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This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.  


Bailey Sadler Class

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Fall 2017

 

Study Theme:  Second Nature

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus for the second study comes from 1 Kings and the life of King Solomon.  It centers on our need for discernment in making judgments and decisions in our everyday life.

 

Oct. 15

Caleb

X

Oct. 22

Solomon

 

Oct. 29

Ruth

 

Nov. 05

Barnabas

 

Nov. 12

John

 

Nov. 19

Hannah

 

Nov. 26

Andrew

 

LIFE IMPACT:

Christ-centered living chooses wisdom from God, not simply knowledge.

FOCAL PASSAGE:

1 Kings 3:3-14; 4:29-34

LESSON OUTLINE:

I.    

II.

III.

Pray For Wisdom and Discernment (1 Kings 3:3-9)

God Gives Us Wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-14)

Others Benefit When We Share God’s Wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34)

THE SETTING:  

First Kings 1–2 records the account of King David’s death and his son Solomon’s accession to Israel’s throne. As David lay dying, Adonijah, another of David’s sons, tried to seize the throne. However, David intervened and settled the issue—Solomon would succeed him as king (1:28-30). The whole city celebrated as David’s leaders carried out the order and crowned Solomon king (1:40). Support for Adonijah quickly dissipated when news of Solomon’s coronation reached him and his followers.

The account then shifted to David’s last moments  on earth. Before he died, Israel’s great king issued Solomon his son a sober warning. Solomon must be careful to walk in the ways of the Lord all his days, so that God would fulfill the promise He had made to David to establish David’s throne forever (2:1-4; 2 Sam. 7). God had made a special covenant with David and his house, but the Lord expected faithfulness from David’s descendants in return.

First Kings 2:13-46 records Solomon’s further establishment of himself as king by getting rid of key enemies. Solomon first ordered the death of Adonijah, who had conspired against him for the throne (2:13-25). He then removed Abiathar the priest from the priesthood for his part in the conspiracy (2:26-27). He also put to death Joab, who had led David’s army but failed David later in David’s reign, even having killed David’s son Absalom (2:28-35). Finally, Solomon dealt with Shimei, a man from the tribe of Benjamin who had cursed David when David fled from Absalom (2:36-46; 2 Sam. 16:5-14).

Thus, at the end of 1 Kings 2, the kingdom of Israel lay firmly in Solomon’s hands. Yet, the king knew he lacked what he needed to lead Israel as he should. God had given Solomon the kingdom, but the king knew he needed God’s help to lead the people effectively.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

INTRODUCTION:

More knowledge is available at the click of a mouse today than has ever been available in the history of the world. Personal computers are commonplace in homes, and mobile phones also carry an incredible amount of data. Many times we may feel overwhelmed with all the knowledge available to us. However, what many people lack is understanding of the best way to use that knowledge, and that calls for wisdom.

This session focuses on King Solomon and the wisdom God gave him when he asked for it. Solomon knew he needed more than knowledge to lead Israel; he needed wisdom. Likewise, we need God’s wisdom, not simply knowledge, to live the life God has called us to live. Indeed, Christ-centered living seeks wisdom from God, not merely knowledge.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

I.

Pray For Wisdom and Discernment (1 Kings 3:3-9)

3 Solomon loved the Lord by walking in the statutes of his father David, but he also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there because it was the most famous high place. He offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask. What should I give you?” 6 And Solomon replied, “You have shown great and faithful love to your servant, my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity. You have continued this great and faithful love for him by giving him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today. 7 “Lord my God, you have now made your servant king in my father David’s place. Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership. 8 Your servant is among your people you have chosen, a people too many to be numbered or counted. 9 So give your servant a receptive heart to judge your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?”

  1.   How do you define “success” ?

  2.   What is one thing you would ask for if it could make you successful? Explain your answer!

  3.   Why do you think some people rely on knowledge as the key to success?

  4.   How would you explain the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

  5.   What was the background for this week’s study? (see “Setting” on pg. 1.)

  6.   Why do you think God wants His children to pray for wisdom and discernment?

  7.   What was Solomon’s commitment to God (v. 3)? (see Adv. comm., pg. 4, “The words Solomon  .  .  .  )

  8.   What was one of Solomon’s shortcomings? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “The text’s statement  .  .  .  and “Verses 4-14 highlight .  .  . “ )

  9.   How would you summarize Solomon’s affirmation of God’s “great and faithful love”? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “Over the course of  .  .  .  )

10.   How would you summarize the following: 1) Solomon’s relationship with God; 2) The process of Solomon’s being crowned king; and 3) The reason Solomon needed God’s help? (see Adv. comm., pg. 5, “The words Lord my God  .  .  .  )

11.   Based on verse 9, what did Solomon ask the Lord to give him? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, “Verse 9 records how  .  .  .  )

12.   How would you explain Solomon’s understanding of what it took to be king? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, “Solomon’s question  .  .  .  )

13.   What part do you think Solomon’s attitude impacted God’s willingness to give him whatever he asked?

14.   How would you describe Solomon’s attitude toward God?

15.   If God said to you “Ask. What should I give you?” what would you request?

 

Lasting Lessons in 1 Kings 3:3-9:

1. We demonstrate our love for God when we walk in His statutes.

2. We need to recognize God’s faithful love and grace in our lives.

3. Leaders need God’s wisdom and discernment to lead effectively.

 

II.

God Gives Us Wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-14)

10 Now it pleased the Lord that Solomon had requested this. 11 So God said to him, “Because you have requested this and did not ask for long life or riches for yourself, or the death of your enemies, but you asked discernment for yourself to administer justice, 12 I will therefore do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has never been anyone like you before and never will be again. 13 In addition, I will give you what you did not ask for: both riches and honor, so that no king will be your equal during your entire life. 14 If you walk in my ways and keep my statutes and commands just as your father David did, I will give you a long life.”

  1.   Why do you think Solomon’s request pleased God (v. 10)?

  2.   What were some things Solomon could have requested (v. 11)? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, “Verse 11 focuses on  .  .  .   and “Solomon also might have  .  .  .  )

  3.   What were some of the reasons Solomon asked for discernment and the ability to administer justice? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, However, Solomon had asked  .  .  .  )

  4.   What types of requests do you think God likes to receive from His children?  Why?

  5.   How did God respond to Solomon’s request (v. 12)?

  6.   How would you explain the words God used in verse 12 as He granted Solomon’s request: 1) “I will give you;” “wise;” “understanding”? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, “God assured Solomon  .  .  .  and “God then described the  .  .  .   )

  7.   What else did God grant Solomon (v. 13)? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, “God also told Solomon  .  .  .  )

  8.   Do you think this was a one-way street as far as God was concerned? (see Adv. comm., pg. 6, “God expected something  .  .  .  )

  9.   What does verse 12 tell us about the extent of Solomon’s request for wisdom (v. 12b)? 

10.    We are swimming in an ocean of knowledge while dying of thirst for wisdom. Do you agree or disagree?  Explain your answer!

