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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 5–15
Verses 5–15

We have here an account of a gracious visit which God paid to Solomon, and the communion he had with God in it, which put a greater honour upon Solomon than all the wealth and power of his kingdom did.

I. The circumstances of this visit, 1 Kgs. 3:5. 1. The place. It was in Gibeon; that was the great high place, and should have been the only one, because there the tabernacle and the brazen altar were, 2 Chron. 1:3. There Solomon offered his great sacrifices, and there God owned him more than in any other of the high places. The nearer we come to the rule in our worship the more reason we have to expect the tokens of God’s presence. Where God records his name, there he will meet us and bless us. 2. The time. It was by night, the night after he had offered that generous sacrifice, 1 Kgs. 3:4. The more we abound in God’s work the more comfort we may expect in him; if the day has been busy for him, the night will be easy in him. Silence and retirement befriend our communion with God. His kindest visits are often in the night, Ps. 17:3. 3. The manner. It was in a dream, when he was asleep, his senses locked up, that God’s access to his mind might be the more free and immediate. In this way God used to speak to the prophets (Num. 12:6) and to private persons, for their own benefit, Job 33:15, 16. These divine dreams, no doubt, were plainly distinguishable from those in which there are divers vanities, Eccl. 5:7.

II. The gracious offer God made him of the favour he should choose, whatever it might be, 1 Kgs. 3:5. He saw the glory of God shine about him, and heard a voice saying, Ask what I shall give thee. Not that God was indebted to him for his sacrifices, but thus he would testify his acceptance of them, and signify to him what great mercy he had in store for him, if he were not wanting to himself. Thus he would try his inclinations and put an honour upon the prayer of faith. God, in like manner, condescends to us, and puts us in the ready way to be happy by assuring us that we shall have what we will for the asking, John 16:23; 1 John 5:14. What would we more? Ask, and it shall be given you.

III. The pious request Solomon hereupon made to God. He readily laid hold of this offer. Why do we neglect the like offer made to us, like Ahaz, who said, I will not ask? Isa. 7:12. Solomon prayed in his sleep, God’s grace assisting him; yet it was a lively prayer. What we are most in care about, and which makes the greatest impression upon us when we are awake, commonly affects us when we are asleep; and by our dreams, sometimes, we may know what our hearts are upon and how our pulse beats. Plutarch makes virtuous dreams one evidence of increase in virtue. Yet this must be attributed to a higher source. Solomon’s making such an intelligent choice as this when he was asleep, and the powers of reason were least active, showed that it came purely from the grace of God, which wrought in him these gracious desires. If his reins thus instruct him in the night season, he must bless the Lord who gave him counsel, Ps. 16:7. Now, in this prayer,

1. He acknowledges God’s great goodness to his father David, 1 Kgs. 3:6. He speaks honourably of his father’s piety, that he had walked before God in uprightness of heart, drawing a veil over his faults. It is to be hoped that those who praise their godly parents will imitate them. But he speaks more honourably of God’s goodness to his father, the mercy he had shown to him while he lived, in giving him to be sincerely religious and then recompensing his sincerity and the great kindness he had kept for him, to be bestowed on the family when he was gone, in giving him a son to sit on his throne. Children should give God thanks for his mercies to their parents, for the sure mercies of David. God’s favours are doubly sweet when we observe them transmitted to us through the hands of those that have gone before us. The way to get the entail perpetuated is to bless God that it has hitherto been preserved.

2. He owns his own insufficiency for the discharge of that great trust to which he is called, 1 Kgs. 3:7, 8. And here is a double plea to enforce his petition for wisdom:—(1.) That his place required it, as he was successor to David (“Thou hast made me king instead of David, who was a very wise and good man: Lord, give me wisdom, that I may keep up what he wrought, and carry on what he began”) and as he was ruler over Israel: “Lord, give me wisdom to rule well; for they are a numerous people, that will not be managed without much care, and they are thy people, whom thou hast chosen, and therefore to be ruled for thee, and the more wisely they are ruled the more glory thou wilt have from them.” (2.) That he wanted it. As one that had a humble sense of his own deficiency, he pleads, “Lord, I am but a little child (so he calls himself, a child in understanding, though his father called him a wise man, 1 Kgs. 2:9); I know not how to go out or come in as I should, nor to do so much as the common daily business of the government, much less what to do in a critical juncture.” Note, Those who are employed in public stations ought to be very sensible of the weight and importance of their work and their own insufficiency for it, and then they are qualified for receiving divine instruction. Paul’s question (Who is sufficient for these things?) is much like Solomon’s here, Who is able to judge this thy so great a people? 1 Kgs. 3:9. Absalom, who was a wise man, trembles at the undertaking and suspects his own fitness for it. The more knowing and considerate men are the better acquainted they are with their own weakness and the more jealous of themselves.

