So, verse 1 doesn't get us off to a good start. Solomon goes and gets a wife in Egypt and forms an alliance with them. Then he brought her back to Jerusalem. Meanwhile he was working on his own house and the Temple.
These don't seem like the right priorities; but maybe I just don't understand. David had many houses. Why couldn't Solomon live in one of those and focus on the Temple until it was done? And why Egypt? Of all places. I know they must have been the powerhouse in the region; but God is THE Powerhouse. Come on, Solomon.
With no Temple yet, the people, including Solomon, were sacrificing on the high places. This was dangerously close to the way pagans did it; so I don't think they were supposed to. And verse 3 seems to indicate that. Solomon loved the Lord and walking the statutes of his Father, David. (I wonder if it is a concern that they aren't Solomon's yet, but still David. Or if that phraseology is respect for David?)
In verse 4 Solomon goes to the great high place and offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar. That is a lot of animals. It sounds like he took his leaders up their to try to unify everyone under the new leadership (based on the version in II Chronicles.)
God responded with a dream and asked what Solomon wished for the Lord to give him.
I wonder why. God is not a genie and we don't really see this type of thing from Him very often. I wonder if a thousand burnt offerings sent a message that Solomon was desperate for something from the Lord? So the Lord wanted Solomon to search his heart for the answer?
Solomon had an answer and it started with...I noticed that you did a lot for my Father...You had a loving kindness for him because he had a heart for You (my paraphrase). Then he comes to the heart of it. I'm just a child. I don't know much and am supposed to lead your great people. Then he, famously, asks for understanding, wisdom to judge the lord's people.
This pleased the Lord. (v. 10)
I think there is a very profound message here in the age when the prosperity gospel has gone mainstream: God granted Solomon a wish because He knew Solomon's concern and He knew Solomon was absolutely going to need that gift--especially considering his lack of preparation such as David had had to lead these people. God gives us the desires of our heart when our heart aligns with His plan and His will. That may not sound fair. Why can't I just have what I want? But it is perfectly perfect. We don't know what He knows. We cannot see what He sees. But when we seek Him and are will willing to sacrifice AND obey, our hearts are ready to want what He wants and He meets us there.
In verse 11, God lists the kind of selfish things Solomon might have asked for given a wish granted from God: long life, riches, or revenge. Then God reiterates what Solomon actually did ask for: discernment to understand justice. That's such a specific thing that only a king would need. We all need empathy and wisdom; but for a people only a couple of generations out of the period of the judges...this was vital for coalescing them into a nation. They fractured so quickly under David. And were, technologically, behind their age. They needed to grow up as a nation and this gift from God would be part of that.
In verses 12-13 the Lord goes on the more thoroughly explain His gifts:
- a wise and discerning heart
- that gift will make it so there is no one like you before or after
- Even though you didn't ask, I will also give you riches and honor (one of the things on the list God said Solomon might have selfishly asked for)
- so much that none of your contemporaries can match
And then, in a very significant twist, God offers one more conditional gift.
And if you walk in My ways, keeping My statues and commandments, as your father David, walked, then I will prolong your days.I Kings 3: 14
God freely gave many amazing gifts because Solomon was seeking on behalf of his people. But then God had a directive, which should have sounded like a dire warning...this last gift requires you to participate. For a long life (the other thing on the list God said Solomon might have selfishly asked for) Solomon had to walk in God's ways.
Something makes me think he's going to struggle with that one.
When Solomon awoke he did a very interesting thing: he went straight to Jerusalem to the Ark and offered his burnt offerings and a peace offering. This was an act of obedience. He should have been here all along. 1000 sacrifices may have been impressive, but God wanted Solomon's obedience.
Then Solomon made a feast for all of his servants. That was a great gesture, but I don't see a direct connection to the previous passage, unless it's just continuing to show his heart for his people. (Or the 1000 sacrifices needed to be eaten? I don't always know which of those are shared with the people.)
The NIV Chronological Bible has an interesting sidebar that addresses Solomon marrying a daughter of a Pharaoh. It asserts two contrasting ideas.
First, Pharoahs married foreign wives; but they did not give their daughters in marriage to foreign kings, even powerful Babylonian kings. So the fact that they gave a bride to Solomon speaks of their esteem for him, even early in his reign. It shows what a kingdom David built from the wreckage of Saul's reign and the time of the judges.
Conversely, the article notes that this was a particularly weak period for Egypt, so it's as much a reflection on their weakness as it is a compliment to Solomon.
Either way, I still assert that "going back to Egypt" is never a good idea when you serve the jealous God of the universe.
Additional Tidbits for the Wiersbe Commentary:
- Solomon's name comes from the same word as Shalom, meaning peace, this was the trait that allowed him to build the Temple when his father could not.
- Deuteronomy made it clear that the Kings of Israel were not to have multiple wives, but Solomon had 700, plus 300 concubines. David used war to accomplish what he wanted for Israel, Solomon used marriage to foreign princess and the treaties that came with it.
- The Pharaoh's daughter was not Solomon's first wife. He married an Ammonite and had his firstborn male, Rahoboam, a year before he became king.
- Solomon spent 7 years building the Temple and 13 years building his first palace.
- Israel was supposed to be set apart. so they could be a shining light on a hill and people would be drawn to their God. If the people of Israel kept covenant with God, He would protect and provide. They didn't need any treaties because they didn't have any needs that God couldn't provide. This violation by Solomon had an exponentially bad effect because it made blurry the source of the light shining from Israel, and it welcomed in the very people they were supposed to be converting, thereby being converted themselves- leading to their chasten in Babylonian captivity.
- This is why God hates sin. We can't see the long, sad story that strings out from our sin; but He can.
- Solomon asked for an understanding heart. He knew wisdom of the mind was not enough. Your life springs out of your heart.
If we have a hunger in our heart. If we are insecure and worried about walking in someone else's shadow. If we are afraid and feeling lost. There is a God who can meet our needs.
However, if we've really, authentically, entered into a relationship with the living God, we know that His priorities for us are that we love Him with all we have and love our neighbors.
If we want...we have to want from that priority list.
And if we do...He will give us the desires of our heart, because that will be what we need to fulfill His purpose in our lives.
He is the Vine and we are the branches. Amen.