Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 29

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-22



1 Chronicles 23:1-29:22

The scriptural materials for the life of David present him as a great poet, and we are accustomed to think of him in the light of his poetry, particularly of his elegies and psalms. We think of him as a great warrior from his youth up in the successful campaigns he waged in pushing out the boundaries of the kingdom until they fulfilled the promise to Abraham. Then we think of him as a legislator, as he devised many useful laws, but we seldom give him due credit for his organizing power. A great writer has said that what Alfred the Great did for England, and what Napoleon did for France, David did for his kingdom in the way of organization. I will take up the items of this organization and give you a clear conception of it.

I. The army.

His army roll showed 288,000 men. It would have been a great burden to a small kingdom like this to keep up a standing army of 288,000 men; so he divided his army into twelve great corps. Only one corps would serve a month; in the course of the entire year the 288,000 men would have served each one of them one month. In that way the spirit of military drill and organization was kept up. In case of war he could call out the whole 288,000 and have a vast army of drilled men. So his army organization, we will say, consisted of 288,000 men, twelve army corps of 24,000 each, each corps serving one month in the year, coming on in succession. Each corps was subdivided into, say, twenty-four regiments of 1,000 men each, and each regiment into ten companies of 100 men each, something like the "century" of the Roman Legion, a centurion commanding 100 men. These were the subdivisions of the main army. There was a bodyguard always kept near the king’s person. I do not recall that anywhere the number of this bodyguard is given. Sometimes they are called "Cherethites" and "Pelethites." Whatever their name, it was a permanent bodyguard of which Benaiah was the commander.

Then there was an order of men sometimes compared to the knighthood, the 600; the original organization of this 600 was in the Cave of Adullam, when David was an outlaw, and it was perpetuated all through his life. This 600, every one a hero and champion, was divided into two bands of 300 each. These bands were divided into companies of 100 each, and the one hundreds were divided into twenties. The six captains over the hundreds and the chief captain over all make the famous seven. The captains over the twenties make the famous thirty. Every man of this band of 600 was an experienced warrior and had signalized himself on many eventful occasions, and every one of the thirty and every one of the seven, that is, the thirty-seven officers, were especially famous.

Let us see if we have this army organization clear: 288,000 divided into twelve corps of 24,000 each; each corps commanded by its own general, with Joab as general-in-chief; each 24,000 serving one month and no more unless there was a war. In addition to that, a bodyguard, the famous 600; the three captains of the first 300 were the most worthy; the three captains of the other 300 were somewhat less worthy. Each 100 was divided into twenties; the captains over the twenties make the thirty worthies; then the six captains over the one hundreds, and a chief captain of the 600 make the thirty-seven worthies. That is David’s military organization.

II. The civil organization.

The civil organization was based upon the law of Moses. Each tribe was governed by its prince, and by a graded system of subordinate judges, chiefs of thousands, chiefs of hundreds, chiefs of fifties, and chiefs of tens, and the ordinary affairs pertaining only to the tribes were attended to by these men. That wag derived from the Mosaic administration, but in David’s time we come to quite a different need, the matters relating to God and his kingdom. For this work David appointed 6,000 Levites as judges and he distributed them over the whole territory. They represented the national affairs only.

These 6,000 Levites had the following functions:

1. They were what we would call "federal judges" – judges over matters that pertained to the general government.

2. Sanitary officers.

3. They were charged with education. There never was such a spirit of general education as grew up in this organization of David. First of all, there were the schools of the prophets. They were kept up and had been ever since Samuel’s time. In these schools of the prophets they studied the whole law of God, and particularly music, vocal and instrumental. They also studied everything that related to the prophetic office. That was the curriculum of the schools of the prophets, and that was where David got his education. These 6,000 Levites, each one in his own section, had charge of the educational work, and the result was that when Solomon came to the throne you find him the most thoroughly educated man since the days of Moses. Dr. Taylor, in his King of Israel, well says:

The preeminence attained by Solomon in all the branches of education is, to my mind, an evidence of the advanced condition of the nation generally in this department; since, unless a good foundation of elementary knowledge had been imparted to the youth of the land as a whole, it is hardly possible to account for the appearance of such a man as Solomon in that age. No doubt he was endowed with preternatural wisdom; but this, as is usual in the economy of Providence, would be engrafted upon a high degree of ordinary culture; and the question forces itself upon the historical student, "Who were his tutors, and who taught them?" You do not find the loftiest mountains rising isolatedly from some great plain. The highest mountains are never solitary peaks. They belong usually to some great chain, and are merely the loftiest elevations in a country the general character of which is mountainous; and in the same way the greatest scholars appear, not among ignorant people, but among those who have a high average of education, and in countries where a good substratum of instruction is enjoyed by the common average of the community. The historian, Froude, has put this thought admirably when he says, "No great general ever arose out of a nation of cowards; no great statesman or philosopher out of a nation of fools; no great artist out of a nation of materialists; no great dramatists, except when the drama was the passion of the people. Greatness is never more than the highest degree of an excellence which prevails around it, and forms the environment in which it grows." Now if these views be correct, the rise of Solomon, who was so conspicuous for his intellectual culture and scientific attainments, may be regarded as a proof that in the reign of David, and more particularly, perhaps, in the zenith of his administration, education was extensively diffused, and earnestly fostered by him among the tribes.

When we come to study Solomon, in his time, we will find a reference to the wise men of the day. These were the men who grew out of David’s educational system. Solomon is but the product of the educational department set us by David. Let us now see what we have learned about these Levites:

1. They were federal judges, passing sentence on all matters pertaining to the nation at large.

2. They were sanitary men, looking after all matters pertaining to the health of the people.

3. They were educational men.

4. They were the stewards of what is called the "royal property." We would call it now, in our government, "revenue." By a single paragraph we are told of David’s overseers of the treasure houses of the tribes, of the vineyards, of the orchards, pastures, etc., so that there must have been what in England would be called "crown-lands," land that belonged to the general government. In every tribe and in every important place you would see a treasure house.

Let us see what that treasure house was for. The system of worship provided for a central place of worship, and for the support of those who conducted matters at the central place of worship there was a tithe in cattle, grain, vineyards, etc., so you see that it would be necessary to have storehouses all over the nation where these tithes could be gathered up. It took a very consummate organization to put all these matters in such working order that there could be no deficiency in the royal treasury from any part of the land, nothing deficient in sanitary conditions. Nothing anywhere escaped the Argus eyes of the judicial system of government. Moreover, David developed commerce.

III. An international commerce.

This was a tremendous item in the contribution to the wealth of the nation. The kingdom produced more than it could use in the way of clothes, and it was necessary to export surplus products and to bring in things that could not be produced at home. You can imagine the continuous stream of caravans from Damascus to Egypt and from Tyre to Arabia, across the country. It would be necessary to carry to foreign countries various kinds of produce in exchange for the things brought to David from them. In Solomon’s time you will see an enlargement of this commerce. He not only reached the Atlantic Ocean, as in David’s time, through the fleets of Tyre, but China and India by means of the fleet at Eziongeber on the Gulf of Akabah. David would want cedars from Lebanon, and would want to employ skilled artisans and architects. David was a great builder. He built a fine palace for himself, and he built many fine buildings in Jerusalem. In paying for these artisans, architects, and materials from foreign countries he would use the surplus products of his own kingdom, carrying from Judah to Tyre by caravan, to Damascus by caravan, to Egypt, to Arabia. This necessitated treasure-houses and storehouses, and David had them by his system of organization.