11.   How do you know that wisdom is God’s will for you?  What good is knowledge without the wisdom of discernment?

12.   When has God given you more than you asked for?  How did you handle that?

13.   Where in your own life do you need wisdom?

14.   How do you gain wisdom and apply it in your daily life?

 

Lasting Lessons in 1 Kings 3:10-14:

1. God is pleased when we ask Him to use us for His glory.

2. God’s blessing on our lives is of much more value than the value of our service to Him.

3. God intends His statutes and commands for every generation.

4. If we walk in God’s ways, we will experience God’s blessing.

 

III.

Others Benefit When We Share God’s Wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34)

29 God gave Solomon wisdom, very great insight, and understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone — wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, sons of Mahol. His reputation extended to all the surrounding nations. 32 Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs numbered 1,005. 33 He spoke about trees, from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop growing out of the wall. He also spoke about animals, birds, reptiles, and fish. 34 Emissaries of all peoples, sent by every king on earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom.

  1.   How do you maintain a balance between sharing God’s wisdom and avoiding offering unwanted advice?

  2.   What makes wisdom attractive and causes others to seek it out?

  3.   How is Solomon’s wisdom describes in this Scripture passage?

  4.   What did discernment allowed Solomon to do? (see Adv. comm., pg.6, God gave Solomon wisdom  .  .  .  )

  5.   How did Solomon’s wisdom compare with that of his contemporaries at home and abroad? (see Adv. comm., pg. 7, “Verses 30-31 compare   .  .  .  )

  6.   What were some of the highlights to come from Solomon’s extraordinary wisdom? (see Adv. comm., pg. 7, Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs  .  .  .  and “Solomon’s wisdom extended   .  .  .  )

  7.   What do you think is the most outstanding feature to come from Solomon’s wisdom? (see Adv. comm., pg. 7, ”The text highlights his  .  .  .  )

  8.   What are some ways we can use our God-given wisdom to strengthen our relationships with others?

  9.   How would you explain that Christ-centered living chooses wisdom from God, not simply knowledge? 

10.   How can we gain greater wisdom to fulfill one’s purpose and impact others’ lives?

11.   How would describe a student of wisdom?

12.   Are there some dangers you may face when sharing your wisdom with others?  If so, what could they be? 

13.   What are some things you can do to keep from developing an arrogant attitude when sharing your wisdom with another?

14.   When preparing to share your wisdom with another person, what are some things you should do to get ready?  Why?

 

Lasting Lessons in 1 Kings 4:29-34:

1. God’s wisdom and insight vastly exceeds our own.

2. God’s wisdom and insight in us can enable us to do great things for God’s kingdom.

3. Other people may be drawn to God as they see God’s gifts in us.

4. Others benefit when we share God’s wisdom with them.

 

CONCLUSION:

  We value education, and so we should.  But we also have seen that having degrees and a plethora of information doesn’t always make one wise.  Wisdom represents the ability of knowing how and when to apply what one knows in ways that prove to be beneficial to others and bring glory to God.  Wisdom comes by being in right standing with the Lord, giving one’s self over to Him, and living according to His revealed truth.  Therefore, Christ-centered living chooses wisdom from God, believing He is the only true source of all truth.

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.

 

Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


 

 

FOCAL PASSAGE: 

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version:  1 Kings 3:3-14; 4:29-34

1 Kings 3:3-14 (KJV)

3 And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. 4 And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar. 5 In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. 6 And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. 7 And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. 8 And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. 9 Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? 10 And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. 11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; 12 Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, 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. 13 And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. 14 And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.


1 Kings 4:29-34 (KJV)

29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. 30 And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about. 32 And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. 33 And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. 34 And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.

 

New King James Version:  1 Kings 3:3-14; 4:29-34

1 Kings 3:3-14 (NKJV)

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. 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?" 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. 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. 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?" 10 The speech pleased the LORD, that Solomon had asked this thing. 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. 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."


1 Kings 4:29-34 (NKJV)

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. 32 He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five. 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.  

 

 

 

 

New International Version:  1 Kings 3:3-14; 4:29-34

1 Kings 3:3-14 (NIV)

3 Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." 6 Solomon answered, "You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 7 "Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for--both riches and honor--so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life."


1 Kings 4:29-34 (NIV)

29 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite--wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. 32 He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34 Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.  

 

  (NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from four sources: “Advanced Bible Study Commentary,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,Believer's Bible Commentary,” and “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

 

Lesson Outline — “Solomon” — 1 Kings 3:3-9,10-14; 4:29-34

I.

II.

III.

Pray For Wisdom and Discernment (1 Kings 3:3-9)

God Gives Us Wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-14)

Others Benefit When We Share God’s Wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34)

COMMENTARY:

Advanced Bible Study Commentary:

I. Pray for Wisdom and Discernment  (1 Kings 3:3-9):  The words Solomon loved the Lord affirmed his commitment to God. Before David died, David commissioned Solomon to follow the Lord faithfully in every circumstance (2:1-4). Solomon’s faithful obedience to the Lord would bring God’s blessing; unfaithfulness, and disobedience would bring God’s judgment. Solomon demonstrated his commitment to the Lord by walking in the statutes of his father David. The Hebrew word translated “statutes” comes from a verb that means “to inscribe.” The Law of Moses originally was inscribed on tablets of stone (Ex. 32:15-16). God had inscribed His statutes for His people for their good and for their blessing. Solomon demonstrated his love through faithful obedience, just as we can today (1 John 2:5; 5:3). We show our love for God by keeping His commands.

The text’s statement that Solomon also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places highlights one of the king’s shortcomings. The Book of Deuteronomy had forbidden such practices; rather, it pointed the people to the place God would designate (Deut. 12:2-5). During the period after Solomon, the people continued to worship God on high places throughout Israel instead of at the temple in Jerusalem (2 Kings 12:3; 14:4).

Verses 4-14 highlight a time at the beginning of Solomon’s reign. The city of Gibeon lay a little more than seven miles north-north west of Jerusalem. Solomon planned to sacrifice there as he began his kingship over Israel. Gibeon was the most famous high place (literally “the great high place,” KJV, ESV), and 2 Chronicles 1:3 mentions that the tabernacle was also there at that time. Solomon later would build God’s temple (1 Kings 6–8), but prior to that, Israel’s focus of worship was the tabernacle or tent of meeting (Ex. 25–30). Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings at Gibeon as a sign of dedication to the Lord. He no doubt wanted to bring a substantial gift to the God who had placed him on Israel’s throne. It was at Gibeon that the Lord appeared to Solomon.

