1 Kings 3: Wisdom and folly

1(A) Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into(B) the city of David until he had finished(C) building his own house(D) and the house of the LORD(E) and the wall around Jerusalem. 2(F) The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD.

There has been ample speculation regarding Solomon’s relationship with Pharoah’s daughter, many of which has been negative (due namely to the commandment in Exodus 34; Deuteronomy 7:3-4; however, Egypt is not specifically mentioned – rather, the crux of such prevention of inter-marriage is to ensure that these foreign people do not bring with them foreign gods to ensnare the Israelites).  Yet, note that Solomon’s kingdom is a type of the new creation kingdom, and littered throughout Solomon’s reign is a shadow of the inclusion of the Gentiles which has already been happening prior to Solomon’s reign (Rahab in Joshua 2:1-3, 6:17-25; Barzillai, blessed by David in 1 Kings 2 and hails from the tribe of Gileadites from the mixed race of the sons of Manasseh – Numbers 26:29; and the blessing of Japheth, the father of Gentiles, in Genesis 9:27) and truly fulfilled on the Pentecost after Christ’s ascension (Acts 2).

What is the focus of this portion of the chapter however is not his marriage alliance with Pharoah though indeed we should not ignore the significance of this being one of his first actions as king, especially marked after his receipt of the Spirit’s wisdom in this chapter.  Rather, it is that the people were sacrificing at the high places (v.2), just as Solomon had done so (v.3-4), but not because the people necessarily consciously sinned against the LORD.  Rather, the reason is given in v.2 – it is “because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD”.  Note that Solomon is emphasized as loving the LORD and walking in his father’s statutes (even in his marriage alliance with Pharoah) – but the emphasis is placed on the fact that he is offering at high places, the Hebrew indicating that this is not a good thing (“however” in v.2, and “only” in v.3).

How are we then to reconcile the fact that there is the tent of God, the tabernacle for just offerings; but there being no “house of the LORD”?  This tension may be resolved by understanding that this chapter lays down the blueprint and background behind Solomon’s building of the temple, compared to David’s building of the temple (2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 28).  The focus therefore is not simply an issue of whether these men are sinning or not when they sacrifice in “unauthorized” places like Gibeon (for the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night at Gibeon – v.5; and furthermore reconciled with 2 Chronicles 1:3 where the tent of meeting was actually there at Gibeon as well, though the ark is in Jerusalem – 2 Chronicles 1:4), but the symbolism behind how these Christians who offered burnt offerings to God at different places were united because the house of the LORD was finally built by an anointed son of David.

If sin is not the central thrust of the discussion here, then the inclusion of the marriage alliance with Pharoah falls neatly into place – for we are then speaking of the shadow of the Israelite-Gentile church, scattered around the globe, providing their various burnt offerings but still having no place that they can call home (1 John 2:15).  Yet, such a great task of building the house of the LORD cannot be easily met by mere intelligence or human wisdom – even the less impressive and mobile tabernacle had to be built by architects filled with the Spirit (Exodus 28:3, 31:3, 35:21, 35:31).  Consider therefore Solomon’s concern in relation to how he is to lead the nation as a king, and how to subsequently build this house (1 Kings 5):

5(J) At Gibeon(K) the LORD appeared to Solomon(L) in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because(M) he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and(N) have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7And now, O LORD my God,(O) you have made your servant king in place of David my father,(P) although I am but a little child. I do not know(Q) how to go out or come in. 8(R) And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people,(S) too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9(T) Give your servant therefore an understanding mind(U) to govern your people, that I may(V) discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

10It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12behold,(W) I now do according to your word. Behold,(X) I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13(Y) I give you also what you have not asked,(Z) both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments,(AA) as your father David walked, then(AB) I will lengthen your days.”

Note Solomon’s wise request – he had asked the LORD for an understanding mind to govern His people, to discern between good and evil, for who (but the LORD) is able to govern His great people (v.9)?  What a reverent way to address the LORD, compared to the very arrogance of Adam and Eve in attempting to discern good and evil (Genesis 3:5, 3:22), for themselves (Genesis 3:5 – “you” will be like God) rather than for creation (Genesis 1:26 – dominion over the fish of the sea, birds of the heavens, livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth… for we are made in God’s image – v.27; thus, it is God’s primary role as head of such dominion, which man has but inherited from God as a gift) and His people.

