David and sex
1 Kings begins near the end of the reign of David — about 960 BC. David ruled from about 1000 BC to 960 BC. That dates aren’t exact but they aren’t very controversial.
(1Ki 1:1-4 ESV) Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. 2 Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young woman be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king and be in his service. Let her lie in your arms, that my lord the king may be warm.” 3 So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. 4 The young woman was very beautiful, and she was of service to the king and attended to him, but the king knew her not.
Now, when I was a teenager, this was a passage we underlined and passed around teen to teen during the sermons. I mean — they got the elderly king a beautiful young girl to have sex with! It was just too un-Church of Christ-like for us adolescents.
Of course, what we didn’t know is that David had a harem, as was typical of Middle Eastern kings of the day, and the size of his harem demonstrated his virility — and symbolized his power. And his inability to have sex with a pretty young thing meant he’d lost the respect of powerful men around him. It was the Middle Eastern way in the Iron Age.
It might help to recall an earlier story. Nathan condemned David for his sin with Bathsheba and announced God’s judgment on him –
(2Sa 12:11-12 NIV) 1 “This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ “
Later, David’s son, Absalom led a rebellion against David, temporarily dethroning him –
(2Sa 16:21-22 ESV) 21 Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house, and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench to your father, and the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof. And Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.
David’s own son cuckolded David in sight of his subjects, making him appear impotent. David couldn’t even protect his wives from his own son! And this led to David’s downfall. David’s kingdom was soon restored to him, but we see how the mindset of the day equating sexual vigor with the ability to rule as king.
David had lost his sexual vigor, and so was at risk of losing his throne. Joab, the head of David’s army, and Abiathar, who’d been priest with David while Saul pursued him in the wilderness, chose to follow Adonijah –
(1Ki 1:5-8 ESV) 5 Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. 6 His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom. 7 He conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest. And they followed Adonijah and helped him. 8 But Zadok the priest and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada and Nathan the prophet and Shimei and Rei and David’s mighty men were not with Adonijah.
David’s enemies and allies
Adonijah was likely the eldest living son of David (2 Sam 3:1-4). Amnon and Absalom were older and had both died. Chileab, son of Abigail, was also older, but he’s only mentioned once and evidently was no longer alive at this time, making Adonijah heir apparent.
Note v. 6. The author clearly thinks Adonijah had been a spoiled child. Children who never displease their parents develop a sense of entitlement, and Adonijah felt entitled to the Kingdom, even though David was still alive. Spoiling children will always come back to haunt you! We continue to see that David, a great king, had been a very poor father.
Joab had been over David’s army for many years — his secretary of defense and the doer of David’s dirty work, assassinating David’s enemies when David told him not to. It’s not surprising that ruthless man would eventually turn on David — preferring the younger, ruthless son.
Abiathar had been a priest in Saul’s court. When Saul was deposed, he fled to David and begged for safety, and David took him in. Abiathar was betraying David’s mercy.
David’s allies included Zadok, who’d also served as priest under David for many years, Benaiah was one of David’s thirty mighty men, who’d fought alongside him since he was fleeing from Saul –
(2Sa 23:20-22 ESV) 20 And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two ariels of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen. 21 And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome man. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. 22 These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men.
Shimei was a member of Saul’s house. When Absalom dethroned David, this fascinating story took place –
(2Sa 16:5-12 ESV) 5 When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. 6 And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7 And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! 8 The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”
9 Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.”
10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11 And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. 12 It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today.”
Later, when David returned to reclaim his throne –
(2Sa 19:16-23 ESV) 16 And Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, from Bahurim, hurried to come down with the men of Judah to meet King David. 17 And with him were a thousand men from Benjamin. And Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, with his fifteen sons and his twenty servants, rushed down to the Jordan before the king, 18 and they crossed the ford to bring over the king’s household and to do his pleasure. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was about to cross the Jordan, 19 and said to the king, “Let not my lord hold me guilty or remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. Do not let the king take it to heart. 20 For your servant knows that I have sinned. Therefore, behold, I have come this day, the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet my lord the king.”
