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Bible Commentaries

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2 Chronicles 1

 

 

Verses 1-12

2 Chronicles 1:1-12

And Solomon the son of David was strengthened in his kingdom.

The splendid beginning

I. Solomon’s succession to the throne was providentially secured: “The Lord his God was with him.”

II. Solomon’s claims to the throne were sanctioned by a representative assembly.

III. Solomon’s accession to the throne was signalisd by solemn acts of worship.

1. In obedience to Divine law.

2. In appropriate magnificence.

IV. Solomon’s accession to the throne was in a spirit of devout supplication. When Victoria learned that she was about to become Queen of England, her first words to the Archbishop of Canterbury were, “I beg your grace to pray for me.” Together they knelt, and the new reign began with prayer.

V. Solomon’s accession to the throne was unequalled in splendour (2 Chronicles 1:12).

1. Outward splendour: “Riches and wealth and honour.”

2. Moral splendour: “Wisdom and knowledge.” (James Wolfendale.)


Verses 1-17

Verse 7

2 Chronicles 1:7; 2 Chronicles 1:12

In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee.

Solomon’s choice

I. The address which God made to Solomon, “Ask,” etc., He does in effect make to each of us, especially the young.

II. Though we need not the qualification which Solomon required for kingly office, yet we all need spiritual wisdom and understanding, and may therefore imitate his example.

III. God is pleased with those who make the choice and offer up the prayer of Solomon. Because--

1. It is the effect of His grace.

2. It indicates feelings and opinions similar to His own.

3. It indicates humility.

4. It shows a benevolent concern for His glory and for the happiness of their fellow-creatures.

5. It actually tends to promote His glory.

IV. All who make this choice and adopt this prayer shall certainly be favoured with a wise and understanding heart. (E. Payson, D.D.)

How to get the best blessing

For the acquiring the highest wealth, “asking”--

1. Is the simplest method.

2. The Divinely appointed method (Matthew 7:7; Mark 14:38).

3. The only method. Purchase is impossible.

4. The certain method.

5. The abundantly enforced method. Enforced by the whole Bible.

6. Has ever been the abundantly successful method. (R. A. Griffin.)

Solomon’s opportunity

We speak chidingly and upbraidingly of men who have had what we call their chance and have not availed themselves of it. Should a man come to poverty, we review his life and say, “He had no opportunity of doing better; he has made the best of his circumstances, he deserves sympathy; let us extend our help to him.” Or we say, “He has had his chance; he might have been as high as most of us; we remember the time when his life was crowned with a gracious opportunity; he was slothful, incapable; he was busy here and there, and the king passed by; and now we do not feel any kindling of real regard and interest in relation to hun. God gives every man his opportunity. (J. Parker, D.D.)

The prayer for wisdom

The pious prayer of the youthful Solomon at the beginning of his kingly life! There is in this narrative a blending of the natural and supernatural which surpasses all power of fabrication; in itself the high degree of fitness which marks the Divine manifestation here recorded, combined with its striking simplicity, reveals to us the personal intervention of Him “who dwelleth on high, who humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth.” That the highly-lauded wisdom of Solomon had not originally the religious character which is ascribed to it in the text is indeed easily asserted, but is far from proved, and is moreover at variance with a multitude of facts. It may even with reason be doubted whether a wisdom and knowledge such as this King of Israel must have possessed in his day can be explained upon purely natural grounds; assuredly it is somewhat simpler to find, with the sacred writer, in Solomon’s own experience the ground of his utterance, “The Lord giveth wisdom, out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.”

I. “Come and see” a youth who at a critical moment is found in prayer. It is true every moment of this fleeting life has its own significance; but yet there are single hours which more than other cast a heavy weight into the trembling scale. What a difference between that which Solomon has hitherto been and that which he is henceforth to be; and how much depends, even for himself, upon the spirit in which the first step on the new path is taken! Until now child, boy, youth; nursed indeed in the bosom of luxury, but with a David as father, a Nathan as guide; beloved and happy among his brethren, but yet to a great extent on an equality with them. Now suddenly king, and--free; free from every bond. In a simple trait a whole difference of character and principle is sometimes made manifest. Thus it is in the conduct of Solomon at this hour, as compared with that of his brother, Adonijah but a few short months ago. While the latter, even during David’s lifetime, grasps at the throne, he prepares only a banquet: as though he would at once be able as from the table to ascend the princely throne. When Solomon, on the other hand, after David’s death assumes the reins, there is prepared almost as the first act a religious festival of homage and coronation. With what hallowed emotion this day fills his heart will be felt by every one who perceives yet in his prayer by night the after-vibrating of the finest chords of his heart which had been touched by day! Not so attractive for him is the cedar palace in Jerusalem as this simple hill without, where the name of the God of his father is called upon. It is too little for him that his exaltation bears the stamp of human approval; he must consult the Lord in the palace of His holiness, and place himself with all his future under me gracious hand of the Holy One of Israel. Heart-gladdening sight--a king who feels himself God’s subject; a youth who feels that his path cannot be pure unless he directs it according to Jehovah’s Word! Is it not the ease that sincere piety, however often derided and disowned, is yet something glorious and fair; the ornament of every condition, and most of all of the highest; but especially amiable and august in the young man who with whole and joyful heart has chosen the service of God? It is true, when an aged sinner bows his head in penitence before God, Satan loses his prey; but when in a youthful heart a voice is awakened which cries for the living God, then angels give thanks to God around the throne for their new-born brother on earth, Oh, they know not what they say who assert that early piety has about it something unnatural and narrow-minded. How many a youth is at this hour brought to the decisive turning-point in his life, but who begins his course altogether differently, and who therefore very soon makes a progress entirely unlike that of Solomon! How many a bark, lightly laden and fairly equipped, leaves the secure haven and dances over the rippling waves, and seems for awhile to distance others, but anon with the turn of fortune falls quickly behind, and entirely loses her course, until, become a plaything of the storm, she is dashed on yonder rocks and disappears in the gloomy abyss! What wonder, the inexperienced steersman had thought of everything except the indispensable compass; had taken counsel with every one except that One who says, “Mine is the counsel and their strength”; had counted beforehand on the haven, but not upon the storm and Him who alone can quell the storm. There is now a fable going its round in the world: unbelief has invented it, and scepticism now whispers it from the mouth of one schoolboy into the ears of others. It is this--that for the whole doctrine of childlike prayer there is no longer any place within the compass of the modern view of the world. Thus sounds the gospel of despair, hailed by many a child of this age as the highest wisdom--a gospel before which the angel of prayer within flees from the unhallowed sanctuary; while in his place the genius of passive subjection, with rigid gaze, takes his seat by the grave of departed hope. Poor man, poor youth especially, who have all that is needful for outward life, but have lost prayer! “In all, thy ways acknowledge Him”.