Over the course of Israel’s history, the Lord had appeared to many of His servants in many ways. He had appeared to Moses in a burning bush (Ex. 3:2-6). He had appeared to Samson’s parents through one of His angels (Judg. 13:2-21). This time, He would appear to Israel’s new king in a dream at night. In the dream, the Lord asked Solomon an important question: What should I give you? We need to ponder a moment all Solomon could have requested; we may also want to ponder what we would ask for if God gave us such an opportunity. Solomon replied in a way that encompassed his past, his present, and his future. He affirmed that God had shown great and faithful love to his father David. The Hebrew word translated “faithful love” is hesed, a rich theological word that can be rendered “lovingkindness” (NASB), “steadfast love” (ESV), or “mercy” (KJV). Solomon said his father’s life had been characterized by three important attributes. First, David lived before God with faithfulness (“truth,” KJV, NASB), a word related to the word “amen.” Second, David’s life displayed righteousness—not merely avoiding sin, but a positive quality of goodness. Third, David’s life displayed integrity (literally “uprightness of heart,” KJV, NASB). David’s walk with God demonstrated itself not merely in words, but also in action. Today as well, people of character typically demonstrate that character by how they live their lives.

Moreover, Solomon affirmed that God had continued this great and faithful love for David by giving him a son to sit on his throne. In other words, Solomon’s reign was a continuation of the love that God had shown to Solomon’s father, David, through a special covenant. The Bible often affirms the blessing that can come to future generations when we live faithfully by God’s commands (Pss. 78:4; 128:1-6).

The words Lord my God describe Solomon’s personal relationship with God. God had made a covenant with Abraham’s descendants (Gen. 28:13-15; Ex. 3:6), but God also had made a special covenant with David (2 Sam. 7). Now Solomon, David’s son, sat on Israel’s throne. The words translated you have now made your servant king stress God’s active involvement in the process of Solomon’s being crowned king. First Kings 1:28-30 described how David had chosen Solomon to become king, but God’s favor had rested upon Solomon as well (2 Sam. 12:24-25). Solomon had now taken his father David’s place as God had established him as king. The Hebrew word translated youth is relative, depending upon the speaker’s perspective. In our day, senior adult parents might refer to their own grown children as “the kids.” Since David reigned thirty-three years in Jerusalem (5:5) and Solomon was born during that time as the second son of David and Bathsheba (12:24), he likely would not have been more than thirty years old. The CSB translation with no experience in leadership fits the context well. Literally Solomon’s words can be translated “I do not know going out and coming in” (compare KJV and NASB). A similar expression occurs in Psalm 121:8 (CSB “coming and going”) where the psalmist references God’s watching over the everyday details of our lives. Solomon was affirming that he barely grasped life’s essential details—let alone leadership—and now he was Israel’s king! He needed God’s help if he was going to fulfill his calling.

Solomon’s reference to your people you have chosen naturally describes Israel, God’s chosen nation. The Bible records how God took Abraham and his wife Sarah and made a nation from a couple unable to have children (Rom. 4:18-21; Heb. 11:8-12). At the end of the Book of Genesis, the Israelites numbered only about seventy (Ex. 1:5). By Solomon’s day, God’s people were too many to be numbered or counted.

The Bible consistently affirms the value of people. The prophet Isaiah later spoke of a day when Israel would have to expand greatly because of its large numbers of people—a sure sign of God’s blessing (Isa. 54:2-3). Indeed, people matter enough to God that He would send His Son, Jesus, to die for them (John 3:16).

Verse 9 records how Solomon asked God for a receptive heart (literally “a listening heart;” “understanding heart,” KJV, NASB; “understanding mind,” ESV). Second Chronicles 1:10 provides more of the conversation, including wisdom and knowledge in Solomon’s request. The king wanted to listen carefully to God, and he wanted to listen carefully to the citizens who came before him for a decision. He wanted to judge fairly the people God had given him, to render decisions and verdicts that were based on the truth of the cases at hand. He would need to listen carefully to do this. The word translated discern comes from a root that means “between.” Indeed, when people discern between good and evil they must choose between differing positions.

Solomon’s question who is able to judge this great people of yours? was rhetorical in nature. Solomon was not looking for an answer; rather he was affirming his own understanding that he did not have in himself what it took to be a great king over Israel. He would need God’s gracious assistance every step of the way. Solomon’s prayer for wisdom and discernment provides a model for leaders today. When we lead others, we must remember that we lead effectively only by God’s grace. Leadership requires more understanding than any of us can give to it. God’s grace, however, is sufficient to enable us to accomplish His purpose.

II. God Gives Us Wisdom (1 Kings 3:10-14):  The king’s request pleased the Lord (literally “the matter was good in the eyes of the Lord”). Solomon had requested this because his heart was in the right place. Kingship would certainly bring him many benefits and blessings, but his desire to be a good king prompted him to ask what he did. Verse 11 focuses on all the things Solomon might have requested but did not in view of the greater good of possessing a wise heart. Long life (literally “many days”) would prove a blessing both to the king and his people, for a good king who reigned a long time could bring much peace and stability to his country. According to Deuteronomy 17:17, kings were not to multiply riches for themselves. Too much wealth could steer their heart away from God and lead them to trust in themselves. Sadly, Solomon’s great wealth and power did contribute to his straying from God later in life (1 Kings 11:3).

Solomon also might have asked for death to come to his enemies. In a monarchy, relatives or friends of a dethroned king might rise up and try to seize power. The threat of a coup was ever present in ancient times. The Bible often mentions new kings coming to power and exterminating heirs of rivals (1 Kings 15:29; 16:11). However, Solomon had asked for none of these things. Rather, he knew that discernment would prove much more valuable in the long run. He also wanted to administer justice (literally “to hear justice”). The word translated “justice” can also mean judgment and is related to the word translated “judge” earlier in the passage (v. 9). Solomon wanted to listen to the facts of each case carefully so that he could discern the proper verdict to render in each situation. He knew the decisions he would render would impact many people’s lives.

God assured Solomon (v. 12) I will therefore do what you have asked. The Hebrew verb actually occurs in the past tense; the wording suggests God had already placed the wisdom and discernment in Solomon’s heart. Likewise, the word translated I will give you literally occurs in the past tense and thus could be rendered “I have given you” (NASB). The word translated wise is related to the Hebrew word for wisdom. The word understanding can be rendered “discerning” (ESV, NASB) and relates to the words translated “discern” and “discernment” that appeared earlier (vv. 9,11).

God then described the extent of the gift He would give to Solomon. No prior king would have known such wisdom and discernment, nor would one of Solomon’s successors know such skill. One can only imagine what Solomon thought as he pondered God’s incredible blessing on his life.

God also told Solomon He would provide him both riches and honor—items Solomon did not ask for. Solomon’s influence would extend mightily, so that no king would prove Solomon’s equal during his entire life. First Kings 6–10 describes the great kingdom Solomon ruled. He built the temple and he built a palace for himself. He also extended his influence all the way to Egypt and up into Syria (3:1; 9:19). The country was so wealthy with gold so plentiful that silver was not worth anything during Solomon’s reign (10:21). Important dignitaries came from great distances to hear Solomon’s wisdom (10:1-13).

God expected something in return from His new king. He expected Solomon to walk according to the ways He had laid down in the Law of Moses (Deut. 17:14-20). The word translated keep can also mean “guard” or “watch over.” The Hebrew word translated statutes comes from the root that means “to inscribe.” God had originally inscribed His commands on tablets of stone (Ex. 32:16). God’s decrees were timeless, spanning all generations, and as Solomon’s father David had walked in them, so God expected the same of David’s son. Long life would be a further blessing on Solomon’s life if he followed God obediently.

