3:23

Then [promptly, without hesitation] said the king, The one saith [Heb. "this is saying," i.e; keeps saying] 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.

1 Kings 3:24

And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a [Heb. the; the sword, i.e; of the executioner, or the sword for which he asked] sword before the king.

1 Kings 3:25

And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other [Heb. one].

1 Kings 3:26

Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels [thought by most of the ancients to be the seat of the affections, probably because of the sensations which strong emotions excite there. Cf. τὰ σπλάγχνα in the New Testament

1 Kings 3:27

Then the king answered and said [He simply echoes the exact words of the mother. This is clear from the fact that the word יָלוּדnatus, "the one born," here and in 1 Kings 3:26 rendered "child," is a very unusual one], Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it [The LXX; which reads "Give the child to her who said, Give it to her," etc; obscures the evidently designed repetition] she is the mother thereof [Heb. she, his mother].

1 Kings 3:28

And an Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king [i.e; were impressed and awed by his almost supernatural penetration. Bähr refers to Luke 4:36; Luke 8:25], for they saw that the wisdom of God [for which he asked (Luke 8:9) and which God gave

; before him the two harlots and the helpless child—carries our thoughts to a day of storm and cloud, a day of darkness and dread, when the "Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of His glory," with "the holy angels" around Him and "all nations" before Him (St. Matthew 25:31). Let us see in this first judgment, then, an outline of the last. Observe:

I. THE JUDGE. It is

II. THE JUDGED. They were

III. THE JUDGMENT. Thereby

IV. THE REWARD AND PUNISHMENT. To the one the tribunal brought justification, joy, peace. To the other, condemnation, shame, contempt. But notice especially

1 Kings 3:26

Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.

"The Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." The judgment of Solomon is a striking commentary on this passage; indeed, it is possible that the writer had this incident in his mind when he penned these words. For assuredly the word of Solomon, "Divide," etc; was sharper than the sword they had just brought him£ in wounding the mother's heart (Cf. Luke 2:35); while not more surely would the king's sword, had it not been stayed, have pierced to the "dividing asunder of the joints and marrow" of the child, than did the king's word distinguish between the true and the false, revealing both the tenderness and yearning love of the real mother, and also the thoughts and intents and workings of heart of the pretender. It is probably, in part at least, because of their revelation of character that they are recorded here. Let us now, therefore, consider the character and motives of the pseudo mother, as disclosed to us in her words and conduct. And first, let us ask, what can have led to this cruel and unnatural speech? Here is a woman who has recently become a mother, and who claims to be the mother of the child, having no pity on a helpless babe. At one moment, she strenuously contends before the king for its possession, and at the next she connives at, and indeed clamours for, its murder. She has surreptitiously taken it from one who would have guarded and cherished it; she loudly protests that it is hers; she is so anxious to have it that she will plead for it before the royal tribunal, and yet, when it is gravely proposed to cut the hapless child in two, she is loud in her approval of the plan. How can we account for such strange inconsistency? The usual explanation is that she was impelled to do and say what she did by spite, by jealousy. And, without doubt, there was an element of spite in her conduct. If she was to be denied the child, she was resolved that none else should have it. She would never submit to the humiliation of leaving the judgement seat with the character of an impostor, while that other one carried off the babe in her arms in triumph. But while the feeling of "dog in the manger" explains much, it does not explain all. It does not account, for example, for her having cumbered herself with the care of the child in the first instance; and it hardly explains her proceeding to the extremity of judicial murder. Nor even if we combine with spite the desire to flatter the youthful king, do we find a sufficient explanation of her inconsistency. No doubt she thought it would be a compliment to her prince readily to acquiesce in his proposal. It is not the first time or the last that men have readily assented to wrong-doing because a crowned head suggested it. We see in her cry, "Divide it," a cringing, fawning desire to ingratiate herself into Solomon's favour, or if not that, at least to play the courtier; but we do not see in this desire alone a sufficient explanation of this clamour for the life of a puling and innocent babe. No, if we are to get at the very root of her strange and shameful conduct, we must first ask another question, viz; What led her to steal this child from its mother's arms and to claim it for her own? What induced her when she woke in the night and found her own child dead, to creep in the darkness to her companion's couch and take a changeling for her son. For this was surely a strange thing to do. We could more readily understand her rejoicing in the death of her own child of shame than this eager desire to burden herself with a bastard that she had not borne.

