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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 2

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

Verses 1-10




2 Samuel 18:1-20:26; 1 Kings 1:1-2:10; 1 Chronicles 22:1-19

We should continually bear in mind that in order to interpret the inner life of David, the Davidic psalms must be studied in connection with the history. I never got a true insight into the character of this man, into his religious life, into his staying powers, until I studied the history very carefully in connection with the Psalms. I spent one whole summer studying the history of David in the Psalms.

David stopped at Mahanaim; that is the place where Jacob met the angelic host, as the name signifies. While Absalom was making his muster, David was also mustering a host; while Absalom was godless and prayerless, David was penitent for his sins, humble toward God, and courageous toward men. Absalom appointed as his commander-in-chief a nephew of David, a son of Abigail; David had for his commanders Joab, Joab’s brother Abishai, and the Gittite, Ittai.

One of the most touching things in connection with David’s atay at Mahanaim is the coming together from three different directions of three friends to help: "Shobi the son of Nahash of Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and Machir the son of Ammiel of Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite of Rogelim, brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, and wheat, and barley, and meal, and parched corn, and beans, and lentils, and parched pulse, and honey, and butter, and sheep, and cheese of kine, for David, and for the people that were with him, to eat." It is noticeable always, however, that a man of strong character will draw to him friends whose friendship cannot be broken. David’s character developed friendship so that people would come to him and stand by him to the very last extremity. Of course there were some traitors. Absalom could draw men to him, but could not hold them.

The battle between the opposing armies took place in what is called the "Wood of Ephraim," a very considerable forest somewhere near the banks of the Jordan. David’s army was in three divisions. He wanted to lead in person, but they objected and he stayed over the gate of the city, with one concern in his heart, deeper than all others, and that was about the fate of his son, Absalom, he was very much devoted to him, foolishly so, as the charge that he gave to each officer as each division marched through the gate indicates: "For my sake deal gently with Absalom." Absalom’s army was utterly routed.

I remember preaching a sermon in 1887, when canvassing the state for prohibition, on the text: "Do thyself no harm," basing my argument upon this thought, that no man can cause a harm that he does to terminate in himself. A man might be somewhat excused for doing harm to himself, if he harms only himself. I illustrated Absalom’s banning himself in two scenes. First, on that battlefield 20,000 men lay dead; a man goes over the field and tries to identify the slain. He turns over a victim whose face is to the ground, and feels in his pockets to see if he can find anything to identify him, and perhaps finds a letter from his wife stained with his heart’s blood. It reads: "When are you coming home? The children every evening sit out on the gatepost and look toward the scene of war until their eyes fill with tears, then come in and say, ’Mamma, whenever is papa coming home?’ " Never! There are 20,000 men like him, 20,000 wives like that wife, and 40,000 children like those children, all harmed because Absalom did harm to himself! The other scene of the picture was the old man, the father, at the gate of the city, listening for news of the battle, and when the message is received, colder than lead and sharper than the dagger, it strikes his heart. Stripping off the crown and purple robe, he wraps himself in sackcloth, and puts ashes on his gray head. It breaks his heart. He wrings his hands and sobs: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God that I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" In view of the father’s unspeakable grief, it was not right for that young man to harm himself, since the harm did not terminate in him.

That sermon changed more votes than all the speeches that had been made. Power in preaching consists in having an imagination that will enable you to make a scene live before you,

I preached another sermon in Waco that I think I shall never forget. It was an afternoon sermon, when all the churches in the city were united. I took a double text: "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." That was the first part of the text. The other part was, "Absalom, my son, my son, would God that I had died for thee." I contrasted the sorrow of David over his two children; the separation between him and his baby was temporary; they would soon be together forever, but the separation from Absalom was an eternal separation. He knew his child was lost forever, which accounts for his inconsolable grief. The power of that sermon was in vivid stress of two things: holding one picture up and saying, "Look at that," and holding up the opposite picture and saying, "Look at that."