21 Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD’s anointed?”
22 But David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be as an adversary to me? Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?” 23 And the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king gave him his oath.
Shimei evidently joined David’s household — how else could he have supported him? — and threw the weight of Saul’s household in favor of the elderly David.
Adonijah begins his rebellion
Adonijah tried to obtain God’s support for his rebellion –
(1Ki 1:9-10 ESV) 9 Adonijah sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fattened cattle by the Serpent’s Stone, which is beside En-rogel, and he invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, 10 but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the mighty men or Solomon his brother.
Nathan to the rescue
Of course, it’s no coincidence that the author preserves the name of the spot — The Serpent’s Stone! Surely we are to expect that Adonijah is on the side of Satan here.
(1Ki 1:11-37 ESV) 1 Then Nathan said to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, “Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has become king and David our lord does not know it? 12 Now therefore come, let me give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying, “Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne”? Why then is Adonijah king?’ 14 Then while you are still speaking with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm your words.”
15 So Bathsheba went to the king in his chamber (now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was attending to the king). 16 Bathsheba bowed and paid homage to the king, and the king said, “What do you desire?” 17 She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your servant by the LORD your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ 18 And now, behold, Adonijah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it. 19 He has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abiathar the priest, and Joab the commander of the army, but Solomon your servant he has not invited. 20 And now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted offenders.”
22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet came in. 23 And they told the king, “Here is Nathan the prophet.” And when he came in before the king, he bowed before the king, with his face to the ground. 24 And Nathan said, “My lord the king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne’? 25 For he has gone down this day and has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army, and Abiathar the priest. And behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But me, your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he has not invited. 27 Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not told your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”
28 Then King David answered, “Call Bathsheba to me.” So she came into the king’s presence and stood before the king.
29 And the king swore, saying, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity, 30 as I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ even so will I do this day.”
31 Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground and paid homage to the king and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”
32 King David said, “Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So they came before the king. 33 And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. 34 And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet there anoint him king over Israel. Then blow the trumpet and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 You shall then come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, for he shall be king in my place. And I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.”
36 And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the LORD, the God of my lord the king, say so. 37 As the LORD has been with my lord the king, even so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.”
David had earlier promised the throne to Solomon. Bathsheba was understandably concerned that if Adonijah took the throne, he’d have her and Solomon killed as claimants to the throne (v. 21). But David was good to his word and had Solomon anointed king.
(1Ki 1:38-40 ESV) 38 So Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule and brought him to Gihon. 39 There Zadok the priest took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up after him, playing on pipes, and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth was split by their noise.
News quickly came to Adonijah –
(1Ki 1:41-48 ESV) 41 Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they finished feasting. And when Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, “What does this uproar in the city mean?” 42 While he was still speaking, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came. And Adonijah said, “Come in, for you are a worthy man and bring good news.” 43 Jonathan answered Adonijah, “No, for our lord King David has made Solomon king, 44 and the king has sent with him Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites. And they had him ride on the king’s mule. 45 And Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king at Gihon, and they have gone up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. This is the noise that you have heard. 46 Solomon sits on the royal throne. 47 Moreover, the king’s servants came to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May your God make the name of Solomon more famous than yours, and make his throne greater than your throne.’ And the king bowed himself on the bed. 48 And the king also said, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who has granted someone to sit on my throne this day, my own eyes seeing it.’”
The mercy of Solomon
Adonijah feared for his life — as did his guests –
(1Ki 1:49-51 ESV) 49 Then all the guests of Adonijah trembled and rose, and each went his own way. 50 And Adonijah feared Solomon. So he arose and went and took hold of the horns of the altar. 51 Then it was told Solomon, “Behold, Adonijah fears King Solomon, for behold, he has laid hold of the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me first that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’”
Solomon showed him mercy –
(1Ki 1:52-53 ESV) 52 And Solomon said, “If he will show himself a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the earth, but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” 53 So King Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and paid homage to King Solomon, and Solomon said to him, “Go to your house.”
Now, this sets up further stories. But for now, we see that Solomon, like his father, was merciful to his enemies. The typical Middle Eastern king would have killed Adonijah for his rebellion.
