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1 Kings 3:5-14

New American Standard Bible 1995

5 In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.”

Solomon’s Prayer

6 Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in [a]truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. 7 Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. 9 So give Your servant [c]an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this [d]great people of Yours?”

God’s Answer

10 [e]It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself [f]long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself [g]discernment to understand justice, 12 behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. 13 I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. 14 If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.”

1 Kings 11:1-13

New American Standard Bible 1995

Solomon Turns from God

11 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not [a]associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast to these in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. 4 For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not [c]wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after [d]Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as David his father had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is [e]east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon. 8 Thus also he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

9 Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord had commanded. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Because [f]you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”

Why was Solomon’s Godly Wisdom Not enough to prevent him from sinning by marrying “Non-Hebrew” women? To elaborate, if Solomon had so much Godly Wisdom then he should have been Wise enough to know that marrying “Non-Hebrew” women would be disastrous.

And What should he probably have asked God for in addition to his request for Godly Wisdom that might have prevented him from sinning?

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Solomon knew that disobeying God’s command not to marry pagan women would be disastrous. Solomon knew full well what the Law said about such things. As to WHY he flew in the face of God’s Laws, in spite of all the wisdom God graciously bestowed upon him, the Bible has the answer.

Initially, Solomon loved God and walked in the statutes of David his father (1 Kings 3:3). Because God was pleased with Solomon he granted Solomon this request:

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? (1 Kings 3:9)

Not only did God grant this request He gave Solomon two other gifts – wealth and fame and a long life based upon the condition that Solomon would obey the Lord his God and keep His statutes and commandments, just as his father David had done (1 Kings 3:14).

The Bible record shows that Solomon strayed from the path of obedience and his decisions were in direct violation of God’s Law. Needless to say there were consequences. God had given clear instructions for anyone who would be king: no amassing of horses, no multiplying of wives, and no accumulating of silver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). These commands were designed to prevent the king from trusting in military might, following foreign gods, and relying on wealth instead of on God. Solomon knowingly broke all three of these divine prohibitions. Why? Because he was no longer fully devoted to the Lord his God (1 Kings 11:4).

You ask why Solomon’s godly wisdom was not enough to prevent him from sinning by marrying women who followed pagan gods. God blessed Solomon with wisdom and wealth, but expected him to be obedient. Solomon was no mere puppet king. God did not force him to do the right thing. God allowed Solomon to make the choice to disobey, but Solomon’s choice brought inevitable consequences. Solomon allowed his wives and his wealth to turn his head and his heart away from God. He may have had wisdom, but he had not applied that wisdom by being faithful to the God of his forefathers.

So the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates’” (1 Kings 11:11).

God showed mercy to Solomon for David’s sake but Solomon’s kingdom was eventually divided. Toward the end of his days, Solomon conceded that his wealth and his harem had not brought happiness and that all of the pleasures in life are meaningless (Ecclesiastes 12:8-14).

God allowed Solomon to go his own way and through Solomon’s mistakes, we can understand that there are consequences to disobedience. May we take heed of Solomon’s final conclusion:

>Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

You ask, what should Solomon probably have asked God for in addition to his request for Godly Wisdom that might have prevented him from sinning? That is purely speculative but, upon reflection, perhaps he should have asked for humility.

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    @Lesley-Yes, humility is a must! But it is hard to have that character quality when you're on top of the world. A head bursting with wisdom, fame greater than all the East, money bulging from very coffer. There must be an external defense to check internal flaws of a person: the awesome prophetic word of God. It is most helpful when an anointed prophet will speak, without fear or favor, into a person's life. (Of course, the Holy Spirit can speak to an individual through the Written Word as well, but there's something about eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation...and encouragement.)
    – ray grant
    Aug 12, 2023 at 23:54
  • @raygrant - I've heard it said that our personal relationship with God requires a heart transplant (spiritually speaking) rather that simply acquiring head knowledge. It is the proper application of our knowledge of God and His will that results in godly wisdom.
    – Lesley
    Aug 13, 2023 at 6:14
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One of the purposes of the Old Testament is to demonstrate why we need the Gospel. The only solution we have to sin is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and so the scriptures demonstrate how everything we might think of fails.