The rebellion perished with the death of Absalom, but David was so utterly overwhelmed with his grief that he did not follow up his victory, and really he became sinful in his grief. It took the heart out of his own people. They became ashamed and sneaked back to town, feeling that their victory was dreadful to their king. Joab, though his heart was as hard as iron, was right in his rebuke; but it was very unfeelingly done, especially as he had been the one, in violation of orders to take the life of Absalom. This is what he said "Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines; in that thou lovest them that hate thee, and hatest them that love thee. For thou hast declared this day, that princes and servants are naught unto thee: for this day I perceive, if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well. Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants; for I swear by the Lord, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry a man with thee this night." That was pretty straight talk, but it was successful, and it waked David up. He was so stunned by his grief that he took no steps to follow up his victory.

The question of his restoration came up with the people this way: "Shall we now take the king back to his throne? Absalom is dead and there is no other king." And then David made overtures to Judah, his own tribe; he sent to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, saying that the tribe of Judah was his own flesh and blood, and they had said nothing about his coming back. He then made this promise: "As the Lord God liveth I will make Amasa, Absalom’s general, commander-in-chief of my armies." It would have been all right to dismiss Joab, but it certainly was impolitic to put a rebellious general at the head of his army. We will see directly that it cost Amasa his life.

The men who stood by David and won his victory for him felt like they were strangers here with these people who had been against him and the enemies’ general made their commander. Whenever a strong feeling of resentment exists there will always be somebody to give voice to it, hence the shout of Sheba: "To your tents, O Israel!" You will hear that cry again in the days of Rehoboam, when the same ten tribes say, "To your tents, O Israel! What have we in the son of Jesse?" The tribes were always loosely held together, and it was easy for them to separate and disintegrate. For some reason, not stated, Amasa was very dilatory to take command and subdue Sheba, and David commands Abishai, not Joab, to take command and pursue Sheba until he is caught and destroyed. Joab goes along as a volunteer, and on the way he meets Amasa whom he thus addressed: "Art thou in health, my brother?" And then stabs him under the fifth rib, Just as he had killed Abner; then he usurps command, Abishai giving way to him, and put down the rebellion very speedily. David did not feel strong enough to displace him again, so after that Joab was commander-in-chief, too big a man to be put out!

In going back to Jerusalem there were several touching things: In the first place that cursing man, Shirnei, comes out and makes submission and asks to be forgiven. David forgives him for the present. You will see later how he made provision for bringing him to judgment, but he forgave him for the present. The darkest blot on David, outside of the sin against Uriah, is in this paragraph, the meeting with Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth comes to meet him and David sternly asks why he had not gone out with him when he left Jerusalem. He gently explains that he was crippled and could not walk, and that he ordered his beast to be saddled and his servants went off and left him; that he is now glad to welcome David back, and that it was a falsehood that he ever intended to profit by David’s misfortunes. David then restores to him part of his property and lets that rascal Ziba keep half of it. In all this transaction Mephibosheth comes out in a much more favorable light than David: "Let him take it all forasmuch as my lord, the king, has come in peace unto his own house." This does not show off David very well. It is customary for everybody in going over this part of the history, to speak with great favor of old Barzillai. Everything he did was pure disintereetedness. David offers compensation, offers to give him a permanent home in Jerusalem. He says this would not be a favor to him, as he is old and blind and cannot taste anything or discriminate. Then David asks him if there is not somebody in his house that he can promote, and the son of old Barzillai is promoted.

We will now consider the preparation David made for the succession to guard against any other rebellion. He wanted the succession established in his lifetime. If you are familiar with English history you know that a nation is in a great stir every time its king gets sick, unless it is clearly established who shall succeed him. The question for succession was a serious one when Queen Elizabeth died, and again at Queen Anne’s death, when the kingdom was transferred to the house of Hanover. Some of the most thrilling pages in history are devoted to these transition periods. David wanted no trouble about the succession; so he assembled the great convocation, consisting of princes, captains of thousands, and hundreds, etc., and caused them to recognize Solomon as his successor, and he was so announced. Every officer in the kingdom was precommitted to Solomon. And yet, notwithstanding this precaution, Adonijah, the third son prominent in history, now the oldest, since Absalom is dead, determined that he should be king. He adopted Absalom’s expedients, prepared chariots and men to run before him. He got Abiathar, one of the priests, and Joab to stand with him and went off to a place called En-rogel and there to be announced as king. David was too old and feeble to do anything, but the prophet Nathan sent the mother of Solomon to him to let him know what was impending. David took steps instantly to have Solomon crowned king, and proclamation made. Adonijah, when he heard that Solomon was king, returned to Jerusalem and begged for mercy, and the rebellion was ended. This led to the displacement of Abiathar as priest, and led to the permanency of the high priest in the line of Zadok, who stood firmly with David.

