1 Kings

1 Kings - Lesson 3

Chapter 3:1-28

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  • Last week, we witnessed Solomon clean house of all those who had sided with his brother Adonijah.

    • And with cleaning house came the execution of these men in order to firmly establish Solomon’s reign as king.

      • Solomon’s ability to exercise wisdom in the elimination of disruptive agents in his administration was necessary to have the blood-guilt removed and peace established.

    • Tonight, we will see the Lord establish Solomon in the manner of administrating wisdom, discernment and justice in his rule and reign as King.

      • And the prompting event for Solomon to operate in this manner will be a dream that the Lord shows Solomon.

    • If I were to outline our time in the text, we will see the following things:

      • 1. Solomon’s prayer, God answers (vv.1-15)

      • 2. Solomon’s wisdom in practice (vv.16-28)

    • If I were to put a tag on our text tonight, it would simply be: The Wisdom of the King.

      • With that being said I, invite you to meet me in 1 Kings 3 beginning with verses 1-5.

1 Kings 3:1 Then Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her to the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the Lord and the wall around Jerusalem.
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.
1 Kings 3:3 Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.
1 Kings 3:4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.
1 Kings 3:5 In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish me to give you.”
  • Chapter 3 immediately thrusts us into a bit of a perplexing question and that is, “What is Solomon doing marrying a foreign woman when the Law says otherwise?”

    • Notice that this moment is right off the heels of Solomon’s reign being firmly established regarding his rule and administration.

      • Solomon has cleaned house of his co-conspirators and is now trying to forge the path forward.

      • However, this marriage alliance seems to be problematic according to Deuteronomy 17:17.

    • We have mentioned before that these types of “marriage alliances” during that time were more geared towards political advancements.

      • And knowing that the Lord was behind the victory and prominence of Israel’s growth and widespread fame meant that this allegiance was more for the Egyptians than for Israel.

      • During this particular time in history, Egypt was experiencing a political decline.

    • It was common practice in Egypt for kings to take on foreign princesses (in their strength), but they refrained from giving up their daughters to foreign kings.

      • So, with this peace treaty between Egypt and Israel came the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter which expresses desperate times for Egypt.

    • And within this treaty, comes a foreshadowing of how Solomon’s heart becomes overtaken by his entanglement with foreign women. (1 Kings 11)

      • Because, although the gesture, for politics’ sake, might seem small, sin’s hold and control begins to slowly but surely brew.

      • And isn’t that how sin works in our hearts even today?

      • It begins as something small and seemingly unharmful – at best even innocent, yet when it grows it produces devastation.

      • James, Jesus’ half-brother, says these words to a predominantly Jewish audience in James 1:14-16.

James 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
James 1:15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
James 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
  • So, this alliance between Egypt and Israel foreshadows the ultimate downfall and split of a united Israel in Chapter 11 onward.

    • The reality is, a divided heart fails to uphold its allegiance to one thing/person alone.

    • Verse 2 continues by expressing yet another pagan expression adopted by the Israelites and that was the sacrificing on “high places”.

      • The “high places” were mountainous locations where pagan nations would worship their gods.

      • These pagan nations, such as the Canaanites, believed that the closer they got to heaven, the easier their prayers could reach their gods.

      • And within the Pentateuch (Leviticus 17:3-4), Moses writes out that offering sacrifices at places other than the tabernacle was prohibited.

      • Here is how Leviticus 17:3-4 reads:

Leviticus 17:3 “Any man from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or who slaughters it outside the camp,
Leviticus 17:4 and has not brought it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, bloodguiltiness is to be reckoned to that man. He has shed blood and that man shall be cut off from among his people.
  • So, the point of sacrifices being done in a particular place was based upon the Lord’s desired meeting place for fellowship and worship.

    • It’s this idea of a “sacred space”. It is a meeting place where the Lord and His people can commune.

    • We see the establishment of a “meeting place” first in Genesis in the Garden of Eden.

    • So in the same way, the Lord desires a central place in which His people may come to meet Him and bring their sacrifices.

      • However, the text mentions that because there was no house built for the Lord yet, the place that was established was at Gibeon.

      • Gibeon was known as “the great high place”.

    • Gibeon was located approximately five miles north of Jerusalem in the territory of Benjamin.

      • And it is at this sacred space that the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream.

      • And in this dream, the Lord tells Solomon to “Ask what he wished for the Lord to give him.”

      • And Solomon’s response becomes a window into the heart and wisdom of Solomon as a king and leader.

      • Check out verses 6-9.

