1 Kings 3
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And Solomon made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her into the city of David, until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem round about.
1. Pharaoh king of Egypt] This is the first notice since the Exodus of any connexion of Israel with Egypt. It is impossible to decide with certainty which Pharaoh it was whose daughter Solomon took to wife. The 22nd Egyptian dynasty commenced with Sheshonk I. (the Shishak of the Bible), about b.c. 990. This monarch did much to advance the Egyptian power, which under the previous Tanite sovereigns of the 21st dynasty had sunk very low. We shall find Shishak (1 Kings 11:40) receiving Jeroboam when he fled from Solomon. The wife of Solomon must therefore have been a daughter of a king in the previous dynasty, the kings of which would be likely to welcome an alliance with so powerful a monarch. The last of these was Psusennes 2, but as he is said by Manetho to have reigned only fourteen years, it seems more probable that the princess whom Solomon married was the daughter of Psinaces who preceded Psusennes. Pharaoh is used in the Bible as the royal title of the Egyptian kings, and not as the proper name of any single person.

This wife of Solomon probably embraced Judaism, as we find no reproach against him for this marriage, nor is any Egyptian deity mentioned among those for whom Solomon at a later time built high places (1 Kings 11:1-8) when strange women turned away his heart after other gods.

into the city of David] This was the eastern portion of the hill of Zion on which the temple was afterwards built. Solomon considered this too sacred a place for his own dwelling, because thither the ark of the Lord had come (2 Chronicles 8:11).

his own house] This was outside the city of David, and from 1 Kings 7:8 we can see that the house for Pharaoh’s daughter was close to the king’s own house, and built after the same fashion and of like grandeur. The time which Solomon took about building his own house was thirteen years (cf. 1 Kings 7:1), during this period the Egyptian wife continued to dwell in the city of David. The marriage song of the 5th Psalm is referred by the oldest interpreters to this marriage of Solomon with Pharaoh’s daughter.

Ch. 1 Kings 3:1-4. Solomon marries Pharaoh’s daughter. Sacrifices still offered on the high places. Solomon’s sacrifice at Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1:3)

At the beginning of this Chapter the LXX. inserts a long passage which has nothing to correspond to it in the Hebrew. It speaks of Solomon’s wisdom, the number of the people, the presents of those who were tributary to Solomon, the provisions for his table, the names of his chief ministers, and contains a notice of his horses and chariots. Some portions of this passage are drawn from Chapter 4. and some from 2 Chronicles 9:25-26. The verses of Chapter 4. which are introduced here are omitted by the LXX. in that place. See notes there.

Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.
2. Only the people sacrificed] The first word here seems to force us to connect this verse with the last clause of the previous chapter. The kingdom was established and all was well in temporal matters, but there was still a part of the Divine appointment not duly observed. There were high places in considerable numbers on which the people offered sacrifices. It was ordained (Deuteronomy 12:13-14) that this should not be so. “Offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest, but in the place which the Lord shall choose in one of thy tribes.’ But as yet this one place had not been fixed. So the previous ordinance of Exodus (1 Kings 20:24) intended for an unsettled time was still adhered to. God had there said ‘In all places where I record my name I will come unto thee and I will bless thee.’ An altar of earth was to be erected, and burnt offerings and peace offerings brought thither. This early ordinance was doubtless meant to be superseded as soon as possible after the settlement in Canaan, but events happened which delayed the choice of one place for all offerings, and so we find that God accepts the sacrifice of Gideon at Ophrah (Jdg 6:23), of Manoah at Zorah (Jdg 13:19), while Samuel (1 Samuel 9:12) offers sacrifice at the high place in the land of Zuph, and many other instances of the worship in the high places are to be found in the books of Samuel, and there is no expression anywhere of God’s disapproval. As soon as we enter on the books of the Kings we find that the writer has another standpoint, and counts it an evil that the high places still remain. Hence the language of this verse.

sacrificed] It is not possible to express the exact force in good English of the participle used both here and in the next verse. It implies the continuance of this custom, both with king and people, of worshipping on the high places. The Hebrew requires both here and in the following verse ‘in the high places.’ They were well-known seats of worship.

unto the name of the Lord] The phrase in the Pentateuch is that God ‘chooses to place His name’ where He desires to be worshipped. Cf. Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 16:2; Deuteronomy 16:6; Deuteronomy 16:11; &c. Hence ‘Name’ came to be synonymous with ‘worship’; nomen gained the sense of numen.

And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.
3. walking in the statutes of David his father] These are the observances which David had enjoined in 1 Kings 2:3. There they are called ‘the charge of the Lord,’ and are here named ‘of David,’ because David had been diligent in their observance. So in 2 Kings 17:8, ‘the statutes of the heathen’ means that idolatrous worship which the heathen nations practised.