3. He begs of God to give him wisdom (1 Kgs. 3:9); Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart. He calls himself God’s servant, pleased with that relation to God (Ps. 116:16) and pleading it with him: “I am devoted to thee, and employed for thee; give me that which is requisite to the services in which I am employed.” Thus his good father prayed, and thus he pleaded. Ps. 119:125; I am thy servant, give me understanding. An understanding heart is God’s gift, Prov. 2:6. We must pray for it (Jas. 1:5), and pray for it with application to our particular calling and the various occasions we have for it; as Solomon, Give me an understanding, not to please my own curiosity with, or puzzle my neighbours, but to judge thy people. That is the best knowledge which will be serviceable to us in doing our duty; and such that knowledge is which enables us to discern between good and bad, right and wrong, sin and duty, truth and falsehood, so as not to be imposed upon by false colours in judging either of others’ actions or of our own.

4. The favourable answer God gave to his request. It was a pleasing prayer (1 Kgs. 3:10): The speech pleased the Lord. God is well pleased with his own work in his people, the desires of his own kindling, the prayers of his Spirit’s inditing. By this choice Solomon made it appear that he desired to be good more than great, and to serve God’s honour more than to advance his own. Those are accepted of God who prefer spiritual blessings to temporal, and are more solicitous to be found in the way of their duty than in the way to preferment. But that was not all; it was a prevailing prayer, and prevailed for more than he asked. (1.) God gave him wisdom, 1 Kgs. 3:12. He fitted him for all that great work to which he had called him, gave him such a right understanding of the law which he was to judge by, and the cases he was to judge of, that he was unequalled for a clear head, a solid judgment, and a piercing eye. Such an insight, and such a foresight, never was prince so blessed with. (2.) He gave him riches and honour over and above into the bargain (1 Kgs. 3:13), and it was promised that in these he should as much exceed his predecessors, his successors, and all his neighbours, as in wisdom. These also are God’s gift, and, as far as is good for them, are promised to all that seek first the kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof, Matt. 6:33. Let young people learn to prefer grace to gold in all that they choose, because godliness has the promise of the life that now is, but the life that now is has not the promise of godliness. How completely blessed was Solomon, that had both wisdom and wealth! He that has wealth and power without wisdom and grace is in danger of doing hurt with them; he that has wisdom and grace without wealth and power is not capable of doing so much good with them as he that has both. Wisdom is good, is so much the better, with an inheritance, Eccl. 7:11. But, if we make sure of wisdom and grace, these will either bring outward prosperity with them or sweeten the want of it. God promised Solomon riches and honour absolutely, but long life upon condition (1 Kgs. 3:14). If thou wilt walk in my ways, as David did, then I will lengthen thy days. He failed in the condition; and therefore, though he had riches and honour, he did not live so long to enjoy them as in the course of nature he might have done. Length of days is wisdom’s right-hand blessing, typical of eternal life; but it is in her left hand that riches and honour are, Prov. 3:16. Let us see here, [1.] That the way to obtain spiritual blessings is to be importunate for them, to wrestle with God in prayer for them, as Solomon did for wisdom, asking that only, as the one thing needful. [2.] That the way to obtain temporal blessings is to be indifferent to them and to refer ourselves to God concerning them. Solomon had wisdom given him because he did ask it and wealth because he did not ask it.

5. The grateful return Solomon made for the visit God was pleased to pay him, 1 Kgs. 3:15. He awoke, we may suppose in a transport of joy, awoke, and his sleep was sweet to him, as the prophet speaks (Jer. 31:26); being satisfied of God’s favour, he was satisfied with it, and he began to think what he should render to the Lord. He had made his prayer at the high place at Gibeon, and there God had graciously met him; but he comes to Jerusalem to give thanks before the ark of the covenant, blaming himself, as it were, that he had not prayed there, the ark being the token of God’s presence, and wondering that God had met him any where else. God’s passing by our mistakes should persuade us to amend them. There he, (1.) Offered a great sacrifice to God. We must give God praise for his gifts in the promise, though not yet fully performed. David used to praise God’s word, as well as his works (Ps. 56:10; and particularly, 2 Sam. 7:18), and Solomon trod in his steps. (2.) He made a great feast upon the sacrifice, that those about him might rejoice with him in the grace of God.