II. Come and see, in the second piece, a king’s son who prays exclusively for wisdom. Assuredly, before the presence of the Infinite One the prince is no more than the begger; but is not the former exposed to far greater temptations? “Ask what I shall give thee.” What a word, and how great the concession contained in that word! All the treasure-chambers of God’s infinite favour opened up before the grasp of a single hand! “Ask of Me,” says the Possessor of all things, “and choose thyself the blessing which thou desirest above all others. Shall the cedars of Lebanon fall that in thy capital there may arise an edifice of unrivalled splendour? Shall the laurel adorn thy brow, intertwined with the roses of love? Shall thy name be borne upon a thousand tongues, even to the Tigris and Euphrates? and a patriarchal age crown all these blessings?” Who does not involuntarily tremble at the sight of the hand in which such a decision is placed? “Give Thy servant an understanding heart” (1 Kings 3:9); and the meaning of his prayer may be easily conjectured, especially when we remember the sense in which Solomon in the Book of Proverbs constantly makes mention of wisdom. He means by it no mere learning, which may be attained to in another way; and just as little that acuteness, versatility, polish, which frequently is almost entirely disconnected with the first principles of moral life. He desires on the other hand, that practical wisdom which qualifies in every ease for the recognising, choosing, and accomplishing of the right, the true, and the good. If he has only wisdom, what does he need besides? Happy Solomon, who hast understood thy deepest need; but who at the same time knowest where satisfaction for this need is to be sought.

III. Come and see here a humble one, who prays not in vain. A humble one: upon that word I lay stress, because it is the key to the whole. How strikingly this humility expresses itself, especially in the words of the prayer as preserved in another place. First, thanksgiving for what is already bestowed or promised; and then, further, “And now, O Lord, my God”--the “my” of a humble faith--“Thou hast made Thy servant king instead of David my father; and I am but a little child, I know not how to go out or come in,” as my position requires. Solomon, at least, has certainly experienced the truth of his own words, “With the lowly is wisdom,” but also at the same time learnt that God will give grace to the humble. Immediately he receives the answer, “Because this was in thine heart the wisdom and the knowledge is granted unto thee. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraids him not; and it shall be given him. But--the condition is equally simple as it is reasonable--“let him ask in faith, nothing doubting.” How prayer is heard no one may be able fully to explain; but that it is heard is for the thoughtful faith raised above all doubt. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with Mine eye.” Not that you are to look for inner light apart from God’s written Word, and still less that this heavenly instruction is to release from the necessity for your own labour and exertion. In the realm of true wisdom no one is crowned who has not in childlike spirit bowed before God.

IV. Come and see here a favoured one, who receives much more than he asks for. We have as yet listened to only half of the heavenly response: thus it continues, “Therefore will I give thee riches, and wealth, and honour,” etc. No, He who gives that which is of the first necessity also refuses not that which is less so. Solomon had not even thought of temporal gifts; but his God forgets nothing of all that which may augment the lustre of His throne. “And Solomon awoke, and behold it was a dream.” But what a dream; and what an awakening! The morning hour of a new life has dawned upon him, and while this master-dreamer descends at once from Gibson’s crest, it is only very soon to rise to a more glorious height before the eye of his own and neighbouring nations. That which the king has received redounds, spiritually and materially, to the good of the nation, which shares in the benefit. God in answer to prayer usually gives the indispensable first; but straightway also adds thereto the useful, the agreeable, the comparatively superfluous. The Lord gives grace, and in that one thing all things lie hid; yet He adds to grace also honour, and withholds no good thing from them that walk in uprightness. “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding . . . She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her, and happy is every one that holdeth her fast.”

V. An unhappy one who by his own fault has forfeited this blessing of his prayer. (J. Van Oosterzee, D.D.)

What shall I ask?