1 Kings 3:6 Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
1 Kings 3:7 “Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.
1 Kings 3:8 “Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted.
1 Kings 3:9 “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”
  • Solomon’s response to the Lord’s ask began with thanksgiving and adoration.

    • He begins by recognizing the Lord’s (hesed) loving kindness towards his father David.

      • As a matter of fact, Solomon emphasizes the extent of lovingkindness Yahweh has shown his father by saying the Lord showed David “great” hesed.

      • And the reason for the Lord’s remarkable magnitude of loyal love and kindness was due to David’s faithfulness (obedience) before the Lord.

    • This has always been the promise of the Lord to those who walked well before Him.

      • And what this shows is that the Lord is faithful to His word and His promises in that when you respond to His word He responds accordingly.

      • Solomon’s initial response of thanksgiving also becomes a measure of wisdom by which the believer in Christ should respond as well.

    • Our typical pattern of prayer begins immediately with what we need rather than an acknowledgement of who God is and what He has done.

      • When we approach the Lord in thanksgiving acknowledging His ways and faithfulness, it allows us to approach the throne of grace with confidence.

    • So, it’s after this initial thanksgiving that Solomon makes his request in a position of humility.

      • Notice, that Solomon acknowledges who has placed him in this position as king. Solomon uses the pronoun “You” twice.

      • He then continues by referring to himself as a “little child”.

      • This simply speaks to the reality that Solomon recognizes that he knows nothing and is nothing apart from God’s hand upon him.

    • I mentioned in our last session, that Solomon was in his late adolescence. Some scholars suggest Solomon became king at the ripe age of 20 years old.

      • And if this is the case, this explains David’s words earlier in Chapter 2 where he tells Solomon to, “Show yourself a man”.

      • In other words, seek the Lord in wisdom that you may be led rightly in your walk and not look to your left or your right.

    • This position of humility in Solomon’s prayer is quite life-giving from a biblical principal perspective.

      • That when we recognize that we bring nothing to the table, it helps us see that we are to be ever dependent upon our Creator and Lord.

      • And Solomon realizes this because he says, “I do not know how to go out or come in”. In other words, I don’t know what I’m doing – show me!

    • This reality is further expounded because in verses 8-9 Solomon continues using the You/Your pronouns, emphasizing the Lord’s election of Israel and His Sovereignty over all.

      • Solomon sees that the number of people whom he is over is a number too great to be counted.

      • If you have read through the book of Genesis, you may recognize some Abrahamic Covenant language there.

      • Because Solomon is addressing the very promise in which Yahweh promised Abraham regarding his descendants.

      • That Abraham would have more descendants than the stars in the sky.

    • So, with Solomon knowing the vast amount of responsibility and accountability he now has as a leader was quite overwhelming and humbling.

      • And he knew that in and of himself, he could not do it alone.

      • Therefore, he had to rely upon the wisdom and knowledge of Yahweh to govern the Lord’s people.

    • So, he asks the Lord for “an understanding heart to judge” and the ability to “discern between good and evil”.

      • The word “understand” in Hebrew is shema. We should be familiar with this word because of Deuteronomy 6.

      • Shema simply means to listen with the intent to obey. It’s a heart that hears and responds to the voice of the Lord.

      • In other words, Solomon desires to have a heart to know the word of the Lord and to obey it righteously to judge the people accordingly.

  • As believers in Christ, we too are given the opportunity to seek the Lord for wisdom for things we need. And it requires us to ask the Lord in confidence by faith!

    • James 1:5 tells us this:

James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
James 1:6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
  • He then mentions he wants to discern between good and evil.

    • The word “discern” is the filter mechanism by which helps one to determine what is good, better, or best.

    • And the way to discern requires a heightened awareness of what is in the word of God.

    • Therefore, there’s a need to not only have a heart for the word and doing it, but to study it so that it may guide our decisions and actions.

    • Solomon understands that being Yahweh’s King requires the King to be intimately in fellowship with Yahweh.

      • It’s like having a particular brand of car that needs to be properly maintained yet you go to a mechanic that knows nothing about your brand of car.

      • You can’t expect the mechanic to know the nuances of your vehicle just because he knows about cars.

      • You need to have your vehicle maintained by its master manufacturer who knows it from the inside out.

    • In the same way, for Solomon to be king and steward the kingdom well in which the Lord has given him, he will need to be dedicated to Yahweh himself.

      • From this request, the Lord is well-pleased with Solomon’s ask and commences with Solomon’s prayer request. Check out verses 10-15.

