Solomon the Wise

Posted: March 4, 2010 in 1 Kings

1 Kings 3-4, “Solomon the Wise”
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If given anything in the world to ask for, what would it be? It’s easy to come up with a list of things to ask for – whole stories are written around the possibility of being Aladdin with the magic lamp… One man actually received this very offer from God – and what he chose to ask for is truly astounding in the eyes of the world: wisdom.

Solomon had recently come to the throne – it wasn’t an easy transition, as one of his brothers tried to sneak the throne out from under him… Through the quick thinking of Nathan & Bathsheba, David was able to intervene at the last minute & establish his son Solomon as the new king of Israel, and Solomon took decisive steps to solidify his reign. But once it was established, now what? That’s where we pick up…

1 Kings 3 (NKJV)
1 Now Solomon made a treaty with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and married Pharaoh’s daughter; then he brought her to the City of David until he had finished building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall all around Jerusalem. 2 Meanwhile the people sacrificed at the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the LORD until those days. 3 And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places.

A. Compared to some of the kings that are going to follow, this looks really very good! But compared to what God’s standards were for the king, this is a bad foot to start off on…

B. Made a treaty & compromise with the worldly system…

C. Made a compromise with the word of God…

D. What we see here is a need for wisdom!
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4 Now the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place: Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”

A. Normally, a thousand burnt offerings is nothing to sneeze at; it would have been a sign of great devotion. But again, it just underscores Solomon’s compromise of the word of God because the sacrifices were offered at “the great high place.” Some scholars assume this to be the tabernacle (the tabernacle was listed in Gibeon in 1 Chr 16:39-40), yet why would Scripture describe the holy tabernacle as a “great high place”? With the description in vs. 3 of Solomon being prone to sacrifice at the high places, it seems more likely Solomon is continuing that practice in Gibeon.

B. Yet what is so amazing is that God STILL appeared to Solomon in his dream! Despite Solomon’s improper sacrifice – despite Solomon’s compromise with Egypt – God showed immense mercy upon Solomon for not striking him down, and showed immense grace by offering to bless him in the midst of all these things.
__a. That’s exactly what grace is! Solomon did NOT deserve to have God appear to him in a dream & offer to give him anything. Solomon (despite his best efforts to the contrary) had not done anything worthy of blessing…just like our best efforts outside of Christ at attempting to please God fall far short of anything worthy of blessing. … But our God is a God of grace!
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– Solomon’s prayer…
6 And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.

A. Did Solomon know his father? 🙂 David had absolutely NOT walked in truth, righteousness & uprightness of heart – his mother was proof of the fact. … … Yet this is still very true. David was righteous because God MADE him righteous…

B. Solomon calls to mind the covenant God made with David… Sees himself as the first fruits of it, which is accurate…Solomon was the 1st son to sit on David’s throne after him, but obviously Solomon is not the final fulfillment of the promise. Jesus is the ultimate “Son of David” that reigns from heaven & will sit on the throne of David.
__a. The point? Solomon looked to the promises of God, saw their fulfillment, and affirmed God was faithful. Thus Solomon had faith that God would be faithful to His word, no matter what the circumstance…he could trust that if God promised to give him something, God would give it.
__b. Do you have the same kind of faith? Can you see how God was faithful to His word in your own life (if nothing else, your very salvation)? How does that affect your faith for God’s promises for now & the future? ….
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7 Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted.

A. Solomon wasn’t literally a child; this was a reference to his ability & experience…
B. Is this a reference to the failed census of his father David?
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9 Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

A. Wonderful request! Asked for “an understanding heart to judge” – the ability to “discern between good & evil.” Solomon was asking for wisdom! He could have asked for riches – in order to hire the best judges in the land & soldiers to enforce the laws. He could have asked for power – in order to influence kingdoms far beyond his own. He could have just asked for knowledge – in order to impress people with his vast intellect. Instead, Solomon asked for wisdom – going beyond mere knowledge to knowing what to do with it. Knowledge is valuable; but wisdom takes that knowledge into the realm of application. Solomon needed to know what to DO, and given the opportunity to ask for anything in the world, he asked God for wisdom.
__a. That same opportunity is open to each of us as believers in Christ. The Bible gives us a wonderful promise regarding wisdom – James 1:5-6 (5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (6) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. [] The same promise that was available to Solomon is available to us; the question is: do you ask for it? Do you ask in faith to receive it?

