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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
1 Kings 9

 

 

Introduction

IX.

Of this chapter, the first portion (1 Kings 9:1-9) forms the conclusion of the detailed narrative of the preceding chapter; the latter portion is wholly different in style and subject.


Verse 1

(1) And it came to pass.—The obvious primâ facie meaning of this verse would land us in much difficulty. By 1 Kings 6:38; 1 Kings 7:1, we find that, while the Temple was built in seven years, the erection of the palace and the other buildings occupied thirteen years; and from 1 Kings 5:10 and 2 Chronicles 8:1 it appears that these works were successive, and therefore that the completion of the palace could not have taken place till thirteen years after the completion of the Temple. Hence we should have to conclude, either that the dedication was postponed for thirteen years, till all the buildings were finished—which is in itself infinitely improbable, and contradicts the express declaration of Josephus—or that a similar period intervened between Solomon’s prayer and the Divine answer to it, which is even more preposterous. The variation in 2 Chronicles 7:11 probably suggests the true key to the difficulty: viz., that the notice in this verse is merely a summary of the history of 1 Kings 6-8, which records the whole of the building works of Solomon, and is not intended to fix the date of the vision of 1 Kings 9:2-9.


Verse 3

(3) To put my name there for ever.—The meaning of the words “for ever” is determined by the prayer which they answer. They simply mark the Temple as the “settled habitation to abide in for ever” (see 1 Kings 8:13), in contradistinction from the movable tabernacle. Whether they were to have a larger significance is expressly declared to depend on the faithfulness of Israel (see 1 Kings 9:7-8).

Mine eyes and mine heart.—See .


Verses 3-9

(3-9) And the Lord said unto him.—This vision of the Lord presents a remarkable contrast with that recorded in 1 Kings 6:11-13, while the Temple was in building. Then all was promise and encouragement; now, not only is warning mingled with promise, but, as in Solomon’s own prayer, the sadder alternative seems in prophetic anticipation to overpower the brighter. In this there is (as has been often remarked) a striking exemplification of the austere and lofty candour of the inspired narrative, sternly contradicting that natural hopefulness in the hour of unexampled prosperity, which would have shrunk from even entertaining the idea that the blessing of God on the Temple should be frustrated, and the glory of Israel should pass away.

It is notable that, in its reference to the two parts of the promise to David, there is a subtle and instructive distinction. As for the Temple, now just built in fulfilment of that promise, it is declared without reserve that, in case of unfaithfulness in Israel, it shall be utterly destroyed, and become an astonishment and a proverb of reproach before the world. But in respect of the promise of the perpetuity of David’s kingdom—the true Messianic prediction, which struck the key-note of all future prophecies—it is only said that Israel shall be “cut off from the land,” and so “become a proverb and a byword” in captivity. Nothing is said to contradict the original declaration, that, even in case of sin, the mercy of God would chastise and not forsake the house of David (2 Samuel 7:13-14; Psalms 89:30-37). So again and again in prophecy captivity is denounced as a penalty of Israel’s sin; but the hope of restoration is always held out, and thus the belief in God’s unchanging promise remains unshaken. The true idea is strikingly illustrated by the prophet Amos (1 Kings 9:9-11): “I will sift the house of Israel, among all nations . . . yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth . . . I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof.”


Verse 5

(5) If thou wilt walk.—The fall of the house of Solomon from dominion over all Israel is an emphatic comment on the conditional nature of this promise. Yet the essence of the covenant with David was kept in that preservation of the diminished kingdom to an unbroken succession of his descendants—singularly contrasted with the changes of dynasty in the greater rival kingdom—which is expressly declared to have been granted “for David’s sake” (1 Kings 11:12-13).


Verse 7

(7) Then will I cut off.—These warnings were repeated with terrible force by Jeremiah on the eve of their fulfilment. (See Jeremiah 7:12-14; Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 25:9.) The destruction of the Temple is by him compared with that which fell on Shiloh—no doubt, after the great defeat by the Philistines in the time of Eli (1 Samuel 4, 5), although the history gives no record of it. The continued existence of the people, as a people, to be “a proverb and a byword,” through the Babylonish captivity, and through their present dispersion, is a fact to which the history of the world undoubtedly furnishes no parallel.