It is an excellent discipline for such as would pray aright to begin by hearing God say to them, “Ask now what I should give you.” Think with yourself before you kneel down to pray, “What shall I ask; what wish is upon my heart; is there anything distressing, vexing, paining me at this moment which I can ask God to alleviate or to remove; is there anything which I very much desire, anything which I think it would make me happy to have, anything which to be denied would embitter or desolate my life?” “Ask what I shall give thee,” God says, and let Him not find silence, or find a double tongue in him to whom He says it. All this points to what Scripture calls “the preparation of the heart” for prayer. How different would be the very step of the worshippers as they left their homes, how different would be the very look of the countenances aa they came within these doors and took up their places, if each one felt that God was here, and that He was saying to each one, “What shall I give thee?” There is a moment in most lives when the question of the destination of the life is put to them, and must be answered. Even the destination of this life is very important. Often it has the destination of the other life in it. To s young man, the question takes the form of “What shall be your profession?” In proportion as the field of choice is wider and broader will be, of course, the difficulty and the gravity of the question, “What shall I make my life for the service of God and of my generation?” This is the most direct example to be found in our day, perhaps, of the young king in one of my texts. And what shall be the answer? Shall it be,”Give me wealth”? shall it be, “Give me honour”? shall it be, “Give me a front place in the ranks of fame, or of such repute and respectability as takes the place of fame among the lowly; give me success, give me applause, give me rapid progress towards a satisfactory position; or, give me a portion among them that know, that amass information, that write or make books, that are called men of literature, men of science, men of culture, men of education”? or, shall it be, “Lord, make me useful in my generation; let it not concern me whether I am great or small, may I but help a few others to know Thy comfort, may I but bring peace into a few unhappy souls or guide a few stray lives into the way of holiness”? If there were such a heart in us, how rich would be the reward! “The speech pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.” There are times when the question, “What shall I do, Lord?” comes very prominently into view. It is so with the young Churchman at the season of confirmation; it is so at the first and at each successive communion; it is so when the hand of God is laid heavily upon the life in sorrow; it is so when sickness comes, not unto death; it is so when the formation of new ties, or providential disruption of old ones, compels a man to stand still and settle with himself--what shall the tenor of my life be, what the course, and what the goal? Happy if he can cast himself believingly on Him who is “a very present help,” and say, “Give me understanding, give me grace, give me a useful course and a blessed end.” (Dean Vaughan.)

Solomon’s choice

Nowadays it is impossible to say that God never does speak to men in dreams, but it is not often that He does so. For one good reason--the Bible is now complete, and there His will may be learned, and there it is made known. Yet there are some dreams that certainly are remarkable!”

I. First let us talk s little about the permission: “Ask what I shall give thee! Suppose I were to put this question to each one here present, what a lot of singular requests would be heard. One old woman was once heard praying thus: “O Lord, give me plenty to eat and plenty to drink, and that’s all I want.” God wished Solomon to ask himself, “What do I really need most of all?” Of old the shopkeepers used to cry aloud, “What--do ye lack?” This is a good rule in prayer, to say, What do I actually want at this very moment? If you find out in what you are most deficient, you will learn your true character. Look around, and say now, “What do I really need? What ought a boy or girl just beginning life to possess? What--do I lack?” Perhaps you do not know how much you need some things, nor will you without inquiring. Tradesmen fill their shop-windows with toys, pictures, books, and dresses, so that people may feel inclined to want them, and come in and purchase. The Bible is full of descriptions of things that every one should require. Look at what it says, and you will find out what you want most, and first of all

II. God asked this question of Solomon for another reason; He desired to show us the true way to obtain what we require; that is, by prayer or asking. Solomon had received great gifts from his father David without asking for them. God, too, had given him many most valuable blessings, many of them without asking. “Now,” says God, “ask and you shall have.” You cannot purchase some things with money; no rich man has sufficient wealth to buy health or happiness. And you cannot buy the blessings of the gospel; you must receive them as a gift from the Lord Jesus. (N. Wiseman.)

The prayer of King Solomon for wisdom to govern his people

Whatever in later life may have been Solomon’s deviations from duty and from the fear of the Lord, the early years of his reign evidence a mind keenly alive to all the necessities and responsibilities of his station, and a heart sincere in love and loyalty towards God. This prayer of Solomon displays the spirit proper for every young man especially for every Christian young man--in entering upon the responsibilities of life. There are three prominent characteristics of the temper of his mind that are pre-eminently worthy of regard.

I. His preferment of the welfare of the people over whom he ruled above any gratification or interest of his own. From the manner in which the Lord offered the king any gift that his heart might desire, it is evident that Solomon was at perfect liberty, if such had been his choice, to request the fulfilment of some purely personal or private end. If such an offer had been made to any of the mighty kings whose names are blazoned in history, what would his choice have been? What prayer would have expressed the heart’s desire of Alexander, of Hannibal, of Caesar, or of Napoleon? Alexander would have asked for another world to conquer; Hannibal would have sought satiety of vengeance in the extermination of the Italian foes; Caesar would have demanded admittance among the gods and the perpetual worship of the citizens of Rome; Napoleon that his family should ever rule the destinies of France, and that France of all nations should ever be foremost and supreme. But the spirit of which the Lord approved in Solomon was free from all taint of ambitious or selfish or merciless desire. Would that all to whom the interests of others are committed were ever animated by the spirit of Solomon.

II. The hearty conformity to the Divine will of his wishes in regard to his position. When God promised any of the kings of Israel or of Judah the establishment of his throne and aid against his enemies, it was always provided that that king should diligently observe the statutes and commandments and ordinances of the Lord. When He rejected Saul from being king over His people, it was not because he had proved himself unfaithful to the nation’s welfare, but because he had rejected the word of the Lord, and had not kept the commandment which the Lord had commanded him. And when David was raised to the throne of Israel, it was because of this testimony, given him of God: “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfil all My will.” Hence in the lips of Solomon this prayer for wisdom had a most peculiar and comprehensive significance. Its spirit was not ambition to be the wisest monarch of his day, nor servile anxiety to secure the favour of a powerful friend; it was the desire to do the will of his gracious Father in heaven. This same spirit of loving and hearty conformity to the Divine will has controlled the prayers and the lives of God’s true people in all generations--Abram; Moses; Joseph; Paul; the Redeemer Himself. Oh, what comfort in affliction, what support in trial, what delight in duty, spring from the thought, “It is the will of God”!

III. His recognition of himself as weak and liable to err, and of God as the great source of wisdom and strength for the discharge of duty. In the humility and diffidence of Solomon, we have an example of what seems to be commonly the case, that men of worth and of ability are the most deeply conscious of their deficiencies and faults. Utterly different from such a spirit was Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon on assuming the sceptre. Solomon evidenced his sense of weakness--not by shrinking from his duties, but by seeking God’s help for the performance of them. Elisha, trembling to think how soon he should be called upon to wear the mantle of the greatest of the prophets, besought a double portion of his master’s spirit. In a similar frame did Solomon pray for an understanding heart to judge the people of the Lord. (E. I. Hamilton, D.D.)