And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar.
4. to Gibeon] The Hivite city which was assigned by Joshua to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:21-25). It is most known in early times for the cunning device of its inhabitants to secure a treaty with Joshua and the Israelites (Joshua 9), and in later history because it was the place where the tabernacle of the congregation and the brazen altar of burnt-offering were set up until the completion of Solomon’s temple. Whether this position was chosen as a high place by the Israelites or whether it had been a place used for worship by the Hivites beforetime there is nothing to indicate.

the great high place] Probably because the tabernacle was there. This was likely to make it more famous than its neighbours at Ramah or Mizpeh.

a thousand burnt offerings] In the Chronicles (2 Chronicles 1:2-3) we are told a little more about this sacrifice. The king had consulted all the people, and the great officers, and went up in a solemn procession with all the congregation. This accounts for the abundance of the offerings. After this occasion we hear no more of sacrifices at Gibeon.

In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
5–15. God appears to Solomon in a dream at Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1:7-13)

5. In Gibeon] The narrative which follows shews that God accepted the sacrifice of the king, though from want of a proper temple, it was offered on the high place.

in a dream] The frequent way in which God is said to have made known His will. Thus the angel of God spake unto Jacob in a dream (Genesis 31:11), and Joseph speaks of Pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41:25) as sent from God. Hence it came to pass that men expected divine guidance through this channel. So Saul (1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Samuel 28:15) when he had inquired of the Lord, was distressed because he was not answered either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. It is to be noted that it is Jehovah (the Lord) that appears, but Elohim (God) who speaks to Solomon.

And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
6. great mercy] As the word is the same as that rendered kindness in the latter half of the verse it is better to render it so here. The first kindness was during David’s life, the further kindness was in giving him a successor.

And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
7. I am but a little child] This is a form of expression meant to indicate want of experience, but cannot be pressed literally. What Solomon’s age may have been we have very imperfect data for judging. The ordinary chronology puts the murder of Uriah about twenty years before David’s death. If this be correct Solomon might be at this time 17 or 18 years old. Bunsen (Bibelwerk) says 22.

to go out or come in] This expression of going out and coming in is frequent in one form or another for the manner of leading one’s life, and engaging in one’s proper duties. So Joshua uses it (1 Kings 14:11) of his fitness for the leadership of Israel. Moses (Deuteronomy 31:2) when he is speaking of his growing age, says he can no more go out and come in.

And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
8. a great people, &c.] The language is that of inexperience, which exaggerates the extent of duties and cares which it has not yet encountered, and which come upon it all at once.

Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?
9. an understanding heart] This is explained (2 Chronicles 1:10) by ‘wisdom and knowledge.’ The participle rendered ‘understanding’ is literally ‘hearing,’ and the LXX. has paraphrased the clause thus: ‘a heart to hear and judge thy people in righteousness.’ But the hearing of the heart must refer to the following of the Divine guidance and promptings from within. That this was Solomon’s meaning seems certain, from the end of this verse ‘Who is able to judge this thy so great people?’ unless (that is) he have thy constant leading, and attend thereto?

The word rendered ‘great’ in this verse is different from that so translated in 1 Kings 3:8. Here the literal sense is ‘heavy,’ and the reference is to the great burden of care which the king must take upon himself.

And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment;
11. to discern judgement] Literally,‘to hear judgement.’ The word is the same as in 1 Kings 3:9, where see note.

Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.
12. according to thy words] The Hebrew is singular, and there seems no gain in the English plural.

so that there was none] It is more agreeable to the English idiom in this sense to render ‘there hath been none.’ In the matter of tenses the English and Hebrew are not at all conterminous, and choice must at times be made on the ground of English usage simply.

And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
13. so that there shall not be] The Hebrew is precisely the same as in the previous verse. Render therefore ‘so that there hath not been.’ The translation of the A.V. is no doubt due to the words with which the verse closes ‘all thy days.’ But these words may be very well understood, if we suppose them to refer to the duration of Solomon’s prosperity. ‘There hath been none so prosperous as thou shalt be for all thy days.’ The LXX. renders ‘there hath not been a man like thee among kings,’ and omits ‘all thy days.’

And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.
14. as thy father David did walk] We are not to draw from words like these an approval by God of all David’s life, but only that his heart was right towards God for the most part, and his repentance sincere for the sins into which he fell.

I will lengthen thy days] Not only shall the king’s life be made prosperous, but God will add to his days if he be observant of His laws.

