October 27-28 Sermon Resource

Solomon wisdom

  • Main text: 1 Kings 3:4-9, (10-15), 16-28
  • Accompanying text: Matthew 6:9-10

Our text begins with Solomon’s travelling to Gibeon to offer sacrifices. The ‘high places’ (1 Kings 3:4) were sites of cultic worship, and it is likely that at Gibeon sacrifices were offered to false gods and idols. Solomon may have chosen this site for his worship to help secure the allegiance of the Gibeonites who had been problematic during both Saul and David’s reigns (2 Sam 21:1-9). Despite this, God graciously appears to Solomon in a dream and instructs Solomon to ask of God whatever he desires (see Matt 7:7).

Solomon reply in 3:6 acknowledges that he only inherits the throne through the ‘great kindness’ (steadfast love) that God has shown to his father, David. It is by the grace of God that Solomon has been appointed king over God’s ‘chosen’ people. This is a theme that appears regularly in 1 Kings. It is because of God’s faithfulness to his covenant with David that both Solomon and Israel are ‘repeatedly treated in gracious mercy, in ways [they] did not deserve’ [1]. This is true even when Solomon turns away from God towards the end of his life (1 Kings 11:12).

Solomon’s reference in 3:7 to his being a ‘little child’ is a reference to his inexperience as king, because Solomon already had a son when he begins his reign (see 1 Kings 11:42; 14:21). Solomon asks to be empowered for service, to have a discerning heart to govern Israel, and for the ability to distinguish between right and wrong (see James 1:5). Solomon seeks wisdom, not just for his own benefit, but so that he can be a better King of Israel (see 1 Cor 12:7-8).

In 3:10 we see God is pleased that Solomon did not seek wealth, fame, or personal gain. Likewise, God is pleased that Solomon did not pray for the destruction of his enemies (Matt 5:44) and therefore God blesses Solomon beyond what he asked for. Solomon’s response to God is to return to Jerusalem and offer sacrifices before the Ark of the Covenant instead of the high places, and he invites his court to feast with him and thus share in the blessings he has been given by the Lord.

In 3:16 we now get a chance to see Solomon’s God-given wisdom in action. We are told that two prostitutes come before the king. This, in of itself, is significant, as it would have been easy for Solomon to dismiss the case to be dealt with by someone else, and yet even as King, he made time to adjudicate the dispute between two women who were outside the normal social standings, who were outcasts (this is also characteristic of Jesus’ ministry, e.g. Matt 11:19; see also Psalm 41:1). While the narrator identifies the women as prostitutes in 3:16, thereafter ‘they are women: they are not defined by their activity’ [2].

The story of the death of the infant is heartbreaking, and while it can be easy to condemn the mother who (allegedly) swapped the infants and who agrees to the baby being split in two, it is important to remember that there is often madness in grief and a desire to hurt when in pain. We are explicitly told that the women were alone in the house, so there were no witnesses to help establish the truth.

Solomon’s call to bring a sword and his (seeming) threat to kill the baby is easy to take out of context in a modern setting. Yet even in today’s society children are often used as weapons in divorces and family disputes. Solomon’s wisdom is in seeking to determine which mother had the best interests of the baby at heart. Solomon’s judgment also shows mercy in that he does not seek to punish or add to the suffering of the woman who has just lost her baby. Solomon’s wisdom in this moment is in his demonstration that compassion and mercy are not mutually exclusive with justice. ‘Mercy is an integral part of true justice’ [3], and Israel recognizes in this judgement that Solomon’s wisdom is from God.

How does this text witness to Jesus Christ?

‘Sadly Solomon later in life, and kings after him, fell far short of the ideal, yet there is a message of hope. ‘“The days are coming”, declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land”’ (Jer. 23:5). In Jesus Christ we see the ‘wise’ King who was ‘a friend of tax collectors and sinners’ (Matt. 11:19), and who ‘will proclaim justice to the nations’ (Matt. 12:18). In all Christ is and does, above all on the cross, we see ‘the wisdom of God’ (1 Cor. 1:24)’ [4].

Just as Solomon is not treated as his sins deserve because of the faithfulness of David, as Christians we are not treated as our sins deserve because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. ‘Not only did his obedience merit our righteousness before God, but he also bore the consequences of our covenant breaking… (2 Cor. 5:21; cf. Rom. 8:1). In Christ, we are guaranteed that God’s steadfast love will never run out’ [5].

Solomon’s prayer helps us to see that wisdom begins with a choice for God – to seek his ways and his kingdom in our life (Matt 6:9-10) and the hallmarks of godly wisdom is being ‘full of mercy and good fruit’ (James 3:13-18).

Scripture Resources:

Psalm 72
Proverbs 3:13-35
Colossian 2:2-5
Isaiah 11:1-5
Matthew 12:42

GCI Resources:


  1. The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, 2013. Digital Edition.
  2. John Olley, The Bible Speak Today: the Message of Kings, 2012. Digital Edition.
  3. The Interpreter’s Bible: Kings, 1954. 46.
  4. John Olley, The Bible Speak Today: the Message of Kings, 2012. Digital Edition.
  5. The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, 2013. Digital Edition.
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