IV. The religious organization.

The religious organization surpassed anything that this world has ever known. At no time in the history of the world, in any nation, was there ever such a perfect organization of religious service. After David was made king of all Israel at Hebron, where he had been reigning over Judah seven years, he captured Jerusalem and made that the central place of worship, and there the great feasts were celebrated. He is going to have a system of worship that will not only impress the minds of his own people, but all people who come in touch with them, so that in the days of the captivity the Babylonians would say, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion," and they would reply, "How can we sing the songs of Zion in a strange land?" and would hang their harps on the willow trees.

There were 38,000 Levites over thirty years of age in this religious organization, 6,000 of whom were set apart for judges, sanitary officers, and educators, leaving 32,000 for the Temple service. These 32,000 men were divided as follows: 24,000 into twenty-four courses of 1,000 each, set apart to minister at the sanctuary; in other words to be servants of the priests for anything the priests would want done; 4,000 set apart as porters; and 4,000 as singers. The priests, that is, the sons of Aaron, were classified into twenty-four courses. This classification continued until the New Testament time. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, belonged to the course of Abia, and when it came his turn to go and act as priest in the Temple, it was determined by lot, and the lot fell upon him to offer incense as priest. The priests were divided into twenty-four courses, and the singers divided. There were twenty-four bands of these singers, not all present at one time, but all could be grouped at national festivals, when the Passover came, or Feast of Tabernacles, or Pentecost, or the great day of Atonement; then the entire 4,000 singers would be there with their various instruments of music; the cymbal band, the psaltery band, the harp band, the trumpet band, Alamoth, or female choir, Sheminith, or male choir – everybody in that 4,000 would understand just what services were requisite on his part, and just when. One twenty-fourth of the time he had to be there, and on all national occasions he had to be there. Offerings take into consideration the sabbatic cycle, which consisted of the weekly sabbath, every seventh day; the new-moon sabbath, every lunar month; the annual sabbaths, the Passover, Tabernacle, and Pentecost festivals; the land sabbath, all of every seventh year; the jubilee sabbath, every fiftieth year, each and all with its appropriate and imposing ritual, you get some idea of David’s religious system.

When we come to study the book of Psalms, one of the most attractive books in the whole Bible, we will there find that the service of the second temple was based upon David’s plan, and led to our present arrangement of the Psalms. No writer has yet, with sufficient vividness, described the worship at Jerusalem in the Old Testament times. Rev. J. H. Ingraham, the Episcopalian, who committed suicide, attempted to describe it in letters that a daughter of an Egyptian Jew wrote to her father about how the Temple service impressed her in the time of Christ. These letters are found in his Prince of the House of David.

That was the religious organization. One living in any part of the country, from Hamath on the northwest to the Euphrates on the northeast, to Edom on the southeast, to Philistia on the southwest, and a case coming up, there was an appropriate officer to whom his case would be referred; everything was arranged for – judicial, executive, and legislative. Some things were attended to in the national convention. This occurred when the great festivals brought the people together in the grand convocation, or when something of special importance was to be done with reference to succession, as we saw when David called the whole nation to accept his son Solomon as king.


1. In what spheres was David great?

2. Describe his army organization: (1) How many enrolled? (2) How divided, and why? (3) What the subdivisions?

3. Describe David’s body-guard. Who the commander?

4. Describe the organization of his famous 600; (1) Its divisions; (9) Its subdivisions; (3) Who the famous thirty-seven?

5. Describe the civil organization: (1) What part derived from the Mosaic administration? (2) What additions in David’s time? (3) What the functions of the 6,000 Levites? (4) What proof of the diffusion of education by David? (5) What was the treasure-house?

6. Describe his system of international commerce: (1) Its necessity; (2) How carried on? .

7. Describe his religious organization: (1) How does it compare with the other religious organizations of the world? (2) How many and who constituted it? (3) Its divisions and subdivisions? (4) Its relation to the book of the Psalms?

Verses 23-25



We will begin on the reign of Solomon at page 164 of the Harmony.

First of all I will give you a list of the books obtainable by you on the reign of Solomon. Your Bible text of the reign of Solomon includes 1 Kings 1-11; and 2 Chronicles 1-9 – twenty chapters in all. These twenty chapters cover the reign of Solomon.

Josephus comes next. I am naming books for students of the English Bible, not of the Hebrew Bible. The pertinent parts of Josephus are chapters 14-15 of the Seventh Book of Antiquities, and chapters 1-7 of the Eighth Book, i.e., nine chapters of Josephus. You can read those nine chapters of Josephus at one sitting.

The next book I commend very highly on account of the simplicity of it (anybody can understand it), and also on account of the soundness and great scholarship of the author. It is Edersheim’s "History of Israel," Volume V. In the fifth volume some of the chapters are devoted to the reign of Solomon. Anyone at one sitting ought to be able carefully to read over everything that Edersheim has to say on Solomon’s reign. The next book, the author of which is also a great scholar and a very celebrated man, but not so sound in the faith as Edersheim, is Stanley’s "Jewish Church." There are three volumes, but only some chapters of the second volume treat of the reign of Solomon.

The next book is also one of great scholarship and research, though its author is more of a radical critic than Stanley, and that is Geikie’s "Hours with the Bible." There are about eight volumes of that book, but you want only that part on Solomon’s reign, a part of the third volume. It is better than either of the others in showing the political relation of Solomon’s kingdom to the other kingdoms of the world. It is superb on that.

The next book, by Canon Farrar, The Life and Times of Solomon, is one of a series of books on the great Old Testament characters. On the Old Testament Farrar is decidedly a radical critic. He is better on the New Testament.

The Bible Atlas comes next, which every Bible student and Sunday school teacher ought to have. It is studied in biblical introduction. Geography must precede history. In this book, pages 69-71, is all you need to consider on the reign of Solomon. It gives you several maps, then it gives you some comparative maps showing relative sizes. What it has to say in a historical way is very fine. You need it all the way through the study of the Bible, for it touches the whole history.

Some remarks on Kings and Chronicles. – The two books of Kings are, in the Hebrew, one book. The division took place when the Septuagint translation was made. This book of Kings covers more than four and one-half centuries, i.e., say from 1000 B.C. to about 585 B.C. Its original material was written by the contemporary prophets of Israel. Some prophet would write the annals of the kings during his time. The names of these prophets are Nathan, Ahijah, Iddo, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Therefore when the Old Testament is divided into three parts – Law, Prophets, and Psalms – Samuel and Kings are always included in the Prophets because the author of the book was a prophet, and because the history itself is prophetic. The reign of every king of Judah or of Israel later, when the division took place, had its own annalist, and these annalists or historians were prophets. In this book reference is made to a book called the Acts of Solomon, and from a passage in 2 Chronicles we infer that it was written by three prophets – Nathan, Ahijab, and Iddo. Sixteen times in the book of Kings there is reference to the Chronicles of the kings of Judah. Of course one man did not write all of those chronicles, but each prophet would write the chronicles of his day. There are many references also to the chronicles of the kings of Israel. Our book of Chronicles is a compilation from these original sources, probably by Ezra.

