I Kings 3:1-15
Why This Text Matters?
Today’s story doesn’t tell the whole story. When looking at this story within the context of the Solomon cycle, we’d be properly tempted to say that it is the story of Solomon’s one really good moment. Sandwiched before and after the story of this “happy” day are a lot of bad days. In our excellent lesson, Tony Cartledge writes, “…the editor of I Kings manages to praise King Solomon as a monarch of unparalleled wisdom and prosperity, but with a shadow over him.”
This shadow is cast by multiple clouds. First, in verse 1 we hear of one of Solomon’s numerous political marriages. Possessing a harem in which his wives worshipped their foreign, local deities was a fatal mistake for Solomon. Second, we are told David walked in the “statutes of his father David.” We would have expected that he would walk in the statues of a God. In the chapter just before our text, David instructs Solomon in the executions David wants Solomon to perform. Solomon executes them. Interestingly enough, David tells Solomon to reward the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite; yet, we don’t read that Solomon followed through. Third, there is the problem of where Solomon worshipped. For the Deuteronomic editors of I Kings, worship was to be performed only in Jerusalem. Centralizing worship there increased the chances that pagan influences in theology and rituals could be controlled. Verse 3 accuses Solomon of violating this principle by his sacrifice at Gibeon. Verse 2 could be read as something of an “out” for Solomon since the temple in Jerusalem had not yet been built. But, verse 2 says the people sacrificed in the high places outside Jerusalem implying that the king shouldn’t have. Indeed, in verse 15 of our text we see Solomon sacrifice in Jerusalem before the Ark. He could have always sac rifled in Jerusalem. Fourth, verse 14 is conditional. Promises are made to Solomon on the condition that he obeys God. This leaves the reader open to the possibility that the ongoing story doesn’t go well. The story doesn’t go well.
Solomon inherited from David the largest expanse of territory any Israelite King would have. Solomon’s building projects included his palace, the temple and the Jerusalem wall. These projects were incredibly expensive requiring not only high taxes but even a large “draft” of men to serve in the military and in construction labor. The account is in I Kings 9:15ff. Jewish men were drafted into military service. Non-Jews were enslaved and put on building projects. Solomon’s over-reach may not have been “wise.” When Solomon died, citizens asked his heir for relief. When he refused, 10 of the 12 tribes split off to form a new kingdom! No King ever ruled over all 12 tribes again (see I Kings ch 12).
I Kings 11:4ff tells the story of the final rift between God and Solomon. Solomon’s pagan wives turned him to paganism.
The following quotation is from The Interpreter’s Bible Vol. 3 page 40. “A Model a Prayer.–Notwithstanding Solomon’s personal imperfections, the prayer ascribed to him is so appropriate for one who has just assumed a place of public power and responsibility that it has served as a model for rulers since his day. Americans will remember that when the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt placed the burdens of presidential office on the shoulders of Harry S. Truman, the new executive offered Solomon’s petition as his own prayer for guidance. His act enlisted the sympathy of his fellow citizens.”
Does one story ever tell the whole story? If so, how often?
We speak of people who are book smart but not street smart. Is Solomon “wise”in some ways and “unwise”in others?