The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the First Book of Kings. The text is I Kings 3:4-15 and is the well-loved, familiar account detailing Solomon’s response to the LORD God when encouraged to ask for… anything. Solomon responds by asking the LORD for wisdom to govern the people of Israel. As we know, the LORD was pleased with Solomon’s request and not only grants it, but also adds riches, honor and long life as well.
All of this occurs in a dream by night as Solomon has been offering sacrifices at the, “great high place,” at Gibeon (in his I Kings 1-11 commentary in the Concordia Commentary Series, Walter A Maier III translates this as: “the great cultic center”). It is important to remember the Temple has not yet been built. The tabernacle had limited capacity for sacrifice and certainly would not have been able to handle the thousand burnt offerings mentioned in verse 4. It also appears this is a legitimate, approved cultic site used on a regular basis, particularly by the royal court. When the Temple is built this will come to an end, which will help normalize the sacrificial system.
As we look at verse 8, we read, “…a chosen people, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude…” This is covenantal language which we first encounter with Abraham. Solomon is indicating how God has indeed been fulfilling His covenantal promise, but Solomon himself is now faced with the “kingly” burden of governing and dealing with this numerous people. So, Solomon asks for what is necessary to carry out this task, an understanding/wise and discerning mind. The wording of verse 12 indicates the LORD has already granted Solomon what he has asked for. Obviously, the topic of faith is strong in these verses. Not just saving faith, but even more so, a life/walk of faith—first with David and now, with Solomon.
As stated by Maier in his commentary, “This is not a matter of Solomon earning a lengthy earthly existence, but of God, in His grace, both producing and preserving godliness in Solomon and then bestowing His blessing…” (p. 372). This is important lest we read into the account our ability to deserve or earn various blessings from God because of some self-perceived righteousness.
3:4 הַבָּמָה הַגְּדוֹלָה; (hab-ba-Mah hag-ge-do-Lah) “the great cultic site” “the great high place” The definite article distinguishes this location from all others.
יַעֲלֶה (ya-a-Leh) root: עלה (aw-law) Hiphil: “to offer up; to offer something up; to go up”
3:5 בְּגִבְעוֹן (be-giv-on) “at Gibeon” Note the position of this phrase at the beginning of the verse. This emphasizes the place itself as it precedes the verb.
נִרְאָה (nir-Ah) root: ראה (raw-aw) Niphal: “to appear; to be seen”
בַּחֲלוֹם; (ba-cha-Lom) “in a dream…” This is different from a vision or theophany. See also the dreams in the Joseph account in Genesis 37-50. Interesting to note how this dream requires no interpretation.
3:6 עָשִׂיתָ (a-Si-ta) Qal: “to do; have shown”
חֶסֶד גָּדוֹל (Che-sed ga-dOl) “great steadfast love; great gracious faithfulness” חסד
(kheh-sed) is a “big” word in Hebrew and takes in a lot of territory in the translation realm.
וּבְיִשְׁרַת (u-ve-yish-Rat) “uprightness”
3:7 הִמְלַכְתָּ (him-Lach-ta) root: מלך (maw-lak) Hiphil: “to make king; to cause to be king”
קָטֹן (ka-Ton) “small”
אֵדַע (e-Da) root: ידע (yaw-dah) Qal: “to know”
צֵאת וָבֹא (tzet va-Vo) Infinitive constructs: “to go out or come in”
3:8 בָּחָרְתָּ (ba-Cha-re-ta) root: בחר (baw-khar) Qal: “to choose”
יִמָּנֶה (yim-ma-Neh) root: מנה (maw-naw) Niphal: “to be counted; to have oneself be counted; to be numbered”
3:9 וְנָתַתָּ> (ve-na-ta-Ta) root: נתן (naw-than) Qal: “to give” use with imperative force.
שֹׁמֵעַ (sho-Me-a) Qal, participle: “to hear” “an understanding; a perceptive” Literally: “a hearing heart”
לְהָבִין (le-ha-Vin) root: בּין (bene) Hiphil, infinitive construct: “to discern”
הַכָּבֵד; (hak-ka-Ved) “difficult; heavy; numerous; abundant; great”
3:10 וַיִּיטַב (vai-yi-Tav) “to be good; to be pleasing”
3:11 יַעַן (ya-An) “because; on account of”
עֹשֶׁרo (O-sher) “wealth; riches”
3:13 כָּבוֹד (ka-Vod) “honor; glory”
3:14 לִשְׁמֹר (lish-Mor) root: שׁמר (shaw-mar) Hiphil, infinitive construct: “to keep” “by keeping”
וְהַאֲרַכְתִּי> (ve-ha-a-rach-Ti) root: ארך (aw-rak) Hiphil: “to make long; to cause to lengthen; to prolong”
3:15 וַיִּקַץ (vai-yi-Katz) root: יקץ (yaw-kats) Qal: “to awake”
שְׁלָמִים (she-la-Mim) “peace offerings; fellowship offerings”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching I Kings 3:4-15.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach I Kings 3:4-15.