B. Note WHY Solomon asked for wisdom: he recognized that the people didn’t belong to him. “…judge Your people…the great people of Yours…” Later in his life, Solomon is going to let his ego get out of control – he’s going to demand a lot of the people to satisfy his own luxuries. But at this point in his life, Solomon understands that though he is a king, he is but a steward of what rightfully belongs to God.
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10 The speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing.

A. Amen! May all of our prayers please the Lord! The Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly why this pleased God, but we can infer a few things from the text.
__a. Solomon recognized God’s rightful place as Lord
__b. Solomon was selfless & humble in his request. True, he was asking to personally receive an understanding heart, but the reason he did so was for the benefit of the nation; not himself.
__c. Solomon was asking for power to do what God had called him to do.

B. The key to God-pleasing prayers isn’t to repeat Solomon’s words in vain repetition (or David’s, or Jabez’s, etc.). The key is to use the same principles in your prayers from your heart in accordance with the Scripture. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He gave them a model prayer that:
__a. Recognizes God’s rightful place as Lord & King: “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
__b. Presents requests in humility & selflessness: “Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” These are certainly needs we have, but they are not ego-centered.
__c. Asks for God to empower the believer to do what is right: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
__d. Is this how you pray? If you find that your prayers have not been pleasing to the Lord, perhaps you need to look at how you pray. Are you asking in selfishness? Are you demanding of the Lord, rather than recognizing Him as King? Are you asking for sinful things?
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11 Then God said to him: “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, 12 behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.

A. Can you imagine how wonderful it would have been to have heard this response from the Lord? Awesome! God promised to give him a “wise and understanding heart”

B. How wise would Solomon be? His wisdom would be perpetually great! No one in history would surpass his wisdom. As great as this is, keep in mind that wisdom didn’t keep Solomon from walking away from the Lord by the end of his life. Wisdom is only truly useful when it is used. Solomon had the ability to know right from wrong; he just ignored it as time went on. Ultimately, wisdom is not an end within itself – it’s the application of what comes out of our knowledge of God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10), and that’s the ultimate application of it as well. Jeremiah 9:23-24 (23) Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; (24) But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord. []
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13 And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. 14 So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

A. In addition to wisdom, God blessed Solomon with everything he did not ask for.

B. Also received a conditional promise of a long life. If Solomon continued to walk with God, God would “lengthen his days.” Obviously Solomon did not keep the word of God & turned away at the end. Scripture tells us Solomon reigned for 40 years (1 Kings 11:42)…just think of what it would have been if Solomon HAD walked with God!
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15 Then Solomon awoke; and indeed it had been a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD, offered up burnt offerings, offered peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

A. This time, Solomon sacrifices properly to the Lord, according to the law of Moses. What made the difference? A revelation of God. When someone has a real revelation of Almighty God, you cannot help but change!
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– Wisdom in action…
16 Now two women who were harlots came to the king, and stood before him. 17 And one woman said, “O my lord, this woman and I dwell in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. 18 Then it happened, the third day after I had given birth, that this woman also gave birth. And we were together; no one was with us in the house, except the two of us in the house. 19 And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20 So she arose in the middle of the night and took my son from my side, while your maidservant slept, and laid him in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. 21 And when I rose in the morning to nurse my son, there he was, dead. But when I had examined him in the morning, indeed, he was not my son whom I had borne.” 22 Then the other woman said, “No! But the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.” And the first woman said, “No! But the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.” Thus they spoke before the king.