Wisdom

Wisdom consists chiefly in three things.

1. Knowledge to discern.

2. Skill to judge.

3. Activity to prosecute. (T. Watson.)

Solomon’s wisdom

He showed his wisdom by asking for.wisdom. (Dean Stanley.)

Divine wisdom needed

Every man needs Divine wisdom m order that he may do well his earthly work. You would light a lamp better if you first asked God to show you how to light it. (J. Parker, D.D.)

The responsibility of a sovereign

“Now you are Queen of the mightiest land in Europe, in your hand lies the happiness of millions,” said young Prince Albert to Victoria in his letter of congratulation. He was going to Italy, in the freedom of a life less burdened, less full of splendid care than hers, yet not without a thought that his very wanderings were some time to be of service to her. “May Heaven assist you,” he adds, “and strengthen with its strength in that high and difficult task.”

Solomon’s desire for wisdom and the use he made of it

1.The practical wisdom by which we conduct the affairs of every-day life comes from God. Let us seek it, then, from its true source. If we seek to be wise without God, even our worldly wisdom will turn to folly.

2. We make a grand mistake in separating religious and every-day affairs. I do not mean merely to press the somewhat trite lesson that the morality which religion teaches must be practised in daily life. There are many who act up to this, yet still do not bring their religion enough into their daily work. Their trade or their business occupies them during me week. It is put away at stated intervals, to make room for higher thoughts; and these higher thoughts again are laid aside when they return to business. They cannot understand doing all things to the glory of God. The effect of this is twofold. First, it makes religion very weak and puny; instead of doing all things to the glory of God, we do a few things only to His glory. Secondly, it will mar our work; for nothing is really well done unless it is done in a religious spirit. But if Solomon exercised hie God-given wisdom on such matters as bringing up linen yarn from Egypt, why cannot we, too, understand that in our commerce, and other ordinary business, we are using God’s gifts, and doing work which may and should be so done as to be to His glory? (A. K. Cherrill, M.A.)

The best motives to action unselfish

In private life, and in all life, the best motives to action are those which lie outside of salt and its supposed interests. To build the ship staunch and safe and the house firm and healthful for the sake of human lives that will be entrusted to them, to administer justice because of its equity, to heal disease and teach sanitary laws for the sake of suffering humanity, to cherish in every employment some glimpse of, and interest in, the good that it is to produce in the world, introduces a finer element into the labour and actually brings forth a better quality of work than can be educed by the mere hope of personal benefit to the worker. (Great Thoughts.)

The folly of relying on our own wisdom in the conduct of life.

A few years ago a most painful sensation was created in the public mind by the intelligence of a distressing and fatal accident which had happened to a distinguished Archdeacon of the Established Church. This gentleman, eminent alike for his character and his writings, was spending a short time on the continent, and, having with some friends ascended a mountain, expressed a strong wish to return alone by a new route. His companions remonstrated, pointed out the danger of attempting to follow an unknown path, and urged that at least their friend would accept the services of a guide. Unhappily he would not be persuaded, and presently commenced his perilous descent. The rest of the party reluctantly pursued their course, and waited his arrival at the inn. As time passed on, and the Archdeacon did not appear, their fears were re-awakened, and search was ordered to be made. Soon they were horrified, yet not surprised, to hear that the lifeless body of their friend had been found beneath a precipice over which he had fallen in his attempt to reach the inn. How striking an illustration does this sad incident afford of the fatal obstinacy of those who persist in relying on their own wisdom and strength of purpose in the journey of life! What can await them but destruction if they refuse to accept guidance? Yet a guide is not enough at all times. Only recently a party of travellers on Mont Blanc, accompanied by skilful guides, were overtaken by an avalanche; and not only two of their number but one of the guides also perished in a moment. We need an unerring guide; and where shall it be found but in Him who is infinite Wisdom as well as infinite Love? (Experience.)

The fruits of prayer

“Do you really think that God will hear your prayers?” said a sceptic to a poor Christian woman. “Yes,” she replied, “you might as well tell me that that ship, just arrived from a foreign port, was never there at all because I was not there to see. You believe it was there because of the things it has brought, and so I do not think God hears my prayers, I know He both hears and answers them, for I have fruits of them in my possession.” (J. Nicoll.)

Importance of knowledge

The following words are from a letter written by Miss. Willard’s mother to her children when they were quite small: “The dearest wish of my heart, except that my children shall be Christians, is that they shall be well-educated. A good education will open the world to you as a knife opens an oyster. Riches will not do this, because riches have no power to brighten the intellect. An ox and a philosopher look out on the same world, and perhaps the ox has the stronger and handsomer eyes of the two, but the difference between the brains behind the eyes makes a difference between the two beings that is wider than all the seas. I want my children’s brains to be full of the best thoughts that great minds have had in all centuries; I want stored away in your little heads the story of what the world was doing before you came--who were its poets, its painters and philosophers, its inventors and law-givers. I want you to know what is in its noblest books, and what its men of science say about their study of the earth, the ocean, and the stars. I want you taught to be careful, and exact by your knowledge of figures; and, most of all, I want you to learn how to speak and write your own noble English tongue, for without the power of expression you are like an aeolian harp when there is no breeze.”

God’s overflowing gift

When the ice breaks up in Russia, the Czar goes in state to drink of the river Neva, and having drunk, it was long the custom for the Czar to return the cup to his attendants full of gold; but year by year it became so much larger that at length a stipulated sum was paid instead of the old penalty. But, however large the vessel we bring to God, and however much it increases in capacity with the discipline of years, God will make it to overflow with that peace and faith and love and joy which is better than much fine gold. (Sunday Companion.)


