How did Soloman “understand” in order to lead?


How are you understanding what is happening around you? Today, I discovered this treasure.  1Kings 3:5-14. Soloman finds himself a young king.  He has a dream and in that dream he thanks God for how He blessed his father, David.  He then humbly acknowledges that he has much to learn and much to understand to be a good king.  Here is his request of God:

“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 great a people?” 1Kings 3:9.

He knows he needs an understanding heart to judge others and to discern what is good and bad for the people and for the kingdom in which he is responsible/ charged. But he is young and admits he doesn’t know how so he asks for an understanding heart. In these verses, understanding and discernment utilize the same Hebrew words. To understand is to discern.

The kind of understanding Soloman asks for is “shama” in Hebrew which means to hear intelligently, give ear, to listen, perceive, proclaim and publish, etc. I believe it means to hear intently with an intelligence that compels you to tell or proclaim to others; you can’t keep it to yourself.  Most of us have perhaps experienced this kind of understanding at some point in our life.  If you have, you know how awesome it is!  That’s not all, Soloman also asks for heart. In Hebrew this is “leb” and means kindly minded, well-willing, regard, the feelings, the willing and the intellect coupled with courage and wisdom (likewise the center of everything)!  He is asking for compelling intelligence to be the center of all decision-making and judgment. He desires wisdom with courageous not wimpy empathy. All of this, he asks so that he can discern.

So what does he want to do with this? As king, Soloman needs to discern or understand between good and evil. The word good (towb) encompasses good men, good women, good things, favour, wealth and bad (rareh) spoil, mistakes, wrong, adversity, grief. In the role of king and in our role as Christian leaders in our home and at work, we too need this kind of discernment.

Here’s God’s answer. “And God said unto him, Because thou hast not asked for thyself long life; neither has asked riches for thyself, nor has asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment: Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou has not asked, both riches, and honour, so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.” 1Kings 3:11-13.

Instead of shama understanding and discernment, God gave him “biyn” understanding and discernment which means to separate mentally or distinguish – attend, consider, be cunning, eloquent, instruct, skillful, teach, think, cause and give understanding.  He knew Soloman’s motives, he answered and rewarded him because Soloman didn’t need human or even kingly understanding and discernment, he needed Godly understanding and discernment that changed lives and taught others!  His subjects would be able to walk away with learning and biyn understanding themselves!


Give us biyn understanding and discernment in our decision-making.  Give us the ability to make intelligent decisions with a courageous heart knowing what is good and bad as you define it.  Purpose  us to keep watch over safeguard what is good while rooting out what is bad.  Show us your favour and where you would have us to act. Keep us within our “kingdoms” and help us to not wander outside of them until you have directed.

Thank you that you provide all we need to be good leaders, influencers, and encouragers. You are our source.

You define our success!

In Jesus,



2 thoughts on “How did Soloman “understand” in order to lead?

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