Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
3 Kings (1 Kings)
Solomon's Marriage; Worship and Sacrifice at Gibeon; and Wise Judicial Sentence - 1 Kings 3
The establishment of the government in the hands of Solomon having been noticed in 1 Kings 2, the history of his reign commences with an account of his marriage to an Egyptian princess, and with a remark concerning the state of the kingdom at the beginning of his reign (Kg1 2:1-3). There then follows a description of the solemn sacrifice and prayer at Gibeon, by which Solomon sought to give a religious consecration to his government, and to secure the assistance of the Lord and His blessing upon it, and obtained the fulfilment of his desire (Kg1 2:4-15). And then, as a practical proof of the spirit of his government, we have the sentence through which he displayed the wisdom of his judicial decisions in the sight of all the people (Kg1 2:16-28).
3 Kings (1 Kings) 3:1
Solomon's marriage and the religious state of the kingdom. - Kg1 3:1. When Solomon had well secured his possession of the throne (Kg1 2:46), he entered into alliance with Pharaoh, by taking his daughter as his wife. This Pharaoh of Egypt is supposed by Winer, Ewald, and others to have been Psusennes, the last king of the twenty-first (Tanitic) dynasty, who reigned thirty-five years; since the first king of the twenty-second (Bubastic) dynasty, Sesonchis or Sheshonk, was certainly the Shishak who conquered Jerusalem in the fifth year of Rehoboam's reign (Kg1 14:25-26). The alliance by marriage with the royal family of Egypt presupposes that Egypt was desirous of cultivating friendly relations with the kingdom of Israel, which had grown into a power to be dreaded; although, as we know nothing more of the history of Egypt at that time than the mere names of the kings (as given by Manetho), it is impossible to determine what may have been the more precise grounds which led the reigning king of Egypt to seek the friendship of Israel. There is, at any rate, greater probability in this supposition than in that of Thenius, who conjectures that Solomon contracted this marriage because he saw the necessity of entering into a closer relationship with this powerful neighbour, who had a perfectly free access to Palestine. The conclusion of this marriage took place in the first year of Solomon's reign, though probably not at the very beginning of the reign, but not till after his buildings had been begun, as we may infer from the expression לבנות כּלּתו עד (until he had made an end of building). Moreover, Solomon had already married Naamah the Ammonitess before ascending the throne, and had had a son by her (compare Kg1 14:21 with Kg1 11:42-43). - Marriage with an Egyptian princess was not a transgression of the law, as it was only marriages with Canaanitish women that were expressly prohibited (Exo 34:16; Deu 7:3), whereas it was allowable to marry even foreign women taken in war (Deu 21:10.). At the same time, it was only when the foreign wives renounced idolatry and confessed their faith in Jehovah, that such marriages were in accordance with the spirit of the law. And we may assume that this was the case even with Pharaoh's daughter; because Solomon adhered so faithfully to the Lord during the first years of his reign, that he would not have tolerated any idolatry in his neighbourhood, and we cannot find any trace of Egyptian idolatry in Israel in the time of Solomon, and, lastly, the daughter of Pharaoh is expressly distinguished in Kg1 11:1 from the foreign wives who tempted Solomon to idolatry in his old age. The assertion of Seb. Schmidt and Thenius to the contrary rests upon a false interpretation of Kg1 11:1. - "And he brought her into the city of David, till he had finished the building of his palace," etc. Into the city of David: i.e., not into the palace in which his father had dwelt, as Thenius arbitrarily interprets it in opposition to Ch2 8:11, but into a house in the city of David or Jerusalem, from which he brought her up into the house appointed for her after the building of his own palace was finished (Kg1 9:24). The building of the house of Jehovah is mentioned as well, because the sacred tent for the ark of the covenant was set up in the palace of David until the temple was finished, and the temple was not consecrated till after the completion of the building of the palace (see at Kg1 8:1). By the building of "the wall of Jerusalem" we are to understand a stronger fortification, and possibly also the extension of the city wall (see at Kg1 11:27).