Another remark on the book of Kings: Not only were its authors prophets, but the history was written from a prophetic point of view. The history of Israel is itself a prophecy. Our book of Chronicles is also unique. It is a post-exile compilation, i.e., after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, and therefore it has nothing to say about the ten tribes that went off with Jeroboam; it discusses only Judah. This book commences with Adam and comes down to Ezra’s time, on one line of messianic thought – just one. While we use the material of the book of Chronicles in this Harmony, yet no man can understand the book of Chronicles except by independent study. It must be considered as the historical basis of the new probation after the exile, connecting with Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, and Esther, and also with the later prophets – Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Suppose that there was no Bible at all up to 1 Chronicles; now that book is written so as to reach back to the creation – to Adam – and furnishes, as I said, the historic basis of the probation of the Jewish people after their return from exile. Confining itself to the Davidic line and to Judah, it comes on down to the troublous times of the restoration. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther complete the story.

I discuss somewhat the empire of Solomon. A good map will show that the section conquered by Joshua was small compared with this empire of Solomon. The kingdom of Saul was a very small section, but by the conquests of David the boundary of the empire touched the Euphrates, which river was the boundary for a number of miles. Then the boundary came across to the Orontes River flowing north. Then it came down the eastern slope of the Lebanon Mountains, leaving a narrow strip next to the Mediterranean Sea – Phoenicia – which was not a part of Solomon’s kingdom, but was under an independent government – Hiram, king of Tyre. From the lower part of Phoenicia the boundary followed the Mediterranean Sea until it came to the River of Egypt. The River of Egypt means one of the branches of the Nile, and that part of the territory David never conquered, but Solomon got it by dowry when he married Pharaoh’s daughter. The boundary then strikes across from the River of Egypt to the upper part of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Akabah, at a point called Eziongeber. That was the seaport through which Solomon’s navy reached the Indian Ocean, and the countries of the Orient, as through the seaport of Tyre he reached all the countries on the Mediterranean Sea and even around as far as Britain and Norway – all around the shore of the Baltic Sea. This empire of Solomon is ten times as big as the kingdom of Saul. Consider the difference between 6,000 square miles and 60,000 square miles. You will notice that the eastern boundary of the empire touched the impassable desert at every point of the line. So with the great sea on the west and the desert on the east, there is only a narrow northern boundary and a narrow southern boundary to be safeguarded. You will observe that this empire as established by David and reigned over by Solomon was for the first time and the last time the greatest Oriental kingdom. There was no contemporaneous Oriental kingdom or empire equal to Solomon’s. I am not referring to extent of territory, but to authority, power, and rule. The reason is that Egypt has been greatly weakened, and just about Solomon’s time an entirely new dynasty comes in with which he intermarries, thus insuring perfect friendship on the south. Then it came at a time before the later Assyria and Babylonia have been established. The old Assyria and Babylonia at this juncture amounted to nothing, and Syria had become a part of Solomon’s empire. Through alliances with Phoenicia, which was the great sea power of the world at that date, and Egypt, there was no Oriental government that could compete with the empire of Solomon.

It exactly fulfilled the promise that God made to Abraham as reported in Genesis 15. Just what God promised to Abraham as to the extent of the territory is fulfilled for the first time in David, and remains so throughout the reign of Solomon – but never again. Then it exactly fulfils the prophecy written, as I am sure, by David himself, though attributed to Solomon, contained in Psalm 72. There the extent of his reign is set forth prophetically, as it is also set forth in the great promise made in 2 Samuel 7. The promise in 2 Samuel 7 occasioned the psalm, and in its higher meaning is to be fulfilled in David’s greatest Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, when the empire shall be the world, as told us in the book of Revelation. Now consider briefly the relation of Solomon’s empire with outside nations. There is no chance for internal disturbance after Philistia, Syria, Ammon, Moab, and Edom have been conquered by David, but consider the relation of this empire with other foreign countries. First of all, in influence and importance is Phoenicia – just a narrow strip of palm beach on the Mediterranean Sea, with the great mountains of Lebanon back of it, much like the Pacific slope in California, which is a very narrow slope with the Rocky Mountains back of it, and very much like the same Pacific slope in South America with the Andes back of it. The relation between Phoenicia and this empire was first established by David. Hiram, the king of Tyre, made a treaty with David just after David captured Jerusalem – a treaty, the favors of which were all on one side, i.e., David got the favors. In other words, by virtue of the alliance made between Hiram and David, David got access to the vast timberlands on the Lebanon Mountains, the finest timber accessible to the then known world. He also got access to the quarries there. You will understand why Hiram would want to make an alliance with David if you will consider that when David captured all this country up to the River Euphrates and down to the River of Egypt he controlled every artery of land commerce upon which Phoenicia depended. It is difficult to realize the amount of travel and traffic coming down from the Euphrates by Damascus and then to Tyre, and from Tyre distributed to all the Mediterranean nations clear around to the Baltic Sea. Then the other line of trade was from the same Euphrates – the caravan ways to Egypt. They would follow either side of the Jordan. From southern Judea there were three ways into Egypt – one from Philistia following the Mediterranean coast line, one through the middle of the desert, and the one that Moses followed when he led the people out of Egypt. Now, as Tyre had little territory and was dependent upon its commerce, if a foreign hostile nation controlled all of the arteries on the land side, it would break up the commerce, on the sea side, for they would have nothing to transport for exchange. This alliance was of incalculable value both to Phoenicia and to the empire of Solomon. The one as a sea power controlled the outlet; the other as a land power controlled the inlet. While Solomon’s had a Mediterranean coast line there were no good seaports on it. Phoenicia was a great commercial country centering in Solomon’s time at Tyre. If you want to understand something of the nature of that commerce read Ezekiel 27 on Tyre. It is the most vivid description of a commercial nation in the literature of the world. It describes Tyre as a ship of state, showing from what country she drew her products and her mercenaries, and you will find that all of Asia and the northern part of Africa, all the southern part of Europe, all the islands on the eastern shores of Europe, the British Isles, for instance, are mentioned in that description of the commerce of Phoenicia.

I made a speech once before the Y. M. C. A. in Waco on "The Shipwreck of -Faith." Faith was described – its errors, in various ways. My part of it was to describe the shipwreck of faith. I got my imagery of the shipwreck from Ezekiel’s description of the shipwreck of Tyre’s ship of state. It is more interesting than any novel – the account of the commerce outgoing from this city – Tyre. It retained its great splendor and magnificence down to the time of Alexander the Great, who conquered it. The empire of Solomon had another relation to Phoenicia which I will discuss at a later time. We take up now the relation of Egypt to Solomon’s empire. Solomon controlled all of the continental trade that reached Egypt because it had to come entirely through the whole length of the territory of Solomon. It was necessary therefore for a good understanding to prevail between the Holy Land and Egypt, and it is the first good understanding since Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, and as that relation was on account of a new dynasty coming in, so this relation is on account of an entirely new dynasty coming to the front in Egypt. In the later history of Israel you will find that Egypt, Phoenicia, and Babylonia on the Euphrates, and Nineveh, had much to do with this country in a hostile way. The advantages of the relations are with Israel only so long as it is the greater power. The touch of the empire with Oriental nations is its Euphrates border. There is no great nation at this time on the Tigris or the Euphrates to disturb Israel. The great nations there are coming but they are not, as yet.

