A WISE KING
1 Kings 3
A Hearing Heart
Solomon listened to the words of his father, and his reign was off to a great start. Solomon made some of his own political decisions as well. He entered a marriage alliance with Egypt by taking Pharaoh's daughter as his wife. Treaties were usually sealed by intermarriage within the royal houses. This alliance may have surprised the average Israelite given their history. Solomon built Israel's reputation and influence, but now he would build a palace, a temple, and a wall around Jerusalem. Jerusalem did not have a temple yet, and the people of Israel offered sacrifices at the high places, which was less than ideal. Solomon loved the Lord, and it was a regular practice for the king to go to the high places to worship the Lord. Solomon went to Gideon to offer burnt offerings, and while he was there the Lord appeared to him in a dream one night, and the young king was told that he should ask for whatever he might desire from God. Solomon's reply is perceptive and humble. Solomon acknowledges God's favor toward him as king and his father who walked before the Lord in faithfulness, righteousness, and uprightness of heart. Solomon is humble before the Lord and confesses his need for the Lord. Solomon knows that he is young and would need divine guidance to conduct himself as king. Israel had become a mighty nation and governance God's people would be a challenge. Solomon asks the Lord to give him a heart that will hear and know the difference between good and evil. The Lord was pleased with Solomon's answer because Solomon did not ask for selfish gain. He did not ask for long life, riches, or victory over his enemies; he requested a gift that would help him serve his people well. God granted Solomon's request and would give him a wise and discerning mind that would be unrivaled. God also blessed this young ruler with riches and honor although he did not ask for them. The blessing of long life was extended to Solomon with the condition that he walk in God's ways and keep his commandments as his father David had done. Solomon awakened from his dream, went to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark where he offered burnt offerings, peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.
Solomon's humility before the Lord would benefit his people, and a demonstration of God's gift follows the dream. Two prostitutes were brought before Solomon with a case that would require considerable judicial wisdom. The women had given birth to children within three days of one another but since they lived in the same house and no one else was present it was impossible to question an independent third party. One woman alleged that her housemate had smothered her child one night and then switched her dead baby with the living one sleeping next to her. The next morning when she awoke she discovered the child was dead, but after a closer look, she realized that it was not her child. The other woman disputed the claim declaring the living child to be hers. These two women went back and forth until their case finally reached the king. Solomon summarized the case that was before him and offered the opportunity for clarification if there was any confusion on his part. Solomon was ready to make his decision, and he ordered a sword to be brought to him. The next words out of Solomon's mouth must have shocked the court when he announced that the child would be divided and each mother would receive half. The real mother could not bear the thought that her son would be killed and she cried out to the king, asking him to spare the child and give the boy to her rival. She preferred to lose the judicial proceedings and see the child handed over than to see this baby killed. The other woman did not love the child; she just wanted to deprive her rival of her baby. Solomon used this ruse to identify the birth mother and he ordered that she be given custody of the child in dispute. The people of Israel were amazed by Solomon's wisdom, and they concluded that he had been given the wisdom of God so that he would rule well.
Things To Consider:
- How would you assess the way Solomon began his reign?
- How do we know that Solomon loved the Lord other than the fact that the text states it?
- How is our love for the Lord evident?
- How do we see Solomon's generosity?
- What place to dreams have today?
- Why is humility essential as we come before the Lord?
- How many places in the passage do you see Solomon's gratitude?
- How does God's goodness lead to worship?
- Why was this case so difficult to judge?
- How much pressure do you think Solomon felt in this case?
- What hinders justice in the story?
- Why do you think the people were so encouraged with Solomon's judgment?