"Only the people sacrificed upon high places, because there was not yet a house built for the name of Jehovah until those days." The limiting רק, only, by which this general account of the existing condition of the religious worship is appended to what precedes, may be accounted for from the antithesis to the strengthening of the kingdom by Solomon mentioned in Kg1 2:46. The train of thought is the following: It is true that Solomon's authority was firmly established by the punishment of the rebels, so that he was able to ally himself by marriage with the king of Egypt; but just as he was obliged to bring his Egyptian wife into the city of David, because the building of his palace as not yet finished, so the people, and (according to Kg1 2:3) even Solomon himself, were only able to sacrifice to the Lord at that time upon altars on the high places, because the temple was not yet built. The participle מזבּחים denotes the continuation of this religious condition (see Ewald, 168, c.). The בּמות, or high places,
(Note: The opinion of Bttcher and Thenius, that בּמה signifies a "sacred coppice," is only based upon untenable etymological combinations, and cannot be proved. And Ewald's view is equally unfounded, viz., that "high places were an old Canaanaean species of sanctuary, which at that time had become common in Israel also, and consisted of a tall stone of a conical shape, as the symbol of the Holy One, and of the real high place, viz., an altar, a sacred tree or grove, or even an image of the one God as well" (Gesch. iii. p. 390). For, on the one hand, it cannot be shown that the tall stone of a conical shape existed even in the case of the Canaanitish bamoth, and, on the other hand, it is impossible to adduce a shadow of a proof that the Israelitish bamoth, which were dedicated to Jehovah, were constructed precisely after the pattern of the Baal's-bamoth of the Canaanites.)
were places of sacrifice and prayer, which were built upon eminences of hills, because men thought they were nearer the Deity there, and which consisted in some cases probably of an altar only, though as a rule there was an altar with a sanctuary built by the side (בּמות בּית, Kg1 13:32; Kg2 17:29, Kg2 17:32; Kg2 23:19), so that בּמה frequently stands for בּמה בּית (e.g., Kg1 11:7; Kg1 14:23; Kg2 21:3; Kg2 23:8), and the בּמה is also distinguished from the מזבּח (Kg2 23:15; Ch2 14:2). These high places were consecrated to the worship of Jehovah, and essentially different from the high places of the Canaanites which were consecrated to Baal. Nevertheless sacrificing upon these high places was opposed to the law, according to which the place which the Lord Himself had chosen for the revelation of His name was the only place where sacrifices were to be offered (Lev 17:3.); and therefore it is excused here on the ground that no house (temple) had yet been built to the name of the Lord.
Even Solomon, although he loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, i.e., according to Kg1 2:3, in the commandments of the Lord as they are written in the law of Moses, sacrificed and burnt incense upon high places. Before the building of the temple, more especially since the tabernacle had lost its significance as the central place of the gracious presence of God among His people, through the removal of the ark of the covenant, the worship of the high places was unavoidable; although even afterwards it still continued as a forbidden cultus, and could not be thoroughly exterminated even by the most righteous kings (Kg1 22:24; Kg2 12:4; Kg2 14:4; Kg2 15:4, Kg2 15:35).
3 Kings (1 Kings) 3:4
Solomon's Sacrifice and Dream at Gibeon (cf. Ch2 1:1-13). - To implore the divine blessing upon his reign, Solomon offered to the Lord at Gibeon a great sacrifice - a thousand burnt-offerings; and, according to Ch2 1:2, the representatives of the whole nation took part in this sacrificial festival. At that time the great or principal bamah was at Gibeon (the present el Jib; see at Jos 9:3), namely, the Mosaic tabernacle (Ch2 1:3), which is called הבּמה, because the ark of the covenant, with which Jehovah had bound up His gracious presence, was not there now. "Upon that altar," i.e., upon the altar of the great bamah at Gibeon, the brazen altar of burnt-offering in the tabernacle (Ch2 1:6).
The one thing wanting in the place of sacrifice at Gibeon, viz., the ark of the covenant with the gracious presence of Jehovah, was supplied by the Lord in the case of this sacrifice by a direct revelation in a dream, which Solomon received in the night following the sacrifice. There is a connection between the question which God addressed to Solomon in the dream, "What shall I give thee?" and the object of the sacrifice, viz., to seek the help of God for his reign. Solomon commences his prayer in Kg1 3:6 with an acknowledgment of the great favour which the Lord had shown to his father David, and had continued till now by raising his son to his throne (הזּה כּיּום, as it is this day: cf. Sa1 22:8; Deu 8:18, etc.); and then, in Kg1 3:7-9, in the consciousness of his incapacity for the right administration of government over so numerous a people, he asks the Lord for an obedient heart and for wisdom to rule His people. ועתּה introduces the petition, the reasons assigned for which are, (1) his youth and inexperience, and (2) the greatness or multitude of the nation to be governed. I am, says he, קטן נער, i.e., an inexperienced youth (Solomon was only about twenty years old): "I know not to go out and in," i.e., how to behave myself as king, or govern the people (for ובא צאת compare the note on Num 27:17). At Kg1 3:8 he describes the magnitude of the nation in words which recall to mind the divine promises in Gen 13:16 and Gen 32:13, to indicate how gloriously the Lord has fulfilled the promises which He made to the patriarchs.
