Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Kings 3:2

The people were still sacrificing on the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the Lord until those days.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - High Places;   Prayer;   Scofield Reference Index - High Places;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Sacrifice;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Baal;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Wisdom;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - High Places;   Pentateuch;   Shiloh (2);   Holman Bible Dictionary - Kings, 1 and 2;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - High Place, Sanctuary;   Israel;   Tabernacle;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - High Place;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - High places;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - City;   Criticism (the Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis);   God;   High Place;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The people sacrificed in high places - Could there be any sin in this, or was it unlawful till after the temple was built? for prophets, judges, the kings which preceded Solomon, and Solomon himself, sacrificed on high places, such as Gibeon, Gilgal, Shiloh, Hebron, Kirjath-jearim, etc. But after the temple was erected, it was sinful to offer sacrifices in any other place; yet here it is introduced as being morally wrong, and it is introduced, 1 Kings 3:3, as being an exceptionable trait in the character of Solomon. The explanation appears to be this: as the ark and tabernacle were still in being, it was not right to offer sacrifices but where they were; and wherever they were, whether on a high place or a plain, there sacrifices might be lawfully offered, previously to the building of the temple. And the tabernacle was now at Gibeon, 2 Chronicles 1:3. Possibly the high places may be like those among the Hindoos, large raised-up terraces, on which they place their gods when they bathe, anoint, and worship them. Juggernaut and Krishnu have large terraces or high places, on which they are annually exhibited. But there was no idol in the above case.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-kings-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The word “only” introduces a contrast. The writer means to say that there was one exception to the flourishing condition of things which he has been describing, namely, that “the people sacrificed in high-places.” (Compare the next verse.) The Law did not forbid “high-places” directly, but only by implication. It required the utter destruction of all the high-places which had been polluted by idolatrous rites Deuteronomy 12:2; and the injunction to offer sacrifices nowhere except at the door of the tabernacle Leviticus 17:3-5 was an indirect prohibition of them, or, at least, of the use which the Israelites made of them; but there was some real reason to question whether this was a command intended to come into force until the “place” was chosen “where the Lord would cause His name to dwell.” (See Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:14.) The result was that high-places were used for the worship of Yahweh, from the time of the Judges downward Judges 6:25; Judges 13:16; 1 Samuel 7:10; 1 Samuel 13:9; 1 Samuel 14:35; 1 Samuel 16:5; 1 Chronicles 21:26, with an entire unconsciousness of guilt on the part of those who used them. And God so far overlooked this ignorance that He accepted the worship thus offered Him, as appears from the vision vouchsafed to Solomon on this occasion. There were two reasons for the prohibition of high-places; first, the danger of the old idolatry creeping back if the old localities were retained for worship; and, secondly, the danger to the unity of the nation if there should be more than one legitimate religious center. The existence of the worship at high places did, in fact, facilitate the division of the kingdom.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-kings-3.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Only the people sacrificed in high places,.... On the tops of their houses, on hills and mountains, and particularly at the high place in Gibeon, where the tabernacle was:

because there was no house built unto the name of the Lord until those days; to which they were obliged to repair as afterwards, and there offer their sacrifices, as the Lord had commanded, Deuteronomy 12:5.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-kings-3.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Only the people sacrificed in b high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.

(b) Where altars were appointed before the temple was built, to offer to the Lord.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-kings-3.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

1 Kings 3:2-5. High places being in use; his sacrifices at Gibeon.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/1-kings-3.html. 1871-8.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

(2) Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.

This sacrificing on high places is uniformly spoken of in the Old Testament scripture as improper, and contrary to the divine appointment. Deuteronomy 12:2-6.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/1-kings-3.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.

Only — This particle is used here, and verse3, as an exception to Solomon's integrity and as a blemish to his government, That he himself both permitted and practised this which was expressly forbidden, Leviticus 17:3,4; Deuteronomy 12:13,14.

High places — Which were groves, or other convenient places upon hills, in which the patriarchs used to offer up their 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, the Hebrews to the true God.

Because, … — Which reason was not sufficient, for there was a tabernacle, to which they were as much confined as to the temple, Exodus 40:34-38, etc.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-kings-3.html. 1765.

