This article contains an exposition of 1 Kings 3, as well as questions and discussion points for Bible study.

4 pages.

1 Kings 3 – Solomon’s Priority: Administration of God’s Justice

What is your priority? Your priority refers to something that is most important to you, something that you do not let go because of some other reason. Every child of God is faced with questions regarding priorities. Especially for a messianic king this is very important; he has to ask himself, ‘What is of prime importance in the execution of my office as king?’

We have skipped a significant part of David’s life. A brief summary is in order.  After the events surrounding Uriah and Bathsheba (see previous outline), David experienced much misery in his life. After all, Nathan had said that the sword would nevermore depart from David’s house (2 Sam 12:10). That is fulfilled. Just think about the conspiracy of Absalom. In this way, David was reminded of his own sins on a regular basis. And yet, later he committed another grievous sin (2 Sam 24). To say the least, David’s kingship was not exactly perfect. It was clear that Israel was in need of a better king. David was not the Messiah. Yet, Solomon is able to give a positive evaluation of his father’s kingship. Just look at verse 6 of this chapter. David has displayed, despite his sins, the style of the coming Christ in the way in which he governed God’s people.

Question 1: Can you point out a difference between David’s kingship and Solomon’s? Recall the reason why David was not allowed to build a temple. In this context, what is the significance of the name Solomon? (Solomon means ‘abundant peace’.)

Question 2: Try to put the difference between Solomon as the king of peace and Christ as the King of Peace into words.

1. Verses 1-4🔗

Notice the positive evaluation of Solomon’s kingship in verse 3. Whatever is said about his marriages with non-Israelite women and about the sacrifices he made on the high places does not undermine this positive appraisal. The line of David continues!

In verse 1 the emphasis is not on the (mixed) marriage but on his dealings with the Pharaoh. That was a definite sign of international acclaim. The offering of sacrifices on the high places is not mentioned without any criticism (notice the word ‘except’ in v. 3).  Yet, here it is not referred to as a serious sin. The lack of a temple is used as a reason for sacrificing on the heights. In the book of Chronicles an explanation is given for the offerings on the high place at Gibeon. That is where God’s Tent of Meeting was located (2 Chron 1:3 ff.). Apparently, God had no reservations to appear to Solomon at Gibeon.  In connection with this, also notice what it says in verse 15. Solomon’s offering on the high places did not mean that he had turned his back to worship services in Jerusalem.

Question 3:  Regarding the offerings on the heights, one commentator stated that God does not judge Solomon according to the mistakes he makes, but according to his intention, his motives. According to him, God deals with us in the same manner also. What is your opinion on this?

2. Verses 5-9🔗

There is no doubt as to where Solomon’s priorities lie. He wants to govern his people (v. 9). This means that he wants to be a righteous king, one who administers God’s justice. In order to be able to do this, he asks the LORD for the wisdom he needs. Wisdom does not refer here to the ability to philosophize in some profound manner. Instead, it refers to practical wisdom for daily living which Solomon needs in his office as king. This request shows that Solomon is a king according to God’s will. Numerous kings of Israel who reigned after him would have made a different choice.

Question 4: King Solomon was of course in a different position than you. In your situation, what would you answer if God asked you such a question?

Question 5: What similarity do you notice between the answer of Solomon and the words of Christ in Matthew 6:33?

The judges, whom God gave to his people before the time of the kings, acted as saviours. Kings who rule according to God’s righteousness do the same thing. See Psalm 72:2,4 and 12-14 concerning the poor and miserable who are in need of being saved (outline 12). In this you recognize the style of Christ, the Saviour!

Question 6: How does Solomon act as saviour in the account described in verse 16-28?

God asked a short question. Solomon gave an elaborate answer. Verse 6 forms an introduction to the actual answer. That introduction is not an unnecessary frill. Solomon confesses that he has become king by virtue of God’s promise to David. He did not appoint himself as a candidate, thinking that he was suitable for the office of king. He did not run an election campaign. It was God’s free choice which brought him on the throne. And now that he has been chosen he does not say, ‘I will fix all problems in a hurry.’ He realizes his dependence on God who has chosen him. He also understands his own insignificance compared to the mighty work of God in electing Israel as his nation. How tremendously has God blessed this nation and made her great! How would he ever be able to provide leadership in his own strength?