A. Classic he-said-she-said situation (except they’re both “she’s” 🙂 ). What do you do when it’s just one person’s word against another? What kind of action can you take when there are no witnesses & no corroborating evidence? DNA testing wouldn’t be available for several thousand more years, so how could Solomon possibly make a righteous judgment in this case? Solomon needed wisdom! This is a perfect example of why he asked for wisdom in the 1st place.
__a. Sooner or later we all encounter situations that there is no easy answer for – there’s nothing cut & dry about it. What do we do? Search the Scriptures & ask God for wisdom. Solomon had already been gifted with wisdom, so he was prepared to face the situation – but many times we’re not. We come up against something tough or angering or seemingly impossible, and so often we end up just shooting from the hip. That’s not wisdom; that’s carnal immaturity, and that’s NOT what God would have us do. The answers may not be easy nor obvious, but we serve a God who is never confused about anything. We simply need to be humble enough to seek Him & His word first, and then be willing to follow through & put it into action.

B. BTW, notice the whole reason these two women are in trouble. It’s not because one of them did wrong & the other is completely innocent. BOTH of them were prostitutes & both of them got pregnant as a result of their sinful condition. That doesn’t excuse the 2nd woman’s actions at all – but we shouldn’t be surprised that a sinful situation brought about a sinful response. Sin always begets more sin & always will until the cycle is broken by repentance & faith in the Lord Jesus.
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23 And the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one’; and the other says, ‘No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’ ” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. 25 And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.”

A. Yikes! This is a bit harsh, isn’t it? Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater?!  Solomon knows what he’s doing here – it’s unlikely there was ever any intent to harm the child. In his wisdom, Solomon simply knew that the sword would reveal the heart of the mothers.

B. We’ve got a far different sword to use, but we can (and should) also use the sword of the Spirit to reveal the heart. That’s exactly what it’s meant to do. Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. [] Obviously we don’t beat people over the head with the Bible (that’s not what it’s meant for); the idea here is more of a surgeon’s scalpel. It reveals things that would normally be hidden, and deals with us in order for God to heal our hearts & spirits. … Keep your counsel based on the Scripture…
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26 Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!” But the other said, “Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him.” 27 So the king answered and said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother.” 28 And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had rendered; and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.

A. Solomon’s ruse was truly effective – the heart of the true mother was revealed in her willingness to give up her son in order that his life may be saved. Love does not seek its own (1 Cor 13:5); her selflessness proved her love for her child.

B. The result was that the whole land was amazed. They saw the wisdom of God in the mouth of the king & they feared him (proper, good fear) as a result. … People will always be amazed at the mind & wisdom of God. Pharisees & Sadducees routinely couldn’t answer Jesus. The Sanhedrin couldn’t answer Peter & John when questioned. King Agrippa almost couldn’t help becoming a Christian when hearing the testimony of Paul. People will always recognize the wisdom of God & even when they resist it, they can’t help but be left without a response. Again, keep your counsel based upon the Scripture. Nobody will be amazed by your opinion (everyone’s got one, after all), but the word & wisdom of God is supernaturally compelling.
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1 Kings 4 (NKJV)
1 So King Solomon was king over all Israel. 2 And these were his officials: [Not going to read all the names of vs. 2-6, but only some highlights]

A. Benaiah: this was the man who David assigned as the general over his personal guards (the Cherethites & the Pelethites) – served under Solomon as the general over the entire army.

B. Zadok & Abiathar: Obviously Abiathar had been exiled, and only Zadok served as the high priest (apparently followed by Azariah, his grandson). However, Abiathar is likely listed due to the fact that although he could not serve, his office remained.

C. Azariah & Zabud, “the son of Nathan”: Possibly sons of the prophet, but it’s uncertain. Nathan was not an uncommon name.

D. Possible that these were the people who served over the course of Solomon’s entire reign; not necessarily all at once in the 1st few years. The point, however is that Solomon wasn’t alone. Solomon may have been the wisest man on the planet, but Solomon didn’t run the kingdom all by himself…
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7 And Solomon had twelve governors over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household; each one made provision for one month of the year. [Burden of provision is spread out; not going to read the names – vs. 8-19]

A. Emphasizes the extent of the kingdom…ranges from the mountains of Ephraim to Gilead, on both sides of the Jordan river & to the north & to the south.
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20 Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing. 21 So Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.

