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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Kings 3

 

 

Verse 1

SOLOMON’S AFFINITY WITH EGYPT, 1 Kings 3:1.

1. Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh — This seems to have been his first act of foreign policy, and was, perhaps, designed to counteract the influence of Hadad the Edomite, who had fled to Egypt during David’s reign, and was now securely housed in the royal family. See 1 Kings 11:14-22. Every thing in the history of Hadad naturally conspired to make him a settled enemy of the kingdom of Israel; and, perhaps, at a later period, he had a hand with Jeroboam in planning the revolt of the ten tribes of Israel. Solomon, doubtless, expected to strengthen his kingdom by this affinity with Egypt, and to prevent invasion from that quarter. It was the first intercourse between these nations since the time of the Exodus, and the first of those foreign alliances which brought the Israelites into disastrous intimacy with the heathen powers. Its immediate effect was probably favourable to Solomon by increasing his fame and comparative importance among the nations, and adding to his dominions, (1 Kings 9:16,) but it resulted in a commerce forbidden by the law, (1 Kings 10:26-29,) and thus involved the Israelitish kingdom in numerous evils. The Pharaoh here named is by Winer and Ewald identified with Psousennes, the last king (in Manetho’s table) of the twenty-first dynasty; called also the Tanite dynasty from the city Tanis, the scriptural Zoan, which was then the place of the royal residence.

Took Pharaoh’s daughter — According to the letter of the law only marriage with the Canaanitish tribes was forbidden, (Exodus 34:16,) and intermarriage with nations outside of Canaan was not only not prohibited but tolerated in the examples, never rebuked, of Joseph’s marriage with the daughter of an Egyptian priest, (Genesis 41:45;) of Moses’s marriage with a daughter of Midian, (Exodus 2:21,) and that of Boaz and Ruth. But though the law did not forbid these marriages, they were not in harmony with its spirit; and it was by foreign marriages that Solomon’s heart was seduced from the worship of Jehovah. See note on 1 Kings 11:1.

The city of David — This was built upon Mount Zion, the Jebusite stronghold, and has been identified for centuries with the southwestern hill of the modern city — “the upper city” of Josephus. See notes on 2 Samuel 5:6-7, and compare Josephus, Wars, 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Kings 5:1. But recently this locality of Zion has been called in question. Thrupp, Fergusson, and Rawlinson identify Zion with Moriah, and so locate “the city of David” on the eastern, or temple, mountain. The chief reasons for this identification are:

1.) That in many passages Zion is distinguished from Jerusalem. For example, 2 Kings 19:31; Psalms 51:18; Joel 3:16; Zechariah 1:17. These passages, however, are all poetic parallelisms, and Zion may be distinguished from the rest of the city as being its most conspicuous feature.

2.) The passages which speak of Zion as the “holy hill,” or chosen seat of Jehovah, are thought applicable only to the temple mountain: (Psalms 2:6; Psalms 132:13; Isaiah 60:14; Jeremiah 31:6; Joel 3:17; Joel 3:21; Zechariah 8:3 :) but on whichever mountain “the city of David’’ was built, it was consecrated by the ark of God before the temple was erected, and so would ever be celebrated as “chosen” and “holy.” Afterwards the ark was transferred from the city of David to the temple. Compare 2 Samuel 6:16; 1 Kings 8:1.

3.) Some passages in 1 Maccabees (1 Maccabees 4:37; 1 Maccabees 4:60; 1 Maccabees 7:33) seem to identify Zion with the temple mount, as, “they went up to Mount Zion and saw the sanctuary desolate, and the altar profaned.” But all this may have been seen from the modern Zion, as one looked across the valley; and Zion may also be used in the wider sense of Jerusalem.

