There are some questionable events – some apparently foretelling, as well – in 1 Kings chapter 3. The marriage alliance in verse 1 with Egypt does show the power that Solomon and his kingdom commanded now (Egypt rarely made such alliances), but what about the command not to intermarry with foreigners because they will lead the people to serve other gods (Deuteronomy 7:3-4)? The Hebrew verb in verse 1 is translated “intermarry” in Deuteronomy.
Then there is the matter of the people sacrificing at the “high places” in verse 2. These are simply publicly accessible places to worship or sacrifice, and likely had been used in idol worship. This is in direct conflict with what is commanded in Deuteronomy 12:1-5. Allowing this to happen is certainly not what David meant when he admonished Solomon to “keep the charge of the Lord your God…” in 1 Kings 2:1-5. And it foreshadows the great fall Solomon would take to idol worship in 1 Kings 11:4-8.
This is so far from the Solomon that we know and that pleased God so much in verse 9 by asking for an understanding mind to govern God’s people – to be able to discern between good and evil, when God had said “Ask what I shall give you.” He could have asked for anything, but he chose that kind of wisdom – for an honorable purpose; and as a result, God gave him the riches and honor he did not ask for (verse 13).
As verse 3 says, “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only…”. It is the exception in the rest of that verse that speaks of his heart being turned the wrong way. Even the greatest wisdom, and starting out with your heart in the right place are not enough without the determination to “stay the course” and always keep God first.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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