1 Kings 3 Bible Commentary

John Darby’s Synopsis

(Read all of 1 Kings 3)
Pharaoh's daughter as Solomon's bride

But there is another element in the history of the king of glory, in which he oversteps the limits of the king of Israel's legitimate position; he allies himself with the Gentiles, and marries Pharaoh's daughter. Neither the house of Solomon, nor that of Jehovah, was yet built; but the daughter of Pharaoh, whom the king espouses in grace, dwells in the place where the suffering and victorious king had provisionally placed the ark of the covenant, which secures blessing to the people, and which, when placed in the temple, will form the source of blessing for Israel. This ark was not a covenant made with Pharaoh's daughter; but she dwelt where the symbol of the covenant was hidden, and she was placed under the safeguard, and sheltered by the power, of Him who had made this covenant, and who could not break it, whatever might be the unfaithfulness of a people who ought always to have enjoyed its benefits.

I doubt not, that hereafter a remnant of the Jews will find themselves through sovereign grace in the same position [1] (before the glory of the kingdom, and of the house of God, is established) under shelter of the covenant attached to the city of David, the seat of royal grace, but the provisional seat in anticipation of the full and entire result of the king's power. But we confine ourselves here to recognising the principle of the bringing in of the Gentiles, manifested in the reception of Pharaoh's daughter as Solomon's bride.

The position of those who enjoy royal grace

It is well to remark, that the passage we are considering does not introduce the light and intelligence of the heavenly places, but only, in connection with the kingdom, the principle through which the position of those who enjoy that grace is established. And therefore, while admitting the Gentiles, the principle applies to this Jewish remnant of the latter days, who are intelligent and faithful according to their intelligence, a remnant which will be admitted according to the same principles of grace.

The people in general do not enter into this thought. The kingdom itself even, and the blessing of the kingdom, are not established on that footing. All doubtless will be founded on the new covenant, and that by the presence of the Mediator of this covenant. Still, even then, the connection of the people with God, as an earthly people, will not be established on the efficacy of a faith which enters into the enjoyment of the grace of the covenant while the mediator of it is hidden, and which anticipates the public establishment of it as made with Judah and Israel, but on the positive enjoyment of its results, when the king shall have settled everything by his power. The brazen altar was not in the sanctuary but in the court, marking indeed a rejected one lifted up from the earth (and on this the future blessings of Israel depend), but not gone into heaven and hidden, save to faith, there. It is by that the people will approach God. It is the earth which is the scene of the development of their religious affections and the knowledge of God manifested on the earth. The efficacy of the cross, as the means of approaching God on the earth, will be known to them. Without it they could not approach Him. They will mourn when they shall see Him whom they have pierced, but see Him as manifested down here to those below. Blessing, pardon, new life, will be brought them down here. They will not enter into the power of these things as hidden within the veil. Being established on the earth, it would not even be suitable for them to do so.

Solomon at Gibeon: the altar and the ark

To return to our history: if the ark is on Mount Zion, there are two ways of approaching God—before the ark, and at the altar which in fact is confounded with the high places. Until the temple is built, the people are on the high places, earthly and carnal even when approaching the true God [2]. God bears with it. Solomon himself goes thither, and God hears him there. The temple is not built. If it had been, it ought to have been the only centre of service and worship. That God bears with a thing, until power shall act, is quite another thing from sanctioning it after power has acted. We must remember that, if Solomon went to Gibeon, it is because the tabernacle and the brazen altar were there; and it was there that, according to the law, the priests performed their functions (1 Chron. 16: 36-40). The ark of the covenant was not there. David had placed it in a tent in the city of David. These latter points are more developed in the Chronicles (and I refer the reader to that which will be said in the examination of that book); but the passage we are considering would hardly have been understood without some anticipation of what is found there.

The personal faith of David and Solomon compared

As to the responsibility of the moment, the state of the people in this respect appears to me to be set before us as a sorrowful state; and Solomon himself is but on a level with the existing state of things—a state borne with indeed by God in grace, but not after His heart. The king thought neither of the ark nor of the hidden blessing of the covenant, as that from which all his thoughts and actions should spring [3], and as the only means of his connection with Jehovah. He loved Jehovah. It was given him to accomplish all that was requisite for the manifestation of His glory; but his heart rose not to the height of that faith which reckoned upon the secret of God's love, when the glory was not manifested, and which discerned it through all the existing things, even while God still bore with them. It was this which formed the strength of David personally. The ark of the covenant in the city of David was the symbol of this and for the time its expression.

Solomon walked no doubt in the statutes of David, and he loved Jehovah; but he approached Him without rising above the level of the people. Only our chapter says that he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places. This continued until Hezekiah. The lustre of a great blessing often keeps out of sight something which God bears with, as we have said, but which produces disastrous effects when the energy which gave rise to the blessing has disappeared. Better to be little and despised at the ark, than to possess the glory of the kingdom and to worship on high places.

A motive above the path necessary to walk in it

Moreover, although loving Jehovah, if we are not by faith in the secret of the covenant at the ark, we shall always let in something which is not according to integrity even in our own path. Before we are in the glory, we are never on a level with the position we hold, while we have only this position to sustain us. We must look above our path to be able to walk in it. A Jew, who had the secret of Jehovah and who waited for the Messiah, was pious and faithful according to the law. A Jew, who had only the law, assuredly did not keep it. A Christian, who has heaven before him and a Saviour in glory as the object of his affections, will walk well upon the earth; he who has only the earthly path for his rule will fail in the intelligence and motives needed to walk in it; he will become a prey to worldliness, and his christian walk in the world will be more or less on a level with the world in which he walks. The eyes upward on Jesus will keep the heart and the steps in a path conformable to Jesus, and which consequently will glorify Him and make Him known in the world. Seeing what we are, we must have a motive above our path to be able to walk in it. This does not prevent our needing also for our path the fear of the Lord to pass the time of our sojourning here in fear, knowing that we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.

Solomon's request and God's gracious answer

Solomon goes to Gibeon to offer burnt-offerings. Jehovah appears to him there in a dream. Solomon is conscious that he needs the help of Jehovah to fulfil the duties before him; and, through the grace of God, he manifests a state of heart with respect to this, which is pleasing to Jehovah. The sense of the difficulty of performing the duties of his position, towards a people who belong to Jehovah, makes him feel his own littleness; and the desire of not failing in the task entrusted to him of God is uppermost in his heart, and leads him to ask for the wisdom requisite to accomplish it. The genuineness of this sentiment is so much the more evident, from its being in a dream that he replies to God. God adds glory and riches to the fulfilment of this prayer. The sense of God's goodness and the joy of his heart, bring him before the ark of His covenant who had thus revealed Himself to him beyond his expectation. God's answer places the king immediately under the condition of obedience. The wisdom he had asked for is manifested in the judgment he gives, and the people acknowledge that it comes from God.

Strict justice in vengeance had cut off the wicked at the beginning; now it is the justice which maintains order and blessing among the people of Jehovah. Thus will it be also with Jesus.

[1] Consider here Revelation 14: 1, and Hebrews 12: 22.

[2] The position of Solomon is morally worthy of attention He loves Jehovah; he walks in the statutes of David; but he does not cleave to the ark which David had placed in Zion; he offers sacrifices in the high places. How often Christians, who do not walk outwardly in sin, do not seek in Christ the secret of His will according to the revelation He has made of Himself while hidden! For us the temple is not built. We may draw nigh to the ark—Christ rejected and gone up on high; or to the brazen altar and the high places, for this altar is confounded with them.

[3] He drew nigh to it, under the influence of granted blessings, to render thanks to God (ver. 15).