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1 Kings 3:1-4:34 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:58 mins 20 secs

Wisdom and Organization; 1 Kings 3:1-4:34

 

The first eleven chapters of 1 Kings deal with the reign of Solomon. The first two chapters deal with the transition from David to Solomon in fulfilment of the Davidic covenant in fulfilment of the Davidic covenant. It is fascinating to watch this and to see these implications of how God always works within this framework of legality. He reveals these legal structures and then operates within them. When we think about this in terms of so many different aspects of the Old Testament, the New Testament, what angels do as witnesses, the terms that are used for sin in terms of violation of law, transgressions, terms that are used to describe salvation—justification, imputation, etc.—all of these are forensic terms, i.e. borrowed from the courtroom. So we have this forensic framework to Scripture, which tells us something about how God has structured the universe and it ultimately goes back to His character as a God of justice and righteousness, and that he rules the universe in His sovereignty according to a perfect standard which is His own character. His character of righteousness is that absolute standard and His justice is the consistent application of that standard throughout history. So from the very inception of history, the creation which is covered in Genesis 1:26-28, modified in Genesis 3, modified again after the Noahic flood, then there is the Abrahamic covenant, the real estate covenant, and then the Davidic covenant. That is the background to show how God is fulfilling that which He has promised and prophesied, all within the structure of law which is the manifestation of His righteousness.

 

So we see that He is in the background. As we have seen in chapters one and two one of the most interesting things to note is the absence of the mention of God. Then when we come to chapter three suddenly we have God appearing in the first of four personal revelations where God reveals Himself and reveals information to Solomon. In the last verse of chapter two we read: "Thus the kingdom was established in the hands of Solomon." The one who establishes it in the hand of Solomon, as we will see in 1 Kings 3:7 in Solomon's prayer, is God as a manifestation of His sovereignty. Even though we see man making various volitional choices in chapters one and two—how to handle Adonijah's rebellion, the conspiracy—when all is said and done God is working behind the scenes.

 

Chapter three, verse one is a summary looking forward to the development of Solomon's kingdom. Then as we get into this section we recognise that he asked in prayer, so we summarise chapters 3 & 4 saying that this is where Solomon's wisdom is displayed in his administration and organization. Of course, we could restructure that and say God's gift of wisdom to Solomon is displayed in his administration and organization, trying to keep God as the ultimate subject in Old Testament narrative. The wisdom of Solomon is the theme, the key idea that organises chapters 3 & 4. The last paragraph of chapter four begins in verse 29 NASB "Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore." That summarises it. The conclusion is that God gave him wisdom. So when we read these two chapters we have to read them in light of one idea: Solomon's wisdom. The general tone is positive. The writer isn't giving a critical evaluation of these things, he is simply reporting what happened.

 

But if we read carefully there is an ominous tone which underlies the text. It goes back to Deuteronomy 17, to 1 Samuel 8, with Moses and later Samuel who warned the people that of the king becomes too powerful, if he multiplies his horses, if he marries a lot of foreign wives, that he will become a tax burden upon the state and it will weigh heavily on the people and they will resent his leadership. The hint is there. He marries a foreign wife, the daughter of Pharaoh, and the fact that he has so many horses and chariots, and he established chariot cities and fortifications around the country. All of this is good but it has an ominous overtone and we need to pay attention to it.

 

After God establishes Solomon's throne we see the initial years summarised in chapters three through four. He comes to the throne in approximately 970 BC and he dedicates the temple in 966, so this covers the first four years of his kingdom. He is young, he is focused on serving the Lord, he is very positive and there is nothing negative that is stated here.

 

1 Kings 3:3 NASB "Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places." At this point the fact that he "sacrificed and burned incense on the high places" is not really a violation of the law. The high places are what the Greeks called the acropolis, meaning the high point of the city. In the ancient world people would set the temples to the gods and goddesses on the high point.

 

Following the loss of the ark and the various migrations it is returned to Israel the ark is brought by David into Jerusalem, to Mount Moriah. But the tabernacle itself is not on Mount Moriah, it is in Gibeon. So there is this split and Gibeon becomes the place of sacrifice as well the place of sacrifice on what would be the temple mount in Jerusalem. But the people are going to various high places they have set up, they are still worshipping Yahweh, but there is no central sanctuary yet; and in Deuteronomy there is the law of the central sanctuary.

 

In the prayer where Solomon requests wisdom of God he demonstrates tremendous humility. 1 Kings 3:7 NASB "Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in." The verb is malak, which has to do with reigning, and it is in the hiphil stem which is causative, and so in English we translate it: "You have made your servant king." He recognises that God is the one working behind the scenes. [8] "Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted." That reflects on the blessing of God on Israel since they have come into the land. [9] "So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?" The Hebrew word here is shama and it means to listen, it has the idea of "give to your servant a heart to listen" to God. In the Old Testament they don't really distinguish between listening and obeying, so it becomes an idiom for obedience: Give me an obedient heart, is what he is praying. Hearing the Word means that we should apply the Word; listening to the Word implies obedience to the Word. This is a concept that runs all the way through the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, most of which was written by Solomon. It expresses humility: he wants the Lord to give him a humble heart, humility in his thinking.

