Now firmly established as God’s anointed king, Solomon began to take steps to strengthen diplomatic relations with Israel’s neighbor nations. The marriage alliance with Egypt’s Pharaoh was a strategic move that would have restrained aggression on both sides and guaranteed peace between two nations whose hostility was legendary. In a few days we will read in chapter 11 about how Solomon took this idea to the extreme; while it may have strengthened the nation’s alliances it weakened the king’s faith. The Egyptian princess was the first of hundreds of wives who would turn Solomon’s heart away from the Lord.
For the time being, Solomon was living a righteous life (v.3). Like his father David, he loved the Lord. Along with the rest of the nation, he had fallen into the practice of self-styled worship outside the Tabernacle, far removed from the Ark of the Covenant, and probably out from under the ministry of the priests — but Solomon’s heart was in the right place. As he was spending the night in Gibeon, one of the “high places” he used for worship just north of Jerusalem, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and offered him a blank check: “Ask what I shall give you.”
There are a lot of ways Solomon could have answered. He could have requested wealth or fame or the defeat of all his enemies, but instead he admitted his inability to do the job he had been assigned. He knew the importance of his place in history. The people of God were counting on him for leadership. The legacy of his father was at stake. He was the custodian of the reputation of Israel, God’s witness to the world. And so Solomon asked God for wisdom, “an understanding mind to govern Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” (Note: the contrast between the character of Solomon and his rival, Adonijah, is interesting. When given the chance to ask for something, Adonijah asked for a pretty girl — see 2:17 — while Solomon asked for wisdom. What you desire reveals your heart.)
God granted the request, adding to it the things Solomon could have asked for but didn’t — wealth, fame, honor, and long life. But there was a condition attached to the promise of longevity: Solomon must live a godly life like his father (v.14). (Note: it is encouraging to me that the Lord’s assessment of David, who had some epic faults and failures, was so positive; the general trend of David’s life was righteousness and sincere love for the Lord, and that is how he is remembered. Maybe there’s hope for me!) Solomon’s first act of wisdom was to get his worship in order, sacrificing in the right place, in the Tabernacle before the Ark of the Covenant (v.15). Wisdom means doing things God’s way.
The account in verses 16-27 is a classic example of how Solomon used the gift God gave him. His wisdom allowed him to quickly and cleverly arrive at the truth and to see that justice was done. Judgments like this one earned him the respect of the nation, who “stood in awe of the king” (v.28). The same wisdom God gave to Solomon is available to you. Have you asked God to make you wise? Have you asked him for an understanding mind to discern how you should handle your family life, your job, your future plans? Remember that James 4:2 says, “You have not because you ask not.”