The crowning act of David’s life, the one most profitable in its lesson to us, was his provision for the erection of the great Temple. All the devoted treasure from Saul’s wars and his own, all the spoils of many nations subdued by him, immense treasures of gold, silver, precious stones, precious metal, and cloth were stored up for this purpose. Then by revelation from God the plans and specifications of the building and its furniture received by him were given to Solomon, accompanied by a solemn charge to build the house. But yet the gathered material was not sufficient for so great an enterprise. So David at this great convocation engineered the most remarkable public collection known to history – the most remarkable in its method, its principles, and in the amount raised.

Method. – First of all he, himself, out of his own proper fund, made a cash donation never equalled since, not even by Carnegie nor Rockefeller. The princes, and then all subordinate officers) followed the lead of their rulers.

Principles. – (1) It was a "prepared" donation. (2) The preparation was "with all his might." (3) The donation was for God’s house and cause. (4) It was prompted by "affection for God’s cause." (5) It was purely voluntary. (6) It was preceded by a "willing consecration of himself to God." (7) It was followed by great joy because a willing and not an extorted offering.

Amount. – It staggers credulity to accept the vast total. The total, by any fair method of calculation, goes beyond anything else known to history. No offhand, impulsive collection could have produced such a result. It was a long-purposed, thoroughly prepared contribution flowing from the highest possible motives.

Lesson. – Our preachers today should lay it to heart. We need the lesson particularly in times of financial stringency. We see our preachers scared to death without cause and our people demoralized. We need the application intensely. We should know that God is never straightened in himself – that today, if we willingly consecrate ourselves to God first of all, like the Philippians who first gave themselves to the Lord, and if we have true affection for God’s cause, and if we purpose great things in our hearts, and prepare a collection, with all our might appealing to the voluntary principle in the loving hearts of God’s people, and ourselves have strong faith in God who is able even to raise the dead, then the stringency of the times will only brace us and call out our courage. But if we are whipped inside, if we feel that we are butting our heads against a stone wall, if we take counsel with our fears and become timid and hesitating moral cowards when we should be heroes, of course we will miserably fail. We will become grasshoppers in the sight of opposing giants, and grasshoppers in our own eight. Hard times, difficult situations, are methods of providence to prepare us. They are touchstones of character, revealing who are weaklings and who are heroes. Go off to thyself; shut out the world. Shut up thyself alone with God, fight the battle to a finish once for all in thine own heart, and then with the sublime audacity of faith, do thy work for the Lord.


1. Contrast Absalom and David as to character.

2. Who were chosen as commanders by Absalom and David respectively?

3. What was the touching incident at Mahanaim?

4. Give an account of the battle between David’s army and Absalom’s.

5. How did David show his concern for Absalom?

6. Show in two ways how Absalom in banning himself, harmed others.

7. Contrast David’s sorrow upon the death of his infant with that upon the death of Absalom.

8. How did the rebellion end?

9. Give Joab’s rebuke, and its effect on David.

10. How was David restored as king of the people?

11. What was his mistake, and its result?

12. What were the touching events on David’s return to Jerusalem?

13. What preparation did David make for a successor?

14. Who at once became competitor for the kingship?

15. What was his method?

16. How did this episode end?

17. What was the crowning act of David’s life?

18. How was the provision made?

19. What was the method?

20. What were the principles?

21. What was the amount?

22. What was the lesson, and its application?

Verses 1-46



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.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Kings 2". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/1-kings-2.html.
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