1 Kings 3
Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.
Solomon marrieth Pharaoh’s daughter: high places being in use, he goeth to Gibeon to sacrifice, 1 Kings 3:1-4. There the Lord appeareth to him; gives him a choice: he preferreth wisdom; obtaineth it, and also riches and honour, 1 Kings 3:5-15. His judgment between the two harlots, 1 Kings 3:16-28.

Made affinity with Pharaoh king of Egypt, as being a powerful neighbour. Took Pharaoh’s daughter; upon what conditions is not here expressed; but it is probable she was first instructed in and proselyted to the Jewish religion; as may be gathered,

1. Because he was not yet fallen from God, but loved the Lord, and walked in the statutes of David, 1 Kings 3:3; and therefore would never have married a gross idolater, which was so contrary to God’s law, and so pernicious in its consequences.

2. Because he is no where reproved for this fact, as he is for loving many other strange women, 1 Kings 11:1.

3. By comparing Psa 45 and the Book of Canticles; whereby it plainly appears that this action had something extraordinary in it, and was designed by God to be a type of Christ, calling his church to himself, and to the true religion, not only out of the Jews, but even out of the Gentile world. The city of David; of which see 1 Kings 2:10; into David’s palace there. The house of the Lord, i.e. the temple appropriated to the worship and honour of God. The wall of Jerusalem round about; which though in some sort built by David, 2 Samuel 5:9, yet Solomon is here said to build, either because he made it higher, and stronger, and more beautiful and glorious; in which or the like sense Nebuchadnezzar is said to have built Babylon, Daniel 4:30; or because he built another wall besides the former, for greater security; for after this time Jerusalem was encompassed with more walls than one.

Only the people sacrificed in high places, because there was no house built unto the name of the LORD, until those days.
Only: this particle is used here and 1 Kings 3:3, as an exception to Solomon’s integrity and glory, and as his infirmity, and a blemish to his government, that he himself both permitted and practised this which was expressly forbidden, Leviticus 17:3,4 Deu 12:13,14, except in some extraordinary cases. Possibly he permitted it because he thought it better to allow an error in a circumstance, than to occasion a neglect of the substance of God’s worship, which he apprehended would follow upon a severe prohibition of that practice, because the people’s hearts were generally and constantly set upon these high places, as appears from all the following history; and they were not willing to submit to so much trouble and charge as the bringing of all their sacrifices to one place would cause; nor would yield to it until the temple was built, which he knew would easily incline and oblige them to it; and that being speedily to be done, he might think it more advisable rather to delay the execution of that law of God for an approaching season, wherein he doubted not they would be sweetly and freely drawn to it, than at present to drive them to it by force; although these and all other prudential considerations should have given place to the will and wisdom of God.

In high places; which were groves, or other convenient places upon hills, in which the patriarchs used to offer up their worship and sacrifices to God; and from them this custom was derived both to the Gentiles and the Jews; and in them the Gentiles sacrificed to idols, Jeremiah 7:31 Ezekiel 6:3,4 Ho 10:8, the Hebrews to the true God.

Because there was no house; which reason was not sufficient, for there was a tabernacle, to which they were as much confined as to the temple, Deu 12$, &c.

Unto the name of the Lord; either,

1. To the Lord; the name of the Lord being oft put for the Lord himself, as Deu 28:58 Job 1:21 Psalm 7:17 116:13 135:1. Or,

2. To the honour, and praise, and service of God; to the glory of his name, i.e. of his majesty, and all his perfections, which shall be adored and manifested there.

And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.
And, or, yet, although he mistook and miscarried himself in the matter of high places, yet in the general his heart was right with God, and he both loved him with inward affection, and walked with him in outward conversation and worship.

In the statutes of David, i.e. according to the statutes or commands of God, which are here called the statutes of David, not only because they were so freely chosen, and heartily loved, and diligently practised by David, but also because the observation of them was so earnestly pressed upon Solomon, and fortified with David’s authority and command: see 1 Kings 2:2-4 1 Chronicles 28:8,9.