Verse 12

2 Chronicles 1:7; 2 Chronicles 1:12

In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee.

Solomon’s choice

I. The address which God made to Solomon, “Ask,” etc., He does in effect make to each of us, especially the young.

II. Though we need not the qualification which Solomon required for kingly office, yet we all need spiritual wisdom and understanding, and may therefore imitate his example.

III. God is pleased with those who make the choice and offer up the prayer of Solomon. Because--

1. It is the effect of His grace.

2. It indicates feelings and opinions similar to His own.

3. It indicates humility.

4. It shows a benevolent concern for His glory and for the happiness of their fellow-creatures.

5. It actually tends to promote His glory.

IV. All who make this choice and adopt this prayer shall certainly be favoured with a wise and understanding heart. (E. Payson, D.D.)

How to get the best blessing

For the acquiring the highest wealth, “asking”--

1. Is the simplest method.

2. The Divinely appointed method (Matthew 7:7; Mark 14:38).

3. The only method. Purchase is impossible.

4. The certain method.

5. The abundantly enforced method. Enforced by the whole Bible.

6. Has ever been the abundantly successful method. (R. A. Griffin.)

Solomon’s opportunity

We speak chidingly and upbraidingly of men who have had what we call their chance and have not availed themselves of it. Should a man come to poverty, we review his life and say, “He had no opportunity of doing better; he has made the best of his circumstances, he deserves sympathy; let us extend our help to him.” Or we say, “He has had his chance; he might have been as high as most of us; we remember the time when his life was crowned with a gracious opportunity; he was slothful, incapable; he was busy here and there, and the king passed by; and now we do not feel any kindling of real regard and interest in relation to hun. God gives every man his opportunity. (J. Parker, D.D.)

The prayer for wisdom

The pious prayer of the youthful Solomon at the beginning of his kingly life! There is in this narrative a blending of the natural and supernatural which surpasses all power of fabrication; in itself the high degree of fitness which marks the Divine manifestation here recorded, combined with its striking simplicity, reveals to us the personal intervention of Him “who dwelleth on high, who humbleth Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth.” That the highly-lauded wisdom of Solomon had not originally the religious character which is ascribed to it in the text is indeed easily asserted, but is far from proved, and is moreover at variance with a multitude of facts. It may even with reason be doubted whether a wisdom and knowledge such as this King of Israel must have possessed in his day can be explained upon purely natural grounds; assuredly it is somewhat simpler to find, with the sacred writer, in Solomon’s own experience the ground of his utterance, “The Lord giveth wisdom, out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.”

I. “Come and see” a youth who at a critical moment is found in prayer. It is true every moment of this fleeting life has its own significance; but yet there are single hours which more than other cast a heavy weight into the trembling scale. What a difference between that which Solomon has hitherto been and that which he is henceforth to be; and how much depends, even for himself, upon the spirit in which the first step on the new path is taken! Until now child, boy, youth; nursed indeed in the bosom of luxury, but with a David as father, a Nathan as guide; beloved and happy among his brethren, but yet to a great extent on an equality with them. Now suddenly king, and--free; free from every bond. In a simple trait a whole difference of character and principle is sometimes made manifest. Thus it is in the conduct of Solomon at this hour, as compared with that of his brother, Adonijah but a few short months ago. While the latter, even during David’s lifetime, grasps at the throne, he prepares only a banquet: as though he would at once be able as from the table to ascend the princely throne. When Solomon, on the other hand, after David’s death assumes the reins, there is prepared almost as the first act a religious festival of homage and coronation. With what hallowed emotion this day fills his heart will be felt by every one who perceives yet in his prayer by night the after-vibrating of the finest chords of his heart which had been touched by day! Not so attractive for him is the cedar palace in Jerusalem as this simple hill without, where the name of the God of his father is called upon. It is too little for him that his exaltation bears the stamp of human approval; he must consult the Lord in the palace of His holiness, and place himself with all his future under me gracious hand of the Holy One of Israel. Heart-gladdening sight--a king who feels himself God’s subject; a youth who feels that his path cannot be pure unless he directs it according to Jehovah’s Word! Is it not the ease that sincere piety, however often derided and disowned, is yet something glorious and fair; the ornament of every condition, and most of all of the highest; but especially amiable and august in the young man who with whole and joyful heart has chosen the service of God? It is true, when an aged sinner bows his head in penitence before God, Satan loses his prey; but when in a youthful heart a voice is awakened which cries for the living God, then angels give thanks to God around the throne for their new-born brother on earth, Oh, they know not what they say who assert that early piety has about it something unnatural and narrow-minded. How many a youth is at this hour brought to the decisive turning-point in his life, but who begins his course altogether differently, and who therefore very soon makes a progress entirely unlike that of Solomon! How many a bark, lightly laden and fairly equipped, leaves the secure haven and dances over the rippling waves, and seems for awhile to distance others, but anon with the turn of fortune falls quickly behind, and entirely loses her course, until, become a plaything of the storm, she is dashed on yonder rocks and disappears in the gloomy abyss! What wonder, the inexperienced steersman had thought of everything except the indispensable compass; had taken counsel with every one except that One who says, “Mine is the counsel and their strength”; had counted beforehand on the haven, but not upon the storm and Him who alone can quell the storm. There is now a fable going its round in the world: unbelief has invented it, and scepticism now whispers it from the mouth of one schoolboy into the ears of others. It is this--that for the whole doctrine of childlike prayer there is no longer any place within the compass of the modern view of the world. Thus sounds the gospel of despair, hailed by many a child of this age as the highest wisdom--a gospel before which the angel of prayer within flees from the unhallowed sanctuary; while in his place the genius of passive subjection, with rigid gaze, takes his seat by the grave of departed hope. Poor man, poor youth especially, who have all that is needful for outward life, but have lost prayer! “In all, thy ways acknowledge Him”.

