Solomon was the third and last king of the united Israel and the second son of David and Bathsheba. He succeeded David his father as king of Israel at a time of Israel’s great material and spiritual prosperity. At this time, he was young (about 20 years old) when he was crowned and assumed leadership of Israel. Realizing the seriousness of governing as a young man, Solomon began his reign with prayer.
The night Solomon was at Gibeon to offer sacrifices to the Lord, God appeared to him in a dream and told him to request of Him whatever he desired. God said to him, “Ask! What shall I give you?” Solomon responded to God by praying this prayer:
“You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kings 3:5-9).
Read I Kings 3:5-9
This passage shows how God gave King Solomon an open door early in his reign to make any request that was important to him. As a young man, Solomon was an inexperienced person and leader of God’s people—he was still learning on how to carry through the huge tasks ahead of him. Because he knew that governing is serious business, he turned to God for help, and the Lord came to his rescue—asking him to make a choice of anything that he might wish.
While Solomon could have asked for wealth or a long life or for the wrath of God to come upon his enemies, the young king made a conscious decision to choose above all else understanding and discernment. He asked the Lord to give him the gift of wisdom—an understanding heart to judge God’s people (Israel) and the ability to tell good from evil.
His wise choice, without doubt, revealed his feelings of inability to do all that was put upon him as the leader of God’s people. But as we can see from the text, Solomon stressed his relative youth and inexperience with proper humility—suggesting not only the willingness and patience to listen to all sides of an issue, but also the desire for the ability to reason. His request pleased the Lord so much that God not only gave him the wisdom he asked for but wealth and honor as well.
This is what God said to Solomon (read 1 Kings 3:10-15):
“Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days. Then Solomon awoke; and indeed it had been a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, offered up burnt offerings, offered peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.”
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