1 Kings 3:1 - 4:34


We were introduced to Solomon in the first chapter of this book as we saw David taking steps to place him securely upon the throne.  In this chapter, we see the beginning of Solomon’s reign.








Solomon becomes King

David’s Instructions

Solomon deals with Issues

Solomon’s Wisdom

Solomon’s Wealth

Solomon’s Wisdom


Solomon is perhaps mentioned more in ancient folk literature than any other person of his time, with the possible exception of Alexander the Great.  He is the kind of person about whom legends are made.


His name appears in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus.  Jesus refers to him twice ‑ once when he says that the lilies in the field have greater glory than Solomon, and again when he said that one greater than Solomon is here, referring to Himself.  In both cases, Solomon is used as an image for greatness.  There are certain individuals whom history has labeled “great.”


  Alexander the Great

  Herod the Great

  Frederick the Great

  Peter the Great


Solomon is one who deserves such a title.  By the end of his reign, he had brought the tiny kingdom of Israel to become one of the world’s superpowers - her boundaries stretching from Egypt to the Euphrates.  We ought to know him as “Solomon the Great.”  In this chapter we will see the source of his greatness.





            Then Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter and brought her to the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the Lord and the wall around Jerusalem. (1 Kings 3:1).


Although this and other wedding alliances would ultimately form the seeds of future tragedy for the nation of Israel, the immediate focus of the particular marriage alliance was one of Solomon’s greatness.


The Scriptures warned the Jews against taking wives from among the Canaanites (Exodus 34:16 and Deuteronomy 7:3), but had never given any explicit prohibition against intermarriage with Egypt.

It is of particular significance that it was Solomon who took the Pharaoh’s daughter and not the Pharaoh who took Solomon’s daughter.  The significance was that when a wedding alliance took place, it was normally the vassal who gave the daughter and the sovereign who took the daughter.  In this wedding, Solomon was in the role of the sovereign or at least the equal of Egypt.  This was no small thing.  For several thousand years Egypt had been one of the superpowers of the ancient world.  And in a single generation, the tiny Kingdom of Israel had risen to the point where her king was considered to be an equal to the great.


When we come to chapter 11, we shall see that it was Solomon’s foreign wives, including the daughter of Pharaoh, who led both him and the nation astray in the worship of idols (1 Kings 11:1-4).


Do you remember the science experiment where you take a frog and you sit him in a shallow pan of water and gradually turn up the heat?  It is possible to have the frog, which could easily jump from the pan, sit and be boiled alive because he does not perceive the immediate danger to himself.  This was the case with Solomon.  And it is often the case with compromise with the world.


While not deliberately disobeying the Lord, Solomon was playing with fire by entering into this alliance.  Similarly, we see the beginnings of a problem in the location of Solomon’s worship.


2                       The people were still sacrificing on the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the Lord until those days.

3                       Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (1 Kings 3:2-3).


It had become a common practice in Israel for people to sacrifice and worship the Lord in high places.  Perhaps they felt that they had Scriptural justification.


Abraham had sacrificed upon Mount Moriah.

It had been on Mount Sinai that the Lord had given the law to Moses.


There was only one problem.  God had given no command for His people to worship the Lord in high places.  They were adopting the pagan places of worship to utilize in worshiping the Lord.  And they were doing this in direct violation of the Word of God.


            Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, 51 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52  then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places’” (Numbers 33:50-52).


The Scriptures do not leave us free to worship the Lord any way in which we please.  We are to worship the Lord in the way HE has ordained that He be worshiped.


Solomon was not doing what he was doing out of a spirit of rebellion against God.  We are told specifically in verse 3 that Solomon loved the Lord and that, with the exception of this regulation concerning worship, he walked in the statutes of his father David.


There is a principle here.  It is that a little sin goes a long way.  Doing it right most of the time is no excuse for doing it wrong.


But there is also some good news in this passage.  It is that God works and even answers prayers when we fail to worship Him in the way He requires.  God continues to be faithful even when we are unfaithful.  This is seen in the next paragraph.





1.         Worship in Gibeon (3:4).


            The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. (1 Kings 3:4).


