A Real Wise Guy
David’s dying words define what was in David’s heart and what every father wishes for every son:
1 Kings 2:1–4 || 1 As the time approached for David to die, he ordered his son Solomon, 2 “As for me, I am going the way of all of the earth. Be strong and be a man, 3 and keep your obligation to the LORD your God to walk in his ways and to keep his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees. This is written in the law of Moses, so that you will have success in everything you do and wherever you turn, 4 and so that the LORD will fulfill his promise that he made to me: ‘If your sons guard their way to walk faithfully before me with all their heart and all their soul, you will never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ [CSB]
The beginning of this charge should sound familiar. “Be strong” is the rally cry at the time that Joshua received the leadership mantle from Moses. A young man who was trying to fill the sandals of a giant of a leader.
Joshua 1:6–9 || 6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction my servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. 8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. 9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” [CSB]
Here, now, is Solomon. He is young (by his own admission) and lacks experience. So, his father calls him in and gives him the same basic instruction that Joshua received:
1 Kings 2:2–3 || 2 “As for me, I am going the way of all of the earth. Be strong and be a man, 3 and keep your obligation to the LORD your God [Yahweh your god] to walk in his ways and to keep his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees. This is written in the law of Moses, so that you will have success in everything you do and wherever you turn, [CSB]
A common battle-cry phrase of encouragement and an echo of the whole thrust of the Torah...to follow and obey Yahweh and keep the Mosaic covenant.
This first part of what David says reflects his desire for Israel to keep God’s commandments and fulfill their purpose as a nation. He wants also his son to lead Israel in realizing the potential they now have as a secure and unified kingdom, and in doing so perpetuate God’s promise to David for his “dynasty” to last forever. Of course, we know that promise was actually fulfilled by Jesus, but at this moment Solomon is seen by David as the one carrying on his legacy. And David is correct and wise to emphasize that earthly prosperity and prominence would continue only for as long as his descendants were faithful to Yahweh.
I think this is the hope of every God-loving parent: that their children will be strong and faithful to God and that God will make them successful.
Remember, this promise of success and blessing in the land is a conditional covenant! IF you keep my commands… I will bless you and establish you in the land. These parting words of David are a reminder of the special calling of the entire nation of Israel, a calling to represent God.
Deuteronomy 10:12 || 12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul? [CSB]
We fear God by being obedient to him, loving him and living for his name. The end of that verse takes us right back to the Shema:
Deuteronomy 6:4–5 || 4 “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. [CSB]
David took the time to remind Solomon of the promises of God and the responsibilities of his people. These are always appropriate, especially for the children of the promise.
And that covenant promise was appended to include another promise made specifically to David:
2 Samuel 7:12–16 || 12 When your time comes and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will discipline him with a rod of men and blows from mortals. 15 But my faithful love will never leave him as it did when I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and kingdom will endure before me forever, and your throne will be established forever.’ ” [CSB]
This covenant that God made with David, the “Davidic Covenant”, talks about one who will come up after David, when David goes to be with his fathers. So, as you can imagine, all eyes are on Solomon!
In 2 Samuel there is a promise of a seed, a descendant of David that will rule and establish the kingdom forever. This is certainly speaking of the Messiah! So, the nation was looking for the Messiah, and from what information they had, it would have been natural for them to wonder if Solomon was that messiah.
While we do not have exact dates for the reign of Solomon, it is believed to be around 970-930BC.
Isaiah was a prophet from around 739-680BC. So more than 200 years later, Isaiah, the prophet, speaks of the descendant of Jesse (David’s father) who will rule. It sounds a LOT like what was said about Solomon! However, Solomon would have been buried long before Isaiah spoke.
Isaiah 11:1–5 || 1 Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. 3 His delight will be in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, he will not execute justice by what he hears with his ears, 4 but he will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land. He will strike the land with a scepter from his mouth, and he will kill the wicked with a command from his lips. 5 Righteousness will be a belt around his hips; faithfulness will be a belt around his waist. [CSB]
However, God makes it clear, and reaffirms to his people, that the Messiah will come, as promised. He will be a descendant of David, as promised. Just not yet…
In both passages, 2 Sam 7 and Isa 11, the person spoken about is characterized by the following:
The passages we will read in 1 Kings are going to be very specific in pointing out the fulfillment of each of these traits in the life of Solomon.