Now, it is quite possible that there were special circumstances connected with this case, which, if we knew them, would offer a complete and certain explanation of her conduct. For example, to pass by other possibilities, hers may have been such case as Tamar's (Genesis 38:1-30.) But as we do not and cannot know what these peculiar circumstances were, if there were any, we can only collect her motives, as best we may, from the record of facts which we possess.

It is clear, then, that she was not actuated by love for the child. It is unlikely that a woman such as she was could have love for a child such as this was; while it is inconceivable that if she really loved it, she would have consented to and counselled its death. Nor can it have been the pride and joy of having a man child to call her son (1Jn 16:21). For the child was not hers, and no one knew this better than herself. No doubt the Jewish mother had special reasons for desiring offspring and for cherishing her children, but this was the child of stranger.

What then were her motives? Were they not these? First, the fear of reproach, and secondly, jealousy of her more fortunate companion. Fear of reproach; for no woman, in any age of the world, or under any circumstances, can fail to be mortified and humbled and ashamed at having occasioned, by her maladroitness, the death of her child. She knew what the tongues of the neighbours would say: she could see them, perhaps, even mocking her as a murderess. For they could not know that the death was accidental and some of them, she feared, might think, if they did not say, that there had been foul play on her part. These thoughts, as they rushed through her mind in the black and dark night, would be accentuated and made well nigh intolerable by the thought that her companion had been more careful or more fortunate. What may have passed between these two women we cannot say. For aught we know, each may have boasted of her child, or the one may have disparaged the child of the other. There must almost have been something of the kind—and it may have been something extremely simple—to account for this act of child stealing.

It is quite possible, of course, that this woman, had she been interrogated after the fraud was detected, would have found it difficult to say what led her to play this false part. For we may rest assured she did not argue about it, did not stop to parley with herself or to weigh the consequences. She acted on a blind, hasty, unreasoning impulse. But all the same it is not difficult for us to see that these must have been among the springs of her conduct. And when the fatal move was once made, the rest of her sin is easily explained. There was then nothing for her to do but to brazen it out. It was impossible for her to stop, without proclaiming herself both liar and thief. As she had lied to her companion, so she must lie to the neighbours, and as she had lied to the neighbours, so she must lie even before the king. There was no help for it. Vestigia nulla retrorsum! She must go on to the bitter end.

But it is easy to see how terribly trying and painful her position would at last become. The constant fear of detection, or the fear lest she should betray herself, must have made it almost insupportable. Any moment something might ooze out which would reveal the deceit and cover her with infamy. Bitterly must she have regretted that she had ever embarked on this course of fraud; eagerly must she have cast about for any chance of escape.

And so when the king proposed to cut the Gordian knot; when he proposed, that is, to extricate her from the toils which she had woven round herself, is there any wonder that she caught eagerly at the first chance that offered, and that without a moment's reflection as to the morality of the remedy, and without the least perception of the snare that was spread for her. All she thought was that it promised an honourable retreat from ground which was every moment becoming more insecure; that it opened to her, in her despair and dread of detection, a door of escape. It is this accounts for the cry, "Divide it." The murder would cover her multitude of lies, the blood of the innocent would efface the traces of her guilt.

The lessons taught by this history must be very briefly indicated. Among them are these:

1. Impurity almost inevitably leads to deceit. The root of all the mischief here was the unchastity. The sin against the body makes other sins comparatively easy. "It is only the first step that costs." And what a step is that!

2. Moral cowardice may lead to murder. The fear which prompted the hasty resolve to possess herself of the living child, led this miserable woman to stealing, lying, persistent falseness, and to murder, in thought and will. Facilis descensus Averni, etc.

3. Falsehood leads to falsehood. The proverb says, "If we tell one lie we must tell twenty more to bury it." "One lie must be thatched with another or it will soon rain through."

"O what a tangled web we weave

When once we venture to deceive."

4. Jealousy dries up the milk of human kindness. It is "cruel as the grave."

"Fiercer than famine, war, or spotted pestilence;

Baneful as death, and horrible as hell."

It led this woman to act like a fiend; to desire the butchery of an innocent babe.

5. Sin overreaches itself. The pretender was caught in her own toils. She had no sooner said, "Divide it," than she saw she was undone. She had proclaimed her own falseness. "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee."

6. When the sinner is most secure, then sudden destruction comes upon him. This woman had never breathed freely till Solomon said, "Divide it." That seemed such a certain deliverance that she echoed the cry. Now she began to feel safe. The next moment she was disgraced, condemned, ruined. Cf. Matthew 24:50; Matthew 25:44; 1 Thessalonians 5:8, etc.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/1-kings-3.html. 1897.

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