1 Kings 3 = King Solomon
Bible Background: Solomon was the 2nd son of King David & Bathsheba (David had 9 other sons as well). When David dies, Solomon (not the oldest) is his choice to be king of the United Monarchy (when Israel and Judah were united). Solomon ruled 970-931 BCE and is credited with building the 1st temple in Jerusalem, and with displaying great wisdom. Traditionally he is named as the author of Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and perhaps Ecclesiastes, although these were likely written by others. He is a story in contrasts, sometimes honoring God and showing wisdom and humility, and sometimes turning from God, purging his enemies, and ruling harshly. The United Monarchy will split in two shortly after his death, when his son Rehoboam takes over.
Digging Deeper: 1. One of the highlights of Solomon’s reign is building the 1st temple. This is where people would have access to God’s mercy and where they would worship God and offer sacrificial offerings. Solomon’s temple, described in grand terms, was probably beautiful, but not nearly as large or as fancy as it was made to sound. This temple was destroyed in 586 BCE when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and took the people into exile.
2. Solomon’s humility before God is displayed in a dream in 1 Kings 3 where God appears, inviting Solomon to ask God for anything that he wants. Solomon’s request greatly pleases God: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” We hope that everyone in high office would pray this prayer for themselves, but if they don’t-let us be praying this for them!
3. The story that illustrates Solomon’s wisdom is a tragic one: two (probably single) mothers, living together have babies. One baby dies while co-sleeping. That mom tries to claim the other mom’s child. The king is called to referee in the case and suggests an impossible solution (where we trust that things would never go that far!) The child’s real mom is revealed, and she gets her baby back.
4. Wise judgement has been rendered, but we might also ask “What would real justice look like here?” The women are described as prostitutes. Are we inclined to judge both of them just for that? They live together-likely out of economic necessity. The tragic death of one child surely impacts them both. One of the problems in the land of Israel during Solomon’s reign is that while he lives ‘high on the hog’, the ordinary people don’t fare very well…a reminder that in any nation, what seems like “the golden age” can leave a lot to be desired. What might God’s wisdom teach us about justice and wholeness for all people, in our time?