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Solomon Requests Wisdom (1 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 1:1-13) December 25

The Egyptian pharaoh gives his daughter in marriage to Solomon, cementing an alliance between Egypt and Israel. "In the ancient Middle East, political alliances were often ratified by the marriage of the son of one king to the daughter of another" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 1 Kings 3:1). Yet this case is remarkable in two respects. First: "Except in unusual circumstances, the pharaohs of Egypt did not observe this custom (but see 1 Chr. 4:17, 18). Therefore, the giving of Pharaoh's daughter to Solomon attested to the Israelite king's growing prestige and importance to the Egyptian king" (same note). Second: The pharaoh is the one giving his daughter to a foreign ruler along with a dowry, making Solomon appear to be the senior partner in the alliance. It is perhaps even likely that the pharaoh is the one who first proposed the alliance and marriage, rather than it being something Solomon sought. In any case, as part of the dowry, the pharaoh gives Solomon a captured, albeit destroyed, city of the Canaanites located near the Philistine border, which Solomon rebuilds as a fortress city (1 Kings 9:15-17). Solomon provides well for Pharaoh's daughter, building a special house for her patterned after his own (3:1; 7:8; 9:24).

Consider what this development means as far as Solomon's power and prestige is concerned. The image of Israel as an insignificant nation in the time of David and Solomon is simply incorrect. David was already allied with King Hiram of Tyre, the ruler of the Phoenician Empire, which dominated ancient maritime commerce (2 Samuel 5:11-12). This close alliance continues under Solomon (1 Kings 5:1). Assyria remains weak and subdued at this time, David apparently even achieving dominance over the powers of Mesopotamia (see highlights on 1 Chronicles 19 and 2 Samuel 10). And now Egypt, the other great power of the ancient world, joins the Israel-Phoenician alliance—with Solomon apparently sitting as the dominant figure among the partners. This is rather astonishing. And the true greatness of Solomon's reign has not even been experienced as of this point in the story flow.

We next see the point made that the people sacrificed at high places (1 Kings 3:2). While this originally denoted hilltop shrines, it eventually became a generic term for any place of worship. Since the destruction of Shiloh and the separation of the tabernacle and the ark, and until the temple was built at Jerusalem, no single established place of worship existed. So multiple sites were employed for sacrificing and burning incense—perhaps even some formerly pagan worship places.

Indication that the current practice of the people was not acceptable is found in 1 Kings 3:3, where we are told that Solomon "loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places." Still, Solomon's overall attitude at this time was one of seeking and obeying God. (It should be noted that later righteous kings of Judah allowed such high places to remain—apparently not understanding the problem with them.)

The chief high place—that is, the main worship center—was now at Gibeon, since that is where the tabernacle and original bronze altar were currently located (1 Kings 3:2-4; 2 Chronicles 1:3-6). Clearly this was an acceptable place of worship. Solomon goes there often in his early years as king to worship God. At one such visit, God appears to him in a dream and offers to grant him whatever he wants. Solomon focuses on the immense task of governing the people, and has the humility and sense, thanks to his father David's instructions (compare 1 Chronicles 22:12; Proverbs 4:3-9), to ask for wisdom, knowledge and an understanding heart to carry out his responsibilities in governing God's people (2 Chronicles 1:10; 1 Kings 3:9).

David would have preferred Solomon's focus be on acquiring the understanding and wisdom to remain faithful in keeping God's laws (2:3; 1 Chronicles 22:12-13; 28:7, 9; 29:19). It is not enough to judge righteously. A leader must be righteous himself. Nevertheless, God is impressed with Solomon's unselfish request at this point, and not only grants him knowledge and wisdom, but also the tremendous riches and honor he could have asked for. And if he should continue in God's way, he would also be granted a long life (1 Kings 3:14).

An example of the wisdom to judge that God granted the king is shown in the case of the two prostitutes and the baby, a case still famous even among those with little biblical knowledge.

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