A. Let there be no doubt that God keeps His word! This is an early partial fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. [Lot vs. Abram’s land] Genesis 13:14-16 (14) And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are— northward, southward, eastward, and westward; (15) for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. (16) And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. [] God later gets so specific with the boundaries of the land that He describes it as being “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (Gen 15:18). Apparently this was actually achieved (at least partially) for a time during Solomon’s reign.

B. As great as this is, it is but a preview of what will occur during the Millennial Kingdom when the Lord Jesus sits on the throne of David…
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22 Now Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty kors of fine flour, sixty kors of meal, 23 ten fatted oxen, twenty oxen from the pastures, and one hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fatted fowl.

A. That’s a lot of food! But then again, Solomon had a lot of mouths to feed. His harem ended up including 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3)! Who knows how many children resulted? Scripture only mentions 3 by name (son Rehoboam, & daughters Basemath & Taphath), but surely there were hundreds, if not well over a thousand! With that in mind, the provision in vs. 22-23 almost seems small.
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24 For he had dominion over all the region on this side of the River from Tiphsah even to Gaza, namely over all the kings on this side of the River; and he had peace on every side all around him. 25 And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan as far as Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.

A. David had years of war; Solomon had years of peace. The kingdom was fruitful & prosperous, and all the nations respected King Solomon.

B. Again, this is but a preview & foretaste of what is yet to come in the Millennial reign of Christ. [per M. Unger] Micah 4:3-4 (3) He shall judge between many peoples, And rebuke strong nations afar off; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. (4) But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, And no one shall make them afraid; For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. [] The Lord Jesus Christ is the greater-than-Solomon! Solomon was the wisest man; Jesus is the author of wisdom. Solomon was the powerful king; Jesus is the King of Kings. Solomon reigned during an era of peace; Jesus is the Prince of Peace. As great as Solomon was, he falls far short of the ultimate King of Israel: Jesus Christ!
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26 Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. 27 And these governors, each man in his month, provided food for King Solomon and for all who came to King Solomon’s table. There was no lack in their supply. 28 They also brought barley and straw to the proper place, for the horses and steeds, each man according to his charge.

A. Solomon may not have had need to use them, but he had a massive army of chariots. There’s a question over whether the number is 4K or 40K, but either way the point is the same: Solomon had a huge arsenal of chariots! His kingdom was strong financially, physically, and militarily. For a while, it was strong spiritually as well – if only it had remained so!
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29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. 30 Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all men— than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations.

A. The excelling wisdom of Solomon… God kept His promise – there was no one alive like him. He was wiser than all men.
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32 He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five.

A. The excelling worship of Solomon. Most of these proverbs & psalms are lost to history, but apparently he learned from his father David how to express his worship to God in song & word. … Interestingly enough, we don’t remember Solomon as a man of worship, but of wisdom. Some have conjectured that perhaps Solomon’s heart wasn’t in it – but perhaps we ought to simply assume that most of his psalms weren’t inspired by the Spirit, as David’s were.
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33 Also he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; he spoke also of animals, of birds, of creeping things, and of fish. 34 And men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.

A. The excelling knowledge of Solomon. He may not have asked for pure scientific knowledge, but the Lord certainly blessed him with it. King Solomon had an astute understanding of God’s creation.

B. With all the debate of creation vs. evolution, sometimes we can get the idea that Christianity & science are incompatible. Not so! Science, rightly done, is the discovery & analysis of God’s creation. Of all people, Christians ought to be able to give glory to God through the study of His handiwork in the universe. We just need to be careful to understand the worldview in which science is often presented.

Conclusion:
Solomon the wise! Solomon desperately needed wisdom – he asked for wisdom – God promised him wisdom – and finally Solomon acted upon that wisdom, and God was true to His word every step of the way.

There’s no doubt that God’s people need God’s wisdom!
A. Have you asked for it? God has promised to give it – all we need do is ask…
B. Have you implemented it? Wisdom doesn’t do anyone any good if it’s not applied. Take it from head-knowledge & move it applied wisdom & see what God will do…

Most importantly, are you relying upon Jesus Christ for wisdom? We don’t need to seek our own hearts looking for what is best (our hearts can deceive us) – we seek the author of all wisdom, God Himself.

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