1 Kings 4: Wisdom and where to find it


An angel appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean that in return for his unselfish and exemplary behaviour, the Lord will reward him with his choice of infinite wealth, infinite wisdom or infinite beauty. Without hesitating, the dean chose infinite wisdom. "Done!" says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning. Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispers, "Say something."  The dean looks at them and says, "I should have taken the money."  


In our study tonight, I want us to consider


  1. The Significance of Wisdom
  2. The Source of Wisdom
  3. The Supply of Wisdom


1.      The Significance of Wisdom

Solomon was wise in four specific ways:


1.1             The Power of Wisdom

“And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life… For he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the River, from Tiphsah to Gaza.” (1 Kings 4:21, 24).


The borders mentioned here are no accident. They are very specific and very significant in the history of Israel. They are precisely the borders God promised to Abraham.


“On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates.” (Genesis 15:18)


Under Solomon, the promise had been fulfilled. Solomon’s wisdom gave him military superiority over the surrounding nations. The extent of Solomon’s power is revealed in verse 26. “Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses.” (1 Kings 4:26) If you get to visit Israel, you cannot afford to miss the impressive hill of Megiddo. Megiddo became one of Solomon's principal fortified cities like those at Hazor and Gezer. Extensive stables have been discovered large enough to accommodate 450 horses and 150 chariots. Solomon was not only king over all Israel, but over the surrounding nations between Egypt to the South and Phoenicia to the north, with the desert barrier to the East and Mediterranean Sea to the West. He controlled the lucrative trade routes north to south and east to west.


Wisdom is power. That is why we must pray for our Prime Minister and government leaders that they will respond to Iran’s capture of our servicemen with wisdom. We went to war with Iraq, apparently with no exit strategy, no plans for the reconstruction of Iraq. They came later. Some would say too late. The Power of Wisdom.


1.2 The Peace of Wisdom

It is one thing to exert power. It is another to use power wisely. The power of wisdom leads to peace. “For he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the River, from Tiphsah to Gaza,

and had peace on all sides.” (1 Kings 4:24). This was the golden age of the Hebrew Empire. Pax Hebraica. Look at Europe and the significance of 60 years of peace after literally hundreds of years of war. The power of wisdom leads to peace and prosperity.


1.3 The Prosperity of Wisdom

“The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life… (1 Kings 4:20-21)


The wise use of power leads to peace and prosperity. Again, the writer is using code language here. The reference to the sand on the sea shore is no accident. God had promised Abraham in Genesis 22:17, “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.” (Genesis 22:17)  1 Kings 4:22-28 give an insight into the prosperity of Solomon’s reign. The list of his daily provisions, and the administration set in place to provide it.


“Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal” 30 cors equals five tons or 5,000 kilos. Solomon and his administration therefore consumes 5 tons of flour and 10 tons of meal on a daily basis plus 30 cattle and a hundred sheep. The district governors ensured “nothing was lacking” (1 Kings 4:27).


A little later, we learn that “All King Solomon’s goblets were gold, and all the household articles in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon were pure gold. Nothing was made of silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days.” (1 Kings 10:21). And notice that all this wealth was not built on the oppression of the people - at least not at this moment in time.


Verse 25 tells us, “During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree.” (1 Kings 4:25). The wise use of power led to peace, prosperity, and fourthly,


1.4 The Prestige of Wisdom

“Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt… From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.” (1 Kings 4:30, 34)


Dale Davis observes, “How liberating wisdom can be! Wisdom, Solomon shows us, is incurably and rightly curious - it ranges over the whole domain of God’s realm, joyfully investigating and describing all God’s works. Since God has left the fingerprints of his wisdom everywhere, there is no place God does not furnish us with raw material for godly thinking.” (Dale Davis, p. 50)


Stephen Dawes tells us that “an important aspect of wisdom was the combination of acute observation and skill with words needed to compose proverbs and songs.” And Solomon had both in good measure. So much so, besides ruling over an empire stretching from Egypt to Iraq, Solomon found time to compose 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs. The Book of Proverbs and the Song of Songs gives us a flavour. The wise use of power led to peace, prosperity and prestige.


The Significance of Wisdom - uncommon grace.