1 Kings 3:10 It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.
1 Kings 3:11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice,
1 Kings 3:12 behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you.
1 Kings 3:13 “I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days.
1 Kings 3:14 “If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.”
1 Kings 3:15 Then Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and made peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.
  • Solomon’s request to the Lord wasn’t rooted in selfish gain or individualized power struggle, it was simply rooted in wisdom to rule and executing the justice of the Lord.

    • Moses makes a similar response in Exodus 33:13, where he asked to understand God and His ways.

      • In other words, where Moses asks for the “why” Solomon asks for the “what”.

      • “Lord what should I do, how should I do it” versus Moses asking, “Lord why are you doing this so that I may follow your ways.”

    • In any case, the Lord responds to Solomon’s request by granting him the wisdom that he sought.

      • But the Lord did not stop there, he exceeded Solomon’s request with the things in which Solomon would also need.

      • So, the Lord provides Solomon with riches and honor as to distinguish Solomon from the kings before him and after him.

    • What we see the Lord do here is exceed the request in which Solomon made when Solomon prioritized the things of the Lord over and above himself.

      • Jesus speaks of the prioritization of Kingdom matters over the pursuit of oneself.

      • The point being, the Lord will always meet the needs of his own. Check out Matthew 6:33.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
  • This is a key biblical principal that we find through the narrative of the Kings: That when we prioritize the things of God, we need not worry about our needs.

    • Additionally, in verse 14 the Lord mentions that if Solomon walked in His ways and kept the commands that the Lord would prolong his days.

    • From there Solomon awakes, heads to Jerusalem, and stands before the ark of the covenant to offer 2 offerings before the Lord.

      • The first one is the burnt offering and the second a peace offering.

      • The burnt offering expressed personal dedication while the peace offering expressed gratitude for fellowship with the Lord.

    • Plainly put, these offerings were a means of commitment to the Lord and praise in fellowship.

      • Well, it’s after this special moment with the Lord that the scene now pivots.

      • And the next section of our text demonstrates God’s commitment to fulfilling his promise to Solomon on being endowed with wisdom and discernment.

      • Check out verses 16-28.

1 Kings 3:16 Then two women who were harlots came to the king and stood before him.
1 Kings 3:17 The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house.
1 Kings 3:18 “It happened on the third day after I gave birth, that this woman also gave birth to a child, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, only the two of us in the house.
1 Kings 3:19 “This woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on it.
1 Kings 3:20 “So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead son in my bosom.
1 Kings 3:21 “When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead; but when I looked at him carefully in the morning, behold, he was not my son, whom I had borne.”
1 Kings 3:22 Then the other woman said, “No! For the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.” But the first woman said, “No! For the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.” Thus they spoke before the king.
1 Kings 3:23 Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son who is living, and your son is the dead one’; and the other says, ‘No! For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’ ”
1 Kings 3:24 The king said, “Get me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king.
1 Kings 3:25 The king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.”
1 Kings 3:26 Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!”
1 Kings 3:27 Then the king said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother.”
1 Kings 3:28 When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.
  • Well, with any granting of wisdom and discernment comes the necessity by which it should be tested and proven.

    • And what a scene by which Solomon is tested and proven of the wisdom in which the Lord has granted him.

      • We are told that two women who are prostitutes come before the king in need of a judgement to be made.

    • And the issue is concerning a child. Both women have borne children, only one child has died due to the mother having rolled on her child at night.

      • The first woman mentions that the woman whose baby had died switched the dead baby with the one that was alive.

    • So when the mother who had the child that was alive woke up, she realizes that her child was dead.

      • However, looking closely at the child the woman realized that child was not hers.

      • After the woman tells her story, the other woman blurts out that the living son is hers and the dead son was the other woman’s son.

    • This argument goes back and forth between both women to the point that the king interjects.

      • And he makes mention of the back and forth debacle regarding who’s child is whose.

    • There were no DNA test or birth records that would be able to properly identify who was telling the truth and who wasn’t.

      • So, this unique case of whose child belongs to which mother would have to be dealt with in a more “upfront” way.

    • The king requested a sword. And the point was that the child’s true mother would speak up to preserve her child’s life versus there being two dead children.

      • Ultimately, what the king was doing here was implementing discernment regarding the compassionate natural maternal instincts.

    • The true mother would rather choose for their child to live and be given to another than for them to die for the sake of “being even”.

      • And the text mentions in verse 26 that at the king’s word to divide the baby in half (killing the baby) that the child’s mother was “deeply stirred”.

    • This word “deeply stirred” is quite interesting.

      • The word can either mean to be aroused with compassion or great feeling or, experiencing deep awareness of sympathy for another’s suffering.

      • It is as if to say one’s compassion has grown hot.