III. Others Benefit When We Share God’s Wisdom. God gave Solomon wisdom to lead Israel with effectiveness. The CSB renders one Hebrew word with the translation insight, and understanding. The word is related to the words translated “discern” and “discernment” in the prior sections. Solomon’s God-given discernment enabled him to choose not only between right and wrong, but between a good plan and a better plan. The expression as vast as the sand on the seashore attempts to convey to readers the sense of Solomon’s brilliance. At the same time, the text emphasizes how Solomon’s gifts came from God.

Verses 30-31 compare Solomon’s wisdom to his contemporaries at home and abroad. Solomon’s reputation (literally “name”) extended to all the surrounding nations. Other people groups heard of the wisdom and insight that the God of Israel had given to the king of Israel.

Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs. Only 915 verses occur in the Book of Proverbs, which means Solomon wrote many more than Scripture contains. His songs numbered 1,005, but unfortunately we have only two of these preserved for sure—Psalms 72 and 127. Some anonymous psalms might also have come from Solomon.

Solomon’s wisdom extended not merely to the arts and literature, but also to science and nature. As his kingdom expanded

and Solomon’s administration grew, he had time to reflect on life and consider many things. Whether the king spoke about trees or spoke about animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, his knowledge and insights were nothing short of amazing. In today’s world, it is rare to find someone who is an expert in many areas, but Solomon was one such individual. The text highlights his vast  knowledge on many subjects. He was an educated man, to be sure, but his wisdom and insights ultimately came from God. Emissaries of all peoples, near and far, came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom. These people had been sent by every king on earth who had heard of his wisdom. Solomon’s wisdom was not merely something for others to view; it also was something from which others could learn. Learning from a great leader might make them better leaders. Perhaps these who came from faraway lands went back wiser and were able to lead their people with greater effectiveness. We strengthen relationships when we walk alongside others and help them make wise decisions. How can God use you to impact the lives of others for His kingdom?

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

The Pulpit Commentary:   1 Kings 3:3-14; 4:29-34

1 Kings 3:3-14:

Verse 3.  And Solomon loved the Lord [thus keeping the first and great commandment, the “Shema Israel” [Deuteronomy 6:5; cf. 30:16; Matthew 22:37; Luke 10:27], walking in the statutes of David his father [i.e., those which David had kept (verses 6,14) and commanded him to keep (1Ki. 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 (ver. 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.

Verse 4.  And the king went to Gibeon [Joshua 9:3; 10:2; 18:25; 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. [2 Chronicles 1:2, 3] to sacrifice there [This religious service was designed to inaugurate his reign (2 Chronicles 1:13), 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; 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, 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, 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 (עׄלוׄת) 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, 64.] upon that altar.

Verse 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. 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; 2:12. Probably “appeared” is the equivalent of “revealed Himself.” Bahr] 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 (ver. 15).]

Verse 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 1Ki. 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; 8:18; 1 Samuel 22:8.; Ezra 9:7.]

Verse 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 12:8] I know not how to go out or come in. [The same phrase is found in the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy 28:6; 31:2. Also in 1 Samuel 18:13; 2 Samuel 3:25; Psalm 121:8. It is the formula for expressing behaviour, conduct, the outward life of man.]

Verse 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; 15:5, lived in the thoughts and language of the Jews, and were doubtless the original of this expression. Cf. also Numbers 23:10.]

Verse 9.  Give therefore thy servant an understanding [Heb. hearing. Cf. ver. 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, 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” (שׁׄפְטִים; 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. ver. 20). And what were the duties of a king in this respect, Absalom's words (2 Samuel 15:4) show. In vers. 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.]

Verse 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.]

Verse 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” (כָּבוׄד glory) in ver. 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 ver. 9] Judgment.

Verse 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.]

Verse 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.

Verse 14.  And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk [ver. 6; 15:4. This is the Divine confirmation of David's words to his son (1 Kings 2:3, 4) and of the son's description of his father's piety (ver. 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 11:41 at the time of his decease. But he had not fulfilled the condition (1 Kings 11:9-12).


1 Kings 4:29-34:

Verse 29.  And God gave Solomon [in fulfilment of the promise of chap. 3:12] wisdom and understanding (חָכְמָה, wisdom, knowledge; תְּבוּנָה, discernment, penetration. The historian, after describing the prosperity of the realm, proceeds to speak of the personal endowments of its head] and largeness of heart exceeding much [the Easterns speak of the heart where we should talk of head or intellect (1 Kings 3:9, 12; 10:24. Cf. Matthew 15:19; Ephesians 1:18 (Greek); Hebrews 4:12). The “large heart” is the ingenium capax, as Thenius. These different words indicate the variety and scope of his talents, in agreement with ver. 33] as the sand that is on the seashore. [Same expression in Genesis 22:17; 32:12; 41:49; Joshua 11:4; Judges 7:12, etc.]

Verse 30.  And Solomon's wisdom excelled [or exceeded; same word as in ver. 29] the wisdom of all the children of the east country [By the Beni-Kedem we are hardly to understand (with Rawlinson) a distinct tribe on the banks of the Euphrates. It is true that the land of the Beni-Kedem is identified with Haran or Mesopotamia (Genesis 29:1), and the mountains of Kedem (Numbers 23:7) are evidently those of Aram. It is also true that “the children of the East” are apparently distinguished from the Amalekites and Midianites (Judges 6:8, 33; 7:12; 8:10). It is probable, nevertheless, $hat the name is here employed to designate all the Arabian tribes east and southeast of Palestine — Sabaeans, Idumeans, Temanites, Chaldeans. What their wisdom was like, we may see in the Book of Job. Cf. Jeremiah 49:7; Obadiah 8] and all the wisdom of Egypt. [The learning of Egypt was of great repute in the Old World. It differed very considerably from the wisdom of Kedem, being scientific rather than gnomic (Isaiah 19:11, 12; 31:2, 8; Acts 7:22) and including geometry, astronomy, magic, and medicine. See Jos., Ant. 8:2.5; Herod. 2:109. 160. Wilkinson, “Ancient Egyptians” vol. 2. pp. 316-465.