Morals of the story
Moreover, we see –
* The dangers of never seeing the fault in your children.
* How mercy is sometimes rewarded (Shimei) and sometimes betrayed (Abiathar).
* How a man can be rescued from problems by having deeply loyal friends.
* The value God places on mercy, even though mercy can sometimes lead to betrayal. After all, immediately after David’s son and priest betrayed him, Solomon showed mercy. It would have been far easier to execute them.
* David’s marriage to Bathsheba began in sin — adultery and murder — and yet God accepted their marriage. After all, Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba, and he was treated as a fully legitimate son. Many teach that sin cannot be forgiven without restitution, and therefore you must put away a wife married in sin. Clearly, God’s forgiveness was big enough for Solomon to be treated as legitimate and Bathsheba as David’s wife.
David’s charge to Solomon
(1Ki 2:1-4 ESV) When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3 and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 that the LORD may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
Consider the mercy of God! Despite generations of kings who violated this covenant, God kept a descendant of David on the throne until Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple. God did much more than he promised! And, of course, he later put Jesus on the throne forever.
(1Ki 2:5-6 ESV) 5 “Moreover, you also know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, how he dealt with the two commanders of the armies of Israel, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed, avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war, and putting the blood of war on the belt around his waist and on the sandals on his feet. 6 Act therefore according to your wisdom, but do not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace.”
Joab was an assassin. David had killed many men in time of war, but he accused Joab of killing in times of peace.
(1Ki 2:7-10 ESV) 7 But deal loyally with the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let them be among those who eat at your table, for with such loyalty they met me when I fled from Absalom your brother. 8 And there is also with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse on the day when I went to Mahanaim. But when he came down to meet me at the Jordan, I swore to him by the LORD, saying, ‘I will not put you to death with the sword.’ 9 Now therefore do not hold him guiltless, for you are a wise man. You will know what you ought to do to him, and you shall bring his gray head down with blood to Sheol.” 10 Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David.
(1Ki 2:11-12 ESV) 11 And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years. He reigned seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was firmly established.
Barzillai had fed David while he was fleeing Jerusalem at the hands of Absalom.
The death of Adonijah
(1Ki 2:13-25 ESV) 13 Then Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peacefully?”
He said, “Peacefully.”
14 Then he said, “I have something to say to you.”
She said, “Speak.”
15 He said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel fully expected me to reign. However, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the LORD. 16 And now I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me.”
She said to him, “Speak.”
17 And he said, “Please ask King Solomon–he will not refuse you–to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife.”
18 Bathsheba said, “Very well; I will speak for you to the king.” 19 So Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. And the king rose to meet her and bowed down to her. Then he sat on his throne and had a seat brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right.
20 Then she said, “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.”
And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother, for I will not refuse you.”
21 She said, “Let Abishag the Shunammite be given to Adonijah your brother as his wife.”
22 King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? Ask for him the kingdom also, for he is my older brother, and on his side are Abiathar the priest and Joab the son of Zeruiah.”
23 Then King Solomon swore by the LORD, saying, “God do so to me and more also if this word does not cost Adonijah his life! 24 Now therefore as the LORD lives, who has established me and placed me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, Adonijah shall be put to death today.”
25 So King Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he struck him down, and he died.
We last saw Abishag in 1:3. She’s the beautiful young woman in David’s harem that he never “knew.” But she was also tending to David in last days (1:4, 15). Adonijah’s request to marry one of David’s wives was a request to gain another claim to David’s throne. He would succeed where David had failed — with his most beautiful wife! The Jewish Encyclopedia notes that “according to archaic law, a man’s concubines became the inheritance of his heir.” Hence, to claim the king’s concubine is to claim heirship.
Worse yet, he’d used Solomon’s mother as a pawn in his game. The condition for Solomon’s mercy on the traitor was good behavior, and he’d failed to measure up.
Finally, marriage to your father’s wife is incest under the Law of Moses –
(Lev 20:11 ESV) 11 If a man lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.