"Solomon" means "prince of peace." His reign was a reign of peace – peace with Egypt, peace with Phoenicia, peace with the Oriental nations beyond the Euphrates, and peace with Arabia. Solomon renewed the alliance with Hiram, king of Tyre, and rather cheated him in a trade, very much to Hiram’s disgust. That we will learn about a little later. Solomon, partly from political motives, married women of many foreign countries. Thus he secured the southern boundary by marrying the daughter of Pharaoh. He was a "very much married" man.

Let us consider a little more particularly the commerce in Solomon’s day. As I told you, his part of the Mediterranean coast furnished very small means for great commerce, because it had no good seaports, and his country, up to David’s time, never touched any ocean or great sea in any other direction, but now it touched the Red Sea. Tyre becomes the servant of Solomon in reaching the whole world through the Mediterranean Sea. Then Solomon built a navy with the help of the Tyrian sailors at Eziongeber down on the Gulf of Akabah. We have an account of a visit he made to that place to see how his ships were coming along. He built a navy there, and through that navy he touched all the East Indies and the nations of the Pacific, all the archipelagoes of the Indian and Pacific oceans along the eastern and southern shores of Asia. We will come to some interesting accounts of this navy in the history, and of what those ships brought to him.

The land commerce I have described) on the way from the Euphrates to Egypt, and on the same way from the Euphrates to Tyre. It was a period of activity and travel, in commerce, in trade, in manufacture. It was a live world in Solomon’s time.

Our next question by way of introduction is what Solomon inherited from his father. I will give you a summary to show how much Solomon was indebted to his father. Some boys are very fortunate in the father’s providing for them. In the first place, he is entirely indebted to David for this big territory. He didn’t acquire it, but it cost David many a hard, bitter war; many a dreadful fight. On the maps in the Bible Atlas you will see where a number of these great battles were fought in David’s time, so that Solomon inherited his estate. The only part he added was the little strip of land next to Egypt that came with his marriage with the daughter of the king of Egypt as a dowry, and it didn’t hang on any longer than the wife did. The next thing inherited from his father was a united kingdom. He had nothing to do with that. David united the jealous warring tribes. We saw in the history of Joshua their intertribal differences, how their dissensions appear all through the book of Judges, all through the book of Samuel, and all through David’s life until he was crowned king of all Israel. The third thing of incalculable value that he inherited from David was organization. That organization reached to every department – say, first, the army. David’s military system must have been the seed idea of the present German military system. I don’t see where else they got their method of organizing their army on such a large scale except from the account of David’s military organization. In the next place, the revenue was organized. Up to David’s time there was no revenue system or army. There was a big militia, but very unreliable. David organized both to a nicety, so that from every part of this country the stream of revenue continually flowed into his treasury without intermission.

The next point of organization was religion. From Joshua’s time to David’s time the religious movements were on tangential lines. There was no long-settled place to worship; there was no general system of worship; there were no well-settled officers of worship and no adequate ritual. David organized it all. He had his central place of worship; he had his priests divided into twenty-four courses. He had his Levites all organized. He had the ritual of worship established, and he wrote songs for the entire convocation of Israel. The greater part of the Psalter was written by David. The times of worship were also systematized.

From David’s time comes also a thoroughly trained prophetic class. Samuel started it when he established three or four seminaries. From that time on until prophecy in Old Testament times ceased, there was a live prophetic school of men who represented God and spoke to the consciences of kings and of the nation. A corps of these great prophets are turned over to Solomon and work with him. Among them were Nathan, Iddo, and Ahijah, and in later reigns many others.

Solomon also inherited an organized educational system with these prophets from David. No intelligent mind can account for Solomon’s training and attainments except upon the pre-supposition of a system of-public instruction by prophets and priests. His attainments did not come by instinct or revelation. He had gifts, indeed, but when you read the history of Solomon you see the cultivation of the gifts. David’s system of public instruction accounts for Solomon. Through the prophets, particularly Nathan, came the fine education with which this man Solomon started in life. Then he inherited from David this alliance with Phoenicia. Moreover, he inherited from David treasures that stagger credulity in magnitude and variety – spoils of all the great wars, gold and silver and jewels of the world.

Commentators are tempted to change the Hebrew texts when they come to express the amount of the treasures that David accumulated. Everything that would be useful in the great work assigned to Solomon was ready to his hand. He inherited from his father even the plans as well as the material of the Temple, which is the greatest thing Solomon ever did – the building of that house. All of its magnitude and the entire plan of it, with minute directions, came down to Solomon from David. The boy had only to reach to his desk and take out complete plans of what he had to do, as a king, and minute directions as to how everything was to be done; the place from which the material was to come, and last of all, the very labor that was to perform the work was organized on a scale that hadn’t been equalled since the pyramids of Egypt were built. Now that starts the boy off right well.

Then his father had him installed into office before his own death to prevent any jar in the succession, and had the public men committed to him. The great leaders of Israel in all this great territory were assembled by David and pledged to support Solomon as his successor, and they did commit themselves by oath to his support. Now if the plans and the money and the material for the house and for all his other work, if the alliance and co-operation of other nations, if the organization of his own nation, came from his father, surely he was the heir to an immense inheritance. Not many of us started off that way. The most of us had to scratch right at the start.

The next thing we inquire is, "What did he derive from God?" Of course indirectly all these came from God, but directly from God was first that divine providence which, at this time, brought in a new and friendly dynasty in Egypt, that weakened the Oriental nations so that none of them could be equal in power to Solomon. All this came from God’s providence. Then the direct gift of Wisdom. It was from God. He didn’t earn it, and he didn’t learn it in school. He got knowledge in school: "Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers." But he got wisdom from God. How remarkable that wisdom was we shall see in a succeeding chapter.

A new era bad dawned on Solomon’s people. Heretofore they had lived a very simple life, having little contact with other nations and wishing to have none. Now they are brought in touch with the luxuries of the world through Pharaoh and Hiram. The whole country is on a boom, just such a boom as perhaps was never equalled in after times. Silver and gold become as common as pebbles along the bank of a brook. Agriculture, commerce, architecture, with all the arts and sciences, have quickened and broadened the national life, but with prosperity, commerce, and international touch comes danger to religious life. We will see if national alliances and intermarriages corrupt the pure worship of Jehovah. We will see if the Egyptian and Phoenician gods, with all their cruel and sensual worship, do not invade the Holy Land and prepare the way for the loss of God’s favor, the dismembering of the great empire, and its final destruction.

If through the introduction of the false religions of these nations brought into contact with Israel through political and commercial relations, the true, pure religion of God is driven out, then it would have been better if Solomon had been like David in his early days, a poor boy, supporting himself by herding sheep.

The divisions are: (1) The beginning of his reign. (2) The wisdom of Solomon. (3) The glory of Solomon. (4) The fall of Solomon.