II. Come and see, in the second piece, a king’s son who prays exclusively for wisdom. Assuredly, before the presence of the Infinite One the prince is no more than the begger; but is not the former exposed to far greater temptations? “Ask what I shall give thee.” What a word, and how great the concession contained in that word! All the treasure-chambers of God’s infinite favour opened up before the grasp of a single hand! “Ask of Me,” says the Possessor of all things, “and choose thyself the blessing which thou desirest above all others. Shall the cedars of Lebanon fall that in thy capital there may arise an edifice of unrivalled splendour? Shall the laurel adorn thy brow, intertwined with the roses of love? Shall thy name be borne upon a thousand tongues, even to the Tigris and Euphrates? and a patriarchal age crown all these blessings?” Who does not involuntarily tremble at the sight of the hand in which such a decision is placed? “Give Thy servant an understanding heart” (1 Kings 3:9); and the meaning of his prayer may be easily conjectured, especially when we remember the sense in which Solomon in the Book of Proverbs constantly makes mention of wisdom. He means by it no mere learning, which may be attained to in another way; and just as little that acuteness, versatility, polish, which frequently is almost entirely disconnected with the first principles of moral life. He desires on the other hand, that practical wisdom which qualifies in every ease for the recognising, choosing, and accomplishing of the right, the true, and the good. If he has only wisdom, what does he need besides? Happy Solomon, who hast understood thy deepest need; but who at the same time knowest where satisfaction for this need is to be sought.

III. Come and see here a humble one, who prays not in vain. A humble one: upon that word I lay stress, because it is the key to the whole. How strikingly this humility expresses itself, especially in the words of the prayer as preserved in another place. First, thanksgiving for what is already bestowed or promised; and then, further, “And now, O Lord, my God”--the “my” of a humble faith--“Thou hast made Thy servant king instead of David my father; and I am but a little child, I know not how to go out or come in,” as my position requires. Solomon, at least, has certainly experienced the truth of his own words, “With the lowly is wisdom,” but also at the same time learnt that God will give grace to the humble. Immediately he receives the answer, “Because this was in thine heart the wisdom and the knowledge is granted unto thee. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraids him not; and it shall be given him. But--the condition is equally simple as it is reasonable--“let him ask in faith, nothing doubting.” How prayer is heard no one may be able fully to explain; but that it is heard is for the thoughtful faith raised above all doubt. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with Mine eye.” Not that you are to look for inner light apart from God’s written Word, and still less that this heavenly instruction is to release from the necessity for your own labour and exertion. In the realm of true wisdom no one is crowned who has not in childlike spirit bowed before God.

IV. Come and see here a favoured one, who receives much more than he asks for. We have as yet listened to only half of the heavenly response: thus it continues, “Therefore will I give thee riches, and wealth, and honour,” etc. No, He who gives that which is of the first necessity also refuses not that which is less so. Solomon had not even thought of temporal gifts; but his God forgets nothing of all that which may augment the lustre of His throne. “And Solomon awoke, and behold it was a dream.” But what a dream; and what an awakening! The morning hour of a new life has dawned upon him, and while this master-dreamer descends at once from Gibson’s crest, it is only very soon to rise to a more glorious height before the eye of his own and neighbouring nations. That which the king has received redounds, spiritually and materially, to the good of the nation, which shares in the benefit. God in answer to prayer usually gives the indispensable first; but straightway also adds thereto the useful, the agreeable, the comparatively superfluous. The Lord gives grace, and in that one thing all things lie hid; yet He adds to grace also honour, and withholds no good thing from them that walk in uprightness. “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding . . . She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her, and happy is every one that holdeth her fast.”

V. An unhappy one who by his own fault has forfeited this blessing of his prayer. (J. Van Oosterzee, D.D.)

What shall I ask?

It is an excellent discipline for such as would pray aright to begin by hearing God say to them, “Ask now what I should give you.” Think with yourself before you kneel down to pray, “What shall I ask; what wish is upon my heart; is there anything distressing, vexing, paining me at this moment which I can ask God to alleviate or to remove; is there anything which I very much desire, anything which I think it would make me happy to have, anything which to be denied would embitter or desolate my life?” “Ask what I shall give thee,” God says, and let Him not find silence, or find a double tongue in him to whom He says it. All this points to what Scripture calls “the preparation of the heart” for prayer. How different would be the very step of the worshippers as they left their homes, how different would be the very look of the countenances aa they came within these doors and took up their places, if each one felt that God was here, and that He was saying to each one, “What shall I give thee?” There is a moment in most lives when the question of the destination of the life is put to them, and must be answered. Even the destination of this life is very important. Often it has the destination of the other life in it. To s young man, the question takes the form of “What shall be your profession?” In proportion as the field of choice is wider and broader will be, of course, the difficulty and the gravity of the question, “What shall I make my life for the service of God and of my generation?” This is the most direct example to be found in our day, perhaps, of the young king in one of my texts. And what shall be the answer? Shall it be,”Give me wealth”? shall it be, “Give me honour”? shall it be, “Give me a front place in the ranks of fame, or of such repute and respectability as takes the place of fame among the lowly; give me success, give me applause, give me rapid progress towards a satisfactory position; or, give me a portion among them that know, that amass information, that write or make books, that are called men of literature, men of science, men of culture, men of education”? or, shall it be, “Lord, make me useful in my generation; let it not concern me whether I am great or small, may I but help a few others to know Thy comfort, may I but bring peace into a few unhappy souls or guide a few stray lives into the way of holiness”? If there were such a heart in us, how rich would be the reward! “The speech pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.” There are times when the question, “What shall I do, Lord?” comes very prominently into view. It is so with the young Churchman at the season of confirmation; it is so at the first and at each successive communion; it is so when the hand of God is laid heavily upon the life in sorrow; it is so when sickness comes, not unto death; it is so when the formation of new ties, or providential disruption of old ones, compels a man to stand still and settle with himself--what shall the tenor of my life be, what the course, and what the goal? Happy if he can cast himself believingly on Him who is “a very present help,” and say, “Give me understanding, give me grace, give me a useful course and a blessed end.” (Dean Vaughan.)