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.
The great high place; the most eminent and frequented, because there was the tabernacle and the altar of Moses, 1 Chronicles 16:39 21:29 2 Chronicles 1:3,5,6, which possibly were placed upon a high or raised ground.

A thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar; thereby showing his special respect to this above all other places, and by his example teaching and inviting all his people to do so.

In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
Quest. How could Solomon pray in his dream, or that prayer be acceptable to God, as this was, 1 Kings 3:10?

Answ. The dreams of men are not such insignificant things as many imagine. That good dreams are oftentimes praiseworthy, and evil dreams blameworthy, is not only the opinion of the Jews and Christians, but of divers of the wiser and better heathens; and the reason hereof is evident, because men’s dreams are commonly the images of their minds and tempers, and do only reflect and represent, though but faintly and imperfectly, those very things which are most imprinted upon their hearts by their waking meditations and daily conversation; and therefore it is not unreasonable, that either the sinful dreams of evil-minded men should be imputed to them, and punished in them, or the virtuous dreams of good men be imputed to and rewarded in them: which was Solomon’s case; for his heart having been daily and constantly employed in passionate longings and prayers for the wisdom which here he begs, it was a natural and likely thing that his heart should, as it did, work that way even in his dreams. Although, to speak truly and strictly, Solomon’s prayer made in his dream would have been no way pleasing to God, nor profitable to himself, if it had not been the result of his daily and most serious practice; and though God signified his mind in a dream, yet it was Solomon’s waking prayers (which were shadowed by this dark representation) which God accepted and requited; and this acceptance of God was signified to him in an extraordinary manner, and by a Divine dream, which was one of those ways whereby God oft used to communicate his will to his prophets and people. So the whole business lies thus: Solomon dreamed that God bid him ask what he would, 1 Kings 3:5, and that he did ask wisdom, 1 Kings 3:6, &c., and that God accepted his desire, 1 Kings 3:10, and gave him that gracious answer, 1 Kings 3:11. &c. And all this was done in a dream, but with this difference; Solomon’s prayer was but imaginary, but God’s answer was real, though conveyed in a dream. And when he awoke, he knew by Divine inspiration that this was a dream sent from God to assure him that he would give him wisdom, and riches, and honour, and this with respect unto his frequent, constant, and fervent waking desires, which his dream of his prayers did sufficiently intimate. See Poole "1 Kings 3:6".

God said, i.e. he dreamed that God said so.

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.
Solomon said, i.e. he dreamed that he said. See Poole "1 Kings 3:5". Or, he really said. For although the use of reason is ordinarily so dark and imperfect in dreams, that such actings are not human actions; yet in extraordinary and Divine dreams it is but reasonable to allow something extraordinary. For who can doubt but God may so clear up and assist a man’s reason in his dream, that he may have a true and strong apprehension of some things, which also may make a suitable impression upon the will or affections; and consequently such acts of the soul may be moral acts, and regardable by God and men? And this might be a kind of ecstatical rapture, whereby his soul might be as it were carried out of his body, as St. Paul’s was, 2 Corinthians 12:3, for a season; in which case both his reason might clearly and distinctly apprehend God’s mind, and his gracious offer; and his will might make a free choice of wisdom; which therefore might be accepted and rewarded by God.

In truth; either, first, Sincerely, and without dissimulation. But that is more fully expressed in the following words, in uprightness of heart. Or rather, secondly, In the true worship and service of God, in the profession, belief, practice, and defence of the truth, or of the true religion, or of God’s will or word, which is called truth, Proverbs 23:23 John 17:17 Galatians 3:1. So

truth here contains all his duties to God, as

righteousness doth his duties to men, and uprightness the right manner of performing both sorts of duties.

Uprightness of heart with thee, i.e. in thy judgment, to whom alone his heart was known; and to whom he oft appealed as the witness of his integrity; and with respect to whom he performed all his duties, even to men. Thou hast kept, or, reserved, that which thou didst not reserve for Saul, whose posterity thou didst cut off from the kingdom.