Verse 8

(8) At this house, which is high.—The word “which” is not in the original Hebrew here (although found in the present Hebrew text of 2 Chronicles 7:21). The true meaning is certainly “This house shall be high;” which is the reading of the LXX., while the Vulg. has a good explanatory gloss, “This house shall be for an example.” Various corrections have been proposed, but there seems no necessity for them. There is evidently an allusion to the lofty position of the Temple. Generally the exaltation of “the mountain of the Lord” is made a type of its glory (as in Micah 4:1-2; Psalms 68:15-16, &c.); here of its destruction. Its magnificence and its ruin are equally conspicuous: for “a city set on a hill cannot be hid.”


Verse 9

(9) Brought . . . out of the land of Egypt.—This is appealed to here in exactly a converse sense to the mention of it in Solomon’s prayer. There it was made the ground for pleading with the Lord for His continued favour (see 1 Kings 8:51-53); here for His claim of the undivided allegiance of the people, for it marked His new “covenant” with the people, now become a nation (see Jeremiah 31:32), and therefore involved (as in all covenants) reciprocal claims. Afterwards the deliverance from Babylon was to take its place, both as a proof of God’s love and a motive for the loyal obedience of the people (Jeremiah 16:14-15; Jeremiah 23:7-8).


Verse 10

(10) And it came to pass.—To this detailed account of the building and consecration of the Temple, ending at 1 Kings 9:9, succeed, first, a notice of a visit of Hiram; and then a section of wholly different character, a series of brief notes (evidently official records), of the works and the government of Solomon, which continues—broken only by the episode of the visit of the Queen of Sheba—to the end of the next chapter.


Verse 11

(11) Gave Hiram . . . cities.—This implies a debt to him for timber and gold, and probably stone also, over and above the payment in kind stipulated for in 1 Kings 5:9. From the notice in 2 Chronicles 8:2, that, when these cities were restored by Hiram, Solomon rebuilt them, and peopled them with Israelites, it seems likely that they were previously cities of the subject races, which he would have no scruple in alienating; although, indeed, the often-quoted enactment of the Law (Leviticus 25:23-24), would not have been likely to be strictly observed under his self-reliant despotism.


Verse 12

(12) The cities are said to have been in “the land of Galilee.” The name Galilee, signifying properly a “circle” or “ring” of territory, is used twice in the Book of Joshua for a region round Kedesh-Naphtali (Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:32), lying to the north-west of the Lake of Gennesareth, and extending to the Waters of Merom. (See also 2 Kings 15:29.) The western portion of this territory would lie nearly on the frontiers of Tyre, and so would suit well the purpose both of Hiram and of Solomon. The discontent of Hiram probably referred to the condition of the cities (which afterwards had to be rebuilt), not to their geographical position.


Verse 13

(13) Cabul.—The derivation of this word is uncertain. Josephus evidently did not know it as a Hebrew word; for he expressly says, that in the Phænician language it signifies “what is unpleasing.” (Ant. viii. , sect. 3). A city Cabul is mentioned in Joshua 19:27, in the territory of Asher, evidently on the Tyrian frontier, and in the neighbourhood in question. Hiram, it is thought, takes up this name, and applies it to the whole territory, and by a play of words on it signifies his discontent with Solomon’s gift. Ewald supposes a Hebrew derivation for the word (“as nought”); others take it to be “like that which vanishes.” Either would suit the sense indicated in the text well; but unless these derivations represent something cognate in the Tyrian language, they hardly accord with the requirements of this passage, which (as Josephus says) implies a Phoenician origin for the word.


Verse 14

(14) Hiram sent to the king sixscore talents of gold.—The payment, on any calculation, was a large one, though little more than a sixth of Solomon’s yearly revenue. (See 1 Kings 10:14.) How it is connected with the previous verses is matter of conjecture. It may possibly be a note referring back to 1 Kings 9:11, and explaining the amount of gold which Hiram had sent. If this is not so, it would then seem to be a payment in acknowledgment of the cession of the cities, as being of greater value than the debt which it was meant to discharge. Hiram’s depreciation of the cities need not imply that he did not care to keep them. “It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.” (Proverbs 20:14). Josephus (Ant. viii. 5, 3), has a quaint story in connection with this intercourse between Hiram and Solomon (quoted from Dios), declaring that a contest in riddles took place between these kings, and that, when Hiram could not solve the riddles of Solomon, he “paid a large sum of money for his fine,” but adds that he afterwards retaliated on Solomon, by aid of Abdemon of Tyre. It appears by 2 Chronicles 7:2, that the cities were afterwards restored to Israel—how, and why, we know not.

(15 28) The rest of the chapter consists of brief historical notes, partly referring back to the previous records. Thus, 1 Kings 9:15 refers back to 1 Kings 5:13; 1 Kings 9:20-22 to 1 Kings 5:15; 1 Kings 9:24 to 1 Kings 7:8; 1 Kings 9:25 is a note connected with the history of the dedication of the Temple. The style is markedly different from the graphic and picturesque style of the passages preceding and following it.


