For the Love of God, Volume 1/October 1
From Gospel Translations
1 Kings 3; Ephesians 1; Ezekiel 34; Psalms 83—84
CHRISTIANS SOMETIMES ASK WHY, if Solomon was so wise, he married many wives, ended his reign rather badly, and eventually compromised his loyalty to God.
The answer partly lies in the difference between what we mean by wisdom and the various things the Bible means by wisdom.We usually mean something pretty generic, like “knowing how to live well and make wise choices.” But whereas wisdom in the Bible can refer to something broad—such as knowing how to live in the fear of God—very often it refers to a particular skill. This may be the skill of knowing how to survive in a dangerous world (Prov. 30:24), or some technical know-how (Ex. 28:3). But one of the skills to which wisdom can refer is the skill of administration, not least the administration of justice. And transparently, that is what Solomon asks for in 1 Kings 3.
When he responds to God’s gracious offer to give him anything he asks for, Solomon acknowledges that he is only a little child and does not know how to carry out his duties (3:7). What he wants therefore is a discerning heart to govern the people well, not least in distinguishing between right and wrong (3:9). God praises Solomon because he has not asked for something for himself, nor even something vindictive (such as the death of his enemies), but “for discernment in administering justice” (3:11). God promises to give Solomon exactly what he asked for, along with riches and honor (3:12-13). The account of the two prostitutes each claiming the same live baby and denying that the dead one is hers, and Solomon’s resolution of their case (3:16-27), proves that God answered the king’s request. The entire nation perceives that Solomon has “wisdom from God to administer justice” (3:28). Certainly most Western nations today could do with a few more people similarly endowed.
As much as God praises him for his choice, this does not mean that such wisdom is all that Solomon needs to walk in fidelity to the covenant. Indeed, quite apart from the wisdom, wealth, and honor that he will bestow, God tells him that “if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life” (3:14). But already clouds threaten: to secure his southern border, Solomon marries an Egyptian princess (3:1). Because they are popular, he does not abolish the proscribed “high places,” but participates in worship there (3:2-4).
God sometimes bestows wonderful gifts of wisdom—technical, social, administrative, and judicial skills—but unless we also receive from him a heart attuned to loving him truly and obeying him wholly, our paths may end disastrously.