Scofield's Reference Notes

high places

Cf. Leviticus 26:30; Deuteronomy 12:11-14. The use of commanding elevations for altars seems to have been immemorial and universal. In itself the practice was not evil; Genesis 12:7; Genesis 12:8; Genesis 22:2-4; Genesis 31:54; Judges 6:25; Judges 6:26; Judges 13:16-23. After the establishment of Mount Moriah and the temple as the centre of divine worship; Deuteronomy 12:5; 2 Chronicles 7:12 the pentateuchal prohibition of the use of high places Deuteronomy 12:11-14 which had looked forward to the setting up of such a centre, came into effect, and high places became identified with idolatrous practices. The constant recurrence to the use of high places, even for Jehovistic worship (See Scofield "1 Kings 15:14") and after the building of the temple, proves how deeply rooted the custom was.

See 2 Kings 18:4-22; 2 Kings 23:1-37; 2 Chronicles 33:3; 2 Chronicles 33:17; 2 Chronicles 33:19 Note below refers to "Groves." (See Scofield "Judges 3:7").

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Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on 1 Kings 3:2". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/1-kings-3.html. 1917.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Kings 3:2 Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.

Ver. 2. Only the people sacrificed in high places.] And Solomon not only permitted it - though it were a fault [Leviticus 17:3-4] - but was himself also in the common error; through a perverse imitation of the ancient patriarchs: yea, and peradventure of the neigbbouring heathens, who did the like, as Xenophon testifieth of the Persians, and Apollonius of the Romans.

Because there was no house.] This excused them a tanto, from so much, but not a toto: from all, for it was no better than will worship. But why was there yet no house built, since Solomon had now reigned three or four years? It was a great work, and required great preparation both at home and abroad, &c. Great bodies, we say, move slowly: neither is it to be doubted but the business was expedited as much as might be, since Nescit tarda molimina Spiritus Sancti gratia. Zeal is of quick despatch.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-kings-3.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Only: this particle is used here and 1 Kings 3:3, as an exception to Solomon’s integrity and glory, and as his infirmity, and a blemish to his government, that he himself both permitted and practised this which was expressly forbidden, Leviticus 17:3,4 Deu 12:13,14, except in some extraordinary cases. Possibly he permitted it because he thought it better to allow an error in a circumstance, than to occasion a neglect of the substance of God’s worship, which he apprehended would follow upon a severe prohibition of that practice, because the people’s hearts were generally and constantly set upon these high places, as appears from all the following history; and they were not willing to submit to so much trouble and charge as the bringing of all their sacrifices to one place would cause; nor would yield to it until the temple was built, which he knew would easily incline and oblige them to it; and that being speedily to be done, he might think it more advisable rather to delay the execution of that law of God for an approaching season, wherein he doubted not they would be sweetly and freely drawn to it, than at present to drive them to it by force; although these and all other prudential considerations should have given place to the will and wisdom of God.

In high places; which were groves, or other convenient places upon hills, in which the patriarchs used 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, Jeremiah 7:31 Ezekiel 6:3,4 Ho 10:8, the Hebrews to the true God.

Because there was no house; which reason was not sufficient, for there was a tabernacle, to which they were as much confined as to the temple, Deu 12$, &c.

Unto the name of the Lord; either,

1. To the Lord; the name of the Lord being oft put for the Lord himself, as Deuteronomy 28:58 Job 1:21 Psalms 7:17 116:13 135:1. Or,

2. To the honour, and praise, and service of God; to the glory of his name, i.e. of his majesty, and all his perfections, which shall be adored and manifested there.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-kings-3.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

STATE OF RELIGION AT THE BEGINNING OF SOLOMON’S REIGN, 1 Kings 3:2-3.

2.Only — A particle apparently having reference to the last sentence of 1 Kings 2:46. The unsettled state of Divine worship was now the only thing that seemed to show that the kingdom was not as thoroughly established as it might be.

The people sacrificed in high places — A practice more or less prevalent in Israel from the time of the Judges. See note on 1 Samuel 9:12. It brought the Divine service of Israel into a resemblance of the idolatrous practices of the heathen, who always erected their altars on the tops of hills or mountains, presuming they were nearer Deity and heaven. This sacrificing in high places was not idolatry; they worshipped Jehovah, the true God, on elevated spots, and therefore by the high places so frequently mentioned in the following history we must not understand idolatrous shrines. But even this worship of Jehovah, in such places, was fraught with danger on account of its resemblance to heathen customs. There was danger to Israel that this sacrificing on high places might degenerate into heathenish idolatry; and so the kingdom itself was unsafe as long as this state of things continued, for pure religion and appropriate worship of the true God are indispensable supports of a righteous and permanent government.