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.
I am but a little child; so he was in years; not as if he were now but twelve years old, as many gather from this name of child; for that name is given to Ishmael when eighteen years old, Genesis 21:14,15, and to Rehoboam when forty-one years old, 2 Chronicles 13:7, where the word is the same in the Hebrew; and before this time David calls him a wise man, 1 Kings 2:9: but he was now not above twenty years old; and withal, (which he principally intends,) he was raw and unexperienced, as a child, in state affairs, and altogether unfit for so hard a task.

To go out or come in, i.e. to govern my people, and manage affairs, as that phrase signifies, Numbers 27:17 Deu 31:2 Joshua 14:11.

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.
Is in the midst of thy people, i.e. is set over them to rule and guide them; a metaphor from the overseer of divers workmen, who usually is in the midst of them, that he may the better observe how each of them dischargeth his office.

Which thou hast chosen; thy peculiar people, whom thou takest special care of, and therefore wilt expect a more punctual account of my government of them.

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?
An understanding heart; whereby I may both clearly discern, and faithfully perform, all the parts of my duty; for both these are spoken of in Scripture as the effects of a good understanding; and he that lives in the neglect of his duties, or the practice of wickedness, is called a fool, and one void of understanding.

Judge, or, govern, as that word is used, Judges 3:10 4:4 Psalm 7:8 67:4 Isaiah 2:4 16:5.

That I may discern between good and bad, to wit, in causes and controversies among my people; that I may not through mistakes, or prejudices, or passions, give wrong sentences, and call evil good, or good evil.

Who is able of himself, or without thy gracious assistance.

And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
How such a dreaming prayer could please God See Poole "1 Kings 3:5", See Poole "1 Kings 3:6".

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;
Nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; that God would take away their lives, or put them into thy power to destroy them.

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.
I have done according to thy words; I have granted, and do at this present grant, unto thee thy desire. And accordingly at this time God did infuse into him a far higher degree and greater measure of wisdom than he naturally had.

A wise and an understanding heart, i.e. wisdom to govern thy people, to know and do thy several duties; which was the thing that Solomon desired, 1 Kings 3:7,9, and the effects whereof here follow, 1 Kings 3:16, &c.; and withal, all Divine and human wisdom, the knowledge of all things, of all the arts and sciences, as may be gathered from 1 Kings 4:29, &c., and that in a far greater proportion than by his years, and the time he could get for his study, could possibly produce.

So that there was none; either no king, or rather, no man; for he is herein preferred, not only before all kings, but before all men, 1 Kings 4:31; no mere man since the fall equalled him, to wit, in universal knowledge, and especially in the art of well-governing his people.

Neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee.

Quest. Did not the apostles excel him? Answ. They did not in natural and political knowledge, but only in the knowledge of the mysteries of faith, which were more freely and more fully imparted in those times; the ignorance whereof was no disparagement to Solomon’s wisdom, because they were not discoverable by any creature without Divine revelation, which God saw fit not to afford in Solomon’s time. I know no inconvenience in affirming that Solomon’s natural capacities were higher than any of the apostles; and Solomon had a more comprehensive knowledge of all things known in that age, than the apostles had in all the discoveries of their age.

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.
I have also given; either, first, I have granted and decreed to give; for words signifying action are oft put only for the purpose of the action. Or rather, secondly, I will give, as it is expressed in the parallel place, 2 Chronicles 1:12; I will as certainly give them, as if I had actually done it; for future certain things are oft expressed in Scripture in the past time, as is well known to all.

There shall not be; so it is true of all the succeeding kings of Israel, of whom he speaks. Or, hath not been, as it is in the Hebrew; and so it may be true of all the kings that then were or had been in the world, whereof none was like to him, to wit, in all the things here mentioned, and wherein he is compared with them, which is not only in riches, but also in wisdom, and in honour or renown.

