New European Commentary


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1Ki 3:1 Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of Yahweh, and the wall of Jerusalem all around-
Solomon's failure with Gentile women therefore began right at the start of his reign. "Made affinity" doesn't have to mean this was because of an alliance, but the phrase can just mean 'became son in law to'. It is the word used in Ezra 9:14 of how such "affinity" with Gentiles provoked God's wrath. Rehoboam's mother was from Ammon, so the Egyptian wife was not his only Gentile woman. However we note that there are no Egyptian gods listed amongst those whom Solomon later worshipped. Perhaps Solomon justified this marriage by a legalistic reading of the verses which condemned marriage with Canaanite women; and Solomon may have argued that Egyptians weren't Canaanites (Ex. 34:16; Dt. 7:3). The fact he only allowed her to live in the city of David for a time could mean that he realized there was something wrong in having a Gentile wife living in David's city. We get the impression that he gingerly committed this sin; but soon became used to it, and went on to marry hundreds of such women. Or the hint could be that after he had built his own house, which took 13 years, he then parted company with her. The Song of Solomon could be about his relationship with this Egyptian woman, and it ends in an unsatisfactory way with the couple splitting up.     

1Ki 3:2 At that time the people sacrificed in the high places, because there was no house built for the name of Yahweh-
This surely reflects Solomon’s perspective- for God Himself didn’t need a built house in which sacrifice could be offered. The temple became such an obsession with Solomon that he came to think that no really acceptable worship could occur outside of the idea which he had so developed in his own mind. It’s rather like thinking that one must have a physical church building in which to be an ecclesia of the living God- who doesn’t dwell in buildings made with hands.

"Only" the people sacrificed in high places... and Solomon loved the Lord... only  he sacrificed... in high places" (1 Kings 3:2,3), highlights the contradiction between Solomon's love for God and his willingness to sacrifice in the "high places" which God detested - for the Law clearly spelt out that sacrifice could only be offered in the tabernacle, at the place where Yahweh's Name was placed (Dt. 12:5-8; 14:23-25).

1Ki 3:3 Solomon loved Yahweh, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places-

The Divine assessment of Solomon's  spirituality  makes  no reference  to his obedience to God's commands; rather "Solomon loved Yahweh (in that he) walked in the statutes of David his father"-  rather  than  God's  statutes.  This perfectly  explains  why Solomon blandly disobeyed God's word in the  very ways his father David did. Again, there are unpleasant similarities with our own position. Weaknesses which our forefathers  and  community  have  accepted without comment for generations are tolerated  without  a quibble; there are other issues, equally contrary  to  Divine principles, over which we create great complaint- simply because this is what parentally and communally  we  have been taught to react against. Yet the Gospel should   be making us a new creation, standing independently  of tradition and background conditioning. Knowing others  who  are  doing  the  same  should  be  the basis of our fellowship,  rather  than  just  belonging to the same community with the same background.

1Ki 3:4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place.
Zadok cared for the tabernacle at Gibeon, which was "the great high place" (1 Chron. 16:39; 1 Kings 3:4), and so it is another example of correlation within the inspired records that he had access to that horn and the oil with which to anoint Solomon (1 Kings 1:39). Solomon had replaced Abiathar with Zadok as chief priest, so perhaps his worship to Gibeon rather than Jerusalem [where Abiathar had officiated] was a nod towards Zadok.  

Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar-
This was clearly out of step with what David had earlier been taught after his sin with Bathsheba; that God did not want thousands of sacrifices, but rather broken, contrite hearts (Ps. 40:6-8). And Solomon repeats David's failure in this, by again offering such huge numbers of sacrifices. Which, like the temple, God didn't want.

1Ki 3:5 In Gibeon Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, Ask what I shall give you-
Godly men usually asked or enquired of God on their initiative, as David did (s.w. 1 Sam. 22:10; 23:4; 2 Sam. 5:19). But Solomon had apparently merely offered ritual sacrifices, and had not engaged with God in personal relationship. Now he is encouraged to do so.

