Solomon’s Wise Request
“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (v. 9).- 1 Kings 3:1–15
Wisdom is an important theme that is developed throughout Scripture, and it also represents a genre of literature found in the Old Testament, especially in the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. There is no better place to begin an examination of this idea than with the man named as the wisest king of the old covenant — Solomon.
Today’s passage records that well-known occasion on which Solomon asked the Lord for special wisdom to rule his kingdom. On the whole, 1 Kings 3 casts Solomon in a very positive light, although verses 1–3 contain some ominous signs for the future of Solomon’s kingdom. We read of how he made an alliance with the king of Egypt by marrying his daughter, which goes against the warning in Deuteronomy 17:16 that the Israelites not return to Egypt. Eventually, Solomon married hundreds of other foreign wives, and their pagan ways led him astray from the one, true God (1 Kings 11:1–8). This teaches us that any wisdom we receive from the Lord does us no good if we do not continue in it.
Solomon’s heart was divided in its loyalty toward God early in his reign as evidenced in his marriage to the Egyptian princess, but he still knew that he would not have a successful reign over Israel without special wisdom from on high. When the Lord gave him the opportunity to ask for whatever he wanted (1 Kings 3:4–5), Solomon could have asked selfishly for his own riches or fame but instead he humbled himself and selflessly asked for wisdom by which he could discern good from evil (vv. 6–8). As some commentators have noted, Solomon recognized that having the Law would not be enough to create the righteous kingdom God desired; rather, he needed the Lord to do a special work in his heart for this kingdom to come about. Pleased with Solomon, God gave him not only that for which he asked but also riches and many other blessings besides (vv. 9–15).
The whole incident is reminiscent of Matthew 6:33 wherein we are told to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and thus all of what we need will be added unto us. If we ask the Father for wisdom, that is, Christ Himself (1 Cor. 1:24), we seek the kingdom and can be assured of His loving care.
Solomon’s life illustrates the need to persevere in the wisdom of God. Of course, all those who have truly put their faith in His promises through Christ will not die bereft of this wisdom and thus, salvation; but the way in which we are assured that we have faith is to persevere in seeking His wisdom. Seek God’s wisdom in His Word both preached and read, and you will certainly find it.
Passages for Further Study
1 Kings 4