|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:5-15 Solomon's dream was not a common one. While his bodily powers were locked up in sleep, the powers of his soul were strengthened; he was enabled to receive the Divine vision, and to make a suitable choice. God, in like manner, puts us in the ready way to be happy, by assuring us we shall have what we need, and pray for. Solomon's making such a choice when asleep, and the powers of reason least active, showed it came from the grace of God. Having a humble sense of his own wants and weakness, he pleads, Lord, I am but a little child. The more wise and considerate men are, the better acquainted they are with their own weakness, and the more jealous of themselves. Solomon begs of God to give him wisdom. We must pray for it, Jas 1:5, that it may help us in our particular calling, and the various occasions we have. Those are accepted of God, who prefer spiritual blessings to earthly good. It was a prevailing prayer, and prevailed for more than he asked. God gave him wisdom, such as no other prince was ever blessed with; and also gave him riches and honour. If we make sure of wisdom and grace, these will bring outward prosperity with them, or sweeten the want of it. The way to get spiritual blessings, is to wrestle with God in prayer for them. The way to get earthly blessings, is to refer ourselves to God concerning them. Solomon has wisdom given him, because he did ask it, and wealth, because he did not.
Verse 9. - Give therefore thy servant an understanding [Heb. hearing. Cf. ver. 11 (Heb. "to hear judgment.") The idea is not docility, as the Vulg. (cor docile), but discrimination, penetration. Cf. 2 Samuel 14:17 (Heb.); Philippians 1:9, 10 (marg.)] heart [i.e., a judicial mind. The "hearing heart" was desired, not that it might "give heed to the law" (Keil), but to qualify him] to Judge thy people [The Hebrew king, like most ancient monarchs, was supreme judge as well as governor ("prince and judge," Exodus 5:14; and cf. Exodus 18:16). The Jews desired a king that he might judge them (1 Samuel 8:5). Their rulers so far had been purely "Judges" (שֹׁפְטִים; compare the Carthaginian name, suffetes.) When they desired one who should, lead their armies, they still put his judicial functions in the first place (loc. cit. ver. 20). And what were the duties of a king in this respect, Absalom's words (2 Samuel 15:4) show. In vers. 16-28 we see Solomon sitting as Chief Justice], that I may discern between good and bad [i.e., right and wrong, true and false; cf. Hebrews 5:14): for who is able to judge this thy so great [Heb. heavy, i.e., numerous; compare graves greges] a people. [The number of the Israelites at this period is referred to in 1 Kings 4:20.]
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart, to judge thy people,.... Not an understanding of things spiritual, nor of things natural, though both were given him, but of things political, what related to the civil government, that he might be able to judge or rule the people of Israel in the best manner:
that I may discern between good and bad; not merely between moral good and evil, of which he had a discernment; but between right and wrong in any case or controversy that came before him between man and man, that so he might be able to pass a right sentence, and do justice to every one:
for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? who are so very numerous, and have so many causes to be heard and and those many of them very intricate and difficult; so that no man is equal to such arduous work, unless he has more than an ordinary capacity given him by the Lord.
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