I have argued that Ecclesiastes is Solomon's self reflection, a kind of autobiography. It is also a rejection and renunciation of his faith, because he wrote it at the end of his life, when his heart had been turned aside from God (1 Kings 11:3). I suggest it is this dream which is the reference of Ecc. 5:3: "For as a dream comes with a multitude of cares, so a fool’s speech with a multitude of words". If we enquire what reference a "dream" may have to Solomon's historical life, we naturally think of this dream at the start of his life when he was offered whatever he wanted, and he chose wisdom. Several times in Ecclesiastes he appears to regret that choice, as he considers there to be no ultimate advantage to wisdom or going God's way because death ends it all, and God, Solomon thinks, cannot resurrect the dead to judgment (Ecc. 3:22). And so in Ecc. 5:3 Solomon seems to be saying that that dream was simply self induced, an outcome of his "multitude of cares", and the "multitude of words" of wisdom he had written in response to it was but "a fool's speech". Like many who have had the direct involvement of God in their lives in youth, he came to rationalize it as nothing at all Divine, considering his dream had just been some Freudian reflection of his own internal "cares". And this kind of rationalizing of the Divine over time is absolutely true to observed experience in those who turn away from God.

1Ki 3:6 Solomon said, You have shown to Your servant David my father great grace, according as he walked before You in truth, righteousness and in uprightness of heart with You. You have kept for him this great grace, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day-
Thus the eternity of God's truth is paralleled with the eternity of His righteousness (as in Ps. 119:142,160). David walked / lived "in truth and righteousness" (s.w. 1 Kings 3:6; Ps. 15:2), because this was how God is. The Messianic seed of David was to have this characteristic, ruling on David's throne in truth and righteousness (s.w. Is. 16:5).  

But Solomon has it all the wrong way around in saying that Yahweh had showed grace to David because he had walked before Yahweh in truth. Solomon totally misunderstood grace. It is a pure gift from God, and not at all granted in response to our righteous walk.

These  words  are  doubtless an allusion to the mercy God showed David  in his relationship with Solomon's mother, Bathsheba. But Solomon  makes no mention of David's great faith in God's grace, and  his  subsequent  appreciation  that  animal sacrifices were meaningless.  These were David's real strong points, but Solomon is obsessed with David's public life of obedience ("according as he  walked"). He  evidently saw his father as the epitome of spiritual  good,  faultless  in God's sight. "Mercy" and "truth" both  occur  in  1 Kings  3:6,  and  they  often  refer to the promises.  Solomon seems to have seen the promises to David as a reward for David's good life, rather than an expression of God's unwarranted  grace.  David's  reaction  was  "Who  am  I...?" to receive  such  an  honour.  Solomon's  feeling  was  that  David deserved them because of his righteousness. So here is a feature of  many  parent : child  relationships in the Lord. The children love  and  respect  their parents spiritually, but often for the wrong  reasons;  they  actually  misunderstand their forefathers' spirituality.  This  is  why their understanding of parental and community expectation is often wrong in the first place.  

1Ki 3:7 Now, Yahweh my God-
See on :10.

You have made Your servant king instead of David my father. I am but a little child. I don’t know how to go out or come in-
Alluded to in Mt. 18:3,4; become a child so you can rule the Kingdom; Christ was the greatest child as he will be the greatest ruler. This sets Solomon up as our example in this aspect. Notice how Sarah’s unspiritual comments “cast out the bondwoman…” and “my Lord being old…”are interpreted positively in the NT.

Ecclesiastes is in many ways Solomon's self-examination; and it was accurate. He indicates that the temple had actually made him stumble, and that his numerous sacrifices had been the sacrifices of a fool, rather than the wise man he had appeared to  be (Ecc. 5:1); and surely he was casting a sideways glance at himself when he spoke of the wise child (cp. Solomon initially, 1 Kings 3:7) being greater than the old and foolish king who would no  longer be admonished  (Ecc. 4:13; even though Solomon had advisers, 1 Kings 12:6). Yet he chose to do absolutely nothing about this; once again, his accurate spiritual knowledge had no real practical influence upon him.

So very often  does Solomon speak of "David my father",  and  that  God  had made him king "instead of David my father"  (e.g. 1  Kings  3:7). Thus he asks Hiram to deal with him just as he had done with David his father (1 Kings 5:2-7; and cp. 1 Kings 5:1 with 2 Sam. 5:11). The number of times these phrases occur  in  the  records  is  so  large  that  we  simply have to recognize  that  God  is  pointing something out to us about the relationship  between Solomon and David (1 Kings 2:24,26,32,44; 3:6,7,14; 5:3,5; 6:12; 8:15,17,18,20,24,25,26; 9:4; 11:33; 2 Chron. 1:8,9; 2:3,7,14; 6:4,7,8,10,15,16; 7:17). Solomon was raised a believer, and he lived out parental expectation; but in later life, he himself was revealed as having no real faith at all, and he turned away from Yahweh to idolatry. So often in his prayers to  God does Solomon make reference to David; for example: "Thou hast  showed  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 upon his throne" (1 Kings 3:6).  