(Deu 22:30 ESV) 30 “A man shall not take his father’s wife, so that he does not uncover his father’s nakedness.
(Deu 27:20 ESV) 20 “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s nakedness.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
This story has striking similarities to the story of Ishbosheth and Abner. Abner asked Ishbosheth, king of the 11 northern tribes after Saul’s death, for one of Saul’s wives, and Ishbosheth refused — leading to Abner’s attempt to overthrow Ishbosheth’s throne. It appears that a request for a deceased king’s wife is indicative of kingly ambition.
(1Ki 2:26-27 ESV) 26 And to Abiathar the priest the king said, “Go to Anathoth, to your estate, for you deserve death. But I will not at this time put you to death, because you carried the ark of the Lord GOD before David my father, and because you shared in all my father’s affliction.” 27 So Solomon expelled Abiathar from being priest to the LORD, thus fulfilling the word of the LORD that he had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.
Solomon again shows mercy, but prudently removes Abiathar from the palace — so his disloyalty would be less of a danger.
In 1 Samuel 2, God promised an end of the house of Eli, a priest and judge, due to Eli’s wicked sons who slept with women in the Tabernacle. Abiathar was the last of the line.
(1Ki 2:28-35 ESV) 28 When the news came to Joab–for Joab had supported Adonijah although he had not supported Absalom–Joab fled to the tent of the LORD and caught hold of the horns of the altar. 29 And when it was told King Solomon, “Joab has fled to the tent of the LORD, and behold, he is beside the altar,” Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.”
30 So Benaiah came to the tent of the LORD and said to him, “The king commands, ‘Come out.’”
But he said, “No, I will die here.”
Then Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.”
31 The king replied to him, “Do as he has said, strike him down and bury him, and thus take away from me and from my father’s house the guilt for the blood that Joab shed without cause. 32 The LORD will bring back his bloody deeds on his own head, because, without the knowledge of my father David, he attacked and killed with the sword two men more righteous and better than himself, Abner the son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. 33 So shall their blood come back on the head of Joab and on the head of his descendants forever. But for David and for his descendants and for his house and for his throne there shall be peace from the LORD forevermore.”
34 Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and struck him down and put him to death. And he was buried in his own house in the wilderness. 35 The king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada over the army in place of Joab, and the king put Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar.
Joab was executed at the altar. He’d hoped to survive as Adonijah had done, but Solomon’s mercy was not based on hanging onto the horns of the altar.
Shimei’s house arrest
(1Ki 2:35-1 ESV) 35 The king put Benaiah the son of Jehoiada over the army in place of Joab, and the king put Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar. 36 Then the king sent and summoned Shimei and said to him, “Build yourself a house in Jerusalem and dwell there, and do not go out from there to any place whatever. 37 For on the day you go out and cross the brook Kidron, know for certain that you shall die. Your blood shall be on your own head.”
38 And Shimei said to the king, “What you say is good; as my lord the king has said, so will your servant do.” So Shimei lived in Jerusalem many days.
39 But it happened at the end of three years that two of Shimei’s servants ran away to Achish, son of Maacah, king of Gath. And when it was told Shimei, “Behold, your servants are in Gath,” 40 Shimei arose and saddled a donkey and went to Gath to Achish to seek his servants. Shimei went and brought his servants from Gath.
41 And when Solomon was told that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath and returned, 42 the king sent and summoned Shimei and said to him, “Did I not make you swear by the LORD and solemnly warn you, saying, ‘Know for certain that on the day you go out and go to any place whatever, you shall die’? And you said to me, ‘What you say is good; I will obey.’ 43 Why then have you not kept your oath to the LORD and the commandment with which I commanded you?” 44 The king also said to Shimei, “You know in your own heart all the harm that you did to David my father. So the LORD will bring back your harm on your own head. 45 But King Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the LORD forever.”
46 Then the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he went out and struck him down, and he died. So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon.
Shimei had been living on borrowed time ever since he’d cursed David — especially given his connection with Saul. David and Solomon were both merciful to him, and yet he repaid their mercy with rebellion and disobedience — the notion that the rules don’t apply to me!