ונתתּ, therefore give. The prayer (commencing with ועתּה in Kg1 3:7) is appended in the form of an apodosis to the circumstantial clauses וגו ואנכי and וגו ועבדּך, which contain the grounds of the petition. שׁמע לב, a hearing heart, i.e., a heart giving heed to the law and right of God, "to judge Thy people, (namely) to distinguish between good and evil (i.e., right and wrong)." "For who could judge this Thy numerous people," sc. unless Thou gavest him intelligence? כּבד, heavy in multitude: in the Chronicles this is explained by גּדול.
This prayer pleased God well. "Because thou hast asked this, and hast not asked for thyself long life, nor riches, nor the life (i.e., the destruction) of thy foes," all of them good things, which the world seeks to obtain as the greatest prize, "but intelligence to hear judgment (i.e., to foster it, inasmuch as the administration of justice rests upon a conscientious hearing of the parties), behold I have done according to thy word" (i.e., fulfilled thy request: the perfect is used, inasmuch as the hearkening has already begun; for הנּה in this connection compare Ewald, 307, e.), "and given thee a wise and understanding heart." The words which follow, "so that there has been none like thee before thee," etc., are not to be restricted to the kings of Israel, as Clericus supposes, but are to be understood quite universally as applying to all mankind (cf. Kg1 5:9-11).
In addition to this, according to the promise that to him who seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness all other things shall be added (Mat 6:33), God will also give him the earthly blessings, for which he has not asked, and that in great abundance, viz., riches and honour such as no king of the earth has had before him; and if he adhere faithfully to God's commandments, long life also (והארכתּי, in this case I have lengthened). This last promise was not fulfilled, because Solomon did not observe the condition (cf. Kg1 11:42).
Then Solomon awoke, and behold it was a dream; i.e., a dream produced by God, a revelation by dream, or a divine appearance in a dream. חלום as in Num 12:6. - Solomon thanked the Lord again for this promise after his return to Jerusalem, by offering burnt-offerings and thank-offerings before the ark of the covenant, i.e., upon the altar at the tent erected for the ark upon Zion, and prepared a meal for all his servants (viz., his court-servants), i.e., a sacrificial meal of the שׁלמים. - This sacrificial festival upon Zion is omitted in the Chronicles, as well as the following account in Num 12:16 -28; not, however, because in the chronicler's opinion no sacrifices had any legal validity but such as were offered upon the altar of the Mosaic tabernacle, as Thenius fancies, though without observing the account in Ch1 21:26., which overthrows this assertion, but because this sacrificial festival had no essential significance in relation to Solomon's reign.
3 Kings (1 Kings) 3:16
Solomon's Judicial Wisdom. - As a proof that the Lord had bestowed upon Solomon unusual judicial wisdom, there is appended a decision of his in a very difficult case, in which Solomon had shown extraordinary intelligence. Two harlots living together in one house had each given birth to a child, and one of them had "overlaid" her child in the night while asleep (עליו שׁכבה אשׁר, because she had lain upon it), and had then placed her dead child in the other one's bosom and taken her living child away. When the other woman looked the next morning at the child lying in her bosom, she saw that it was not her own but the other woman's child, whereas the latter maintained the opposite. As they eventually referred the matter in dispute to the king, and each one declared that the living child was her own, the king ordered a sword to be brought, and the living child to be cut in two, and a half given to each. Then the mother of the living child, "because her bowels yearned upon her son," i.e., her maternal love was excited, cried out, "Give her (the other) the living child, but do not slay it;" whereas the latter said, "It shall be neither mine nor thine, cut it in pieces."
3 Kings (1 Kings) 3:27
Solomon saw from this which was the mother of the living child, and handed it over to her.
(Note: Grotius observes on this: "The ἀγχίνοια of Solomon was shown by this to be very great. There is a certain similarity in the account of Ariopharnis, king of the Thracians, who, when three persons claimed to be the sons of the king of the Cimmerii, decided that he was the son who would not obey the command to cast javelins at his father's corpse. The account is given by Diodorus Siculus.")
3 Kings (1 Kings) 3:28
This judicial decision convinced all the people that Solomon was endowed with divine wisdom for the administration of justice.