1Ki 3:8 Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people, that can’t be numbered nor counted for multitude-
Solomon assumes that the promises to Abraham of an innumerable seed had been fulfilled in his kingdom, just as he assumes the promises to David of the seed were fulfilled in him. He has no perspective of the future Kingdom of God, nor does he factor in the conditional nature of those promises.

And so Solomon 'had  the truth', he knew so deeply the true principles of  Yahweh  worship and the promises which formed the basis of the covenant. But like us, he scarcely considered the enormity of the gap between the theory he knew and the practice of it in his own heart and living. We too have a tendency to build up masses of Biblical and spiritual knowledge, and to let the mere acquisition of it stop us from practicing it. He flouted the explicit commandments  not to get horses from Egypt, not to marry Gentile women,  and  not  to multiply silver and gold (Dt. 17:17,18 cp. 1 Kings  10:21-29).  At  the  end  of his days, he recognized that although  he  had  loved  the  theory  of wisdom, the image of a spiritual  life, the wisdom of God had never really impacted his soul: "I said, I will be wise (referring back to his request for wisdom in 1 Kings 3); but it was far from me" (Ecc. 7:23). His request for wisdom had only been so that he could do the job of leading  Israel, living out the parental expectation of his father, whom he admits in Proverbs 4 had taught him to ask for wisdom. In Prov. 19:12 he speaks as if his own wisdom was like the dew coming down- as if he felt that the mere possession of wisdom made him the Messiah figure which his father had so hoped for him to be in Ps. 72:6). And he says as much in Prov. 29:3: “Whoso loveth wisdom [exactly what Solomon was commended for doing] rejoiceth his father”. He saw his wisdom and knowledge as some sort of a reward in themselves: “the prudent are crowned with knowledge” (Prov. 14:18). This is of course true in a sense, as all the Proverbs are. But Solomon surely had the idea that he, who was so renowned for his knowledge, was somehow thereby rewarded by having it. This assumption by Solomon was likely behind each of the many references he makes to the value of wisdom and the blessedness of the man who has it. It is rather like feeling that ‘we have the truth’ because somehow our correct understanding of doctrines is a reward for our righteousness, and mere possession of doctrinal truth means that we are acceptable to God.  

1Ki 3:9 Give Your servant therefore an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this Your great people?-
I suggest on Ps. 119:169 that David asked for the word of promise that he would become king to be fulfilled; and in that context he asked for "wisdom / understanding" in how to rule Israel. And this was likewise the prayer of Solomon when he became king; but his motives were less than pure because he was consciously seeking to imitate his father in this request.

Solomon in Proverbs presents wisdom as of great personal benefit, indeed it is "for yourself"; and folly likewise is to your loss. But this presents a somewhat selfish view of wisdom. Solomon had been granted wisdom not for himself, but because he wanted to know how best to rule God's great people. But once he has the wisdom, he becomes exalted by it, and concludes that wisdom is essentially for the personal benefit of those who have it, "you are wise for yourself" (Prov. 9:12). Whatever truths are revealed to us are so that we might use them to the glory of God with others, and not to merely keep them for our own personal benefit.

1Ki 3:10 The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing-
See on :11. We may wonder why adonai is here used for "Lord", and elohim in :11, rather than Yahweh. It could well be that this reflects the fact that Solomon was not really in covenant relationship with Yahweh, from His viewpoint. Although Solomon certainly speaks of "Yahweh my God" in :7, it could be that this was mere language he had picked up from David. For his subsequent life shows him to have been a man who acted as if he were outside of covenant relationship with Yahweh. But that is not to say that his choice was not deeply pleasing to Yahweh, and He wanted to work further with Solomon to bring him to Himself.

1Ki 3:11 God said to him, Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life, neither have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice-
God may be alluding to how David had asked long life and been given it (Ps. 21:8). This allusion was seeking to show Solomon that he was not to merely live out the image of his father David, but to think independently and forge his own relationship with God. Likewise Solomon had not taken literally the invitation of Ps. 2:8 to Messiah to "ask of Me (s.w. :5) and I will give you the Gentiles". Instead he had asked for wisdom.     