Verse 31.  For (Heb. and) he was wiser than all men [Keil adds “of his time,” but we have no right to restrict the words to his contemporaries (see note on chap. 3:12). It is very doubtful whether the names mentioned presently are those of contemporaries] than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda [It is impossible to say whether these are the same persons as the Ethan and Heman and Chalcol and Dara of 1 Chronicles 2:6, or the Ethan and Heman who were David's singers. The resemblance is certainly remarkable. Not only are the names practically the same (Dara may well be a clerical error: many MSS., together with the Syr. and Arab., read Darda), but they occur in the same order. Our first impression, consequently, is that the two lists represent the same persons, and if so, these four sages were the “sons” of Zerah, the son of Judah (Genesis 38:30). But against this it is urged that Ethan is here called the Ezrahite, as are both Ethan and Heman in the titles of Psalms 89, and 88. respectively. The resemblance, however, of Ezrahite (אֶזְרָתִי) to Zerahite (זַרְתִי) is so close as to suggest identity rather than difference. There is, perhaps, more weight in the objection that Chalcol and Darda are here distinctly said to be “the sons of Mahol,” though here again it has been observed that Mahol (מָחוׄל) means pipe or dance, and the “sons of Mahol,” consequently, may merely be a synonym, agreeably to Eastern idiom (Ecclesiastes 12:4, with which cf. 2 Samuel 19:35), for “musicians.” We may therefore allow that the four names may be those of sons (i.e., descendants) of Zerah. But the question now presents itself: Are Ethan and Heman to be identified with the well known precentors of David? Against their identity are these facts:

1. That Ethan the singer (1 Chronicles 6:31) is described as the son of Kishi (1 Chronicles 6:44), elsewhere called Kushaiah (1 Chronicles 15:17), and of the family of Merari; as a Levite that is, instead of a descendant of Judah, and that Heman, who is called the singer, or musician (1 Chronicles 6:33), and the “king's seer” (1 Chronicles 25:5) is said to be a son of Joel, a grandson of the prophet Samuel, and one of the Kohathite Levites (1 Chronicles 15:17). The first impression in this case, therefore, is that they must be distinct. But it should be remembered

(1) that the sons — in the strict sense — of Zerah are nowhere else named for their wisdom, whereas the royal singer and seer probably owed their appointments to their genius, and

(2) that though Levites, they may have been incorporated (possibly like Jair, through marriage — see note on ver. 13 above, and cf. Ezra 2:61) into the tribe of Judah. The Levite in Judges 17:7 is spoken of as belonging to the family of Judah, because he dwelt in Bethlehem of Judah, and Elkanah the Levite is called an Ephraimite in 1 Samuel 1:1, because in his civil capacity he was incorporated into the tribe of Ephraim” (Keil). It must be admitted, however, that the natural interpretation of 1 Chronicles 2:6 is that the “sons” of Zerah there mentioned were his immediate and actual descendants, and not Levites who long centuries afterwards were somehow incorporated into his family. But the question is one of so much nicety that it is hardly possible to come to a positive conclusion] and his fame [Heb. name] was in all [Heb. all the] nations round about. [Cf. 1Ki. 10:24, etc.]

Verse 32.  And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. [Of the former, less than one-third are preserved in the Book of Proverbs (see Proverbs 1:1; 25:1); the rest are lost to us. The Book of Ecclesiastes, even if the composition of Solomon, can hardly be described as proverbs. Of his songs all have perished, except the Song of Solomon, and possibly Psalms 72, 127. (see the titles), and, according to some, 128.

Verse 33.  And he spare of [i.e., discoursed, treated, not necessarily wrote] trees [In his proverbs and songs he exceeded the children of the East. But his knowledge was not only speculative, but scientific. In his acquaintance with natural history he outshone the Egyptians, ver. 20], from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon [A favourite illustration. The Jews had a profound admiration for all trees, and of these they justly regarded the cedar as king. Cf. Judges 9:15; Psalm 80:10; 104:16; Song of Solomon 5:15; Ezekiel 31:3] unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall [His knowledge, i.e., embraced the least productions of nature as well as the greatest. The common hyssop (Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4) can hardly be intended here, as that often attains a considerable height (two feet), but a miniature variety or moss like hyssop in appearance, probably Orthotrichura saxatile]: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. [“The usual Biblical division of the animal kingdom” (Rawlinson). The arrangment is hardly according to manner of motion (Bahr). If anything, it is according to elements — earth, sky, sea. Both Jewish and Mohammedan writers abound in exaggerated or purely fabulous accounts of Solomon's attainments and gifts. We may see the beginning of these in Jos., Ant. 8:2.5.

Verse 34.  And there came of all people [Heb. the peoples, nations] to hear the wisdom of Solomon [1 Kings 10:1], from all the kings of the earth [i.e., messengers, ambassadors, as in the next chapter], which had heard of his wisdom.

SOURCE:  The Pulpit Commentary; Volume 5: Kings; Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

 

Believer's Bible Commentary: 1 Kings 3:3-14; 4:29-34

3:1.  Solomon married the daughter of the Pharaoh who was then in power in Egypt. Perhaps this shows that his trust was in political alliances. The marriage, although politically expedient, was spiritually disastrous as well as forbidden by the law. From this point onward, Solomon's harem grew until it contained hundreds of foreign women. Solomon thus linked himself with many foreign powers but alienated himself from the Lord (11:1-8).

3:2-4.  High places were here used for the worship of the Lord. This was not strictly in accordance with the law; God was supposed to be worshiped only in the place which He designated. But it is here excused on the ground that there was no official house, since Shiloh had been destroyed by the Philistines about 1050 b.c. when the ark was carried away (1 Sam. 4). After the temple was built, high places continued to be used, but for idolatrous worship. Although the ark was in Jerusalem at this time, the tabernacle was in Gibeon (1 Chron. 21:29), about six miles away. It was there that the king offered a thousand burnt offerings, probably at the outset of his reign.

3:5-15.  God appeared to Solomon... at Gibeon and asked him what he would like most of all. The king requested an understanding heart for the great task of judging and ruling the people of Israel. The request pleased the Lord, and it was granted—together with riches and honor, and also long life, if Solomon would walk in obedience to God. Today God offers to everyone the greatest gift for which one could possibly ask—the Lord Jesus Christ, "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3).


4:20, 21.  The kingdom under Solomon reached out to the River Euphrates, to the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt (vv.21, 24). Much of this territory consisted of kingdoms that paid tribute to Solomon but were not considered part of Israel. Therefore Solomon's kingdom was not the complete fulfillment of the Palestinian covenant (Gen. 15:18-21).

4:22-28.  The magnificence of Solomon's reign is described: his vast food supply, his thousands of horses, etc. But we must remember that in order to support such lavishness, it was necessary to tax the people very heavily. Also, we need to remember that Solomon's accumulation of horses was a violation of God's order (Deut. 17:16). (On the apparent contradiction between verse 26 and 2 Chron. 9:25.)

4:29-34.  The king's wisdom is again referred to. He was wiser than any other. The sages mentioned in verse 31 were the sons of Zerah (1 Chron. 2:6), Mahol (dancer) being simply an appellation. Ethan was the author of Psalm 89; Heman wrote Psalm 88. We know nothing about the other men. Solomon spoke three thousand proverbs, only a portion of which are preserved in the book of Proverbs. His songs numbered one thousand and five, the best being the Song of Songs. Verse 33 means that his wide knowledge of many sciences enabled him to use object lessons from nature in expounding his wisdom. People traveled from afar to hear him.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

The Moody Bible Commentary: 1 Kings 3:3-14; 4:29-34

3:1. Although Solomon's kingdom was established (cf. 2:46) and he would receive great wisdom from the Lord (cf. 3:6-15), he foolishly began his reign with the first of many marriages to foreign women who would eventually lead him astray into pagan worship (cf. 1Kg 11:1-8). Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh. The clause literally reads "made himself a son-in-law of Pharaoh." Marriage alliances were common in the ancient world for a military and trade advantage; however they had been forbidden by the Lord (cf. Dt 17:17).