Solomon’s choice

Nowadays it is impossible to say that God never does speak to men in dreams, but it is not often that He does so. For one good reason--the Bible is now complete, and there His will may be learned, and there it is made known. Yet there are some dreams that certainly are remarkable!”

I. First let us talk s little about the permission: “Ask what I shall give thee! Suppose I were to put this question to each one here present, what a lot of singular requests would be heard. One old woman was once heard praying thus: “O Lord, give me plenty to eat and plenty to drink, and that’s all I want.” God wished Solomon to ask himself, “What do I really need most of all?” Of old the shopkeepers used to cry aloud, “What--do ye lack?” This is a good rule in prayer, to say, What do I actually want at this very moment? If you find out in what you are most deficient, you will learn your true character. Look around, and say now, “What do I really need? What ought a boy or girl just beginning life to possess? What--do I lack?” Perhaps you do not know how much you need some things, nor will you without inquiring. Tradesmen fill their shop-windows with toys, pictures, books, and dresses, so that people may feel inclined to want them, and come in and purchase. The Bible is full of descriptions of things that every one should require. Look at what it says, and you will find out what you want most, and first of all

II. God asked this question of Solomon for another reason; He desired to show us the true way to obtain what we require; that is, by prayer or asking. Solomon had received great gifts from his father David without asking for them. God, too, had given him many most valuable blessings, many of them without asking. “Now,” says God, “ask and you shall have.” You cannot purchase some things with money; no rich man has sufficient wealth to buy health or happiness. And you cannot buy the blessings of the gospel; you must receive them as a gift from the Lord Jesus. (N. Wiseman.)

The prayer of King Solomon for wisdom to govern his people

Whatever in later life may have been Solomon’s deviations from duty and from the fear of the Lord, the early years of his reign evidence a mind keenly alive to all the necessities and responsibilities of his station, and a heart sincere in love and loyalty towards God. This prayer of Solomon displays the spirit proper for every young man especially for every Christian young man--in entering upon the responsibilities of life. There are three prominent characteristics of the temper of his mind that are pre-eminently worthy of regard.

I. His preferment of the welfare of the people over whom he ruled above any gratification or interest of his own. From the manner in which the Lord offered the king any gift that his heart might desire, it is evident that Solomon was at perfect liberty, if such had been his choice, to request the fulfilment of some purely personal or private end. If such an offer had been made to any of the mighty kings whose names are blazoned in history, what would his choice have been? What prayer would have expressed the heart’s desire of Alexander, of Hannibal, of Caesar, or of Napoleon? Alexander would have asked for another world to conquer; Hannibal would have sought satiety of vengeance in the extermination of the Italian foes; Caesar would have demanded admittance among the gods and the perpetual worship of the citizens of Rome; Napoleon that his family should ever rule the destinies of France, and that France of all nations should ever be foremost and supreme. But the spirit of which the Lord approved in Solomon was free from all taint of ambitious or selfish or merciless desire. Would that all to whom the interests of others are committed were ever animated by the spirit of Solomon.

II. The hearty conformity to the Divine will of his wishes in regard to his position. When God promised any of the kings of Israel or of Judah the establishment of his throne and aid against his enemies, it was always provided that that king should diligently observe the statutes and commandments and ordinances of the Lord. When He rejected Saul from being king over His people, it was not because he had proved himself unfaithful to the nation’s welfare, but because he had rejected the word of the Lord, and had not kept the commandment which the Lord had commanded him. And when David was raised to the throne of Israel, it was because of this testimony, given him of God: “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after Mine own heart, which shall fulfil all My will.” Hence in the lips of Solomon this prayer for wisdom had a most peculiar and comprehensive significance. Its spirit was not ambition to be the wisest monarch of his day, nor servile anxiety to secure the favour of a powerful friend; it was the desire to do the will of his gracious Father in heaven. This same spirit of loving and hearty conformity to the Divine will has controlled the prayers and the lives of God’s true people in all generations--Abram; Moses; Joseph; Paul; the Redeemer Himself. Oh, what comfort in affliction, what support in trial, what delight in duty, spring from the thought, “It is the will of God”!

III. His recognition of himself as weak and liable to err, and of God as the great source of wisdom and strength for the discharge of duty. In the humility and diffidence of Solomon, we have an example of what seems to be commonly the case, that men of worth and of ability are the most deeply conscious of their deficiencies and faults. Utterly different from such a spirit was Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon on assuming the sceptre. Solomon evidenced his sense of weakness--not by shrinking from his duties, but by seeking God’s help for the performance of them. Elisha, trembling to think how soon he should be called upon to wear the mantle of the greatest of the prophets, besought a double portion of his master’s spirit. In a similar frame did Solomon pray for an understanding heart to judge the people of the Lord. (E. I. Hamilton, D.D.)

Wisdom

Wisdom consists chiefly in three things.

1. Knowledge to discern.

2. Skill to judge.

3. Activity to prosecute. (T. Watson.)

Solomon’s wisdom

He showed his wisdom by asking for.wisdom. (Dean Stanley.)

Divine wisdom needed

Every man needs Divine wisdom m order that he may do well his earthly work. You would light a lamp better if you first asked God to show you how to light it. (J. Parker, D.D.)

The responsibility of a sovereign

“Now you are Queen of the mightiest land in Europe, in your hand lies the happiness of millions,” said young Prince Albert to Victoria in his letter of congratulation. He was going to Italy, in the freedom of a life less burdened, less full of splendid care than hers, yet not without a thought that his very wanderings were some time to be of service to her. “May Heaven assist you,” he adds, “and strengthen with its strength in that high and difficult task.”