1Ki 3:12 therefore I have done according to your word. Behold, I have already given you a wise and an understanding heart; so that there has been none like you before you, neither after you shall any arise like you-
Solomon asked God for a wise heart- but he was told that God had already given him this. The process of educating Solomon in wisdom would have started long before; but it was released, as it were, by Solomon’s specific prayer. We likewise are to ask in faith believing that we already have the things we ask for.

1Ki 3:13 I have also given you that which you have not asked-
We are not merely reading history here. God's word is living and engages with us in all generations. We too are given exceeding abundantly above all we ask (Eph. 3:20 alludes here)- if we put first the wisdom of achieving God's glory .

Both riches and honour, so that there shall not be any among the kings like you, all your days-
"Riches" is s.w. Prov. 14:24 "The crown of the wise is their riches, but the folly of fools crowns them with folly".  
It was Solomon who was the king and wore the ultimate crown in his society. And he implies that his fantastic riches were a result of his wisdom, and that his pattern should be followed by others. But he fails to remember that his desire for wisdom was recognized by God in that He gave Solomon riches. Those riches were a gift from God, by grace, and not acquired or generated by his own application of wisdom. He therefore misused his possession of wisdom and experience of grace to justify himself, and present himself as a self made man; when he was not that at all.

Solomon knew and warned that a little folly can destroy the man who is in reputation for wisdom and honour (Ecc. 10:1). Solomon had “honour” [s.w.] to an unprecedented extent (1 Kings 3:13). But in the same book he admits that he, the man famed world-wide for wisdom, gave himself to folly (Ecc. 2:3). He knew so well the error and folly of his ways, but he could only preach the lesson but not heed it. He “saw that wisdom exceedeth folly” (Ecc. 2:13)- but so what...

1Ki 3:14 If you will walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days-
God counted David as having observed His statutes, even though he laments that he doesn't observe them as he wished (s.w. Ps. 119:5,9). His desire to observe them was counted finally as if he had done so. Solomon was commanded to personally keep or watch over [s.w.] the commandments (1 Kings 3:14 and often); but he seemed to think that possession of intellectual understanding would keep / watch over him and of itself keep him in the way (Prov. 2:11). This is the temptation for all who pride themselves on possession of academic knowledge of Divine truth. God is here warning him against this, and reminding him of the conditional nature of the promises to him.

1Ki 3:15 Solomon awoke; and behold, it was a dream-
We wonder why this detail is added, when it seems obvious. Perhaps later in the nihilism of Ecclesiastes he would come to think that he had merely had a dream about wisdom. For he reasons as if his wisdom is purely of himself, and acts and reasons as if he has had no relationship with Yahweh. Or maybe it is to highlight the fulfilment of Ps. 127:2: "He gives to His beloved (Jedidiah) in sleep".

Then he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of Yahweh, and offered up burnt offerings, offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants-
Solomon had just offered before the sanctuary in Gibeon, and now he does so at Jerusalem, perhaps to indicate that he considered both shrines equally valid.

1Ki 3:16 Then two women who were prostitutes came to the king, and stood before him-
The whole situation spoke of the kind of shameless prostitution which the Mosaic Law demanded should be punished by death. But the way of Divine wisdom in this case was not to automatically apply Divine law in condemning sinners. Instead, by cutting to the conscience within those women, and appealing to it, they were led to at least the possibility of repentance, transformation, salvation. Solomon’s wisdom was given him in order to know how to guide God’s great people. The way of wisdom is therefore sometimes not to press a point when someone’s in the wrong. We see this in all levels of relationships. There are weak points in relationships, fissure lines, which when pressed or brought under tension will cause earthquakes and destruction. It’s best not to press on them; and yet if they are ignored, then the quality of relationship suffers and descends into interacting only over ‘safe’ matters. So what are we to do? By not raising the obvious issue- you’re whores and must be put to death- Solomon showed grace, but he showed it in such a way that those women surely couldn’t have felt the same again; rather like the woman taken in adultery. The very fact she was not condemned by the One who could condemn her- meant that she went away indeed vowing to “sin no more”.

