When Overwhelmed by Responsibilities

Biblical Truth: God delights in giving His people the wisdom they need to manage the responsibilities He assigns them.

Turn to the Lord:  1 Kings 3:1-4.

[1]  Then Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt, and took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her to the city of David until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem. [2]  The people were still sacrificing on the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the LORD until those days. [3]  Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. [4]  The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.   [NASU]

[1]  Solomon’s name comes from the Hebrew word ‎shalom ‎which means "peace," and during his reign, the kingdom was at peace with its neighbors. His father, David, had risked his life on the battle-field to defeat enemy nations and claim their lands for Israel, but Solomon took a different approach to international diplomacy. He made treaties with other rulers by marrying their daughters, which helps to explain why he had seven hundred wives who were princesses, as well as three hundred concubines [11:3]. His first bride after he became king was the daughter of the pharaoh of Egypt, Israel‘s old enemy. This alliance indicates that Egypt had slipped much lower on the international scene and that Israel was now much higher, because Egyptian rulers didn’t give their daughters in marriage to the rulers of other nations. It’s significant that Solomon didn’t put his Egyptian wife into the royal palace where David had lived, because it was near the Ark of the Covenant [2 Chron. 8:11], but housed her in another place until her own palace was completed. He spent seven years building the temple of God but thirteen years building his own palace [1 Kings 6:37-7:1].

Solomon is remembered as the king during whose reign the temple was built [chapters. 5-7]. His alliance with Hiram, king of Tyre, gave him access to fine timber and skilled workmen. But he also built his own palace [7:1-12]. He also built a house in Jerusalem for his Egyptian princess wife [2 Chron. 8:11]. Official state visitors were overwhelmed by the splendor of these structures [chapter 10].

Though he wasn’t a warrior himself, Solomon was concerned about the security of the land. He expanded and strengthened the protective wall or embankment that David had begun to build [2 Sam. 5:9]. Solomon had a special interest in horses and chariots and built stables in special "chariot cities" [4:26; 9:17-19; 10:26-29]. He also built "storage cities" in strategic places [9:15-19; 2 Chron. 8:1-6]. At that time, Israel controlled several important trade routes that needed to be protected, and military personnel were housed in these cities, along with supplies of food and arms.

[2-4]  Solomon certainly made a good beginning, for he loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David [3]; but a good beginning doesn’t guarantee a good ending. God desired that the people of Israel have a central place of worship and not imitate the nations in Canaan by building "high places" wherever they chose. When Israel entered the land, they were instructed to destroy these "high places" and the idols that were worshiped there [Num. 33:52; Deut. 7:5; 12:1ff; 33:29]. David kept to the ark, and did not care for the high places, but Solomon, though in other things he walked in the statutes of his father, in this came short of him. He showed thereby a great zeal for sacrificing, but to obey would have been better. This was an irregularity. Though there was as yet no house built, there was a tent pitched, to the name of the Lord and the ark ought to have been the center of their unity. Even after the temple was built, Solomon continued to worship indiscriminately at the high places [11:1-13]. However, until the temple was built and centralized worship was established in the land, the people of Israel worshiped the Lord in these "high places." In time, the phrase "high place" began to be used to mean "a place of worship" and the Jews worshiped Jehovah at these temporary shrines. Gibeon was such a sacred place, for the tabernacle was located there. As a first step toward the construction of the tabernacle, David had moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, but the rest of the tabernacle, including the altar of sacrifice, was still at Gibeon, located five miles north of Jerusalem. Solomon assembled the leaders of Israel and arranged for them to go to Gibeon with him and worship the Lord [2 Chron. 1:1-6]. This event would not only be an act of consecration but it would manifest to the people the unity of the nation’s leaders. Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings to the Lord as he and his officers together praised the Lord and sought His face.

Focus on what’s important: 1 Kings 3:5-9.

[5]  In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish me to give you.” [6]  Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in 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 an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”  [NASU]

[5]  The assembly lasted all day and the people remained at Gibeon for the night, including King Solomon. God seems pleased at Solomon’s piety, for the Lord appears in a dream and tells the king to ask for whatever he wants. The Lord’s command and question were a revelation of God’s grace as well as a test of Solomon’s heart. (The word "ask" is found eight times in this passage.) What people ask for usually reveals what they really desire, and what they desire depends on how they envision their life’s calling. Had Solomon been a warrior, he might have asked for victory over his enemies; but he saw himself as a youthful leader who desperately needed wisdom so he could adequately serve God’s chosen people. He had succeeded David, Israel‘s greatest king, and Solomon knew that the people couldn’t help but compare and contrast father and son. But even more, he had been called to build the temple of the Lord, an awesome task for such an inexperienced leader. Solomon knew he couldn’t accomplish that great venture without wisdom from heaven. This offer amounts to a reaffirmation of the Davidic Covenant. Solomon has obeyed God, as David commanded in 2:2-4. Now the Lord decided to bless David’s son. This verse also indicates that God approves of Solomon’s rise to power, the issue left unresolved after chapter 2.