3:2-3. Although Solomon loved the Lord, he (along with the people of Israel who were sacrificing) sinned when he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, pagan places of worship, instead of the one prescribed place, the tabernacle (cf. Dt 17:3-5).

3:4-5. At this time Solomon had a personal encounter with the Lord at Gibeon when he went to sacrifice there. Gibeon was a Levitical city about five miles from Jerusalem (Jos 18:25; 21:17). It was referred to as the great high place because the tabernacle of the Lord was there (v. 4; cf. 1Ch 16:39-40; 21:28-29; 2Ch 1:3, 5-6). Here in a dream God graciously appeared the first of two times in Solomon's life (cf. 9:2) and posed the most significant offer he would ever be given: Ask what you wish me to give you. Solomon's answer would change the course of his administration for good and for the good of the people.

3:6-7. Solomon responded to God by acknowledging that He had shown great lovingkindness to his father, David. He also hinted that the Davidic covenant was being fulfilled in him. But he quickly made his request, saying, Yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. This expression (Hb. na'ar means "immature person") reflected Solomon's youth and his virtual inexperience, not his chronological age. Since he reigned 40 years (970-930 BC) and did not die at a remarkable old age, he probably became king between the ages of 20 and 30 (cf. 1Kg 11:42-43). He felt overwhelmed by all that was placed on his shoulders in administering this kingdom.

3:8-9. Solomon proceeded to make his request, and God followed with an answer. First, Solomon identified himself as God's servant, and one of Your people which You have chosen, reflecting the Lord's unique relationship with the Jewish people (cf. Gn 12:1-3; Dt 7:7-8). He asked for an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. The word translated "understanding" comes from the Hebrew term shome' and can also be translated "hearing." Throughout the OT the words "hearing" and "obedient" were often intertwined. So what Solomon was asking for was the ability to "obey" what God had said in the law, and then to be able to distinguish between good and evil for the good of the Lord's people.

3:10-15. God responded that He had heard Solomon's prayer and that He would bless the new king. Solomon's request was pleasing to God because he had not asked for [him]self (v. 11), but was focused on the needs of the people to have discernment to understand justice (v. 11). God promised to give Solomon the discerning heart he requested, and He also promised that there would be no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you (v. 12). God also promised Solomon he would have the very things he did not request—both riches and honor (v. 13).

Yet there was one conditional statement that Solomon would need to hear. It was the kind of condition his successors after him would also have to remember. These blessings would come If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments (v. 14). God's desire was to bless Solomon, but the king was under obligation to obey the Lord in accordance with the stipulations of Dt 17:14-20. When Solomon awakened from his encounter with the Lord, he knew it was a dream, but he also realized God had spoken to him. So as a new act of obedience he went to the ark of the covenant of the Lord in Jerusalem and offered up sacrifices that were given in view of his sin, and also in view of God's great mercy (v. 15).


4:29-34. Solomon was affirmed as having wisdom in the management of his kingdom greater than the men of the east, of Egypt, and the surrounding nations (vv. 30-31). His literary skills were also cited, since he wrote 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005 (v. 32). Solomon was also noted for his wisdom and expertise in plant and animal sciences (v. 33). As a result, men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon (v. 34). Whether they knew it or not, Solomon's wisdom was really God's wisdom given to a young king to rule righteously.

SOURCE: The Moody Bible Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2015 WORDsearch.

 

DIGGING DEEPER: Key Word(s)

High places (3:3)—Elevated sites that had been Canaanite places of worship. God had directed the Israelites to destroy the high places (Num. 33:52), but they had not done so, often worshiping there instead.

A youth (3:7)—The Hebrew word was used of newborns, little boys, and males of marriageable age. It does not specify a definite age and likely sometimes has the sense of immaturity.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:

SOLOMON in All His Splendor

By Lebron Matthews

Lebron Matthews is senior pastor, Eastern Heights Baptist Church, Columbus, Georgia.

THE CORONATION OF SOLOMON marked a milestone in the history of Israel.  For the first time sovereignty over all twelve tribes was passed peacefully at the death of the king.  It would never happen again.

The Kingdom He Inherited

Solomon’s ascension to the throne had no basis other than he was God’s choice to rule the kingdom.  His older brother, Adonijah, had the natural right from a human perspective, and Adonijah enjoyed the support of powerful government officials.  Solomon himself made no attempt to secure the throne until he had been anointed king by Zadok the priest.  His supporters acted out of conviction they were doing God’s will.  And the peaceful acceptance of his authority by the population surely was the result of a similar belief.

Saul, Israel’s first king, was killed in battle against the Philistines. When the news of his death reached the southern tribe of Judah, they anointed the tribe’s favorite son, David, as king.  When David invited other tribes to acknowledge him as king, they refused. Israel’s leading general, Abner, installed Saul’s surviving son, Ish-bosheth, as king over the northern tribes. David established his capital in the ancient city of Hebron.  Ish-bosheth seems to have maintained his capital at Mahanaim in Gilead.  Over the next two years Israel was ravaged by bitter civil war.  David grew stronger while Ish-bosheth became weaker.  David’s success was due in part to military victories and in part to Ish-bosheth’s incompetence.  In the end, Ish-bosheth’s army transferred its loyalty to David and Ish-bosheth was assassinated.

With the civil war over, David attacked the Jebusite city of Jerusalem.  After its fall he transferred his capital there.  Since the city had no connection with either side during the civil war, both sides accepted Jerusalem as a political sign that David would reign over a unified kingdom.  David’s reign, however, was marked by revolt and scandal internally and by constant warfare with Israel’s neighbors.  Yet despite the strife, David succeeded in providing his kingdom with stability and national identity.

As David grew old, the kingdom faced a crisis.  The only precedent for transmission of royal power was civil war, a possibility no one wanted.  Yet David’s successor was either not clear or was not universally accepted.  The threat of violence loomed over the horizon.  Political intrigue abounded.  Although people were familiar with David’s preference of Solomon, a conspiracy developed to install Adonijah as king.  The conspirators included Joab (commander of the army), Shimei (a relative of King Saul), and Abiathar (high priest).  Queen Bathsheba proved to be more than adequate in thwarting Solomon’s opponents.  She persuaded David to instate her son Solomon as his heir.  We must be careful not to minimize Yahweh’s role in Solomon’s rise.  Ultimately, God—and God alone—determined who would be king of Israel.  Bathsheba and her allies were instruments of His divine will.