1Ki 3:17 The one woman said, Oh my lord, I and this woman live in one house. I gave birth with her in the house-
Solomon alludes to himself at this point in Prov. 18:17: "He who pleads his cause first seems right; until another comes and questions him". This is the language of the courtroom, and is advice to judges. But the average Israelite was not a courtroom judge. And so Solomon, as so often, has himself in view as the parade example of what he means. And the implication is that his judgments were perfect and beyond question, apart from by fools.  

1Ki 3:18 It happened the third day after I gave birth, that this woman gave birth also. We were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, just us two in the house-
Neither woman had assistance in giving birth. No family were present- they were prostitutes, the very lowest of Hebrew society, cut off from their extended families. See on :16.

1Ki 3:19 This woman’s child died in the night, because she lay on it-
"This woman..." enables us to play Bible television with the record, and imagine it all happening right before our eyes. See on :22.

1Ki 3:20 She arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while your handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom-
The story lacks credibility, although they both apparently repeated it. If the other woman was awake at midnight and saw the guilty woman arising, then why did she allow her to swap over the babies? But the way of wisdom and justice (see on :28) is not to always point out the glaring inconsistencies within the narrative or beliefs of others. But to act on a higher level. We see this kind of thing so often in the way the Lord responded to questions.

1Ki 3:21 When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, it was dead; but when I had looked at it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, whom I bore-
The first "morning" would be the twilight of dawn, but then when the sun arose she realized it was not her son. As noted on :20, the story line of both women has internal contradictions. But the way of wisdom and justice was not to point these out. 

1Ki 3:22 The other woman said, No; but the living is my son, and the dead is your son. The other said, No; but the dead is your son, and the living is my son. Thus they spoke before the king-
The repetition of the phrase "the other" invites us to first listen and look at one woman making her case, and then swivel our attention to the other. See on :19.

1Ki 3:23 Then the king said, The one says, ‘This is my son who lives, and your son is the dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one’-
As noted on :20,21, there were internal contradictions in their stories which a judge would typically have picked up on and explored further, in order to elicit whose story was more credible. The women come over as simple, and it would not have been hard through a series of questions to get closer to the truth. But the way of wisdom and justice (:28) is not like this nor does it treat people in that forensic manner. And it was this which so impressed the observing audience.

1Ki 3:24 The king said, Get me a sword. They brought a sword before the king-
The phrase for bringing a sword is that used of the punishment for breaking the covenant (Lev. 26:26,36). Solomon was aware that his parents' first child had died as a result of judgment upon their immorality, and that God had earlier summoned a sword upon David's family because of it. It is as if he is saying that judgment was appropriate upon these prostitutes. But the way of true wisdom and justice was not to do so. And he had learned that by observing how God's sword of judgment had now been withdrawn from his own family, by grace. 

1Ki 3:25 The king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other-
This was not Solomon's intention, as he stresses "in no way kill it" (:27). It was done to elicit the psychological reaction of the women, and this was to be the basis of discerning truth. Likewise truth is arrived at in ways other than forensic examination of evidence and argumentation. This is the way of the Spirit and true wisdom.

1Ki 3:26 Then the woman whose the living child was spoke to the king, for her heart yearned over her son, and she said, Oh my lord, give her the living child, and in no way kill it! But the other said, It shall be neither mine nor yours. Divide it-
The instinctive gut reaction of the true mother said it all and showed her for who she was. It may be that when the one said "Let (the baby) be neither mine nor yours, but divide it", this is the Spirit's description of her inner attitude, rather than the literal words she spoke. But her inner thoughts were counted as her words (careful re-reading and reflection make this seem most likely here).

1Ki 3:27 Then the king answered, Give her the living child, and in no way kill it. She is its mother-
The law's requirement that he whore be put to death is shown to be inappropriate as we imagine the poor infant in the presence of these low life women. To save its life but then execute its mother would have been wrong. True wisdom and justice (:28) saw far beyond this letter of the law. And this is  pattern for us today.  

1Ki 3:28 All Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do justice-
But as noted on :16, that "justice" was not the judgment which the law required for prostitutes. "The wisdom of God was in the midst of him" (1 Kings 3:28 AVmg) looks ahead to the description of the Lord Jesus in Col. 2:3. On one hand Solomon was a type of Christ, but in reality it was rather that he had been potentially empowered to be the Messianic seed, but he failed. And the Lord Jesus fulfilled the potentials of the seed perfectly, leaving Solomon a failed, marred reflection of Him.