[6]  Solomon prefaces his request by acknowledging the continuation of his father’s covenant with God. The fact that he rules Israel stems from Nathan’s prophecy in 2 Samuel 7:12 and because his father David walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart. David’s covenant loyalty matched God’s own kindness to him. Whatever opportunities Solomon may have are based firmly on God’s sovereign purpose for those who keep their covenant vows.

[7-9]  In light of the greatness of the Lord’s relationship with David, Solomon humbles himself before the Lord (note the repetition of the word “servant”). He admits that God is the cause of his rise to power. Further, he says he is but a small child who does not know how to carry out his duties of leadership. Here Solomon acknowledges his utter dependence on God. In contrast to his own personal and experiential lack of stature, Solomon must lead a people whose greatness is first measured by the fact that they were chosen by God. Solomon now becomes the head of the nation once led by Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and David. According to Deut. 17:14-20, he must embody God’s standards for the people.

Israel’s greatness is also measured by its growing population. Solomon senses that perhaps old ways of governing may not meet the current needs of his subjects. Given this personal dilemma, Solomon requests an understanding heart. This phrase literally means ‘a listening heart’ or ‘an obedient heart’. In the Old Testament ‘hearing’ and ‘obeying’ come from the same word, a linguistic trait with practical implications. Only those who obey authority figures have really heard them. Solomon must obey the Lord by keeping God’s commands in order for his heart to be prepared to lead others. This listening to God will also enable him to listen to others. Solomon’s desire for an obedient, listening heart is based on his wish to administer justice in Israel. Justice can only emerge when the king is able to discern between good and evil. Justice can become a quite complicated goal, as 3:16-28 proves. Only knowledge of what God considers fair and unfair can guide the king to act justly with any consistency. Though Solomon has already exhibited political craftiness, he knows that long-term wisdom and success reside where David found it – in an ongoing relationship with the Lord.

Walk in God’s ways:  1 Kings 3:10-15.

[10]  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 long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself 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.” [15]  Then Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and made peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.   [NASU]

[10-13]  God is pleased with Solomon’s attitude for it showed that the king was concerned with serving God and His people by knowing and doing God’s will. Though Solomon could have asked for selfish favors such as wealth, long life, or revenge, he desires the ability to help others. Thus, in the first of four revelations to Solomon, God not only agrees to grant the request but makes promises beyond what Solomon imagined. He will indeed have a wise and discerning heart, one that will set him apart for all times. Solomon’s wisdom will exceed those before and after him. Further, though he did not ask for wealth and fame, these blessings will be his as well. What all kings want, yet rarely achieve, Solomon will have because of God’s answer to his prayer.

[14-15]  All Solomon must do to secure these blessings is to follow David’s example of adherence to the Sinai covenant. If he keeps the statutes and commandments, Solomon will honor his father and thereby have a long life. This reference to Exodus 20:12 underscores the continuity of God’s covenant with Israel, with David, and with Solomon, the new generation. It also emphasizes the conditional nature of Solomon’s kingship, an idea that is repeated every time God addresses Solomon directly [see 6:11-12; 9:3-9; 11:11-13]. God’s covenant with David is eternal, but Solomon can be replaced with another “son of David” if he disobeys the Lord.

When the king awakes from this life-changing dream, the king seals the agreement. He returns to Jerusalem and goes to the tent that housed the ark of the covenant and there offered more sacrifices. The ark represented the presence of God among His people and the rule of God over His people [Psalm 80:1; 99:1]. Solomon acknowledged the sovereign rule of God over his own life and the life of the nation. In other words, Solomon knew that he was second in command, it was when he started to forget that basic truth that he got himself into trouble.

Questions for Discussion:

1.      Did you notice the element of sadness in verse 3? Solomon loved the Lord except. As we read on in Solomon’s life, we will see all the consequences that derive from this “except” [see 11:1-13]. What “excepts” exist in your love for God?

2.      In verses 5-9, we see the best of Solomon. Note the repetition of “servant” and Solomon’s focus on all the things that God has done. Make a list of what Solomon says about God and then what he says about himself. What does Solomon ask God for? How does this reveal Solomon’s desires at this time in his life?

3.      How does God answer Solomon’s request? Note the conditional element (“if” in verse 14) of Solomon’s kingship (see also 6:11-12; 9:3-9; 11:11-13).


1, 2 Kings, Paul House, NAC, Broadman.

The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament , Warren W. Wiersbe.

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