1 Kings 3
How Solomon got so smart
Solomon’s worship habits1Solomon made Egypt into an ally by marrying the pharaoh’s daughter. Solomon moved his bride into Jerusalem during a time of heavy construction. Builders were finishing work on the king’s house, the LORD’s house, and the walls around this extension to Jerusalem.  2At the time, people were offering sacrifices at sacred locations on hilltops. The people didn’t have a temple. 
3Solomon loved the LORD, and he followed his father’s advice about obeying God’s laws. But like many others at the time, he sacrificed at hilltop shrines.  4His favorite place to worship was at Gibeon.  He would sacrifice a thousand burnt offerings at a time.
Solomon’s chat with God in a vivid dream5Solomon was sleeping at Gibeon when the LORD appeared to him in a vivid dream. God said, “What would you like me to give you?”
6Solomon said, “You loved my father, David. He served you faithfully and followed the path you told him to take. In return, you showed him remarkable devotion. And you’re still doing it because you’ve made a king out of his son. That’s why I sit on Israel’s throne today.
7LORD, I’m just a young man. I’m a child to some, God. But you made me king. You put me here to take the place of my father, David. I don’t know what I’m doing. 8I’m here in the middle of this great nation you chose over the other nations. There are so many people of Israel now that no one could count us.
9What I need most of all is savvy—the wisdom it’ll take to lead this great nation. I especially need to be able to recognize the difference between right and wrong. LORD, who on earth could handle the job of governing all these people?”
Solomon’s happy God10Solomon’s request made the LORD smile.
11God said, “You didn’t ask for a long life or wealth. And thank you for not asking me to kill your enemies. Instead, you asked for the wisdom to know the difference between right and wrong.  12Well, I’m giving it to you now—wisdom in a bigger dose than I’ve given anyone before you or after.
13But there’s more. I’m giving you what you could have asked for but didn’t. You’re going to be richer and more respected than any other king around. 14And I’ll add time to your life if you follow the path I’ve given you by obeying my laws, just as your father David did.”
15Solomon woke, realizing the conversation had been a dream. He went back to Jerusalem and stood before the sacred box that held the Ten Commandments  of the LORD. Solomon sacrificed more burnt offerings and added peace offerings of gratitude. With some of the meat from the peace offerings, he hosted a meal for officers and other leaders—a wonderful banquet.
Baby who? Solomon’s split decision16Sometime later, Solomon found himself judging an important disagreement between two prostitutes.
17One woman said, “Please listen, my king. This woman and I live in the same house. I recently gave birth there in the house. 18Three days later, she gave birth. We are the only two living there. 19During the night, this woman rolled onto her baby boy, and it killed him. 20She got up in the wee hours, when I was still sleeping, and she switched our babies. She put her dead son by my breast. And she put my baby boy beside her breast. 21I woke to that, intending to nurse my baby, and seeing the child was dead. But when I looked closely at him later, I realized this wasn’t my child.”
22The second woman argued with her. “It’s not true. This live boy is mine. The dead one is yours.” But the first woman said, “No. The live boy is mine. The dead one is yours.” They stood there in front of the king, arguing with each other.
23The king said, “Okay, I get it. One woman says, 'The live son is mine and the dead son is yours.' And the other says, 'No. The live son is mine and the dead son is yours.'” 24King Solomon turned to a servant and said, “Bring me a sword.” And someone gave him a sword.
25He said, “Let’s cut the baby in two. We’ll give half to each one.” 
26The baby’s true mother immediately reacted with overwhelming emotion. “Please, sir, don’t kill the boy! Give him to her.” The other woman said, “Split the baby. That way, neither of us has one.”
27The king said, “Don’t kill the baby. Give him to that first woman. She’s the mother.”
28People spread that story all over Israel. Everyone was astonished at the way the king figured out who was right and who was wrong. They decided wisdom that rich must have come from God.
Solomon more than doubled the size of Jerusalem when he added the Temple complex, his palace, and other adjacent buildings as a northern extension to the City of David. David’s Jerusalem was built on just the lower part of the ridge above the Kidron Valley. Solomon pushed the boundary of the city higher on the ridge. David’s Jerusalem was about 6 hectares, which translates into about 15 acres. That’s about a dozen football fields with end zones. Solomon’s Jerusalem was about 13 hectares, or 32 acres, more than two dozen football fields.
So what? They apparently had a tent worship center, perhaps much like Moses and the Israelites had, with a portable altar where priests offered the people’s sacrifices. It’s where Solomon went to offer sacrifices after his vivid dream.
Bible writers weren’t usually tolerant of countryside shrines. This is often where people worshiped other gods. God ordered his people to get rid of them: “Destroy all the shrines and worship centers devoted to other gods. You’ll find them scattered throughout the Canaanite nations: on mountains, hills, and under towering shade trees” (Deuteronomy 12:2). Instead, many Israelites adopted the practice. It was more convenient to worship at the neighborhood shrine, than to travel days and nights to Jerusalem. Some seemed to worship God at the open-air shrines. Others worshiped other gods. Some apparently worshiped both—God and gods.
Gibeon has been identified with a dirt mount of ruins called Tel el-Jib less than a day’s walk west of Jericho. For one reason, archaeologists found jar handles stamped “Gibeon.” The city was on hills overlooking the Jordan River Valley, about 16 miles (25 km) away. Gibeon was one kilometer higher (over half a mile) than the Jericho plains. Gibeon elevation: 2,425 feet, 739 meters. Elevation of Jericho: -846 feet, -258 meters. Gibeon’s ruins are now on the northern outskirts of today’s Jerusalem. But in Solomon’s time, it was about seven miles north, roughly a two-hour walk. The headline about this city came from centuries before Solomon. Gibeon citizens survived the Israelite invasion by tricking Joshua into a peace treaty (Joshua 9). They said they lived in a faraway land. We could call it the Land of Fibbers, not too far away.
Many scholars say the numbers are an exaggeration, perhaps to emphasize Solomon’s love for God. A burnt offering was the most common animal sacrifice. Worshipers burned the entire animal. See Leviticus 1.
These dreams were sometimes known more literally as “visions of the night” (Zechariah 1:8; Job 33:4). But in daylight, they were often described as a trance (Acts 10:10).
Does anyone see the irony in Solomon’s request for what seems to have started humanity’s problem, according to Genesis? The talking garden snake told Eve if she ate the forbidden fruit, “You’ll be smart enough to know right from wrong” (Genesis 3:5). A few verses later, after Adam and Eve sampled the forbidden fruit, God confirms, “Humans know right from wrong, just as we do. We need to make sure they don’t eat fruit from the tree of life. If they do, they will live forever” (3:22).
Also known as the Ark of the Covenant, Israel’s most sacred object. It was a wooden chest covered in gold. It held the stone tablets with the 10 laws written in some fashion. The Hebrew language didn’t seem to exist in the time of Moses.
A peace offering, described in Leviticus 3, is one of several prescribed offerings in Jewish tradition. When Jewish people wanted to give thanks to God for something, such as good health or safety, they would sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow, or bull. They would burn part of the animal, including the kidneys and fat covering the intestines. They would eat the rest in celebration, often with family and friends. It takes a fair number of hungry people to eat a cow. But people were eager to eat meat because it was rare in Bible times for common folks to eat meat, many Bible scholars say.
Heads or tails? We’re left to wonder if Solomon really would have split the baby, or if he knew enough about mothers to realize that no mentally stable mother would agree to the killing of her child.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.