* Surely your sins will find you out.
* Mercy is valued by God and his righteous kings, but there are limits to mercy. Repeated rebellion will get you killed. Murder will get you killed. It’s easy to be squeamish and interpret Solomon’s punishments as harsh, but he was in fact incredibly merciful to traitors and murderers. And mercy has its limits. There comes a point where justice must be done.
* We see the consequences of David’s sin with Bathsheba being played out. Even though God forgave his sin and established his throne forever, the consequences of his sin dramatically touched and harmed many other lives. While Shimei’s conduct in cursing David was reprehensible, Absalom would not have seized his throne but for David’s sin. Just so, Joab killed Amasa and Abiathar rebelled against David all because of David’s sin with Bathsheba.
Thus, we see tragedy after tragedy all triggered from this one sin. Yes, it was forgiven, but forgiveness did not make it all okay. David lost three sons (the first son Bathsheba bore him, Amnon, and Absalom), lost his throne to Absalom, and saw his friends and allies divided and separated from him because of his sin.
Solomon’s marriage alliance
(1Ki 3:1 ESV) 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.
By marrying a daughter of Pharaoh, Solomon is shown to be a superior power to Egypt, because daughters are given to superior powers. If the weaker power rebels, the king can hold the daughter hostage. He is protected against war from Egypt as the Pharaoh would not want to launch an assault that would kill his own daughter.
Of course, in a land and time when life was often very cheap, marriage alliances often didn’t work! After all, a king with a harem of hundreds might not be very close to his daughters. Nonetheless, the symbolism was extremely important.
But the story also portends trouble, as Solomon’s foreign wives eventually get him into trouble with God.
The high places
(1Ki 3:2-4 ESV) 2 The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the LORD. 3 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. 4 And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.
The Temple had not yet been built, but there was a tabernacle, which is where sacrifices should have been offered. Sacrifice in the “high places” was a pagan practice — and therefore frowned upon even though the sacrifices were to God.
Nonetheless, we see that God was pleased with Solomon — even though the high places would soon become a problem.
God’s gift to Solomon
(1Ki 3:5-9 ESV) 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.”
6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
Solomon asked for “an understanding mind to govern your people.” “Govern” translates a word also used of “judge.” Of course, ancient kings were both rulers and judges — the supreme court of the land. So both meanings are very appropriate and likely both meanings apply.
(1Ki 3:10-15 ESV) 10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. 14 And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” 15 And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.
God was so pleased with Solomon’s selfless answer that he promised him not only wisdom but also wealth and honor. And this time Solomon offered his sacrifices at the altar! We see his wisdom at work immediately.
* Wisdom is the sum of the choices we make, and the choices we make lead to greater or lesser wisdom. We’ve see the consequences of decisions made by David echoing across the years, and now we see Solomon making decisions that have consequences not only for what happens in his life but for the kind of person he becomes.
* God blesses us beyond what we even ask for — provided we seek his ways and not our own.
The two prostitutes
(1Ki 3:17-1 ESV) 17 The one woman said, “Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. 18 Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. 19 And this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20 And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. 21 When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne.”
22 But the other woman said, “No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours.”
The first said, “No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine.” Thus they spoke before the king.
23 Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and the other says, ‘No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’” 24 And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. 25 And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.”
26 Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.”
27 Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.”
28 And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.
Here we are provided a story of Solomon in his judicial role, providing justice with the wisdom given by God. But a subtle point of the story is that king Solomon cared enough to offer justice to two prostitutes! Hence, we see a second picture of wisdom, not just making the right decisions but being willing to help the most humble and least deserving of his subjects.
* As James teaches, pray for wisdom, not riches, fame, and fortune. Of course, you have to mean it, and you have to be willing to deal with the struggles in life through which God teaches wisdom.
* God is merciful, giving Solomon blessings even when his obedience was less than ideal. He is more concerned with Solomon’s heart than the niceties of how he obeys.
* But wisdom leads to truer obedience.
* And wisdom causes us to care about the most needy and even sinners.