Shortly after Bathsheba’s son Solomon succeeded his father David, as king of Israel, God appeared to him in a dream. In it, thing Solomon requested-wealth, long life, revenge on his enemies-God would grant him.
And Solomon replied, “You have shown great and faithful love to Your servant, my father David, because he walked before You in faithfulness, righteousness, and integrity. You have continued this great and faithful love for him by giving him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today.
“Lord my God, You have now made Your servant king in my father David’s place. Yet I am just a youth with no experience in leadership. Your servant is among Your people You have chosen, a people too numerous to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an obedient heart to Judge Your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours” (1 Kg 3:6-9).
For all of Solomon’s noteworthy accomplishments, the most awe-inspiring thing he ever did was to utter those words. They not only set the course for the rest of his life but also revealed three vital truths about wisdom (or discernment) that still apply today.
First, the selfless pursuit of wisdom pleases God. Solomon asked for wisdom-the ability to discern between good and evil and to judge fairly-not for his own ego, but for the sake of God’s people. He wanted to be a godly leader.
God granted Solomon’s request by giving him a “wise and understanding heart” -perhaps the wisest and most understanding human heart that ever beat. But that’s not all. God was so pleased with Solomon’s request that he gave him untold riches and honor as well. On top of his unsurpassed wisdom, Solomon became one of the richest and most renowned people in history.
Second, wisdom is highly valued by other people. The first great test of Solomon’s wisdom came when two prostitutes approached him with a seemingly unsolvable dispute. The two women lived together and both had recently given birth to sons.
One night one of the babies died in his sleep. When his mother discovered his lifeless body, she quickly switched babies with the other mother, who was still sleeping. That woman, after an initial panic upon awaking, realized the lifeless baby was not her son. So both women appeared before Solomon, claiming to be the mother of the living infant.
Solomon ordered that baby to be cut in half with a sword and given to both women. At his words, one of the women immediately renounced her claim to the boy and pleaded with Solomon to give him (unharmed) to her rival. The other woman urged Solomon to carry out his plan. Instead, Solomon ordered the baby to be given to the first woman, who had shown a mother’s compassion. When the people of Israel heard about Solomon’s decision, “they stood in awe of the king because they saw that God’s wisdom was in him to carry out justice” (1 Kgs 3:28). Word of his wisdom spread throughout the surrounding nations as well (1 kgs 4:34).
Third, when the pursuit of wisdom is abandoned, bad things happen. With fame and fortune come many temptations. The highly developed though processes that marked Solomon’s public persona seem to have abandoned him in his private life.
He took more than 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of them for foreign, idol-worshipping nations. Over time, their influence turned Solomon’s heart away from God. He engaged in idol worship and disobeyed God’s commands, until God finally tore the kingdom of Israel commands, until God finally tore the kingdom of Israel away-not from Solomon himself, but form his sons.
The reign that started with such potential and promise turned out to be the beginning of the end of the united kingdom of Israel-all because Solomon abandoned his pursuit of wisdom.
1 Kings 3:12 – “I will therefore do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has never been anyone like you before and never will be again.