Third king of Israel who was known for wisdom and building the first Temple More, implicitly chagrined by the selfish nature of his rule up to now, modestly asks for God’s guidance.
The theme of Solomon’s Wisdom encompasses the qualities of experience, knowledge, and good judgment. The Old Testament book of Proverbs, which sometimes invokes a Woman as the personification of Wisdom, is a collection of aphorisms and moral teachings. Along with other biblical passages, it teaches, "The fear of the... More is common in Kings (3:28; 4:29-34; 5:7, 12; 10:4, 7, 8, 23-24). In a dream, God says to Solomon, “Ask what I should give you” (v. 5), and Solomon, modestly, requests “an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil” (v. 9). Obviously this is meant to portray Solomon as a wise and just ruler, attuned to the will of God. While this is undoubtedly true, the tragic end of Solomon’s story has raised questions even about his early reign:
- Is Solomon’s modest claim of innocence (not youth, he was at least twenty by this time), “I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (v. 7), entirely apt considering the cold-blooded elimination of his political rivals (2:13-46)?
- Is God’s approval of Solomon’s refusal to ask for the life of his enemies (3:11) somewhat ironic? Solomon certainly didn’t ask permission to kill them on his way up; besides, who remains?
The closing verse in which Solomon responds in religiously appropriate ways conveys the impression that the book of Kings sees Solomon as a wise and just ruler, blessed by God. The careful reader will remember that the seeds of the king’s destruction have already been sown in God’s gift of what Solomon did not ask for: his wealth and honor which attracted the foreign marriages that ultimately led him astray (v. 13).