Solomon Asked for a Hearing Heart, not Wisdom


It’s interesting what we come to “know” because we have heard it repeated so many times. For example, we’ve probably all heard countless times that Solomon asked God for wisdom. But, that is not what Solomon asked for. He literally asked for a hearing heart. Because he asked for this, God gave Solomon wisdom.

That may seem like a subtle distinction, but there’s a world of difference between the two.


Let’s look at just a few translations of 1 Kings 3:9 to see what Solomon asked God for.

“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” – English Standard Version

“So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge your people to discern between good and evil.” – New American Standard Bible

“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad.” – King James Version

“Give to you heart servant a listening heart to judge your people, to discern between good and bad.” – The Lexham English Bible

Both the NASB and the KJV have a note that says “understanding” is literally “hearing” in the Hebrew.

The Hebrew word translated understanding in the ESV is shama, which means to hear, to listen, or to obey. Rarely is the word translated understanding.

And, the Hebrew word translated mind in the ESV is leb, which is overwhelmingly translated heart, even though it can mean mind as well.

Solomon is clearly asking God for a heart to listen, a listening heart, or a heart to obey.


Reading through the first few chapters of Proverbs, written by Solomon, shows that Solomon understood the the connection between hearing, the heart, and wisdom.

Solomon says that to know wisdom and instruction a wise person will hear.

Wisdom cries aloud in the street, but not everyone hears it.

We need to make our ear attentive to wisdom and incline our heart to understanding. The Lord gives wisdom and stores wisdom up for the person that does this. Wisdom will come into your heart.

Proverbs 3:5-7 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”

Solomon continually speaks about hearing, turning our heart to God, and receiving wisdom. Solomon knows this and can instruct his son in this because it is exactly what he did.


It was because Solomon asked for listening heart, an obedient heart, that God blessed him with wisdom.

In 1 Kings 3:11-12, God said, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself, understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind [heart], so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.”


In 1 Kings 3:8, Solomon says he is “your servant is in the midst of your people.”

John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus literally tabernacled in the midst of the people.

Like Solomon, Jesus never asked for long life or riches for himself. But, Jesus prayed a lot:

  • “He went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” – Matthew 14:23
  • “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” – Mark 1:35
  • “And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.” – Mark 6:46
  • “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” – Luke 5:!6
  • “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer.” – Luke 6:12

Why was Jesus always going away to pray? So that, like Solomon, he would be able to discern good and evil and judge people righteously. In this way, Jesus would do the will of his Father.

Therefore, Jesus said:

  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” – John 5:19
  • “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” – John 5:30
  • “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak.”

Jesus knew that a listening heart was a soft heart. A soft heart would hear the Father’s commands and obey. In this way, Jesus received wisdom.


What Solomon typified and what Jesus fulfilled are exactly what Jesus taught us.

Jesus said there are those who will hear but never understand and see but never perceive because their hearts are dull, their hearts are hard.

So, in Matthew 13:19, Jesus begins to explain the parable of the sower, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.”

The path was very hard ground because it had been continually trampled down by people walking on it. The ground was so hard, that the seed could not enter into it. When our hearts are hard, the seed, the wisdom of God, the life of God, cannot penetrate it.

But, in verse 23, Jesus says, “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit.”

Good soil is soft. It has been plowed up and made ready for the seed. The good soil is the heart that has been softened by prayer and meditation. The softened heart, the heart that is ready and willing to listen, not just hear but obey, is the heart that is ready to receive the wisdom and life of God.

Notice in Jesus’ parable that when the sower went out to sow the seed went everywhere. It did not just go on the good soil. Recall from above that Solomon wrote in Proverbs that wisdom cries aloud into the streets. Wisdom is continually calling out. But, only those with hearts ready to listen, ready to obey, hear wisdom.

So, like Solomon, like Jesus, we don’t need so much to pray for wisdom as we do listening hearts, hearts that are ready to obey at the first word. Then, we will receive all the wisdom we need.

3 Replies to “Solomon Asked for a Hearing Heart, not Wisdom”

  1. I think this is a really good lesson. I am going to use parts of it to introduce a “heart change” or a mindset change that my members should seek God about. This is our stewardship month and I am focusing on the why and how instead of the what of giving. I will pair it with scriptures that Jesus speaks about concerning the heart (out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks and where your treasure is there is your heart also).

    1. Very good point. In first kings Solomon does not ask for wisdom, but an understanding heart. But, in 2 Chronicles: 1:10 the wording is “wisdom and knowledge. ” while we can take the two differently, and it makes for a good study, I don’t believe we should take it too far. Thanks for your incite!

  2. As I have been interceding for my son , the Holy Spirit laid it on my spirit to pray for a “ listening ear and a hearing heart but I did not know if there was a scripture reference and I came online to check it out. Thank you for explaining to me clearly what the Spirit is saying.

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