After the struggles with David’s oldest sons trying to take the throne by force, David, with the help of the prophet Nathan, identifies Solomon as his rightful heir. After being anointed as king, Solomon offers an interesting prayer upon his appointment. 2 Chronicles 1:7-10 records that for us, “That night God appeared to Solomon and said, ‘Ask what I shall give you. And Solomon said to God, ‘You have shown great and steadfast love to David, my father, and have made me king in his place. O Lord God, let your word to David my father be fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern these people of yours, which is so great?’” It’s interesting that the parallel account of this event in the book of Kings says that this was a dream. God having appeared to him “at night” could easily be seen as such in the Chronicle account. There’s no reason to argue for there being an error in either account.

 In the ancient near east, kings owned the people. This is true in Mesopotamia as well as Egypt. The Pharaohs owned the people and made slaves of them at will. Solomon acknowledges that the people and kingdom are God’s. Walton observes, “In the case of the Israelite monarchy, numerous biblical texts make it clear that the people led by the king are God’s people, the kingdom is God’s kingdom (1 Chron. 17:14; 2 Chron. 13:8), and the king sits on God’s throne (2 Chron. 9:8).”[1] Solomon had no intention to usurp divine authority as the pagan nations around them. His chief desire was only to represent God and to do it in a way that was honorable. The role of human leaders usurping the role of divinity has been a problem in nearly every civilization from Greek, Persia, and Rome. It caused huge problems with the people of the early church when they refused to call Caesar Lord. Israel was a theocracy, and the kings of Israel served at God’s pleasure. Not the other way around.

Solomon’s prayer reveals his humble heart. He recognized his limitations and confessed his need for God’s help in all his affairs. The phrase concerning not knowing how “to go out and come in” reflects his dependence on God. He could have exalted himself with wealth, power, and privileges of every kind, but he didn’t ask for that. He simply asked for wisdom to rule the people of God for God. Psalm 72 is a messianic psalm, to be sure, but its immediate reference is Solomon. Psalm 72:1-4 says, “Of Solomon. Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness and your poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness!  May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!” The thing that strikes me in all this is that the role of the king was to take up the cause for those who could not stand up for themselves. The reference to children makes me think of the most vulnerable of all, the child in the womb! In a society that strongly endorsed offering children up as sacrifices to pagan gods, we have here a call for the government to protect the unborn. The people belong to God. The child in the womb belongs to God. When the government rules for God, they stand up for the right to life for all of God’s children.

[1] Walton, John H. 2009. Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Old Testament): 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.