Verse 15

(15) The levy.—This (see 1 Kings 5:13; 1 Kings 5:15) was both of Israelites and of the subject races, first originated for the building of the Temple, afterwards extended to the other great building works.

The building works enumerated are, first in Jerusalem, then in various parts of the country of critical importance, either for war or for commerce.

Millo, or (as it always has the definite article), “the Millo.” The Hebrew word seems to signify “piling up,” or “heaping up,” and its most simple meaning would be a “fortified mound.” From the mention, however, in Judges 9:6; Judges 9:20, of the “house of Millo,” in connection with the men of Shechem, it has been supposed to be a Canaanitish word; and it is possible that “the Millo” of Jerusalem may have been the name of a quarter of the old Jebusite city, especially as it is first used in connection with the narrative of its capture (2 Samuel 5:9; 1 Chronicles 11:8). That it was a part of the fortification of “the city of David” is clear by this passage, by 1 Kings 9:24 and 1 Kings 11:27, and by 2 Chronicles 32:5; and the LXX. invariably renders it “Acra,” or “the-citadel,” a name always applied in the later history to the fortification on Mount Zion. Josephus, in describing the works of Solomon, merely says that he made the walls of David higher and stronger, and built towers on them. From the derivation of the word it is possible that the work was the raising a high fortification of earth crowned with a wall, where the hill of Zion slopes down unto the valley known subsequently as the Tyropœon.

Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer.—These cities were all of important geographical positions, and all had belonged to the subject races.

Hazor was in the north, on high ground near the waters of Merom. It had been the city of Jabin, head of the northern confederacy (Joshua 11:1). After the great victory over this confederacy, Joshua burnt Hazor (Joshua 11:13), and the territory was assigned to Naphtali (Joshua 19:36). But it must have been regained by its old possessors, and rebuilt, for it appears again under another Jabin in Judges 4. It was evidently important, as commanding the great line of invasion through Hamath from the north. Hence it was fortified by Solomon, and probably the native inhabitants were dispossessed.

Megiddo lay in the great plain of Jezreel or Esdraelon, the battle-field of Northern Palestine, commanding some of the passes from it into the hill country of Manasseh, to which tribe it was assigned after the conquest (Joshua 17:11). But it was not subdued by them (Joshua 17:12-13; Judges 1:27-28), and, with Taanach, appears as a hostile city in the Song of Deborah (Judges 5:19). Now it was fortified, and is named subsequently as an Israelite city (2 Kings 9:27; 2 Kings 23:29). In later times the Romans seem to have occupied it, and their name for it, Legio (now el-Łejjûr), superseded the old title.

Grezer or Gazer, was near Bethlehem, close to the maritime plain. Its king was conquered by Joshua (Joshua 10:33; Joshua 12:12), and the city was allotted to the Levites in the territory of Ephraim (Joshua 21:17), but it remained unsubdued (Judges 1:29). From the notice in the next verse, it must have been in rebellion against Israel, perhaps in the early and more troubled days of Solomon; and was accordingly taken by the Egyptian army (which could easily march up the plain, and attack it therefrom). The passes here were of critical importance, as appears in the Philistine wars (1 Chronicles 20:4; 2 Samuel 5:25), in relation to any advance from the plain.


Verse 16

(16) A present—that is, of course, a dowry, on her marriage with Solomon.


Verse 17

(17) Beth-horon the nether.—The name “Beth-horon” (“the house of caves,”) was given to two small towns or villages (still called Beit-ûr), near Gezer, commanding the steep and rugged pass from the maritime plain, celebrated for three great victories of Israel—the great victory of Joshua (Joshua , 10), the victory of Judas Maccabæus (1 Maccabees 3:13-24), and the last victory of the Jews over the Roman army of Cestius Gallus, before the fall of Jerusalem (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, ii. 19). The lower Beth-horon stands On a low eminence on the edge of the plain.


Verse 18

(18) Baalath is said by Josephus to have been in the same neighbourhood; and this agrees with the mention of it in Joshua 19:44, as lying in the region assigned to Dan, on the edge of the Philistine country. The three, Gezer, Beth-horon, and Baalath, evidently form a group of fortified places commanding the passes from the sea-coast.

