Solomon was the second child of David and Bathsheba. He was not David's eldest son but had been made heir by his father. In the previous 2 chapters one of his elder half brothers had already attempted to undermine his authority.
Deuteronomy 7;3 warned God's people not to marry foreign wives as they would lead them to worship other gods. It also told them to destroy the 'high places' where people had (and still did) worship Baals & other deities, though some of them were used to worship God as well. (Once the temple was built God insisted it was the ONLY place to make sacrifices to him so that there was no confusion)
READ 1 KINGS 3;1-15
1) Solomon's actions in V1-5 show he had a mixed understanding of how to serve God.
a. What did he do right?
b. Which of his actions would you consider unwise?
2) Given these mixed actions what does God's reaction in V5 tell us about his character?
A female student I met wrestled a robber for her bag, he ran away - she now feels confident to walk the most dangerous streets in her city alone at night because "God will protect her". While some admire her faith, others think she is foolish.
3) a. When has God been gracious to you despite your unwise actions?
b. To what extent do you think this means God will ALWAYS bless the actions of his children? (Even if they are foolish)
c. How should this affect the way we act?
4) In V5 God makes Solomon an amazing offer.
a. Given the same offer what would you (honestly) ask for?
b. Why do you think Solomon makes the request he does? (V6-9)
5) God's response to Solomon's request in V10-12 is amazingly generous. Some Christians believe that God will always give wealth and success to his children, that all we need to do is "name and claim” whatever we want and that if we don't have them it's because we don't have enough faith. What is your opinion of this idea and what do you think this passage teaches us about it?
6) Most people gain wisdom over a lifetime, Solomon's wisdom was instantaneous. He needed wisdom to rule justly, something he had no experience of how to do.
a. How might you grow in wisdom generally?
b. In what areas of your life do you feel you need God to give you his perspective and wisdom right now?
DICTIONARY DEFINITIONS = INTELLIGENCE -"quickness of understanding / intellect "
SHREWDNESS - "discriminating /astute/ sensing things, also mischievous / malicious"
WISDOM - "experience / knowledge & power to apply them practically with prudence / common sense"
i.e.; the fundamental difference is that wise people know how to apply their knowledge, they are not merely 'clever'. Shrewdness implies a less than honest/positive motive. Wisdom is always positive in how it is demonstrated.
1) Solomon should not have taken a foreign wife if he was obeying God - it was a shrewd political move but was more to do with building alliances with other nations than love. He ended up with 700 such matches, showing his power over other nations - in the end these foreign wives did exactly what Deuteronomy warned and led him to worship other Gods. Offering sacrifices at the high places was common practice but not what God wanted, it was too easy for the people to get confused as to who they were sacrificing to, God or Baal. The Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem was the appropriate place to worship God.
2) That God accepted these sacrifices shows his grace and mercy that he heard the cry of Solomon's heart; who wanted to honor and worship him even if his ways of doing it were not ideal.
3) This may provoke an interesting debate about faith and common sense - both of which are gifts from God. There ARE bible passages that talk about how God will protect his children, but the reality is terrible things DO happen to Christians and the bible talks about looking on them as positive things that God refines our character and tests out faith through. Ultimately however no-one and nothing can rob us of our place in heaven and our relationship with God - even if they kill us. However, we are still called to be wise and prudent - which has a lot to do with common sense!
4) Solomon knew he was out of his depth, he NEEDED wisdom desperately!
5) God DOES bless us, but he is not a divine Santa Claus who if we ask for a BMW hard enough will cough up! When people follow God he does work thing out for their good, and some people's financial situation does improve - often because their value system changes when they get saved and wasting money stops. In this passage Solomon did not name and claim wealth and success, God blessed him with them because he had been faithful, we always need to check our motives when we ask God for things. Are we asking for the good of God's kingdom or because we are greedy & selfish?
6) Older Christians, mentors, prayer triplets, accountability groups etc are an excellent way of growing. Studying the bible is obvious but often neglected by Christians.
© Ruth Perrin 2008. Last revised on 1 December 2008
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Cloud of Witnesses is a series of Bible studies on the men and women of scripture. You'll find everyone from Gideon and Andrew through to Tamar and Tabitha.
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Ruth Perrin, the author, is on staff at King's Church Durham and holds an MA in Theology and Ministry.
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