1 Kings 3:9
Give therefore your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this your so great a people?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1 Kings 3:9. Give to thy servant an understanding heart — Whereby I may both clearly discern, and faithfully perform all the parts of my duty: for both these are spoken of in Scripture as the effects of a good understanding; and he that lives in the neglect of his duties, or the practice of wickedness, is called a fool, and one void of understanding. To judge thy people — Or govern, as that word is often used. That I may discern between good and bad — Namely, in causes and controversies among thy people; that I may not, through mistake, or prejudice, or passion, give wrong sentences, and call evil good, or good evil. Absalom, that was a fool, wished himself a judge: Solomon, that was a wise man, trembles at the undertaking. The more knowing and considerate men are, the more jealous they are of themselves.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.One of the chief functions of the Oriental monarch is always to hear and decide causes. Hence, supreme magistrates were naturally called "judges." (See the introduction to the Book of Judges.) In the minds of the Jews the "judge" and the "prince" were always closely associated, the direct cognisance of causes being constantly taken by their chief civil governors. (See Exodus 2:14; Exodus 18:16, Exodus 18:22; 1 Samuel 8:20; 2 Samuel 15:2-6.)

Good and bad - i. e. "right and wrong," "justice and injustice."

7. I am but a little child—not in age, for he had reached manhood (1Ki 2:9) and must have been at least twenty years old; but he was raw and inexperienced in matters of government. An understanding heart; whereby I may both clearly discern, and faithfully perform, all the parts of my duty; for both these are spoken of in Scripture as the effects of a good understanding; and he that lives in the neglect of his duties, or the practice of wickedness, is called a fool, and one void of understanding.

Judge, or, govern, as that word is used, Judges 3:10 4:4 Psalm 7:8 67:4 Isaiah 2:4 16:5.

That I may discern between good and bad, to wit, in causes and controversies among my people; that I may not through mistakes, or prejudices, or passions, give wrong sentences, and call evil good, or good evil.

Who is able of himself, or without thy gracious assistance. 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.

Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so {g} great a people?

(g) Which are so many in number.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. an understanding heart] This is explained (2 Chronicles 1:10) by ‘wisdom and knowledge.’ The participle rendered ‘understanding’ is literally ‘hearing,’ and the LXX. has paraphrased the clause thus: ‘a heart to hear and judge thy people in righteousness.’ But the hearing of the heart must refer to the following of the Divine guidance and promptings from within. That this was Solomon’s meaning seems certain, from the end of this verse ‘Who is able to judge this thy so great people?’ unless (that is) he have thy constant leading, and attend thereto?

The word rendered ‘great’ in this verse is different from that so translated in 1 Kings 3:8. Here the literal sense is ‘heavy,’ and the reference is to the great burden of care which the king must take upon himself.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.] Even Solomon, although he loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, i.e., according to 1 Kings 2:3, in the commandments of the Lord as they are written in the law of Moses, sacrificed and burnt incense upon high places. Before the building of the temple, more especially since the tabernacle had lost its significance as the central place of the gracious presence of God among His people, through the removal of the ark of the covenant, the worship of the high places was unavoidable; although even afterwards it still continued as a forbidden cultus, and could not be thoroughly exterminated even by the most righteous kings (1 Kings 22:24; 2 Kings 12:4; 2 Kings 14:4; 2 Kings 15:4, 2 Kings 15:35).
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