Tadmor in the wilderness, in the land.—The Hebrew text here has Tamar (with, however, Tadmor as a marginal reading). From this fact, and from the peculiar expression “in the land,” which certainly seems to designate the land of Israel, and from the juxtaposition of the name in this passage with the names of places situated in the southern part of Palestine, it has been thought that the place meant is the Tamar of Ezekiel 47:19; Ezekiel 48:28), or, perhaps, Hazazon-Tamar, the old name of En-gedi; and that the marginal reading, and the reading of the old versions, have arisen from a mistaken identification of this place with the Tadmor of 2 Chronicles 9:4. But, on the whole, these considerations are not sufficient to counterbalance the invariable reference of this passage, by all the ancient versions and by the narrative of Josephus, to the celebrated Tadmor, the name of which is a local variety of the Hebrew name Tamar (or “the palm-tree,”) preserved in the later name of Palmyra. If this be meant, it is indeed difficult to suppose that there is not some omission after the words “in the land.”

Tadmor, or Palmyra, is described by Josephus as “in the desert above Syria, a day’s journey from the Euphrates, and six long days’ journey from Babylon the Great.” Its foundation is described in 2 Chronicles 9:4, as connected with a subjugation of Hamathzobah, and it may have had a military purpose. But situated on a well-watered oasis, in the midst of the desert, south-west of Tiphsah or Thapsacus on the Euphrates, also occupied by Solomon (see 1 Kings 4:24), and about 120 miles from Damascus, it would be eminently fitted for trade both with Damascus and with Babylon and the north. Its importance is indicated by its long existence as a great city, and by its splendour (still traceable in its ruins), in Greek and Roman times, down to, at least, the age of Diocletian.


Verse 19

(19) That which Solomon desired to build.—See, in Ecclesiastes 2:4-10, the description of the vineyards, and gardens, and orchards, in Jerusalem, with trees of all manner of fruits and pools of water, “whatsoever mine eyes desired;” and in Song of Solomon 2:10-13; Song of Solomon 4:8; Song of Solomon 7:11-13, the vivid pictures of the pleasure-gardens of Lebanon. The text seems evidently to refer to these, in contradistinction from the cities of commercial and military importance previously mentioned.


Verse 20

(20) A tribute of bond service.—This was probably not originated, but simply enforced and organised, by Solomon. It dated, in theory at least, from the Conquest. The most notable example of it is the case of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:21-27); but there are incidental notices of similar imposition of serfship in Judges 1:28; Judges 1:30; Judges 1:33; Judges 1:35. Many of the dangers of the stormy age of the Judges were due to the uprising of these subject races; as in the revival of the northern confederacy at Hazor under Sisera (Judges 4), and the usurpation of Abimelech by aid of the Shecliemites (Judges 9). Probably their subordination to Israel varied according to the strength or weakness of each age; but, when the monarchy became organised under David and Solomon, it was fixed definitely and permanently, although, like the serfship of the Middle Ages, it might vary in its severity in different times and in different regions.


Verse 22

(22) No bondmen.—This exemption, however it may have continued in theory, must virtually have been set aside in the later days of Solomon. (See 1 Kings 12:4.) They are here described as occupying the position of a dominant race—as warriors, servants about the person of the king, princes, and officers in the array—like the free vassals under a feudal monarchy. But as the absolute power of the king increased, and with it, perhaps, the wealth and arrogance of his favourites and greater officers, the condition of the Israelites at large might be removed from serfship more in name than in reality. Even the subject races might be played of against them, as against the Macedonians in the later years of Alexander the Great, when his royalty passed into something like a true Oriental despotism. Certainly, in later times we find, both from the history and the prophetical books, that there was such a thing as serf ship of the poor to the princes. (Jeremiah 34:8-11; Nehemiah 5:11.)


Verse 23

(23) Five hundred and fifty.—In 1 Kings 5:16 we read of just six times as many officers as those here mentioned over the workers for the Temple. But in that passage there would seem to be reference to the special levy then raised; here the description is apparently of a regularly established system.


Verse 24

(24) Pharaoh’s daughter came up . . .—In 2 Chronicles 8:11 a reason is assigned for this removal: “My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come.” In this passage the notice of her withdrawal is evidently connected with the building of “the Millo” described in 1 Kings 9:15, which perhaps trenched on her former quarters in the city of David.


Verse 25

(25) And three times in a year.—This verse seems by the last words to be a kind of note or postscript to the description of the completion and consecration of the Temple. To the record of the great inaugural sacrifice it adds a notice of the solemn renewal of the royal offering, both of victims and of incense, three times in a year—no doubt at the three great feasts, the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. As has been already said (see Note on 1 Kings 8:63), there is no reason to suppose that on these occasions, or on any others, Solomon personally usurped the priesťs office.