1. What books commended on the reign of Solomon?

2. Who wrote the original material for Kings and Chronicles?

3. Who, probably, compiled our book of Chronicles? (2) What is its viewpoint? (3) Its purpose?

4. Give boundaries of Solomon’s empire. How does it compare with. Joshua’s territory, with Saul’s, and with David’s?

5. What promise is fulfilled in it?

6. What was the relation of Solomon’s empire with Phoenicia?

7. What was the relation of his empire with Egypt?

8. What was the relation of his empire with Oriental nations?

9. Describe the commerce in Solomon’s day.

10. What did Solomon inherit from his father?

11. What did he inherit from God?

12. Describe the new era for Solomon’s people, and its effect on their religion.



Same as for preceding chapter, and 1 Kings 3:1-28; 2 Chronicles 1:2-13

This discussion commences the exposition of Solomon’s reign. It will be well for you to have your book open. If you have no Harmony, open your Bible at 1 Kings 2.

1 Kings 1-11 and 2 Chronicles 1-9 constitute the scriptural basis of the life of Solomon. We introduce this discussion with three passages of scripture:

1. Deuteronomy 17:14-20:

When thou art come unto the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shall dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me; thou shalt surely set him king over thee, whom Jehovah thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee, who is not thy brother. Only he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he may multiply horses; forasmuch as Jehovah hath said unto you. Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear Jehovah his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them; that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children, in the midst of Israel.

On that law mark the method of succession in the Hebrew monarchy. It was not according to the law of primogeniture, i.e., the oldest son does not by law succeed his father. Indeed, we find that it is not according to heredity in a still larger sense. God changed the dynasty from Saul to David. Saul’s sons did not succeed him, but he created a new dynasty in David. When we come to study the divided kingdom we will notice quite a number of dynastic changes. But all the time in Judah the king is at least a descendant of David. The dynasty does not change in that kingdom. We have already seen the law of primogeniture set aside in God’s dealing with families. For instance, Isaac and not Ishmael becomes the head of the family, and Jacob and not Esau, and we see it extending even to the tribes. Not Reuben, who is unstable, but Judah, became the head of the tribes. Get before you clearly the kind of monarchy established. The king must not be a foreigner, like Herod the Idumean in Christ’s time. He must be one of the brethren, and then God must select him. A copy of the Pentateuch must be made especially for him and kept by him, in which he must read every day of his life and live and rule according to its teaching. The Pentateuch is the national constitution. And particularly, he is not to seek honor and riches for himself, and not to seek horses with a view of any return to Egypt, nor must he multiply wives to himself lest through his wives his heart be turned aside from God.

2. 1 Chronicles 22:9-10. Here is God’s selection of David’s successor:

Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days: he shall build a house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.

So you see there that God, before this child is born, elects David’s successor and gives his name. "Solomon" is the God given name. He is also called Jedediah and Lemuel. But God gave him the name of Solomon.

3. Psalm 72 is too long for me to quote, but you should read it and count it next in thought in the discussion. It is David’s prayer for this son, who succeeds him. The superscription says, "A psalm of Solomon," but that is not true. Solomon never wrote Psalm 72, but David did. The subscription says, "The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." David prays that God may give the king judgment and righteousness in order that he may properly judge the poor, and save the needy, and break in pieces the oppressor. And he goes on to describe that he shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the river unto the ends of the earth, and how the kings of the earth shall bring their gifts. Psalms 72:17 says,

"His name shall endure forever; His name shall be continued as long as the sun: And men shall be blessed in him; All nations shall call him happy."

It closes with "Let the whole earth be filled with his glory." The primary reference is to Solomon. It is more largely fulfilled in the antitype of Solomon, the true Prince of Peace – Jesus. Consider that law, that divine election and that prayer of the old father just as he is passing away, and you have not only the name of Solomon, and the character of his reign as a reign of peace, but you have also the prophetic element in Solomon and in Solomon’s reign looking forward to Christ.

Our text declares that Solomon was thoroughly established upon the throne of his father David. ’Solomon was quite a young man, and said to be wonderfully handsome and attractive. His establishment consisted first in the removal of inherited enemies, those that came to him from David’s side, who might have disturbed his kingdom. The first one of these enemies is his oldest brother, Adonijah. Adonijah thought that because he was the oldest son living after Absalom’s death, he ought to have the kingdom, and he prepared, as we learn in the history of David, to seize the kingdom, and as David was supposed to be in a dying condition he set up his claim, which, was forestalled by David’s having Solomon crowned king. Adonijah was forgiven for that offense, but the record tells us of a new offense. He comes to the mother of Solomon. People oftentimes try to reach those whom they wish to influence through the female members of the family, either the mother, the wife, the sister, or the daughter. The devil tried to get Adam that way – and got there. Adonijah comes to the mother of Solomon and asks her to obtain the king’s permission that he may marry that beautiful young girl taken into David’s home and bed in his old age. The ordinary reader sees this as only an innocent request, but you must consider the Oriental custom. The successor of the king took possession of the harem of the preceding king. It is that way now in northern Africa, in Turkey, and in other countries. Absalom, you remember, did that in order to certify his claim to succeed his father. The context suggests that Joab was privy to Adonijah’s request. It means that though pardoned for the first rebellion, they were still contemplating giving an object lesson before the people that Adonijah was entitled to be king. Solomon understood it in one moment, and commanded Adonijah to be put to death.

That removed all the cause of rebellion in the family. As soon as Joab heard of it, as a proof that he was a party in the matter, he ran to the altar and in accordance with what is called the "law of the sanctuary," took hold of the horns of the altar. Now comes a general library question: Find the law of the sanctuary touching the horns of the altar in the book of Exodus, and state whether Solomon violated the law of the sanctuary in having Joab put to death while clinging to them. It is a custom, not merely of infidels but of semi-infidel preachers, to charge Solomon with having violated the law of the sanctuary in putting a man to death while clinging to its horns.

Joab was put to death. He was a mighty man. There was no general of his age equal to him. Cromwell resembled him more than any man of modern times, in sternness of character, in quickness of decision and action. He was a nephew of David. David’s sister, Zeruiah, had three notable sons, all mighty men – Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. David was put to shame more than once in his life through Joab, and on several occamions Joab was greater than the throne. Two of the crimes committed by him – the killing of Amasa and Abner – are punished in this death of Joab. It was on David’s conscience before he died that he had permitted this man to live. He had been of great service to David, and it did not seem appropriate that David should, even though justly, put to death one who had been so efficient in establishing him in his kingdom, and yet it was not right that this great man in his ill-doing should go unpunished, and so David bequeathed the solution to Solomon; in his wisdom he must find a way to punish Joab for his past misdeeds. Thus we come to the death of this great man Joab.

It was prophesied that not a man should be left of the house of Eli, the usurping high priest before Samuel, and yet in spite of that prophecy we see Abiathar come to David and join him in the days of his exile and act as high priest, but now this Abiathar who did not follow Absalom, but who did follow Adonijah, and was in the conspiracy to defer the installation of Solomon and his kingdom, is degraded from the priesthood. Because of the friendship he had shown to David he is not put to death, but a conspirer endangers the safety of a monarch and he is sent to his own home to live as a common man. He occupies office no more, which disposes of that enemy.

It becomes necessary, having disposed of these two enemies) to appoint successors to their great offices. The man after whom I was named, Benaiah, or as we spell it now, Benajah, was appointed to Joab’s office, and Zadok, a true lineal descendant of Aaron through his eldest son, is put at the head of the priesthood. This fulfils a prophecy that we considered in the book of Numbers. You remember Phinehas, concerning whom one of the three remarkable declarations on imputed righteousness in the Bible is made. It was prophesied that the descendants of Phinehas should occupy the high priesthood. That is fulfilled now for the first time when Zadok becomes the high priest of united Israel.