4.) Finally, Psalms 48:2 is thought to be decisive against the modern Zion, which is the most southern extremity of the city. But it may well be asked, in reply, what more beauty of situation or elevation has Moriah than the modern Zion “on the sides of the north?” The passage is very properly rendered by Gesenius thus: “Beautiful in its elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion; (the joy) of the remotest north is the city of the Great King.” But if we retain the rendering “sides of the north,” we may either understand the reference to its appearance as being immediately north of the border of Judah, (Joshua 15:8,) or, as Alexander suggests, “As it rose upon the view of the army returning from the south.” From whatever quarter viewed, the modern Zion is more noticeable for its elevation than Moriah. Until more conclusive evidences are adduced to overthrow the ancient tradition, we therefore prefer to locate the city of David on the southwestern hill, “the upper city,” which, elevated so conspicuously above the neighbouring heights, would be most naturally fixed upon by the Jebusites as their stronghold, or castle. Subsequently Solomon removed his Egyptian wife “out of the city of David” to his own palace, (1 Kings 9:24; 2 Chronicles 8:11,) which seems to have been built upon the southern slope of Moriah. See note at the beginning of chap. 7.

Until… his own house — He had no appropriate palace of his own as yet, and he esteemed the palace of David, where the ark had been brought, too holy for the residence of a foreign princess. See 2 Chronicles 8:11. Whence it appears that Pharaoh’s daughter must have dwelt for many years, not in the royal house, as Thenius thinks, but in some private residence upon Mount Zion, somewhat apart from the more sacred places.

House of the Lord — The temple.

The wall of Jerusalem — This, though strongly fortified by David, (2 Samuel 5:9,) was greatly enlarged and strengthened by Solomon. See 1 Kings 9:15; 1 Kings 11:27.


Verse 2

STATE OF RELIGION AT THE BEGINNING OF SOLOMON’S REIGN, 1 Kings 3:2-3.

2. Only — A particle apparently having reference to the last sentence of 1 Kings 2:46. The unsettled state of Divine worship was now the only thing that seemed to show that the kingdom was not as thoroughly established as it might be.

The people sacrificed in high places — A practice more or less prevalent in Israel from the time of the Judges. See note on 1 Samuel 9:12. It brought the Divine service of Israel into a resemblance of the idolatrous practices of the heathen, who always erected their altars on the tops of hills or mountains, presuming they were nearer Deity and heaven. This sacrificing in high places was not idolatry; they worshipped Jehovah, the true God, on elevated spots, and therefore by the high places so frequently mentioned in the following history we must not understand idolatrous shrines. But even this worship of Jehovah, in such places, was fraught with danger on account of its resemblance to heathen customs. There was danger to Israel that this sacrificing on high places might degenerate into heathenish idolatry; and so the kingdom itself was unsafe as long as this state of things continued, for pure religion and appropriate worship of the true God are indispensable supports of a righteous and permanent government.

Because there was no house built — Herein was the reason and excuse for the unsettled state of Divine worship, both at that time and previously. See note on 1 Samuel 9:12.


Verse 3

3. Solomon loved the Lord — This further shows that the sacrificing in high places was not the result of alienation from Jehovah.

Statutes of David — Customs, usages, and laws of religious conduct practiced by David. But it does not appear that David ever sacrificed or burnt incense in high places. The contrary is implied in this verse; and it is more than intimated that though this worship was tolerated because not offered to false gods, and because there was no house yet built to Jehovah, still both Solomon and his people were censurable for allowing it such great extent and prominence, and thereby paving the way for future idolatry in Israel. It would have been safer and better to have sacrificed only before the ark of the covenant, as Solomon did after his return from Gibeon, (1 Kings 3:15;) or else only at Gibeon, where the tabernacle was. 1 Chronicles 16:39.


Verse 4

SOLOMON’S WISE CHOICE, 1 Kings 3:4-15.

4. Gibeon — The modern el-Jib, a few miles northwest of Jerusalem. See note on Joshua 9:3.

That was the great high place — The most distinguished and sacred of all the heights on which the people were wont to sacrifice, for there were the tabernacle and the brazen altar. 2 Chronicles 1:3; 2 Chronicles 1:5.