2. The Source of Wisdom

Solomon’s wisdom was however, primarily theological, not political, entrepreneurial or intellectual. Verse 29 tells us,


“God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:29). Solomon was blessed with wisdom because he knew he needed it. Because he asked God for it.  Chapter 3 tells us “Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David.” (1 Kings 3:3). That is why God appeared to him in a dream. 


“Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (1 Kings 3:5).  “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Imagine God making that promise to you - “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 


What would you ask for? Really ask for? This is how Solomon answered, “Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:8-9)


To serve God and his people and distinguish between right and wrong. That is all that Solomon asked for. God was so impressed, he gave Solomon his request. But he threw in what Solomon had not asked for - “wealth and honour” (1 Kings 3:13) and for good measure, he added… “if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” (1 Kings 3:14).  Solomon asked for moral discernment - the ability to discern right from wrong. God calls that wisdom. That is a pretty good definition. Moral discernment of right and wrong and the courage to choose what is right. James Packer in his book, Knowing God says “Wisdom is the power to see and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 80).


So wisdom isn’t about intellectual knowledge. It is not about being smart. It is not about knowing a whole lot of stuff. It is about knowing the right thing to do and then doing it. God gave Solomon wisdom. And he also gave him wealth and honour, and his people peace and prosperity as a result. And to cap it all, God promised long life if Solomon continued to obey the Lord. Because that’s the trouble. You know the time when we are of most likely to stumble? Right after God has blessed us. Ironic isn’t it. Blessing so often leads to blunders because we take our eye off the ball.


1 Kings 4 portrays Solomon, at the beginning of his reign, enjoying unparalleled power. His father, King David, never experienced such power. Nor would any later king of Israel. It is sobering to realize that from this high point, the rest of 1 and 2 Kings presents a virtually monotonous slide down hill as his children, grandchildren and successive kings lose God’s blessing because they trust in their power or their prosperity or their prestige and not the Lord God Almighty. And the people suffer exile and slavery as a result.


The leadership of Robert Mugabe is but one contemporary example of the lack of godly wisdom in a leader. Here are some verses to meditate on when choosing a leader or when you inspire to take responsibility as a leader.


“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.” (Psalm 111:10)


“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7)


“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)


“The fear of the LORD teaches a person wisdom, and humility comes before honour. (Proverbs 15:33)


The Significance of Wisdom - uncommon grace.

The Source of Wisdom - undeniable grace.


3. The Supply for Wisdom

Solomon lacked wisdom. He asked God for moral discernment. And God provided it. Many times we read about saints in scripture, it can seem as if God’s work in their life is unique, unrepeatable. So the principles we may draw are only general. In this case it is not true. Through the Apostle James, God promises us as he promised Solomon,


“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6).


Lets say this verse together, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

How does God give? Generously. What does God give? Wisdom. On what basis? The promise of God. Any conditions? Yes. “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt.” (James 1:6)


James 1:5-6 were among the first verses I memorized as a young Christian. I used the Navigator’s Scripture Memory System. It is still the best. Those of you who know me will know why I continue to pray for wisdom. Because I need it. And I suspect you do too. What are some of the areas of your life where you need wisdom this week?

Divine wisdom brings power, peace, prosperity and prestige. It did for Solomon and by God’s grace, it can for you too.


As Dale Davis observes, “Yahweh has heaped up fulfilments to his promises under Solomon’s reign. All this explains the joy that oozes out of the text, for gladness grips God’s people whenever they see how firm Yahweh’s word is. When Franz Joseph Hayden was setting to music the words of the Mass, Agnes Dei, “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”, he says he was seized by an ‘uncontrollable gladness’. He had to apologize to Empress Marie Therese over this. Hayden explained that the certainty of God’s grace had made him so happy that he wrote a joyful melody for the sober words. The certainty of God’s grace does that. Faith cannot help but laugh when it sees fulfilments of God’s word, when it becomes re-assured over Yahweh’s assurances. This text is ecstatic over the fidelity of Yahweh, which should stir our joy, for this interim fulfilment under Solomon provides a sample of Yahweh’s dependability for all his yet-to-be-fulfilled promises.” (Dale Davis, The Wisdom and the Folly, p. 48).


The Significance of Wisdom - uncommon grace.

The Source of Wisdom - undeniable grace.

The Supply of Wisdom - unconditional grace.


Let us pray. I am going to use a prayer written by William Bright around 400 years ago.


“O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us do; that the spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”