In the ancient world bloody purges were common aftermaths of a new king’s coronation.  To consolidate power, a new monarch frequently eliminated potential rivals, including members of the royal family.  After David’s death, Solomon also eliminated potential troublemakers.  His purge was instigated by his brother’s foolish maneuvering.  Adonijah, as David’s oldest surviving son, considered himself to be the heir apparent.  Solomon’s coronation failed to weaken Adonijah’s desire to become king.  After his father’s death, Adonijah requested that the new king give him Abishag as a wife.  Abishag had been David’s last concubine.  Adonijah’s request was an inept move to reassert his claim to the throne.  Although Solomon had previously granted him clemency, Adonijah was executed for this new scheme.

Before his death, David commanded Solomon to kill Joab and Shimei.  Joab had been ruthless and violent in his support of David.  But he murdered Abner after Abner made peace with David.  And he killed Absalom despite orders from David to spare him.  David had been ineffective in dealing with Joab’s brutality, perhaps because of Joab’s insight into the Bathsheba incident.

When Bathsheba became pregnant as a result of David’s adultery, David plotted to hide his guilt by killing her husband.  Joab carried the king’s orders into battle with him, orders that would guarantee the death of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite.  Therefore Joab’s death was punishment for his crimes.

Shimei had also been David’s enemy.  Rather than follow his father’s orders to kill Shimei, however, Solomon granted Shimei clemency.  He was allowed to live if he stayed confined to the city of Jerusalem.  He did live in Jerusalem—until he violated the terms of his reprieve three years later.

Another potential enemy of Solomon, Abiathar, also was allowed to live.  He was banished to Anathoth.  Abiathar had been high priest during David’s reign and was part of the conspiracy to make Adonijah king.  Despite its obvious political benefits, his removal from office fulfilled the prophetic condemnation of Eli’s family (1 Sam. 2:27-36).  The elimination of these powerful men consolidated Solomon’s authority and enabled him to govern initially without significant opposition.

The Kingdom He Built

In the steps Solomon took to secure his throne, he demonstrated wisdom and leadership.  His order to put Adonijah to death was neither vindictive nor unwarranted.  It followed clear evidence that his half-brother still entertained hope of becoming king.  The deaths of Joab and Shimei reflected Solomon’s willingness to listen to the advice of others.  His father had instructed him to execute both men.  The banishment of Abiathar revealed respect for God’s servants, even when they failed to measure up to the appropriate standard.  Furthermore it demonstrated that at this point in his life, Solomon’s judgment conformed to God’s word.  In each case, he acted decisively and judiciously.

Early in Solomon’s reign God appeared to him.  Solomon demonstrated his astuteness by requesting that God grant him wisdom.  Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge.  The new king acknowledged that his rise to power was the consequence of Yahweh’s activity, not his own merit.  Furthermore, at this stage in his life, Solomon felt totally inadequate for the task before him.  If he was to succeed in ruling Israel, he would need God’s guidance.  Only God could enable him to rightly apply the knowledge he possessed.  He demonstrated the zenith of this wisdom in discerning the true mother of the infant brought to him by two prostitutes (1 Kings 3:16-28).

Solomon cemented an alliance with Egypt by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter.  The union may have seemed impressive—historically Egypt had been the world’s great super power.  But Egypt now existed in name only.  During the 21st Dynasty, Egypt was in reality a group of independent states held together by trade and title.1

The true significance of Solomon’s marriage to an Egyptian princess was the political recognition it provided.  The loose confederation of Israelite tribes that David had forged into a tenuous kingdom had become a political state equal to its neighbors, including mythical Egypt.  The importance of this cannot be overstated.  Only a generation earlier, the stability of Israel was threatened.  A victorious Philistine coalition had defeated Israel’s army and occupied considerable territory west of the Jordan River.  Under Solomon, the entire region between the Sinai Peninsular in the south and Syria in the north and between the Mediterranean Sea to the west and the Arabian Desert to the east was under Israel’s control.  The marriage to an Egyptian princess signified international respect for Solomon’s power and prestige.

In ancient Israel, people commonly identified themselves by their tribal affiliation.  Solomon reorganized his kingdom into political units called districts rather than maintaining the old tribal confederation.  While this move was politically expedient, it ultimately weakened the of the nation by removing the tribal identity of its citizens.  As a result unrest in the tribes increased.  The scars of his father’s civil wars did not heal.  But initially the reorganization likely produced a jubilant atmosphere of fresh hope that is common to political change and innovation.  Its bureaucracy established the image of a strong and efficient administration.

Solomon aggressively pursued public works projects such as construction of his palace and Yahweh’s temple.  The infrastructure of Israel improved.  Public buildings provided an object of national pride.  The temple would serve as the heart of Israel’s religion of centuries.

Solomon established further foreign political alliances, especially with Hiram of Tyre.  The alliances resulted in peaceful relations with Israel’s neighbors.  Peace benefited both the economy and the society.  The vast building projects produced trade with Israel’s neighbors.  The Phoenician city-state of Tyre provided Israel with world renowned cedar lumber.  But its contribution was not limited to the raw material.  Its expert craftsmen in wood and ivory were among the world’s best and were contracted for work in Jerusalem.  Furthermore, the Phoenicians were seafaring traders who provided access to a larger world market.2 Archeological evidence suggests that Phoenician merchants set up business throughout Israel.  They were joined by merchants from Arabia who brought spices, incense, and gold overland.3 However, Israel’s role in international trade at this time seems mainly to have been in importation, as little evidence exists that they shipped large quantities of materials outside the kingdom.

Unfortunately political alliances often were cemented through marriage.  Solomon began to acquire the harem of an oriental despot.  He erected temples just outside Jerusalem where his wives could worship their native gods the same as in their pagan homelands.  Many citizens obviously considered their presence as evidence of the king’s progressive spirit.

The early years of the reign of Solomon were known as Israel’s “Golden Age.”  It was a time of peace and prosperity.  Cultural achievements expanded.  The king gained a reputation for his proverbs.  In part this was due to his patronage of wisdom literature and his establishing schools to educate Israel’s adolescent boys.  Formal education and literary progress produced works such as those recorded in the biblical Books of Proverbs and Song of Songs.

To the elderly especially, the transformation of Israel must have seemed phenomenal.  To the young, it signified Israel’s rightful place in the world.  Solomon, “in all his splendor,” was a ruler worthy of their allegiance.

1.  George Steindorff and Keith C. Seele, When Egypt Ruled the East, rev. ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 270, 275; John A. Wilson, The Culture of Ancient Egypt (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1951), 289-292, 320.

2.  Glenn E. Markoe, The Phoenicians, Peoples of the Past (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 33-35, 94, 129; D. R. Ap-Thomas, “The Phoenicians,” Peoples of Old Testament Times (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), 273-281.

3.  B. S. J. Isserlin, The Israelites (London: Thames and Hudson, 1998), 185-187.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 33, Number 4; Summer 2007.

What is WISDOM?

By L. Manning Garrett, III

L. Manning Garrett, III is assistant professor of philosophy and religion, Lambuth University, Jackson, Tennessee.

Solomon was acclaimed for his wisdom. But what does the word “wisdom” (chokmah in Hebrew) mean?