The internal matters all now having been composed, this young man, as young men generally do, proposed to marry. He selected a wife for political reasons. He married the daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Here a general question: Was the marriage of Solomon to the daughter of Pharaoh a violation of the law not to inter-marry with the people around? Form your own judgment. Some of his marriages we know were violations. He married women that were Edomites and Hittites. The Edomites were kin to him, descendants of Esau, but the Hittite was one of the old Canaanitish nations. He married women from every direction, and largely for political reasons. Touching his first marriage we have Psalm 45. Primarily it refers to the consummation of this marriage. Prophetically it refers to the marriage of our Lord, the true Solomon, with his glorified church. Let us look at some of the references in Psalm 45.

My heart overfloweth with a goodly matter; I speak the things which I have made touching the king: My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Thou art fairer than the children of men; Grace is poured into thy lips: Therefore God hath blessed thee forever. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O mighty one, Thy glory and thy majesty.

Another part refers to the Bride:

Kings’ daughters are among thy honorable women: At thy right hand doth stand the queen in gold of Ophir. Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; Forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house: So will the king desire thy beauty; For he is thy lord; and reverence thou him. And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift; The rich among the people shall entreat thy favor. The king’s daughter within the palace is all glorious: Her clothing is inwrought with gold. She shall be led unto the king in broidered work: The virgins her companions that follow her Shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be led: They shall enter into the king’s palace. Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, Whom thou shalt make princes in all the earth. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: Therefore shall the peoples give thee thanks for ever and ever.

Now we have the king presented to us as a puzzled worshiper. That is to say, there was in Jerusalem the ark of the covenant, in a special tent made for it by David; but there was at Gibeon the old tabernacle that Moses built and also the great brazen altar that Moses had made. Both were places of worship. Solomon determines to have, as a fitting introduction to his reign in which all people shall participate, the most imposing and magnificient religious service known in the world up to that time, and he proposes to have it at both places, first at Gibeon and then before the ark of the covenant at Jerusalem. The old law required only one place of sacrifice. Solomon and others before him might claim that the law was to become operative only after the nation was thoroughly established. Our text says that as a house for God had not yet been built, the people worshiped in high places. All through the books of Judges and 1 Samuel, including all the life of David, we see worship occasionally offered at other places than one central place, and particularly was this so after the Philistines had captured the ark and carried it away. So Solomon determines to hold his first service in the old tent that Moses made, and where the old brazen altar was, and then he would come back to Jerusalem and hold a duplicate service before the ark of the covenant in the place where David had put it. In order that this service might be truly national, he sends out a summons to every part of his empire that all the princes and chief men of the nation should come together and participate in this national offering. The record in speaking of it says that he offered a thousand burnt offerings. In the history of Xerxes, the king of Persia, when he was on his way to invade Greece and had come to the Hellespont, he offered a sacrifice of one thousand oxen to the gods. This says, "And Solomon went up thither to the brazen altar before the Lord, which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings upon it." That is a parallel in history.

After this imposing ceremony Solomon slept, and sleeping, dreamed. More than once the Bible tells us that the most of dreams have no significance, but it also teaches us that in a number of special cases God makes his revelations through dreams; for example, the cases of Jacob, Joseph, and Nebuchadnezzar. Solomon’s dream was perhaps suggested by his father’s exhortations (See Proverbs 4:3-7) and his own impressions at this great gathering. For the first time in his reign be saw a national assembly, the great convocation of Israel. What a mighty people! What vast and varied interests! How complicated the problems of administration! How great the responsibility on him! He seemed to be appalled at the situation, and was asking himself how he, a boy, could meet it. Thinking thus he fell asleep, and in his sleep came this dream:

In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in & dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said (and I do wish we could always have him as presented here), Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great kindness, according as he walked before thee in truth, and m righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given, him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O Jehovah my God thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child; I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant ie in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this thy great people?

It is impossible for any candid mind to read that without being impressed by it. Let me assure you that whoever, on the threshold of any great enterprise, is without the spirit of true humility, is certain to fail. One of the best forecasts of success is that he sees the magnitude and difficulty of the work and realizes his own personal insufficiency and his entire dependence upon the divine help. Would that all of us had that spirit all the time! There is this thing about it: Whenever you lose humility, and begin to say, "All these things have I done," then remember that "Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." The feet of pride are sure to slip in due time. Take the lesson to heart.

I can’t conceive of anything more noble than Solomon’s sense of responsibility and humility before God. A boy made king, king of the elect nation, king of so great a people; in other words, the destiny of the whole world is involved in the mighty religious influences to go out from him and his people. Well might he say, "Lord, I am a little child. I don’t know how to go out and come in. Give me wisdom." The saying pleased the Lord. I suggest a sermon: "Ask what I shall give thee."

One Christmas when we had services in the old church at Waco and I preached the sermon, I took that text: "Ask what I shall give thee," and I told them that every family represented in the congregation had either propounded or heard that question in connection with the day. The parent had said, "What shall I give thee, my son?" and all the young people had pondered the question: "I am to choose my gift and I have a large margin; what will I take?" My own little boy would say, "Give me an automobile." "Ask what I shall give thee." What a wonderful thing it is that God permits to us the statement of the desires of our hearts. Even if we keep on praying for an evil thing, in his anger he will sometimes give us what we ask.

God’s answer not only gives Solomon what he asks for, but a number of other things – honor and riches – things that he did not ask for. He gave him wisdom, the capacity to rule this great people. Our record says, "I give thee a wise and understanding heart, so that there hath been none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee." In this connection consider 1 Kings 4:29-34:

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 exceeded 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 peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.

Of that remarkable wisdom we speak particularly in the next chapter. An exemplification of his wisdom marks the beginning of his reign, which is here given. There came up a case to which there were no witnesses beyond the contestants themselves. Two mothers living together in the same house had children born to them, and one of the children dies. Then both mothers claim the living child. Nobody knows anything about the circumstances except the two women, and they come before the king to decide the contention. The first one claimed that it was her child. She says, "This other woman lost her baby; it died and while I was asleep she came and took my baby and put her dead baby in my baby’s place, and after awhile when I waked up I looked intently at this baby in my arms, and found it was dead, but it was not my baby." Now a mother is certainly able to know her child. "I looked intently at it, it was not my baby, and I looked over there and I saw this other woman had my baby." The other woman contended: "I say her baby died, and I am the mother of this live child." Under the law everything must be confirmed by two or three witnesses, but here there is no evidence except the two parties in court. How will the young king handle the matter? He says, "Bring me a sword." The sword is brought. "Cut that baby into halves and give each woman a half" – not that he intended to kill the baby; he was only trying to get evidence. As soon as he said that both women speak. One of them said, "No! No! don’t kill the baby. I had rather give it up to the other woman." The other woman said, "Yes, kill it and let each one of us have a part." This gave Solomon his evidence. He knew what to decide. He says, "Give this baby to the woman who prefers to lose it rather than see it die. She is the mother." The decision naturally attracted great attention, and the report of it spread Solomon’s fame far and wide.


1. What was the first scripture used to introduce this lesson?

2. Rehearse the items of the kingdom charter given in this scripture.

3. What was the second scripture, and its import?

4. What was the third scripture? Describe the kingdom according to this psalm. Who fulfilled this primarily? Who more largely fulfils it?

