Before going any further, let me share with you what this entry is NOT - this is not a biopic that covers every aspect of his life. Yes, Solomon inherited a peaceful kingdom and took the Israeli dynasty to its zenith. At the same time, however, we must admit that he made terrible mistakes as a leader and the kingdom would split because of those defining moments. Instead of offering a blow-by-blow examination of his errors, we will look at what started him down the path of wisdom and reflection. Therein, we will find hidden treasure for us to adopt.
If you have any familiarity with Biblical history, you know that Solomon's origin is a suspect one. His father, David, married his mother, Bathsheba, under awful circumstances - David, an already married man, shirked his duty to lead soldiers in battle, desired a woman he could not have, committed adultery with Bathsheba, got her pregnant, tried to cover his sin with trickery, and, ultimately, ordered the death of her husband by the hand of his commanding officer. It was that union of these two individuals that produced Solomon as a son of the king.
As he matured, Solomon was groomed to be king; yet, the transfer of the kingship was not smooth at all (see 1 Kings 1). David, still alive but very old, faced a coup by one of his sons - Adonijah, the third oldest son of David. Adonijah declared his intentions of becoming king and acquired a large group of followers (including chariots as the symbol of power). To make his move public, he brings in some family members and court officials for a special sacrifice but, specifically, did not invite Solomon. This maneuver appears to reveal an acknowledgement of his rebellion.
A prophet of God goes to Bathsheba to warn her and gets her to go to the king. David, in the past, had proclaimed that Solomon would rule upon his death. David acknowledged that oath and then acted to transfer the throne to him now in a special ceremony. This public showing drove followers from Adonijah, who fled to the altar and begged for mercy. With Solomon being king, it fell to him to decide what to do with his traitorous brother. Solomon took an oath to permit his brother to live IF, and only if, Adonijah would live right; and the older brother agreed to do so.
David finally died (see 1 Kings 2) and the entire kingdom mourns the loss, while peacefully transferring loyalty to Solomon. Shortly thereafter, Adonijah launches another plot to subvert the throne. He, being the eldest brother, goes to Solomon's mother - not go to the king - and asks to marry David's concubine. When Solomon finds out, he knows exactly what is taking place. Granting the request would immediately give his older brother a claim to the throne; and as the account implies, Adonijah had support of David's general and priest. In other words, this was a much larger attempt to either split the kingdom or go to war with Solomon. The new king faced a tough decision and ordered the exile or death of these men.
It is this background that leads us to 1 Kings 3 and why Solomon asked God for wisdom. He could have asked for wealth and ease and a long life, but he knew none of that mattered without the ability to "distinguish between right and wrong" through a "discerning heart" (1 Kings 3:9). Solomon's immediate context was a rough experience and he pondered that time to figure out what was of true value for life and leadership. Oh that we would heed his example in our daily lives! Instead of chasing money and possessions, we should pursue truth and wisdom with all of our being.
So what? Why does this matter for you and I?
In conclusion, be like Solomon. Step back and think or reflect on your experience. Evaluate your experiences and learn from them because that, my friends, is how you gain wisdom!