IN 1 KINGS 3, God allowed Solomon to request anything he wanted in his new role as king. Solomon petitioned God for “a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9, NIV). Clearly, God granted Solomon this request because in 1 Kings 4:29-30 Solomon is said to have had chokmah (wisdom) greater than any other man. In effect, Solomon asked God for wisdom in deciding moral issues. Fundamentally, right and wrong pertained to God’s purposes rather than merely moral good and evil. Interestingly, as will become apparent through a word study comparison of the Hebrew word for “wisdom” with two Greek words for “wisdom,” God granted Solomon a much wider scope of wisdom than he requested. 

Consistent with an ancient Near Eastern understanding of wisdom, chokmah in its broadest sense refers to practical wisdom in doing a skill—“as when a sage describes some aspect of reality as ‘the way it is’, the purpose remains practical.”1 Solomon received from God the practical skill to adjudicate ethical matters, as in the case of having to decide who was the real mother of a child about whom two prostitutes each claimed parental rights (1 Kings 3:16-28). While Solomon requested moral wisdom and, whereas chokmah is often used for moral knowledge, the primary meaning of the word chokmah is “morally neutral.” It simply pertains to practical skill to accomplish a task. Examples are Joseph in government matters (Gen. 41:38-39), God’s skill in bringing disaster (Isa. 31), a cunning craftsman in making an idol (Isa. 40:20), and Jonadab’s subtlety in planning the rape of Tamar (2 Sam. 13:3). Chokmah, in essence, is the ability to accomplish a task with practical success. The task may or may not involve moral concerns. In Solomon’s case, his request entailed the moral domain exclusively.

A shift of application from the general use of chokmah in the ancient Near East to a uniquely Hebrew understanding relative to God discloses some interesting characteristics of wisdom. In order to obtain chokmah, instruction by wise men is a prerequisite (Prov. 1:5; 12:15,21; and 19:20). The opposite of the one with chokmah is the foolish one or the babbler.2 Like the Greek understanding of wisdom, the Hebrew understanding included the assumption that wisdom is an acquired ability through a process of learning. Uniquely Hebrew, however, is the emphasis on wisdom as a gift from God within the learning process (Prov. 1:7). From the Hebrew perspective, the jewel of true wisdom cannot be attained without a true respect of God. The beginning of wisdom, from the Hebrew perspective, requires that one humbly and respectfully seek God—as Solomon did.

Around 200 BC, the Old Testament (written in the Hebrew language) was translated into the Greek language into what is known as the Septuagint. The following question invites attention at this point in our word study: Which Greek word does the Septuagint use to translate the Hebrew chokmah in 1 Kings 4:30 that states Solomon’s wisdom exceeded the wisdom of all people in the east country and in Egypt? The answer may surprise us.

Remember that chokmah means a practical skill to successfully complete a task. Conveniently, there is a Greek word, phronasis, that in essence means “to have practical and moral knowledge, knowing what to do and how to live.”3 Surprisingly, the Greek word used to represent chokmah in 1 Kings 4:30 is not used. Instead the translators chose another predominant Greek word—sophia. This raises the following obvious question: Why not use phronasis since this Greek word means exactly that which Solomon requested of the Lord—moral wisdom?

This writer believes the following analysis provides a reasonable answer to this interesting question. This analysis comes in the form of a humble suggestion for consideration rather than a dogmatic solution. Undoubtedly, many of our readers have taken some philosophy courses as part of undergraduate or even graduate preparation. The word translated “philosophy” comes from two Greek words: philo meaning “love” and sophia meaning “wisdom.” A philosopher is one who has a love (passion) to gain wisdom for living.

To be sure, philosophy pertains to having practical wisdom in regard to moral decision, as in the case of Solomon’s request. An area of philosophy called ethics focuses on moral matters. However, philosophy entails more than just ethics. A philosopher is one who has a worldview concerning how things work and what is real. This area of philosophy bears the title metaphysics. If one has wisdom, then certainly one must have an adequate theory of knowledge—epistemology. There is also logic, political theory, and aesthetics. In addition, philosophers bring perspectives from the above areas of philosophy to shed light on specialized disciplines of study. So there is philosophy of science, philosophy of religion, philosophy of education, law, history, art, mathematics, and others. A philosopher is one who has wisdom (sophia) in all areas of life.

Apparently the word sophia, part of the root of the word for “philosophy,” includes much more than just practical wisdom in ethical matters alone. Sophia is a rich word aimed at encouraging wisdom in terms of ultimate explanations: “He who knows first causes knows all things since the apxai [causes] underline all that exists . . . Hence, the wise are distinguished from all other men by this knowledge.”4 So for the Greek mind, sophia represents wisdom in the ultimate sense.

Given this insight, the translators may have chosen sophia rather than phronasis to represent Solomon’s wisdom in 1 Kings 4:30. God told Solomon He would grant him wisdom in the manner Solomon requested (3:12a). God promised to bless him so there would be none like him in terms of wisdom (3:12b-14). Solomon’s wisdom exceeded the wisdom of all people around him so his fame spread to all nations (4:29-31). Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs and composed 1,500 songs. He had a grasp of the biology and zoology of his day. All of this earned him a reputation as a wise man (a true philosopher) such that people and kings from all over the world come to listen to Solomon as one who had wisdom (4:32-34). This all-encompassing wisdom is best represented by the Greek word sophia. Sophia includes practical moral wisdom, phronasis, but it goes beyond that to embrace wisdom in all of the main concerns for living.

In the New Testament, we are encouraged to ask God for wisdom (Jas. 1:5). Are we prepared to be instructed by wise men and the Word of God? Do we fear and respect God first and foremost? Are we prepared to dedicate the time and energy to become acquainted with other specialized disciplines of study? If so, perhaps God will grant wisdom—and in a measure that goes beyond our request and imagination.5

1.  Roland E. Murphy, “Wisdom in the Old Testament,” Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 6:920-930.

2.  M. Krause, H. P. Muller, “Chakham; Chakham; Chakham; Chakham,” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, eds. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, trans. David E. Greed (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 4:372-373.

3.  John Polhill, “The Concept of Mind in Philippians,” The Biblical Illustrator, James D. McLemore, ed. (Nashville: LifeWay Church Resources, Summer 2001), 27 (#4):50.

4.  Ulrich Wilkens, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Friedrich and Gerhard Kittel, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 7:472.

5.  This writer acknowledges gratitude to Dr. Gene Davenport and Dr. Brady Whitehead, both religion colleagues at Lambuth University, for helpful insights regarding my speculative answer concerning the translation of the Hebrew word for “wisdom” into the Greek language of the Septuagint.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 2003.

 

BIBLE CHARACTER TRIVIA

 

(26, 133)  What is the Answer To & Where in The Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found:  What evil king of Judah built an altar modeled on the altars or Syria?   Answer Next Week:  

Last Week’s Question:  What king reversed the reform policies of Jehoiada the priest immediately after Jehoiada died?  Answer: Joash; 2 Chronicles 24:17.