Verse 26

(26) Ezion-geber.—This place is first noticed in Numbers 33:35 and Deuteronomy 2:8 as a station in the wanderings of the Israelites, reached not long before their entrance into Canaan. It lies at the head of the Gulf of Akabah, the nearest point of the Red Sea, on the edge of the mountain country of Edom. Its very name (“the giant’s backbone”) indicates the nature of the country around it, which (it has been noted) could hardly have itself supplied timber for ship-building. But from 2 Chronicles 8:18 it appears that the ships, or the materials from which they were built, were sent from Tyre.


Verse 27

(27) Shipmen that had knowledge of the sea.—The Tyrians were known far and wide as the great sailors both of the Mediterranean and the seas beyond it, till they were rivalled and superseded by their own colonists in Carthage and by the Greeks. How greatly their seamanship, their commerce, and their civilisation impressed the imagination of Israel, is shown in the magnificent chapters of Ezekiel on the fate of Tyre (Ezekiel 26-28). The Israelites, on the contrary, had but little care for the sea, and little knowledge of seamanship. The coast line of Palestine is but scantily furnished with harbours; and even at the height of their power they were content to use the maritime skill of the Tyrians, without encroaching upon their commerce or attempting to seize their famous ports. This was natural; for their call to be a peculiar and separate people was absolutely incompatible with maritime enterprise and commerce. Even in this attempt at maritime expedition under Tyrian guidance, Solomon’s action was, as in other points, exceptional, departing from Israelite tradition; and we hear of no similar enterprise, except in the age of Ahab and Jehoshaphat, when the intermarriage of the royal houses of Israel and Phœnicia renewed the close connection with Tyre (1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chronicles 20:35). We observe, accordingly, that the sea is mostly regarded in the Old Testament in its terrible power of wave and storm, restrained from destroying only by the Almighty hand of God; and even the one psalm (Psalms 107:23-31), which describes the seafarer’s experience, dwells with awe on “God’s wonders in the deep.” In the description of the glory of “the new heaven and earth” of the hereafter, it is declared with emphasis that “there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).


Verse 28

(28) Ophir.—All that can be certainly gathered from the mention of Ophir in the Old Testament is, first; that it was situated to the east of Palestine and approached by the Red Sea (as is clear from this passage, from 1 Kings 22:48, and from 2 Chronicles 8:18; 2 Chronicles 9:10), and next, that so famous was the gold imported from it, that the “gold of Ophir” became proverbial (Job 22:24; Job_28:16; Psalms 45:10; Isaiah 13:12; 1 Chronicles 4). All else is matter of speculation and tradition. Setting aside merely fanciful conjectures, substantial reasons have been given for fixing it geographically in Africa, Arabia, and India; and of these three positions, evidence strongly preponderates for the second or third. Tradition is in favour of India; the LXX. renders the name as Soufir, or Sofir, which is the Coptic word for “India; the Arabic versions actually render it “India;” and Josephus (Ant. viii. 6, 4) srates unhesitatingly that Ophir was in his day called “The Golden Chersonesus,” which is the Malay peninsula. On the other hand, it is urged that “Ophir,” in the ethnological list of Genesis 10:29, is placed among the sons of Joktan, clearly indicating an Arabian position; and that the mention of Ophir (here and in 1 Kings 10:11), stands in close connection with the visit of the Queen of Sheba and the gold brought from Arabia. But neither of these considerations is conclusive. Looking to the products described as brought from Ophir, the “gold and precious stones” would suit either. but India better than Arabia (although, indeed, so far as gold is concerned, Western Africa would have better claim than either); while the “almug,” or “algum” wood is certainly the “sandal wood” found almost exclusively on the Malabar coast, and the very word “algum” appears to be a corruption of its Sanscrit name valguka. If the other imports mentioned in 1 Kings 10:22 were also from Ophir, this latter argument would be greatly strengthened. (See Note there.) But putting this aside as doubtful, the preponderance of evidence still appears to be in favour of India. The Tyrians, it may be added, are known to have had trading settlements on the Persian Gulf, and to have rivalled in the trade of the East the Egyptians, to whom it would more naturally have belonged. Various places have been named conjecturally as identical with Ophir: as in Arabia, Zaphar or Saphar, Doffir, and Zafari; in Africa, Sofala; and in India, Abhira, at the mouth of the Indus, and a Soupara mentioned by ancient Greek geographers, not far from Goa.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 9:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-kings-9.html. 1905.

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