Because there was no house built — Herein was the reason and excuse for the unsettled state of Divine worship, both at that time and previously. See note on 1 Samuel 9:12.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-kings-3.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

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.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-kings-3.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

But yet. It is not clear to what this refers. Hebrew, "for the rest, (Calmet) or only;" (as also ver. 3,) which may signify that the people, and their king, were blamable; or else, that they zealously offered sacrifices to God, even before the temple was erected. (Haydock) --- Those who afterwards left that sacred place, to imitate the conduct of idolaters, or of the ancient patriarchs, which was no longer tolerated, are justly condemned. (Calmet) --- High places. That is, altars where they worshipped the Lord, indeed, but not according to the ordinance of the law; which allowed of no other places for sacrifice but the temple of God. Among these high places, that of Gabaon was the chief, because there was the tabernacle of the testimony wich had been removed from Silo to Nobe, and from Nobe to Gabaon. (Challoner) --- Hither David would have gone, as Solomon did, ver. 4. (Calmet) --- Hence this was not, at least, once of those high places, where it was unlawful to offer sacrifice; as the tabernacle was there, and the altar of holocausts, which Moses had erected. The obligation of sacrificing in no place, except in that which the Lord had appointed, regarded the times while the ark was in the desert, (Haydock) and when it was placed in the temple. While it continued in an unsettled state, people enjoyed more liberty in this respect; (Calmet) particularly when there was a prophet present, to sanction what they did. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-kings-3.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Only. May imply regret rather than censure. Compare 1 Kings 15:14, &c.

in high places., Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:14, Deuteronomy 12:26, Deuteronomy 12:27, not obeyed since Jehovah had forsaken Shiloh. Compare Psalms 78:60, Psalms 78:67-69. Jeremiah 7:12-14.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-kings-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-kings-3.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(2) In high places.—The historian, writing from the point of view of his own time, when, after the solemn consecration of the Temple, the worship at “the high places,” which form natural sanctuaries, was forbidden, explains that “because there was no house built unto the name of the Lord,” the people, and Solomon himself, sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places. It is clear that these high places were of two kinds—places of sacrifice to false gods, and unauthorised sanctuaries of the Lord, probably associating His worship with visible representations of Deity. The former class were, of course, absolute abominations, like the high places of the Canaanite races, so sternly denounced in Deuteronomy 12:2-3. The prohibition of the other class of high places—constantly disobeyed by some even of the better kings—appears to have had two distinct objects—(a) to guard against all local corruptions of God’s service, and all idolatry, worshipping Him (as at Bethel) under visible forms; (b) to prevent the breach of national unity, by the congregation of the separate tribes round local sanctuaries. But besides these objects, it served (c), as a very remarkable spiritual education for the worship of the invisible God, without the aid of local and visible emblems of His presence, in accordance with the higher prophetic teaching, and preparatory for the perfect spirituality of the future. It is, indeed, hardly to be conceived that there should not have been before the Captivity some places of non-sacrificial worship, in some degree like the synagogues of the period after the exile, although not as yet developed into a fully organised system. Unless we refer Psalms 74:8 to the Maccabæan times, it must be supposed to describe the Chaldæan invasion, as destroying not only the Temple, but also “all the houses of God”—properly “assemblies,” and in our Bible version actually translated “synagogues “—“in the land.” But these places of prayer and praise and instruction would be different in their whole idea from the “high places” rivalling the Temple. Up to this time it is clear that, even under Samuel and David, sacrificial worship elsewhere than in the Tabernacle was used without scruple, though certainly alien from the spirit of the Mosaic Law as to the supreme sacredness of the “place which God should choose to place his name there.” (See, for example, 1 Samuel 7:10; 1 Samuel 13:9; 1 Samuel 14:35; 1 Samuel 16:5; 1 Chronicles 21:26.) After the solemn consecration of the Temple, the circumstances and the character of such worship were altogether changed.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-kings-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.
the people
It was not right to offer sacrifices in any place but where the tabernacle and ark were; and wherever they were, whether on a high place or a plain, sacrifices might be lawfully offered, previously to building of the temple. The tabernacle was now at Gibeon, (2 Ch 1:3,) which was therefore called the great high place; whither we find Solomon, without censure, repaired to sacrifice.
22:43; Leviticus 17:3-6; 26:30; Deuteronomy 12:2-5; 2 Chronicles 33:17
was no
5:3; 1 Chronicles 17:4-6; 28:3-6; Acts 7:47-49
Reciprocal: 1 Samuel 9:12 - the high place;  1 Kings 14:23 - built;  2 Kings 18:4 - removed;  2 Chronicles 15:17 - the high places

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:2". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-kings-3.html.