What kind of king? – Sunday 15th November

Solomon prays for wisdom

1 Kings 3.1-15
(New Revised Standard Version)

Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt; he took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David, until he had finished building his own house and the house of the Lord and the wall around Jerusalem. The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the Lord.

Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places.  The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt-offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, ‘Ask what I should give you.’

And Solomon said, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.

And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 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?’

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, ‘Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right,

I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.’

Then Solomon awoke; it had been a dream. He came to Jerusalem, where he stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. He offered up burnt-offerings and offerings of well-being, and provided a feast for all his servants.


Amongst the list of Old Testament kings of Israel and Judah, Solomon is generally remembered as being one of the ‘good guys’. One who ‘did what was right in the sight of the Lord’.

But, as the beginning of today’s reading shows us, Solomon, like his father David, didn’t get it right all the time. Verse two tells us that, “The people were sacrificing at the high places” (pagan places of worship) and verse three indicates that Solomon did this too. We can take a certain amount of comfort and hope from this: nobody, not even the most upright of kings, gets it right 100% of the time.

One of the many achievements credited to Solomon is writing Ecclesiastes, a book crammed full of wisdom, if only we take the time to look. Amongst its many gems we find this gem:

“Surely there is no one on earth so righteous as to do good without ever sinning”.

Ecclesiastes 7.20

But the thing about Solomon was that his heart was in the right place. And the majority of today’s reading provides evidence that this was the case.

This episode, occurring fairly near the start of Solomon’s tenure, doubtless influenced him throughout his reign. Solomon must have been feeling pretty inadequate, he was young and grieving the death of his father, in whose shadow he must have felt himself to be.

Given this situation, I wonder how many of our first thoughts would have been ‘understanding’ or wisdom when faced with the same question as Solomon, “Ask what I should give you”. So pleased is God with Solomon’s request that God also furnishes Solomon with the wealth, fame, relationships, success and a long life that he did not ask for.

If indeed it was Solomon who wrote the book of Ecclesiastes, verse three of chapter one – “What do people get for all their hard work under the sun?” – shows us that, by the end of his life, Solomon understands how little all of these added extras actually mean. Solomon was aware that when he died he would leave everything he had worked so hard to establish to his son Rehoboam.

Rehoboam, who Solomon and the rest of Israel didn’t trust as far as they could throw him. I’m sure we’ll discover much more about Rehoboam over the coming days, but in short, he wasn’t interested in leading a kingdom, preferring instead a life of glitz, glamour, money, sex and power.

The Bible tells us that Solomon knew that his vision of God had been a dream, but that didn’t stop him from stepping out in faith as a result of it and praising and thanking God for it.

Catherine Cosslett

(North West Hub)