We definitely see this fulfilled in 1 Kings 2 as we read about Solomon on a killing spree, taking revenge for the people who betrayed him and his father.
All of these actions took place not at the hand of Solomon, but with his lips, his words.
This was the second part of David’s last words to Solomon! advice on how to handle some people who might be a threat to Solomon. David spends more of his breath in the second part, which is a kind of lecture on who to trust and who not to trust, and even telling him to kill some potential enemies. The motivation behind this seems largely political and somewhat vengeful. It is not explicitly stated that David’s motives were not pure or that his advice was unwise. However, I find it significant that this advice shifts from a focus on glorifying God to securing the throne by taking matters into his own hands through violence. Moreover, there is no mention of consulting Yahweh as to the proper handling of these matters, nor of any direct command from Yahweh to carry out “Justice” in this particular way.
And with each one, there was a reference to the covenant, to the throne of David being established by God forever.
1 Kings 2:12 || 12 Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his kingship was firmly established. [CSB]
God established the throne of Solomon. [ref: 2:33, 2:45, 2:46]
NOTE: as with all “typology” (such as Solomon being a “type of messiah”, there will be places where they fail to be the example or type. We see this in Solomon when we compare him to David (another type of messiah) as well as comparing them both to THE Messiah (or the Christ):
Obedient to God
A heart after God
Served his people
Fell into idol worship
Disobedient to God
A heart after wealth
Ruled his people
Obedient to God
A heart after God
Serves his people
We will read about Solomon building a house for God, but for now, let’s look at the wisdom portion.
1 Kings 3:1–15 || 1 Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt by marrying Pharaoh’s daughter. Solomon brought her to the city of David until he finished building his palace, the LORD’s temple, and the wall surrounding Jerusalem. 2 However, the people were sacrificing on the high places, because until that time a temple for the LORD’s name had not been built. 3 Solomon loved the LORD by walking in the statutes of his father David, but he also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there because it was the most famous high place. He offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask. What should I give you?” 6 And Solomon replied, “You have shown great and faithful love to your servant, my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity. You have continued this great and faithful love for him by giving him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today. 7 “LORD my God [Yahweh my god], you have now made your servant king in my father David’s place. Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership. 8 Your servant is among your people you have chosen, a people too many to be numbered or counted. 9 So give your servant a receptive heart to judge your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?” 10 Now it pleased the Lord that Solomon had requested this. 11 So God said to him, “Because you have requested this and did not ask for long life or riches for yourself, or the death of your enemies, but you asked discernment for yourself to administer justice, 12 I will therefore do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has never been anyone like you before and never will be again. 13 In addition, I will give you what you did not ask for: both riches and honor, so that no king will be your equal during your entire life. 14 If you walk in my ways and keep my statutes and commands just as your father David did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon woke up and realized it had been a dream. He went to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant, and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he held a feast for all his servants. [CSB]
Notice that both the killings and the foreign/politically motivated marriage take place BEFORE Solomon asks for and is granted divine wisdom. Whether or not those events were inherently sinful, there is a shift that takes place here in Solomon’s attitude and leadership style.
Perhaps one of the most famous passages about Solomon, this shows the wisdom that God has already given him.
What is wrong with this picture? (he already took a foreign wife!).
QUESTION: Was it wrong for Solomon to offer sacrifices on the high places?
Sacrificing at the high places. When the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, they were supposed to destroy all the hilltop shrines [aka “high places”] of the Canaanites (Num. 33:52; Deut. 7:5; 12:3). Until the construction of the temple, Israel was allowed to worship at divinely sanctioned sites (Ex. 20:24; Judg. 6:24; 13:19; 1 Sam. 7:17; 9:12, 13). Solomon, however, continues the building of and worship at these sites even after the temple is built (11:7, 8), in disobedience to Deut. 12. (The Reformation Study Bible)
BUT, God was still pleased to visit him and honor him. Solomon responds to the promise of God in faith, assuming that God has granted what he promised, which is why he went back and offered even more sacrifices!