The name “Gibeon” means “hill.”  It was located about 6 miles to the northwest of Jerusalem.

Archaeological digs at Gibeon have uncovered a great pool 38 feet wide, the surface of which lies 90 feet below the surrounding countryside and which is reached by a long series of steps cut into the rock.

This was the same Gibeon whose original inhabitants had tricked Joshua into making a covenant treaty.  He had honored the treaty by not destroying the Gibeonites, but instead putting them into servitude as “hewers of wood and drawers of water.”


David had moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  But in bygone years, the Ark had resided in Gibeon.  The Tabernacle was still there (1 Chronicles 16:39; 21:29; 2 Chronicles 1:3).


Apparently, a second tabernacle had been erected in Jerusalem to house the Ark of the Covenant.  This second tent had been pitched by David as a temporary home for the Ark (2 Samuel 6:17).


2.         The Divine Offer:  In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, "Ask what you wish me to give you."  (1 Kings 3:5).


Solomon was greatly blessed of God.  Imagine - to be given a blank check from God for anything your heart desired!


When the Lord said to Solomon, “What do you want me to do for you?” he was probing Solomon's heart.  “Solomon, what is it that is important to you?  What is your goal in life? For what are you aiming?”


Have you ever asked yourself that question?  What is important to you?  What do you want out of life?  Most of us think in terms of power or wealth or long life, or some variation of those themes.


That is a great way to open a conversation in which you can share your faith.  Merely ask someone, “What are you living for?  What are your goals?”  It is a question with which many people struggle.  And when they answer it, their answer often comes out in such a materialistic way that it frightens even them.  For what are you living?  If you were to take a piece of paper and write down what your goal in life is, what would it be?


Someone once asked Major Ian Thomas what he was living for.  His immediate response was, “To make visible the invisible Christ.”  Is that your goal?


3.         Solomon’s Reply (1 Kings 3:3:6‑9).


7                       “Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.

8                       “Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted.

9                       “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:7-9).


Solomon asks for “an understanding heart” - literally a “hearing heart.”  This is a request for DISCERNMENT - the ability to look at the world and to understand it.  Yet this was not a request simply for theoretical understanding.  Solomon desires a wisdom which shall enable him to:


a.         Correctly lead the people of God.


b.         Discern between good and evil.


God has always desired that his people know the difference between good and evil.  Adam and Eve learned that difference the hard way - by engaging in evil and learning first hand of its deadly effects.


4.         The Divine Response (1 Kings 3:10‑14).


God agrees to grant the request of Solomon.  He gives him a “wise and discerning heart” - a “wise and understanding heart.”  By this, the Lord gave Solomon the ability to judge and rule well.  But that is not all.  He went beyond this to give Solomon an understanding in areas beyond those having to do with rulership.  We need only read through the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes to find that Solomon was given WISDOM - the skill of living.





This is the most familiar of all of the stories of Solomon.  It begins with a case of two prostitutes who bring their grievance to the king.  This in itself is interesting.


Prostitution was permitted within Israel.  What was forbidden was for a father to encourage or even to allow his daughter to take up such an ignoble profession.  But in cases where a woman found herself without a husband or a father or a brother, she was sometimes reduced to prostitution as the only available means of sustaining herself.  Understanding this state of affairs will help us to understand the allowance of polygamy in that day.


It is also interesting that Solomon consented to hear this case.  It had evidently been brought to one of the lower courts before coming before him.  The fact that he heard the case tells us that his attitude toward the rights of women was extremely generous for his day.


These two women lived together.  They each had an infant.  And in the middle of the night, one of the infants died in a tragic accident as one of the mothers inadvertently smothered the child in her sleep.  The claim that is now brought before the king is one of deception.  The charge is that the dead child has been switched for the living one.  Each mother claims that the surviving infant is her own.


If you were the judge, what decision would you render?  In today’s courts and without the benefit of DNA testing, a settlement might be reached in which the baby would spend six months with one mother and six months with the other.  Ultimately such an arrangement would be very harmful to the child as well as to the mothers.


            The king said, “Get me a sword.”  So they brought a sword before the king.  25  The king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” (1 Kings 3:24-25).


