1 Kings 3:11–12 (ESV)

11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right,

1 Kings 3:11–14 shows us the response of God to Solomon’s request. The first matter that the Lord mentioned in his praise of Solomon was things that Solomon did not request. God spoke of long life, riches, and the lives of Solomon’s enemies. These are all matters for which Solomon might have been tempted to ask. This fact does not mean that the matters mentioned are necessarily evil or unimportant.

Long life is the promise that is attached to the fifth commandment that directs us to honour father and mother. Though the love of riches is the root of all kinds of evil, riches themselves are often described in Scripture as a blessing from God. Even the lives of Solomon’s enemies, if they were his enemies because he was the Lord’s anointed, would not be necessarily wrong (see Psalm 2:1–12).

The point is that these matters would have been focused upon the self rather than the Lord. There is also the consideration that those matters were of much lesser importance than the thing that Solomon did request. The promise of the Lord was so great that it demanded that the most important need of Solomon should have been the request. As a newly enthroned king, Solomon had no greater need than wisdom and discernment.

The Lord God then moved to commend what Solomon did request, discernment to understand justice. The language that God used here confirms the interpretation that we have seen in Solomon’s request. The Lord who searches the hearts of men and women understood Solomon’s request to centre upon justice. Such wisdom requires a knowledge of the source and character of justice; therefore, it requires a knowledge of God’s Word. It also requires the discernment to apply that justice in particular cases.

The Lord declared that he would give to Solomon the thing that he requested, a wise and discerning heart. The Lord also describes the nature of the gift as it would compare to others. There has not been in the past, he says, anyone to equal what Solomon will be in the matter of wisdom, and there will not be anyone in the future to do this also. As we consider the words of the Lord, we must be careful, for we should not interpret them in such a way that Solomon is considered superior to Jesus Christ in the area of wisdom. The wisdom of which Jesus partakes is divine.