All thy days, to wit of thy life; whereby he signifies, that these gifts of God were not temporary and transient, as they were in Saul, but such as should abide with him whilst he lived.

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.
If thou wilt walk in my ways: this caution God gives him, lest his great wisdom should make him proud, or careless, or presumptuous, as if he were out of all danger; and to oblige him to more care and circumspection to avoid the snares and mischiefs to which so much prosperity and glory would probably expose him; and withal, to justify himself in case he should afterwards alter the course of his providence towards Solomon; and that when men are surprised with Solomon’s dreadful fall, they might know it was no surprisal to God, but that he did foresee it, and would overrule it to his own glory one way or other.

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.
It was a dream, i.e. he perceived that it was a dream; not a vain dream, wherewith men are commonly deluded; but a Divine knew, dream, assuring him of the thing; which he partly by a Divine impression and inspiration thereof in his mind after he was awakened; and partly by the vast alteration which he presently found within himself in point of wisdom and knowledge.

The ark of the covenant of the Lord was there in the city of David, 2 Samuel 6:17, before which he presented himself in the way of holy ministration and adoration, which may be noted by the word stood. Or that word may note his abode there for some consider able time, as the offering of so many sacrifices required.

Offered up burnt-offerings, chiefly for the expiation of his and his people’s sins, through the blood of Christ, manifestly signified in these sacrifices.

And offered peace-offerings, solemnly to praise God for all his mercies, and especially for giving him a quiet and fixed possession of the kingdom, and for his glorious appearance to him in a dream, and for the great promise therein made to him, and the actual accomplishment of it since wrought in him.

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him.
Harlots, or, victuallers; for the Hebrew word signifies both. See Poole "Joshua 2:1". And possibly they might be both; this by their open profession, and the other by their secret practice: not that they were common harlots; for neither would Solomon have tolerated such; nor durst such have presented themselves before so wise and just a ruler; nor did such use either to bring forth children, or to have such a tender care of and affection to them as these express. Yet that they were unmarried persons, and so guilty of fornication, seems most probable, both because there is no mention of any husbands, whose office it was, if there were any such, to contest for their wives; and because they lived a solitary life in one house.

Unto the king: haply they had presented their cause to the inferior courts, who could not determine; and therefore now they bring it to the king, as the supreme magistrate, and famous for his wisdom.

Stood there before him, desiring and expecting his sentence in the case.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
The third day; so they could not be distinguished by their age.

There was no stranger with us in the house; therefore no witness on either side; and although there might be some sensible difference to an exact observer between the features of the two children, yet it is not probable that was much minded by the neighbours; for though civil women might assist them both in their child-births, yet it is not likely they would afterwards converse much with them, as being persons of suspected fame, and the features of the children, especially for so few days, might easily be so like, that it was difficult to discern the one from the other. And the testimonies of the women were of equal credit, i.e. of none at all.

And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it.
And so smothered it; which she justly conjectures, because there were evidences of that kind of death, but no appearance of any other cause thereof.

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.
She arose at midnight, when I was asleep, as she reasonably and truly concluded.

Took my son from beside me; either because she really desired the comfort of a child, to be educated by her, and owned as hers; or because she would not be thought guilty of the child’s death, for which she knew not how severely Solomon would punish her.

While thine handmaid slept; as she might well know, because had she been awake, she had discovered and prevented her design.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

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.
Both peremptorily and vehemently affirmed the same thing, oft repeating the same words.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.
He said this with seeming sincerity and earnestly, though with a design far above the reach of the two women or of the people present, who probably with admiration and horror expected the execution of it.

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.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof.
As is evident from her natural and motherly affection to the child, which she had rather have alienated and given away from her than destroyed.

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.
The wisdom of God; either great and eminent wisdom,

as the cedars or mountains of God are the highest and most eminent of the kind; or Divine wisdom with which God had inspired him for the better government of his people.

Was in him to judgment; to assist him in wisely examining and justly determining the causes and controversies of his people.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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