QUESTION: The gift of wisdom is far more valuable than material wealth, and it pleased God to give it to Solomon. We know that wealth and materialism will eventually contribute to Solomon’s downfall, so why didn’t God just stick to Solomon’s request and give him wisdom without all the riches and glory?
Let’s continue in 1 Kings 3 and look at one more famous passage, this time a demonstration of the wisdom that God had granted Solomon:
1 Kings 3:16–28 || 16 Then two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One woman said, “Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was in the house. 18 On the third day after I gave birth, she also had a baby and we were alone. No one else was with us in the house; just the two of us were there. 19 During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while your servant was asleep. She laid him in her arms, and she put her dead son in my arms. 21 When I got up in the morning to nurse my son, I discovered he was dead. That morning, when I looked closely at him I realized that he was not the son I gave birth to.” 22 “No,” the other woman said. “My son is the living one; your son is the dead one.” The first woman said, “No, your son is the dead one; my son is the living one.” So they argued before the king. 23 The king replied, “This woman says, ‘This is my son who is alive, and your son is dead,’ but that woman says, ‘No, your son is dead, and my son is alive.’ ” 24 The king continued, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought the sword to the king. 25 And the king said, “Cut the living boy in two and give half to one and half to the other.” 26 The woman whose son was alive spoke to the king because she felt great compassion for her son. “My lord, give her the living baby,” she said, “but please don’t have him killed!” But the other one said, “He will not be mine or yours. Cut him in two!” 27 The king responded, “Give the living baby to the first woman, and don’t kill him. She is his mother.” 28 All Israel heard about the judgment the king had given, and they stood in awe of the king because they saw that God’s wisdom was in him to carry out justice. [CSB]
Notice at the end of that passage what the people saw?
Notice that in the previous chapter, Solomon used his authority to enact violent judgement by the sword. Now, he has used a sword in a figurative way to bring about peace and avoid violence.
NOTE: this is a dramatically different type of leadership than with David. Where David prayed for victory over enemies, Solomon ask for the ability to judge well. They sow two different aspects of the Messiah, but it also shows a significant shift in the quality of life that Israel was experiencing at the hand of God.
So in all of this, Solomon proved to be a type of Messiah, or a type of Christ. The people of his day might have even wondered if he was the promised seed of the woman from Gen 3:15, but we know he was not. However, even with his imperfections, he was a great representation of God’s wisdom (for a season). He was an image bearer, like you and I are gifted to be.
Understanding how to lead our friends, family, work, church, unit – takes wisdom. One of the things I love about 1 Kings 3 is that is demonstrates God’s desire to give wisdom. And if that is not enough, we even have a direct promise given to us from God:
James 1:5 || 5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him. [CSB]
Perhaps this is the reason why so many who read and teach this passage focus on gaining wisdom. And, while that is certainly an honorable thing, it is not the main point of this passage. The main point is that God is the source of all wisdom, and the ultimate display of that wisdom will become evident when the promise he made regarding David’s offspring is fulfilled.
It also illustrates what happens when people lead according to God’s wisdom instead of their own. It results in peacemaking, fair judgement, and a whole society being exposed to and in awe and proper worship of who God is, which brings him glory.
The wisdom of God is a theme and topic as big as the Bible itself. It is baked into every genre, from narrative and the law to poetry to prophecy. Wisdom is even is personified as a character who was present at creation! Looking at scripture as a whole, we can see that one of its key purposes is to reveal God’s wisdom and defy our own self-made “wisdom.”
Over the next few weeks, we’ll continue to look at how God used Solomon to reveal much of his wisdom in a wide variety of different ways...and also how Solomon ultimately strayed from that wisdom, which of course led to his downfall and terrible consequences for the nation of Israel. But, like with just about any other Biblical character, we can learn from both the high points and the low points in his story. In Solomon we see a person who manifests (temporarily) the value and splendor and majesty of God’s wisdom, and his generosity and delight in giving it to those who seek it.