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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 4

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



This chapter is touted by admirers of Solomon as a summary of the magnificence and glory of the kingdom of Solomon, but this writer’s opinion of that kingdom holds it in a somewhat different light - the light shed on it by the Prince of Peace who declared of himself that, “Behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42)! The full implication of Jesus’ words in that passage clearly mean that Solomon’s kingdom suggests that of the Messiah only in their dramatic contrasts.

The materialistic trappings of the Solomonic kingdom exhibited all of the extravagant abuses of excessively big government, outrageous, and oppressive taxation, great battalions of forced labor, and a bloated military establishment, to say nothing of his enormous multiplication of personal wealth and his sensual indulgence of his lust in cohabiting with a thousand pagan women. Some very great scholars, seemingly out of their right mind, have the audacity to make that reprobate kingdom of Solomon actually, “a type of the Messianic Kingdom.” As Matthew Henry stated it: “Never, in the days of Solomon’s father, nor in the days of any of his successors, was the kingdom of Israel ever so glorious a type of the kingdom of the Messiah as it was in the reign of Solomon.”(F1)

The great error in all such false notions is founded in the widespread ignorance of the fact that “The True Israel of God” in the Old Testament was never THE SINFUL KINGDOM, but THE RIGHTEOUS REMNANT. The Kingdom of Solomon was the scandalous disgrace of forty generations, and Israel never recovered from it!

For these reasons, this writer will not make elaborate comments on many phases of this tragic reign.

Verses 1-6


“And king Solomon was king over all Israel. And these were the princes whom he had: Azariah the son of Zadok, the priest; Elihoreph and Ahijah the sons of Shisha, the scribes; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, the recorder; and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the. host; and Zadok and Abiathar were priests; and Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers; and Zabud the son of Nathan was chief minister, and the king’s friend; and Ahishar was over the household; and Adoniram the son of Abdo was over the men subject to taskwork.”

It is at once evident that Solomon’s principal officers included important men from the days of David (Benaiah and Adohiram) as well as certain kinsmen. Scholars disagree on whether Nathan here is the prophet or David’s son A surprise is the mention of Abiathar, indicating that Solomon had either forgiven and elevated him, or that another of the same name is meant. The usual explanation of critics is that the name’s appearance here is “an error,” but no critic tells us who that other priest actually was!

Keil identified this list as coming from the “middle portion,”(F2) but Barlow identified it as coming from the latter part of Solomon’s reign.(F3) Two designations here are of special interest; and in both of them, it is clear that euphemisms are involved. Ahishar over the household was in charge of Solomon’s harem; and Adoniram over the men subject to taskwork was in charge of the great gangs of forced labor. The Hebrew here leaves no doubt that “forced labor is meant.”(F4) These are threatening and ominous words, a sinister note indeed. “One of the great weaknesses of Solomon’s administration was his insistence upon wringing the last possible amount of money and other help from his subjects. This policy brought about the division of his kingdom following his death, and Adoniram (Adoram) would play a most unhappy role on that occasion (1 Kings 12:18).”(F5) Keil also agreed that the Adoniram here is the same as the Adoram of the days of David (2 Samuel 20:24).(F6)

Verses 7-19


“And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, who provided victuals for the king and his household: each man to make provision for a month in the year. And these are their names: Ben-hur in the hill-country of Ephraim; Ben-deker in Makaz and in Shaalbim, and Bethshemesh, and Elon-beth-hanan; Ben-hesed, in Arubboth (to him pertained Socoh, and all the land of Hepher); Ben-abinadab, in all the height of Dor (he had Taphath the daughter of Solomon to wife); Bana the son of Ahilud, in Taanach and Megiddo, and all Bethshean which is beside Zarethan, beneath Jezreel, from Bethshean to Abel-meholah, as far as beyond Jokmeam; Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead (to him pertained the towns of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead; even to him pertained the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, threescore great cities with walls and brazen bars; Ahinadab the son of Iddo, in Mahanaim; Ahimaaz, in Naphtali (he also took Basemath the daughter of Solomon to wife); Bana the son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth; Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar; Shimei the son of Ela, in Benjamin; Geber the son of Uri in the land of Gilead, the country of Sihon king of the Ammorites and of Og king of Bashan; and he was the only officer that was in the land.”