Solomon declares his intention to kill the child and to divide its body equally between the claimants.  One woman agrees to this brutal arrangement.  The other does not.


26                     Then the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him.”  But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him!”

27                     Then the king said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother.” (1 Kings 3:26-27).


The true mother became evident at the point of testing.  Her maternal instincts cried out on behalf of the baby and she agreed to give him up that he might live.


We are also brought to a point of testing.  The issue is not over a baby, but over our own souls.  Jesus taught that he who would save his life must learn to give it up.  And only in doing so are you proven to belong to Him.





1.         Solomon’s Administrators.


Verses 1-19 sets forth a listing of Solomon’s administrators and their various districts.  When Saul had become king, Israel had been made up of a very loose confederation of 12 tribes who were often isolated and even at war among themselves.  David had consolidated the kingdom, establishing a centralized government at Jerusalem.  But it was left to Solomon to complete the organization process.


2.         The Extent of Solomon’s Rule.


            Now Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt; they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life. (1 Kings 4:21).


“The River” is used only of large rivers as opposed to the term for smaller streams or wadis.  In this case, it refers to the Euphrates.


It was commonplace among ancient empires that when the old king died, the subject nations would withhold tribute and challenge the new king in rebellion. This necessitated repeated punitive expeditions to reinforce the former king’s terms and to prove the ability of the new king to enforce his will. Solomon did not have to do this. Instead, God gave to him a peaceful reign.


3.         The Prosperity of Solomon’s Reign.


            So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. (1 Kings 4:25).


It was not only Solomon who amassed riches.  The people of Israel in his day also enjoyed a great amount of prosperity.  The statement that “every man under his vine and his fig tree” became a favorite catch phrase used by the prophets to indicate the ideal conditions prevailing in Messiah's kingdom (Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10).  The fact that a man could enjoy the fruit of the vine and the fig tree meant that there was a complete absence of warfare and it ensuing economic disruption.


4.         Solomon’s Military Wealth.


            Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen. (1 Kings 4:26).


The Septuagint reads 4,000 instead of 40,000.  This lesser number agrees with the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 9:25.  The 40,000 found in the Massoretic Text is probably an old copyist's error.  In 1 Kings 10:226 we read that he had a total of 1400 chariots.

Chariots were to ancient warfare what the tank is to modern warfare.  It gave both an increased mobility and an exceptional striking force.


Though chariots had been in use for some time, cavalry was a brand new innovation in ancient warfare.  This was an innovation normally attributed to the Scythians and which was rapidly copied by the Assyrians and others.


Deuteronomy 17:16 gives a specific injunction against any leader of Israel who would “multiply horses to himself.”  The same passage is one that warns against such a king who would “multiply wives for himself” (17:17).  Solomon seems to have ignored such warnings.


The Lord was to serve as the strength of the nation.  Psalms 20:7 gives this indication when it says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will make mention of the name of the Lord our God.”





29                     Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore.

30                     Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. (1 Kings 4:29-30).


The lands to the east were known for their wisdom.  Mesopotamia was revered as the seat of culture and learning.  Egypt was also known as a storehouse of wisdom.  But the wisdom of Solomon outshone them both.


            For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations. (1 Kings 4:31).


Solomon is compared in particular with four men noted for their wisdom as expressed in proverbs and songs. Ethan is the author of Psalm 89, Heman of Psalm 88.  Calcol and Darda are unknown apart from the appearance of their names in the genealogical list of 1 Chronicles 2:6.


            He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. (1 Kings 4:32).


Not all of these are regarded as Scripture.  But many are included in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon.


            He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish. (1 Kings 4:33).


The wisdom of Solomon was not confined to spiritual matters.  He lectured on everything from morality to biology.  He was a Renaissance man - one who had an enlightened view of the world around him.


There is a principle here.  It is that all truth is God’s truth.  He is the Creator of all things.  And that means all studies are the study of His Creation.  Biology and geology and astronomy and oceanography are all the studies of the workings of God.  The Christian has a reason to engage in scientific research and discovery, for these are studies of what God has done.


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