      • And some places this word is found in the Hebrew bible is in Genesis 43:30 and here in 1 Kings 3:26.

  • In Genesis 43:30 the word is used for Joseph when he had hurried out of the room where his brother was, having seen his father’s youngest son and his brothers.

    • And Joseph is deeply stirred to the point of great weeping because of the deep emotional connections experienced in that moment.

      • Hosea 11:8 speaks similarly to how the Lord’s compassion for his people moves him deeply.

    • And in the same way in our text tonight, this same compassion is that of a mother for her son.

      • Herein lies Solomon’s indicator as to who the true mother is.

      • Because after the one mother asks to not kill the child the other mother responds in a selfish manner and reveals her nature.

    • Solomon’s verdict is rendered, and the first woman received her living child.

      • And from what the text mentions, this verdict became well-known among the people of Israel which sparked fear.

    • The question becomes, what is it that sparked the fear of the king regarding the verdict of his judgement?

      • Well, the text tells us that the people saw the “wisdom of God in Solomon’s administration of the Lord’s justice.”

      • Proverbs, which is majority written by Solomon, is to provide God’s people with detailed instructions on how to deal successfully with practical everyday matters.

      • And this is what Solomon writes in Proverbs 9:10:

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
  • Fear, in this context is dealing with a holy reverence and respect for the Lord.

    • That our reverence for Him is expressed in our obedience of Him.

    • Jesus says these very words to His disciples in John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

    • In other words, your love for Jesus is expressed in your obedience to His words.

    • Therefore, understanding and wisdom of the Lord comes by our submission to His word (the scriptures).

      • But this also means that to grow in wisdom also means that we are to grow in knowing His word.

      • But it’s more than just knowing His word for the sake of intellectual ascent or memorization, but it requires the doing of it.

    • This is why James says the following words to his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters in the diaspora in James 1:22-25:

James 1:22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
James 1:23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;
James 1:24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
James 1:25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
  • What becomes something interesting to note in observation is that the actions of the king served as a revelation of the power of God’s word in action.

    • The word “saw” in Hebrew (rah-ah) means to see the face of a king or to see the face of God.

      • In other words, through the actions of the King the people saw the Lord at work.

      • What powerful imagery that creates for one to understand the majesty and power of God at work within the earth?!

      • That as God’s custodial representative obeys and submits that the power and wisdom of God is made manifest for others to see and know.

  • The role of the king under God’s authority is to reflect God in their decision making.

    • That when the king is submitted and following the ways of the Lord, the ways of the Lord will be made evident through his actions and judgement.

      • So, Solomon becomes this picture of the greater king in an eschatological sense.

      • That the embodiment of righteous rule and judgement and one who establishes true shalom throughout the land is none other than Jesus!

    • Paul mentions the person in whom all treasures of wisdom and knowledge is hidden. Check out Colossians 2:2-3:

Colossians 2:2 that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself,
Colossians 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
  • Paul also in 1 Corinthians 1:24 identifies Jesus as both the power and wisdom of God.

    • So, where Solomon displays these pictures of fear and reverence before Israel in a united Kingdom, it will be Christ who will be feared for His perfect rule and judgement in the Millennial Kingdom!

  • As we continue through our study of the Kings, we will see these narratives reveal biblical principles by which we as believers are to apply and practice daily.

    • And at the same time, these narratives point us to a greater eschatological promise of a time in which Jesus will reign as King over a united Israel and whose domain will be the entire world.

      • It will be in Jesus’ reign that we will see what true justice looks like – not partial justice but full justice.

    • Justice will not be defined by policies of flawed men and women moved and manipulated by their constituents.

      • Rather, Justice will be defined by the word of the Lord according to His holy and righteous truth.

    • The reality is, as long as we are living in this life absent of Christ on the physical throne of David, we will continue to be disappointed in what we see.

      • We cannot expect to see true change within man-made delegations and voting.

    • This doesn’t mean that we don’t participate in our political system, but this does mean that we don’t look to politics to change the condition of human hearts.

      • We must look to the appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, knowing that when He comes, He will make all things right!

      • Let’s Pray.


  • Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, p. 292. Cf. Abraham Malamat, “The Kingdom of David and Solomon in Its Contact with Egypt and Aram Naharaim,” The Biblical Archaeologist 21:4 (Dec. 1958):97; Alan Schulman, “Diplomatic Marriage in the Egyptian New Kingdom,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 38 (1979):190-91.

  • Eugene Merrill coins the term “sacred space” in his book Everlasting Dominion: A Theology of the Old Testament. The point of a sacred space speaks to a place designated as holy and set apart for the Lord to meet His people for fellowship and worship.