“To all intents and purposes, this list of names is unidentifiable.”(F7) We would also like to add that there could be no possible Christian interest in this list. These were the men unequivocably described by Keil as “tax collectors,”(F8) and their names are therefore of the same interest to God’s people today as a list of the principal agents of the I.R.S. in the U.S.A. They were the ones who extorted the enormous taxation that supported the bloated Solomonic government.

Verses 20-25


“Judah and Israel were as many as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry. And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life. And Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal, ten fat oxen and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and a hundred sheep, besides harts, and gazelles, and roebucks, and farted fowl. For he had dominion over all the region on this side of the River: and he had peace on all sides round about him. And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.”

“Eating and drinking and making merry” No wonder the Jews glorified the days of Solomon. With all of the nations on earth between the Euphrates River and Egypt paying tribute to Solomon, they were indeed living happily by the sweat of other peoples’ faces; and to the Jewish citizens that looked to them very much like the Kingdom of God on earth! When the financial burden of all that extravagance eventually shifted upon themselves, that was when they rebelled.

“Provision for one day” Scholars have calculated the provisions listed here, declaring them to have been sufficient for feeding 14,000 people daily.(F9) It is indeed amazing that “the household” of Solomon consumed 36,500 sheep, about 11,000 oxen and enough flour to make ten and one half million pounds of bread annually! (based upon the calculation that the bakery produced 28,000 pounds daily). Matheney calculated a month’s provisions as, “5,000 bushels of flour, 10,000 bushels of meal, 900 oxen, and 3,000 sheep. If the average district’s population was about 100,000, there was indeed a very heavy yoke of taxation upon the people.”(F10)

Furthermore, the vast monies to be squandered upon the Temple and the colossal expenses of all the horses, horsemen, and other military personnel - none of all that was included in the king’s “daily provisions.”

Verses 26-28


“And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. And those officers provided victuals for king Solomon, and for all that came unto the king’s table, every man in his month; they let nothing be lacking. Barley also and straw for the horses and swift steeds brought they unto the place where the officers were, every man according to his charge.”

“Forty thousand stalls of horses” The parallel account in 2 Chronicles 9:25 gives the number of Solomon’s horses at 4,000, a number favored by many scholars, but our own opinion is that the number here is just as likely to be correct as the other. “The Philistines are reported to have brought 30,000 chariots into battle (1 Samuel 13:5); and, allowing 2 horses to the chariot would indicate at least 70,000, and the Syrians boasted at least 40,000 horses (2 Samuel 10:18).”(F11) Also, the thesis of this whole section regarding Solomon is simply this, that no other king in that entire era approached the magnificence displayed by Solomon. Either number is proof of Solomon’s violation of God’s law in Deuteronomy 17:16.

Verses 29-34


“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore. And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all the nations round about. And he spake three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of birds, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And there came of all the peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.”

“Three thousand proverbs” Of these, only a relative handful have survived in the Book of Proverbs; and of the thousand and five songs, “We have only the Song of Solomon, Psalms 72; Psalms 132; and Psalms 127.” The fact of the vast majority of Solomon’s songs having fallen victim to the ravages of time was mentioned by Jamieson as follows: “The greater part fell prey to the ravages of time or perished during the Babylonian captivity, probably because they were not inspired.”(F12)

The description of Solomon’s wisdom here in such superlative language is in all likelihood due to the sacred narrator’s use of hyperbole, which, as we have often noted, is a well-known and frequently utilized Biblical figure of speech.

Whatever Solomon’s wisdom actually was, it must be allowed as an amazing fact that it did not produce in himself any remarkable love of God or fidelity to the Divine commandments, except in the very earliest days of his monarchy.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Kings 4". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/1-kings-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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