And 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 up burnt offerings, and offered peace offerings, and made a feast to all his servants.
15. behold it was a dream] So of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:7). This expression does not imply, as at first sight might be supposed, that the vision was something illusory and not to be trusted to. On the contrary, the dream was one of the recognized modes whereby men expected to receive knowledge of the divine will. (See above on 1 Kings 3:5.) Hence in this case, Solomon goes to Jerusalem and offers there a solemn sacrifice; while Pharaoh deemed his dream of so much concern, that ‘his spirit was troubled’ until he could find some one to interpret it.

before the ark of the covenant of the Lord] Which David had brought and set up on Mt Zion in the city of David. See 2 Samuel 6:12; 1 Chronicles 15:1; 1 Chronicles 16:1.

The king’s burnt offerings, peace offerings, and the feast to his servants were tokens of his faith in, and joy over, the promises which had been made to him in his dream.

The LXX. by way of comment says ‘he stood before the altar which was before the ark of the covenant of the Lord on Zion.’ In the Chronicles (2 Chronicles 1:13) there is no mention of this second sacrifice on Zion. Probably the compiler deemed the splendid ceremonial and sacrifices at Gibeon, before the tabernacle of the congregation, to be so much the most important as to render the service on Zion not needful to be recorded.

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.
16–28. Solomon’s judgement between the two harlots, and the effect produced thereby (Not in Chronicles)

16. Then came, &c.] We need not, any more than with τότε in the New Test., consider ‘then’ as indicating immediate succession in order of time upon what has gone before.

harlots] The Chaldee paraphrase explains in the sense of πανδοκεύτριαι, but Josephus calls them (Ant. viii. 2, 2) ἑταῖραι τὸν βίον.

and stood before him] The Eastern monarchs sat often to give judgement at the gate of the city and so were accessible to all applicants. So sat the elders of the city by the Mosaic ordinance (Deuteronomy 21:19). Compare also Ruth 4:11; 2 Samuel 19:8; Proverbs 22:22, in which last instance, the words ‘in the gate’ mean ‘when he is before the tribunal, where his cause is heard.’

And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house.
17. I was delivered of a child with her] In the narrative of Josephus the two children are said to have been born at the same hour of the same day. The LXX. renders ‘we were delivered of children in the house,’ making ‘with her’ equivalent to ‘I as well as she.’

And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house.
18. there was no stranger with us] Thus the mother of the dead child was able to persist in her false story. The word of one was as good as that of the other.

And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it.
19. overlaid it] And so smothered it, while both mother and child were asleep.

And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom.
20. and laid it in her bosom] It is not easy to account for the action of this woman. We need not however suppose her to have been possessed of very fine feelings, as indeed her after-behaviour shews. But it is somewhat more than unnatural to adopt such a scheme as this described here at a moment’s notice. It may be that she was chiefly moved by anxiety to preserve her own health, which would be imperilled through the sudden loss of the babe which she was meant to nurse.

And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.
21. behold it was dead] i.e. I had a dead child in my bosom which I supposed to be mine.

I had considered] The form of the verb implies a careful examination, a looking over and over, and noticing such marks on the child’s body as none but its mother would.

in the morning] When the daylight was sufficient for me to examine the child carefully.

And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.
Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living.
And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king.
24. Bring me a sword] As the verb is not the same as that which in the next clause is rendered ‘brought’, it may be well to use different English. Read ‘Fetch me a sword.’

And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
25. Divide the living child] According to Josephus, the order of the king was that both the living and the dead child should be divided and half of either be given to each mother. But this was not in Solomon’s thought. He was not wishing to make a fair division of the two children, but, by threatening the living one, to bring to light the maternal feeling and so to find out to which of them it really belonged.

Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
26. her bowels yerned] It was believed that some of the viscera were the seat of the emotions. Hence this expression is very common both in the Old and New Testament for the keenest and strongest feeling. The verb yern, cognate with the German adverb gern = ‘eagerly’, ‘gladly’, implies intense desire. The literal sense of the Hebrew verb is ‘to grow excessively warm.’ We speak of the heart burning within any one.

in no wise slay it] The mother’s love comes out. She could be content if it only lived and she might see it, though it were called the child of another.

divide it] In this word she addresses those who stand ready to execute the king’s sentence, ‘divide (ye) it.’

Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.
27. Give her the living child] Not referring to the woman who had last spoken as the sequence of the clauses might lead us to expect. The king no doubt pointed to the mother who was desirous at all cost to keep the child alive.

The late Dr Bernard had a most ingenious explanation of the construction of this passage. The king, he said, was pondering the words of the two women. At last he broke forth in the language of the mother who had said ‘Give her the living child and in no wise slay it.’ And to that sentence, taken as representative of the person who had spoken it, he adds his own decision, ‘She is the mother thereof.’

And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment.
28. they feared the king] As having a power beyond what they had seen in any other to detect wrong, and to find out truth and falsehood, and so to make certain the punishment of evildoers. There was no escape from such a judge.

the wisdom of God] i.e. Wisdom which God had given, and which made the king skilful in trying the very thoughts of those who came before him. A superhuman discernment had taken up its home within him.

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