5. In what did the establishment of Solomon on the throne consist, who was his first enemy, and how was he disposed of?

6. Where do we find the law of the sanctuary? Did Solomon violate it in having Joab put to death while holding on to the horns of the altar?

8. Who was appointed to fill Joab’s office? Abiathar’s?

9. Was the marriage of Solomon to the daughter of the king of Egypt a violation of the law not to inter-marry with the people round about? What psalm touching this marriage?

10. Describe Solomon as a puzzled worshiper.

11. What was God’s proposition to Solomon, and Solomon’s request? What the lesson for us? What God’s answer to this request? Give an example of his wisdom as exercised.

Verse 29



The more important passages bearing on this subject are 1 Samuel 3:1-4; 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 10:9-12; 1 Samuel 18:13-24; 1 Kings 19:18; 1 Kings 19:20-21; 1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 2:3-5; 2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 6:1; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 13:22 and other chapters in that book I do not enumerate. The last one is Amos 7:14-15. The reader will understand that I give these instead of a prescribed section in the Harmony. These constitute the basis of this discussion.

Let us distinguish between the prophetic gift and the prophetic office, and give some examples. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, his seventy elders, Balaam, Joshua, and others before Samuel’s time had the gift, but not the office; perhaps we may except Moses as in a measure having the office. After Samuel’s time, David, many of his singers, and particularly Daniel, had the gift in a high degree, but not the office. Moreover, the high priests from Aaron to Caiphas in Christ’s time, were supposed to have officially the gift of prophecy – that is, to hear and report what the Oracle said – but Samuel is the first who held the office.

The distinction between a prophet and a son of a prophet is this: A son of a prophet was a candidate for the office, ministering to the prophet, a disciple instructed by him, consecrated to the work, and qualifying himself to perform the services of the office with the highest efficiency. A prophet is one who, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, speaks or writes for God. In this inspiration he is God’s mouth or pen, speaking or writing not his own words, but God’s words. This inspiration guides and superintends his speech and his silence; what is recorded and what is omitted from the record. The gift of prophecy was not one of uniform quantity nor necessarily enduring. The gifts were various in kind, and might be for one occasion only. As to variety of kinds, the revelation might come in dreams or open visions, or it might consist of an ecstatic trance expressed in praise or song or prayer. If praise, song, or prayer, its form was apt to be poetic, particularly if accompanied by instrumental music.

As to the duration of the gift, it might be for one occasion only, or a few, or many. The scriptures show that the spirit of prophecy came upon King Saul twice only, and each time in the form of an ecstatic trance. In his early life it came as a sign that God had chosen him as king. In his later life the object of it was to bar his harmful approach to David. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12-14 inclusive, explains the diversity of these gifts and their relative importance.

There are two periods of Hebrew history in which we find clearest notices of the schools of the prophets, the proofs of their persistence between the periods, and their influence on the nation. The notices are abundant in the time of Samuel, and in the time of Elijah and Elisha, but you have only to study the book of Chronicles to see that the prophetic order, as an office, continued through these periods and far beyond. Later you will learn that in the time of persecution fifty of these prophets were hidden in a cave and fed regularly. The object of the enemy was to destroy these theological seminaries, believing that they could never lead the nation astray while these schools of the prophets continued. Their object, therefore, was to destroy these seats of theological education. Elijah supposed that every one of them was killed except himself, but he was mistaken.

Samuel was the founder of the first school of the prophets, and the scripture which shows his headship is 1 Samuel 19:20, where Saul is sending messengers to take David, and finally goes himself and finds the school of the prophets, with Samuel as its appointed head. The reason for such a school in Samuel’s time is shown, first, by an extract from Kirkpatrick’s Commentary on 1 Samuel, page 33. He says:

Samuel was the founder of the prophetic order. Individuals in previous ages had been endowed with prophetic gifts, but with Samuel commenced the regular succession of prophets which lasted through all the period of the monarchy, and did not cease until after the captivity. The degeneracy into which the priesthood had fallen through the period of the judges demanded the establishment of a new order for the religious training of the nation.

For this purpose Samuel founded the institutions known as the schools of the prophets. The "company of prophets" at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:10) and the scene at Ramah described in 1 Samuel 19:18 ff., imply a regular organization. These societies are only definitely mentioned again in connection with the history’ of Elijah and Elisha but doubtless continued to exist in the interval. By means of these the Order was maintained, students were educated, and common religious exercises nurtured and developed spiritual gifts.

Kirkpatrick’s is a fine commentary. The priests indeed were instructors of the people, but the tendency of the priesthood was to rest in external sacrifices, and to trust in a mere ritualistic form of sacrifice. That is the trouble always where you have a ritual. And after a while both priest and worshiper began to rely upon the external type, and on external conformity with the ritual. God needed better mouthpieces than those, hence while in the past there was a prophetic gift here and there, he now establishes the prophetic school, or society, in which training, bearing upon the prophetic office, should be continuous. The value of these schools of the prophets is also seen from Kirkpatrick, page 1 Samuel 34:

The value of the prophetic order to the Jewish nation was immense. The prophets were privy-counsellors of kings, the historians of the nation, the instructors of the people. It was their function to be preachers of righteousness to rich and poor alike: to condemn idolatry in the court, oppression among the nobles, injustice among the judges, formality among the priests. They were the interpreters of the law who drew out by degrees the spiritual significance which underlay ritual observance, and labored to prevent sacrifice and sabbath and festival from becoming dead and unmeaning forms. Strong in the unshaken consciousness that they were expressing the divine will, they spoke and acted with a fearless courage which no threats could daunt or silence.

Thus they proved a counterpoise to the despotism of monarchy and the formalism of priesthood. In a remarkable passage in his essay on "Representative Government," Mr. John Stuart Mill attributes to their influence the progress which distinguished the Jews from other Oriental nations. "The Jews," he writes, "had an absolute monarchy and hierarchy. These did for them what was done for other Oriental races by their institutions – subdued them to industry and order, and gave them a national life. . . . Their religion gave existence to an inestimably precious institution, the order of prophets. Under the protection, generally though not always effectual, of their sacred character, the prophets were a power in the nation, often more than a match for kings and priests, and kept up in that little corner of the earth the antagonism of influences which is the only real security for continued progress."

I was surprised the first time I ever saw the statement from Mill. He was a radical evolutionist and infidel, but a statesman, and in studying the development of statesmanship among the nations, he saw this singular thing in the history of the Jews, unlike anything he saw anywhere else, and saw what it was that led that nation, when it went into backsliding, to repentance; what power it was that brought about the reformation when their morals were corrupted; what power it was that was the real light of the nation and the salt of the earth, and saw that it was this order of prophets which was the conservator of national unity, purity, and perpetuity. I have the more pleasure in quoting that passage, as it comes from a witness in no way friendly to Christianity, just as when I was discussing missions I quoted the testimony of Charles Darwin to the tremendous influence for good wrought by the missionaries of South America.