A thousand burnt offerings — This great number corresponded with the thousands of the congregation that went with Solomon to the high place, (see 1 Chronicles 1:2-3,) and also denoted the national significance of the occasion. So at the dedication of the temple Solomon offered twenty-two thousand oxen, and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep, or, as elsewhere expressed, “Sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude.” See 1 Kings 8:5; 1 Kings 8:63. We are not to suppose that all these offerings were made at the same instant or by one person; still less that Solomon offered them with his own hands. Scores of priests officiated on such occasions, and the sacred festival lasted many days.


Verse 5

5. In a dream by night — This was one mode of Divine revelation. See marginal reference. In such cases the soul was raised to a state of Divine ecstacy and illumination, and held conscious intercourse with God or angels; but when the natural, waking consciousness returned, the person knew it was a dream. See 1 Kings 3:15.


Verse 7

7. I am but a little child — His exact age at this time is not known, but he was evidently still a youth, probably not more than twenty years of age. David, in his old age, spoke of him as “young and tender.” 1 Chronicles 29:1. Solomon, with graceful modesty and humility, feels and acknowledges his youth and inexperience.

To go out or come in — An idiomatic expression denoting the whole official conduct of a ruler before his people. Compare Numbers 27:17.


Verse 8

8. That cannot be numbered — An acknowledged fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham. Genesis 13:16. Solomon feels that he has been made king of the covenant people.


Verse 9

9. An understanding heart — Noble choice! “It was the choice offered to the youthful king on the threshold of life, the choice so often imagined in fiction, and here actually presented in real life. The answer is the ideal answer of such a prince, burdened with the responsibility of his position.

He made the demand for the gift which he, of all the heroes of the ancient Church, was the first to claim. He showed his wisdom by asking for wisdom. He became wise because he had set his heart upon it. This was to him the special aspect through which the Divine Spirit was to be approached, and grasped, and made to bear on the wants of men; not the highest, not the choice of David, not the choice of Isaiah; but still the choice of Solomon.” — Stanley.

To judge thy people — The Oriental mind always associates the functions of the judge with the monarch, as he is expected to hear and decide important cases. See note on 1 Kings 3:16.


Verse 11

11. Understanding to discern judgment — Literally, to know to hear judgment; that is, ability to understand how to hear suits or causes, and dispense justice.


Verse 12

12. Lo, I have given thee — It is the Father’s good pleasure to give wisdom to them that seek for it. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5.

None like thee — Solomon’s wisdom was, to a certain extent, a supernatural gift, a signal dispensation of Divine favour, which must not be classed with natural acquirements which are ordinarily obtained by dint of mental application alone. But while this much appears upon the face of the history before us, we must not suppose that all his knowledge was so special and supernatural an endowment as that he received it without any effort on his part. He doubtless studied and toiled like other men for his acquirements, but he was divinely and supernaturally assisted in a manner and to an extent which no other man ever enjoyed. We shall see further in 1 Kings 4:29-34, that Solomon’s wisdom comprehended natural science, political sagacity, and a deep insight into spiritual truths.


Verse 13

13. Also… both riches, and honour — How true to the principle of the Divine government enunciated by Christ, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33.


Verse 14

14. If thou wilt walk in my ways — So the Divine promises were largely conditional.

Then I will lengthen thy days — But this wise king, whose reign began so auspiciously, failed to meet the conditions of long-continued prosperity. “No character in the sacred writings,” says Dr. Clarke, “disappoints us more than the character of Solomon.”


Verse 15

15. Behold, it was a dream — Nevertheless it was a real Divine communication, given by inspiration of God. See note on 1 Kings 3:5.