 

1 Peter 5:5 NASB "You younger men, likewise, be subject to {your} elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." That is a quotation from Proverbs. Proverbs 3:34 NASB "Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted." Proverbs 11:2 NASB "When pride comes, then comes dishonour [shame], But with the humble is wisdom." Humility is the foundation for wisdom. Proverbs 16:19 NASB "It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly Than to divide the spoil with the proud." Why? Because the proud will eventually fall. Proverbs 29:23 NASB "A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor."

So the whole theme of humility runs through Solomon's prayer and God grants him much more than he requests. 1 Kings 3:11 NASB "God said to him, 'Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, [12] behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. [13] I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. [14] If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days'."

Then Solomon expresses his gratitude for what God has done. 1 Kings 3:15 NASB "Then Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and made peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants."

Then we are given two examples of Solomon's wisdom. In the first, two prostitutes come before the king because there is a dispute between them. In 1 Kings 3:15 we see a solution NASB Then the king said, "The one says, 'This is my son who is living, and your son is the dead one'; and the other says, 'No! For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.'" He recognises that the genuine mother is going to have a level of care, love and compassion for the child that the other one does not have. And any woman who would substitute a dead baby for a live baby has no love or compassion, so he is going to devise a test that goes right to the heart of the issue. [24] "The king said, 'Get me a sword.' So they brought a sword before the king. [25] The king said, 'Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.' [26] Then the woman whose child {was} the living one spoke to the king, for she was deeply stirred over her son and said, 'Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him."' But the other said, 'He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide {him!}' [27] Then the king said, 'Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother'."

And here is the point. 1 Kings 3:28 NASB "When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice." The word "fearing" is the same as for "fearing" the Lord. It is a sign of respect and awe because they recognised that this showed tremendous insight on the part of the king into human behaviour and his ability to solve the situation. They see in this that this is a sign of God's blessing and the wisdom of God is in him to administer justice. This again brings out the whole point that he is functioning as a godly king according the guidelines of the Mosaic Law and that God has established his kingdom and validated his reign.

The next example that we have is in the organization of the kingdom in chapter four, verses 1-19. It begins by giving us what we would call the kings cabinet, his Privy Council, the ten chief officers he sets up around whom he is going to establish his kingdom. These ten princes are set up in verses 2-6. That is the first level of organization that he establishes and it shows the degree of complexity in the kingdom. That is what we should be getting from this. The kingdom of David is now very large, it is complex, and it has to be organised and well run. In order to set up this organization a man needs to have skill and wisdom in leadership, so he sets up this cabinet. Underneath that he has another set of governors. He divides the land into twelve divisions or regions; these are not identical to the twelve tribes which is eventually going to cause some problems. These governors are in charge of taxes. In a growth economy, when there is building and growing and there is a tremendous amount of trade and people are becoming more and more prosperous, the taxes don't appear to be as onerous and burdensome. What happens by the end of his reign is that the taxes have continued to grow. The economy is not growing anymore and God is not blessing them because they are going into apostasy, and so the economy begins to shrink and the taxes become onerous, and this is what leads eventually to the split of the kingdom. There is a legitimacy to taxation from government but it needs to be wise and not a burden to the people which is what happens when there is a tyranny. These 12 districts are laid out in vv. 8-19, and the summation of the list is that these districts are each responsible for supporting the king's household one month out of the year.

Verse 20 begins to summarise what happens under Solomon. NASB "Judah and Israel {were} as numerous as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance; {they} were eating and drinking and rejoicing." God is prospering them and blessing them because they are oriented to Him. [21] "Now Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River {to} the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt; {they} brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life."

Then we have a description of how much it cost to run Solomon's household. Some have estimated that he had between 2000 and 2300 people just within the palace. He was developing a bloated bureaucracy, which is always a burden on any culture. 1 Kings 4:22, 23 NASB "Solomon's provision for one day was thirty kors [185 bushels] of fine flour and sixty kors [375 bushels] of meal, ten fat oxen, twenty pasture-fed oxen, a hundred sheep besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl."

1 Kings 4:24 NASB "For he had dominion over everything west of the River, from Tiphsah even to Gaza, over all the kings west of the River; and he had peace on all sides around about him." There are kings over these smaller groups but they are paying tribute to Solomon. [25] "So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon."

1 Kings 4:26 NASB "Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen." This is probably a copyist error; 2 Chronicles 9:25 indicates it was 4000. So it shows how he was building his army and this was one of the warnings in Deuteronomy against the king, that he will multiply his army, and Samuel also warned against that. 7 Those deputies provided for King Solomon and all who came to King Solomon's table, each in his month; they left nothing lacking.[28] "They also brought barley and straw for the horses and swift steeds to the place where it should be, each according to his charge."

Summation: [29] "Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. [30] Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt." There was no one like him in the ancient world ever. He was so far advanced above everybody. [31] "For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was {known} in all the surrounding nations."

1 Kings 4:32 NASB "He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005." That is not what we have in Proverbs, we are missing most of them. [33] The breadth of his knowledge. "He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that grows on the wall; he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish. [34] "Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom." This is a fabulous kingdom. This was as close to the idea that God had for Israel in the Old Testament ever: if they would follow Him, then God would bless them so magnificently that everybody on the earth would come to Israel for knowledge and they would hear the gospel and hear about God. That was God's missionary plan in the Old Testament. But they failed, and Solomon who almost reaches the pinnacle fails. His pride gets in the way and he starts to turn against God. At this stage, however, he is still positive. 

Illustrations