Solomon’s desire for wisdom and the use he made of it

1.The practical wisdom by which we conduct the affairs of every-day life comes from God. Let us seek it, then, from its true source. If we seek to be wise without God, even our worldly wisdom will turn to folly.

2. We make a grand mistake in separating religious and every-day affairs. I do not mean merely to press the somewhat trite lesson that the morality which religion teaches must be practised in daily life. There are many who act up to this, yet still do not bring their religion enough into their daily work. Their trade or their business occupies them during me week. It is put away at stated intervals, to make room for higher thoughts; and these higher thoughts again are laid aside when they return to business. They cannot understand doing all things to the glory of God. The effect of this is twofold. First, it makes religion very weak and puny; instead of doing all things to the glory of God, we do a few things only to His glory. Secondly, it will mar our work; for nothing is really well done unless it is done in a religious spirit. But if Solomon exercised hie God-given wisdom on such matters as bringing up linen yarn from Egypt, why cannot we, too, understand that in our commerce, and other ordinary business, we are using God’s gifts, and doing work which may and should be so done as to be to His glory? (A. K. Cherrill, M.A.)

The best motives to action unselfish

In private life, and in all life, the best motives to action are those which lie outside of salt and its supposed interests. To build the ship staunch and safe and the house firm and healthful for the sake of human lives that will be entrusted to them, to administer justice because of its equity, to heal disease and teach sanitary laws for the sake of suffering humanity, to cherish in every employment some glimpse of, and interest in, the good that it is to produce in the world, introduces a finer element into the labour and actually brings forth a better quality of work than can be educed by the mere hope of personal benefit to the worker. (Great Thoughts.)

The folly of relying on our own wisdom in the conduct of life.

A few years ago a most painful sensation was created in the public mind by the intelligence of a distressing and fatal accident which had happened to a distinguished Archdeacon of the Established Church. This gentleman, eminent alike for his character and his writings, was spending a short time on the continent, and, having with some friends ascended a mountain, expressed a strong wish to return alone by a new route. His companions remonstrated, pointed out the danger of attempting to follow an unknown path, and urged that at least their friend would accept the services of a guide. Unhappily he would not be persuaded, and presently commenced his perilous descent. The rest of the party reluctantly pursued their course, and waited his arrival at the inn. As time passed on, and the Archdeacon did not appear, their fears were re-awakened, and search was ordered to be made. Soon they were horrified, yet not surprised, to hear that the lifeless body of their friend had been found beneath a precipice over which he had fallen in his attempt to reach the inn. How striking an illustration does this sad incident afford of the fatal obstinacy of those who persist in relying on their own wisdom and strength of purpose in the journey of life! What can await them but destruction if they refuse to accept guidance? Yet a guide is not enough at all times. Only recently a party of travellers on Mont Blanc, accompanied by skilful guides, were overtaken by an avalanche; and not only two of their number but one of the guides also perished in a moment. We need an unerring guide; and where shall it be found but in Him who is infinite Wisdom as well as infinite Love? (Experience.)

The fruits of prayer

“Do you really think that God will hear your prayers?” said a sceptic to a poor Christian woman. “Yes,” she replied, “you might as well tell me that that ship, just arrived from a foreign port, was never there at all because I was not there to see. You believe it was there because of the things it has brought, and so I do not think God hears my prayers, I know He both hears and answers them, for I have fruits of them in my possession.” (J. Nicoll.)

Importance of knowledge

The following words are from a letter written by Miss. Willard’s mother to her children when they were quite small: “The dearest wish of my heart, except that my children shall be Christians, is that they shall be well-educated. A good education will open the world to you as a knife opens an oyster. Riches will not do this, because riches have no power to brighten the intellect. An ox and a philosopher look out on the same world, and perhaps the ox has the stronger and handsomer eyes of the two, but the difference between the brains behind the eyes makes a difference between the two beings that is wider than all the seas. I want my children’s brains to be full of the best thoughts that great minds have had in all centuries; I want stored away in your little heads the story of what the world was doing before you came--who were its poets, its painters and philosophers, its inventors and law-givers. I want you to know what is in its noblest books, and what its men of science say about their study of the earth, the ocean, and the stars. I want you taught to be careful, and exact by your knowledge of figures; and, most of all, I want you to learn how to speak and write your own noble English tongue, for without the power of expression you are like an aeolian harp when there is no breeze.”

God’s overflowing gift

When the ice breaks up in Russia, the Czar goes in state to drink of the river Neva, and having drunk, it was long the custom for the Czar to return the cup to his attendants full of gold; but year by year it became so much larger that at length a stipulated sum was paid instead of the old penalty. But, however large the vessel we bring to God, and however much it increases in capacity with the discipline of years, God will make it to overflow with that peace and faith and love and joy which is better than much fine gold. (Sunday Companion.)


Verse 13-14

2 Chronicles 1:13-14

And Solomon gathered chariots.

Solomon’s wealth

I. Wealth derived from trading speculations.

II. Wealth acquired in opposition to God’s commands (Deuteronomy 17:16-17). He must trust in the Lord God, not in chariots and horses (Psalms 20:7).

III. Wealth therefore risky in its possesion. Prosperity of Solomon his great misfortune. The smallest departure from rectitude may lead to grievous errors and fearful miseries. (J. Wolfendale.)


Verse 16

2 Chronicles 1:16

The King’s merchants received the linen yarn at a price.

The king’s merchants

I. The advantages of commerce. In softening manners and breaking down prejudices, in helping industry, promoting peace, and stimulating into Nature’s resources.

II. The blessings of the nation whose sovereign takes an interest in commerce (J. Wolfendale.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Chronicles 1:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/2-chronicles-1.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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