Question 7: ‘No election campaign.’ What is the similarity between this case and what article 31 of the Belgic Confession says about office bearers (esp. in the second paragraph)?

3. Verses 10-15🔗

Solomon also receives things he didn’t ask for. Even the thing that he did ask for he receives in much fuller measure than he had asked for. Just compare verse 12 with verse 9.

A slight warning resounds in verse 14. That warning will not be empty, after what the LORD said in verse 13. Riches and honour are gifts from Him, but a person can very readily misuse it, or use it for the wrong purpose. In this context, recall the law for the king in Deuteronomy 17:17b and 20a.

Question 8:  In chapter 9 you may read about the second appearance of the LORD to Solomon, years later. Then, his warnings are much more penetrating and urgent. Why do you think the warning changed?

Question 9: “...and he realized it had been a dream” (v. 15). In Bible stories for children this sounds like a disappointment. What would be the actual intent of this statement?

4. Verses 16-28🔗

This account shows that the LORD heard the prayer of Solomon. Notice the ending of verse 28: the Israelites noticed that the wisdom of God was in him in order to rule Israel in righteousness. This wisdom, by the way, is not a ‘fast-working automatism’. It is obtained by way of considering, reflecting, and thinking about matters. You can see that in verse 23.

The reaction of the other woman (end of v. 26) seems incredible, even considering that the child is not hers. Which woman would be this insensitive? The rivalry between her and her ‘colleague’ ran apparently so deep that only one thought occupied her mind: ‘She will not win.’

Verse 1 mentions in passing that the two women are harlots. That explains the situation depicted in verses 17 and 18. Two women live in sin together. Evidently, this does not produce a firm relationship.  The rest of the account does not refer to the ‘occupation’ of the women anymore. However, it does indicate that the power of sin was not broken during the reign of Solomon. He also is not the perfect Saviour. However, the fact is that Solomon, in his manner of ruling, displays the style of the Messiah, and that is what is central to this account (see also section 2).

5. The work of the LORD in this account🔗

God himself has given to David a successor who wants to lead his people on his path. The answer, which Solomon gives in response to the LORD’s question, was inspired by the Holy Spirit, with which he was anointed. God himself teaches him to set the correct priority. This king also may display some aspect of the salvation that Christ is going to bring: salvation through justice. Christ will administer God’s justice perfectly. He is the only Saviour. Only he can save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21). He also maintains the right of God’s children who suffer because of the sins of others (cf. Ps 146:7 – “He upholds the cause of the oppressed”).

For the introduction🔗

  1. 2 Samuel 7 forms an important point of departure in our switch from David’s to Solomon’s kingship.  Using Outline 7 as a basis, you could call to mind the promise that the LORD gave to David (vv. 12, 16). Things would not go the way they did with Saul, whose kingship came to a dead end, with no successor to replace him (v. 15). Connected to that promise was an obligation. David’s son had to be a king after God’s will, also. After all, he had to show the Israelites the way to the Great Son of David. You can read in 1 Kings 2:1-4 how David passed on the promises and the obligations to Solomon.
  2. You can place this chapter in a better context if you recount some events from chapter 2. Solomon’s first royal acts consist of carrying out a number of sentences. In this also, David’s successor administers the justice of the LORD. (Just recall what David said to him in v. 3!)
  3. Concerning the marriage of Solomon with Pharaoh’s daughter we can say this: in section 1 it was indicated that his ‘mixed marriage’ and the sinfulness of this act is not really addressed in this text. This is not mentioned until chapter 11. There, the Egyptian woman is referred to again.  Apparently she took up a special position compared to the other women. We get the impression that she was not one of those women who tempted Solomon to worship other gods.
  4. In the verses 6-8, Solomon exclaims in great awe about the magnificence of the work of the LORD for the king and the people. Emphasize the fact that Solomon recognizes and realizes his own insignificance compared with God’s greatness.
  5. When you listen to the story of that one woman (vv. 17-21) do you right away conclude, ‘She is the mother of the child’? Or could it be the other woman? Solomon did not right away say, I know what to do. Conclusion: don’t make decisions based on first impressions or convincing stories!

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