Came to Jerusalem — The tabernacle was at Gibeon, the ark at Jerusalem, and Solomon’s going from the former to the latter place with sacrificial offerings was a most significant act, opening a new epoch in the history of Israelitish worship. It was, probably, the last public service of the kind at Gibeon, and so, in effect, was a public transfer of sacrificial worship from the wandering, unsettled tabernacle, to that divinely chosen spot where alone henceforth Jehovah would be pleased to accept the more public offerings and vows of Israel. See Deuteronomy 12:5. It also symbolized that coming hour when, under the “greater than Solomon,” all separation of tabernacle and ark would be forever past, and the true worshippers would advance from a cultus that made locality a test, to find their great altar in the inner temple of the spirit, and to worship the Father in spirit and in truth. John 4:21-24.


Verse 16

SOLOMON’S JUDICIAL SAGACITY, 1 Kings 3:16-28.

16. Then came there two women — This seems to have been the first judicial decision of the new king, and it established in all Israel (1 Kings 3:28) his reputation as a wise ruler and judge. It is added here, immediately after the history of his journey to Gibeon, as an illustration of the wisdom which he asked and received from God. “A monarch’s sagacity in the administration of justice,” says Kitto, “was calculated to make the most marked impression upon the popular mind, and likely to be most generally talked about through the land. This quality also came more home to the personal concerns of his subjects than any other, and was for that reason alone the more carefully regarded. The administration of justice was in all ancient monarchies, as it is now in the East, a most important part of the royal duties and functions; and there is no quality more highly prized than that keen discernment in the royal judge which detects the clew of real evidence amidst conflicting testimony, or that ready tact which devises a test of truth, where the evidence affords not even the clew to any grounds of decision.” And so this incident throws light upon the manners of those times. Even harlots, (for true criticism will not allow the Chaldee rendering of the word זנות by innkeepers,) persons of abandoned character, were permitted to appear in the royal presence and plead their own causes.


Verse 21

21. When I had considered it in the morning — Here is a graphic word-picture. The true mother, with all the alarm and earnestness of a smitten heart, looks at the dead child again and again, and turns it over, scrutinizing every feature, and lo, it is not hers!


Verse 26

26. Let it be neither mine nor thine — Wordsworth compares this language of the false mother to the demands of schism in the Church of Christ, and calls it “the popular language of sects and sectaries, who say, Let various forms of religion be equally encouraged and patronized; there are numerous different ways all leading to heaven, and every man is free to choose which he likes best for himself, without any regard to the authority and judgment of Christ speaking in his Church. But the true mother shuns division and loves unity.” There may be some force in such comparison, if it is aimed against that wicked kind of schism which delights to make discord and dispute among the true disciples of Christ; but when aimed against the various evangelical denominations into which Protestant Christendom is divided, the comparison becomes ludicrous, and the comment above quoted may be turned upon its author and the Church party he represents with biting force. “High Churchism,” whether in Rome, England, or America, has been, in her legitimate results, the most schismatic of all “sects.” “Her zeal for unity,” which the above-named writer regards as “the evidence of her marriage and of her motherhood,” has never scrupled, when she had the power, to use the fagot and the sword in accomplishing her objects. So she has followed the fleshly methods of the child of that Sinai “which gendereth to bondage,” (Galatians 4:24, compare 29.) Not organic unity, but the unity of spiritual freedom, is the mark of that “Jerusalem which is the mother of us all.” Contemptible is that narrowness which sees in the unity of Romish ecclesiasticism a something better than the unity of spirit and of life which is the glory of evangelical Protestantism. The true mother in this narrative showed at least the spirit of concession and yielding to her rival; but when did ever the narrow ecclesiasticism of papacy or semi-papacy yield even the most trivial point to a rival “sect” in order to secure organic unity, or when did she ever say to her rival, in the spirit of the true mother, “Give her the living child?”


Verse 28

28. The wisdom of God was in him — That is, wisdom given by God. The people perceived that their king was divinely gifted to execute justice. His manner of procedure was very foreign from our forms of justice, but it was truly Oriental, and showed the Divine gift of detecting and exposing the guilty, and defending the innocent, which is the great end of all true litigation.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-kings-3.html. 1874-1909.

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