However, v.14 is again a condition which only Christ could fulfill perfectly.  For 2 Samuel primarily marks not the triumph of David, but rather David’s reliance on the LORD who triumphs on His behalf, the Angel who stayed His hand upon David’s offering at Jebus (2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21; 2 Chronicles 3:1).  Yet, this is already counted as “walking in [the LORD’s] ways, keeping [His] statutes and [His] commandments” (v.14), despite David’s grave sins of murder and adultery (2 Samuel 11-12, adultery with Bathsheba; murder of Uriah). Thus, the condition is merely that Solomon, like David, must proclaim the LORD as his LORD, despite Solomon’s shortcomings as a man born in the sin of Adam but clinging onto the hope of the Anointed Offspring of Adam (Genesis 3:15) and David (2 Samuel 7).  Where Solomon fulfilled v.14, his son Rehoboam failed miserably for he sinned defiantly and did not return to the LORD for true propitiation like David had (1 Kings 12; 1 Kings 15:6 – there was war all the days of Rehoboam’s life, very different from the peace and safety accorded under Solomon’s reign), finally leading to the rejection of Israel in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity (2 Chronicles 30-33).

15And Solomon(AC) awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

Observe how Solomon, after the dream (Genesis 31, 37; Joel 2:28; Matthew 1:20 – often associated with the beginning of one’s ministry, similar to that of a “vision of the night” – Job 33:15), has not turned to worshipping at Gibeon, but immediately travels to Jerusalem before the ark (v.15).  This is his first step in consolidating the Christians in Israel back to the house of the LORD, just as our Christ is now preparing a house for us (book of Ezekiel / John 14:2 / Revelation 21:2), that we should set our sights on the house of the LORD in new creation.  Furthermore, this is a restoration of the centrality of the ark of the covenant, which has been long neglected during Saul’s reign (1 Chronicles 13:3), retrieved by David, Zadok and Abiathar (2 Samuel 15:29), and now no longer shunned to the side and given its full significance as it had been during the time of Moses.  Therefore, to this day, we will look to the day when we worship the LORD before the ark of the covenant in new creation (Revelation 11:19).

16Then two prostitutes came to the king(AD) and stood before him. 17The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. 18Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. 19And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. 21When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.” 22But the other woman said, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.” Thus they spoke before the king.

What a sick scenario, that we see two prostitutes fight over their rightful son.  Here, we see a shadow of the Satan working through the prostitute with the dead son, for Satan’s “offspring” (John 8:44; 1 John 2:22) are but subject to the death caused by Satan himself (v.19; c.f. Genesis 3).

23Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.'” 24And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. 25And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” 26Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because(AE) her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” 27Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” 28And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that(AF) the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.

However, look at the wisdom of Solomon – rather than subject himself to the wisdom which he had before his reign, he now rules more definitively by gift of more Wisdom from God to discern between good and evil.  Thus, the first two actions after receiving such a gift is the immediate worship at the tabernacle; followed by discernment of the wheat from the chaff, the Satan masquerading as an angel of light and pretending to be the rightful mother of this babe.  For Solomon’s kingdom shall not be ruled merely by the sword, but by Wisdom (Proverbs 8).  This first judgment by Wisdom is but a microcosm of what every king has failed or succeeded in doing – the discernment of good and evil for God’s people rather than the king’s people (v.9).  Note the loving mother who yearned for her child in v.26 compared to the Satanic prostitute who would rather the child be divided – at first they are presented as identical, but very swiftly the darkness is exposed and that such is the spiritual perception of God’s wisdom  (v.28), to not only differentiate good from evil but to also exalt the woman who is a prostitute to glory as a mother who yearns for her child; to not only exalt the prostitute-church who has cared for her offspring, but also expose the murderous woman of Babylon for quenching the child of the church (Revelation 17).

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1 Kings 3: Wisdom and folly

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