  • Adam shows us that even knowing and speaking to God face to face won't keep us from sinning.
  • Abraham shows us that even hearing God speak to you and make concrete promises to you won't be enough for you to believe those promises, trust God, and not try to take things into your own hands.
  • The book of Exodus shows us that even seeing God perform numerous miracles, saving the nation of Israel from slavery, and even hearing the voice of God boom down from Mt Sinai, they aren't enough to stop Israel from disobeying God and making idols.
  • David shows us that even having God make a personal covenant with you isn't enough to expel sin from your life.
  • And Solomon shows us that even having more wisdom than anyone else in history won't mean that you'll apply that wisdom to your own life and keep yourself from giving in to sin.

If we define wisdom as knowing what the right decision for each situation, then the "quantity" of wisdom we possess doesn't determine whether we will actually choose to do the wise thing. You don't need Solomon's wisdom to give in to sin. All of us have had times when we've known for certain what the wisest choice would be, and yet we choose something else instead.

Could Solomon have asked for something else instead of wisdom, like to take away his sinful nature? Perhaps. But like a fairy tale with genie's wishes, that's not the point of the story. It was good that Solomon asked for wisdom. And God used this story of the wisest man who ever lived but was also evidently greedy, lustful and, if we think he wrote Ecclesiastes, an at-times nihilistic failure. The failures of these heroes of the Bible is the point. Sin conquered them. So trying to emulate them won't work for us either.

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Natural Wisdom Indeed, Solomon was endowed with much knowledge and wisdom. He could write Proverbs, examine wildlife, understand husbandry and biology. Even make just rulings in difficult legal cases.

But where Solomon lacked was his lack of prophetic input. We have no record of his consulting anointed prophets, nor having prophets confront him when he was going astray. We have record of prophets writing books about his wisdom and deeds (2 Chronicles 9:29), but no instances of rebuke for his making political contracts involving marrying idolatrous wives. He also multiplied horses (military chariots), and precious metals, contrary to Mosaic regulations for any king. But no prophet showed up.

Although Solomon knew that "in a multitude of counselors there is safety," no one can replace and nothing can substitute for a Word from the Lord. Prophetic input is vital for defense against temptations common to man. And they are necessary for correction after moral or ethical failure---as David experienced.

Yes, God endowed Solomon with the gifts of wisdom and knowledge and understanding. But that is just part of existential living. The soul must be nourished with spiritual meat. And this is not just referring to "external observances" or outward religiosity---for Solomon had the Temple with all its glory and sacraments. He could sacrifice a million animals at will. But the sacrifices God desires are spiritual. (Hosea 6:6, et al.)

Solomon should have asked for personal prophets, like his father David had! (Gad, Samuel, Nathan)

Addendum As well as the input of the Prophets, David was known for inquiring the Lord by consulting the priests who has the Ephod (Urim and Thummim). (1 Samuel 23:11-12, 30:7, 2 Samuel 2:1, 5:23-24)

The priests with the Ephod were mainly located in Gibeah where the Tabernacle was located. But even when he was on the run, he sought out the priests to inquire about his next move (battle.)

Solomon had all the priests and holy sacraments in the Temple he constructed, but throughout his reign, we don't read of his consulting them, or taking advantage of inquiring the Lord by them. An on-going personal relationship with God seems to have been lacking. One or two dreams just don't suffice for any life, let alone for one bearing a crown.

On the contrary, notice how many Psalms David composed that illustrate how "personal" his relationship was with God! His continual communication (prayers), and his lofty praise for his God is indescribable, ineffable, unfathomable! My soul longs for the Living God...as the deer pants after the water brook, so my soul pants after Thee...Thou art my strength, my song, and my salvation...

Solomon should have inquired of the Lord through the Ephod-carrying priests, which God had provided for the Israelites!

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