Particularly in this case of the schools of the prophets we find their value, by noting very carefully the bearing on the case under Samuel. We have already noticed the corruption of the priesthood under Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas; how the ark was captured, the central place of worship desecrated; how Samuel, called to the office of prophet, needed assistance, and how he instituted this school of the prophets. He gathered around him the brightest young men of the nation and had the Spirit of God rest on them, and in order that their instruction might be regular he organized them into companies, or schools; he would go from one to another, and these young "theologs" were under the instruction of Samuel and for twenty years worked as evangelists in making sensitive the national conscience. It took twenty years to do it, and he could not have done it by himself, but with that tremendous power, the help he had, at the end of twenty years, he saw the nation repentant and once more worshiping God. I am for a theological seminary that will do that.

I give a modern example somewhat parallel: Mr. Spurgeon was called to the city of London, when about nineteen years old, to be the pastor of the old historic church of Dr. Gill, and in his evangelical preaching impressed a number of men to feel that they were also called to preach (if your preaching does not impress somebody else to preach, you may be sure that you are not called to preach), and it impressed the women and a multitude of laymen to do active Christian service. Therefore, Mr. Spurgeon organized what is called "The Pastoral College." He wouldn’t let a drone be in it; he did not want anybody in it that was not spiritually minded. In other words, he insisted that a preacher should be religiously inclined, and should be ready to do any kind of work. He supported this institution largely through his own contributions, although the men and women all over England, when they saw what it was doing, would send money for its support. I used to read the monthly reports of the contributions and the list of donors that accompanied them.

Mr. Spurgeon determined to work a revolution, just as Samuel did, and he used this school of the prophets for that purpose. Consequently, hundreds of young preachers belonging to that school of the prophets preached in the slums of the city, in the byways, in the highways, in the hedges, in the mines, on the wharves to the sailors, and in the hospitals. Hundreds of laymen said, "Put us to work," and he did; he had pushcarts made for them, and filled them with books and so sent out over the town literature that was not poisonous. He put the women to work, and established) or rather perpetuated in better form, a number of the almshouses for the venerable old women who were poor and helpless, following out the suggestion in 2 Timothy, and he erected a hospital. Then they got to going further afield. They went all over England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, crossed over into the Continent, crossed the seas to Australia, and the islands of the seas, and into heathen lands. I have always said that Spurgeon’s Pastoral College came nearer to the Bible idea of a seminary than any other in existence. There was not so much stress laid on mere scholarship as on spiritual efficiency.

It is important to note particularly what I am saying now, because it was burnt into my heart as one of the reasons for establishing a theological seminary. The nature of that society was that it was a school. They left their homes and came to stay at this school, with what we now call a mess hall in which all the theological students, by contributing so much, have their table in common. It was that way then; they had their meals in common. In preparing dinner one day for the sons of the prophets, somebody put a lot of wild gourds into the pot, and when they began to eat it, one of them cried out: "Ah, man of God, there’s death in the pot!" Once I preached a sermon on this theme: "Wild Gourds and Theological Seminaries," to show that to feed the students in theological seminaries on wild gourds of heresy is to put death in the pot; they will do more harm than good, as they will become instruments of evil.

In determining what were their duties, we must consult quite a number of passages. We gather from this passage that they were thoroughly instructed in the necessity of repentance, individually and nationally, and of turning from their sins and coming back to God with faithful obedience. That lesson was ground in them. They were taught the interpretation of the spiritual meaning of the law, all its sacrifices, its feasts, its types, and therefore when you are studying a prophet in the Old Testament you will notice how different his idea of types and ceremonies from that of the priests. They will tell you that to do without eating is fasting, but the prophet will show that literal fasting is not true fasting; that there must be fasting at heart; that there must be a rending of the soul and not the garment as an expression of repentance; that to obey God w better than a formal sacrifice.

Another thing they were taught, which I wish particularly to emphasize, was music, both vocal and instrumental. In that school of the prophets started the tremendous power of music in religion so wonderfully developed by David, who got many of his ideas from associating with the schools of the prophets. And from that time unto this, every evangelical work, and all powerful religious work, has been associated with music, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament; not merely vocal, but instrumental music. The heart of a religion is expressed in its songs, and if you want to get at the heart of your Old Testament you find it in the hymnbook of the Hebrew nation – the Psalter. It is indeed an interesting study to see what has been the influence of great hymns on the national life. There is an old proverb: "You may make the laws of the people, if you will let me write their ballads." Where is there a man capable of measuring the influence of "How Firm a Foundation," or "Come, Thou Fount," or "Did Christ O’er Sinners Weep?" There is a rich literature on the influence of hymns on the life.

In the awful times of the struggle in England, Charles I against the Parliament, one faction of the nation held to ritualism, while the other followed spirituality, even to the extreme of not allowing any form, not even allowing any instruments of music. One of the finest stories of this period is the account of a church that observed the happy medium, using instrumental as well as vocal music, and congregational singing as well as the use of the choir; every sabbath somebody’s soul was melted in the power of that mighty singing. I can’t sing myself, but I can carry the tunes in my mind, and I can be more influenced by singing than by preaching. It was singing that convicted me of sin. It was on a waving, soaring melody of song that my soul was converted. I once knew a rugged, one-eyed, homely, old pioneer Baptist preacher, who looked like a pirate until his religion manifested itself, and then he was beautiful. I heard him one day when a telegram was put into his hand stating that his only son had just been killed by being thrown from a horse. While weeping, his face became illumined; he got up and clapped his hands and walked through that audience, singing, "O, Jesus, My Saviour, to Thee I Submit."

John Bunyan wrote that song while in Bedford Jail. They had put him there to keep him from preaching, and looking out through the bars of the dungeon he saw his poor blind girl, Mary, begging bread, and he sat down and wrote that hymn. The effect of the old preacher’s singing John Bunyan’s song was a mighty revival.

The relation of the schools of the prophets to modern theological seminaries is this: The purpose was the same. And so in New Testament times, Jesus recognized that if he wanted to revolutionize the world by evangelism he must do it with trained men. He did not insist that they be rich, great or mighty men. He did not insist that they be scholars. He called them from among the common people, and he kept them right with him for three years and a half, and diligently instructed them in the principles and spirit of his kingdom. He taught them in a variety of forms; in parables, in proverbs, in exposition, illustrating his teachings by miracles, and in hundreds of ways in order that they might be equipped to go out and lead the world to Christ. You cannot help being impressed with this fact: That the theological seminaries in Samuel’s time and in Christ’s time were intensely practical, the object being not to make learned professors, but to fill each one with electricity until you could call him a "live wire," so that it burnt whoever touched it.

This is why I called Samuel a great man, and why in a previous discussion, counting the men as the peaks in a mountain range, sighting back from Samuel to Abraham, only one other peak comes into line of vision, and that is Moses.


1. What are the more important passages bearing on the schools of the prophets?

2. Distinguish between the prophetic gift and the prophetic office and illustrate by examples.

3. Distinguish between a prophet and a son of a prophet.

4. What is the meaning of prophet?

5. In what two periods of Hebrew history do we find the clearest notices of the school of prophets, what are the proofs of their persistence between these periods, and what is their influence on the nation?

6. Who was the founder of the first school of the prophets?

7. What scripture shows his headship?

8. What was the reason for such school in Samuel’s time?

9. What was the value of these schools of the prophets, and particularly in this case, and what illustration from modern instances?

10. What was the nature of that society, and what was the instruction given?

11. What was the relation of the schools of the prophets to modern theological seminaries?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Chronicles 29". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/1-chronicles-29.html.
Ads FreeProfile