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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 4

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-6

First Kings - Chapter 4

Solomon’s Council, Verses 1-6

Most of the princes of Solomon’s council are not well know Bible characters, though they must have been prominent men of their times. Azariah was of the priestly family of Zadok, the chief priest. It appears that he was actually the son of Ahimaaz, and thus grandson of Zadok (1 Chronicles 6:9). It was Ahimaaz who brought the news of Absalom’s death to David (2 Samuel 18:19-29). The scribes (royal secretaries), Elihoreph and Ahiah, were the sons of Shisha, who had held the position of scribe under David (1 Chronicles 18:16, there called Shavsha). Jehoshaphat had been the recorder under David and continued under Solomon. Benaiah is well known, having served as captain of the Cherethites and Pelethites under David, but becoming captain of the host to succeed Joab when Solomon became king. Zadok and Abiathar are also well known. They were doubtless aged men when Solomon became king. They were the chief priests, though the tenure of Abiathar was brought to an end by Solomon because of his connivance with Adonijah to make him king instead of Solomon (1 Kings 2:26-27).

Two sons of Nathan were members of the council, though it is not clear whether their father was the prophet by that name. It seems probable that he was. Azariah was captain of the king’s guard (the officers), while Zabud was the chief advisor (friend) of the king. Zabud held the office Hushai had under David. Nothing more is known of Ahishar, who was placed as steward over the king’s house. Adoniram (also called Adoram, Hadoram in the Scriptures) had charge of the tribute (taxes, levies, etc.). He continued in this office through all the reign of Solomon and into that of Rehoboam. He was killed by the followers of Jeroboam when he tried to collect the tribute from the rebelling northern tribes (1 Kings 12:18).

Verses 7-19

Solomon’s Commissaries, Verses 7-19

The land of Israel was divided into twelve areas, with a commissary officer over every area, to take up food for the supply of the king and his immense court. The immensity of the task will be revealed in the verses which follow this section. Each man was charged with supplying provision for the king’s household from his particular area during one month of the year. Some of these had prominent names for the times, but none of them seem to be known in the Scriptures aside from their mention in the list of commissary officers. It is interesting to note the prestige which must have been attached to the office, since two of Solomon’s sons-in-law were among them (verses 11,15).

Roughly identified the twelve areas were: 1) Mount Ephraim, in the central tribes; 2) the northwestern foothills of Judah and Daniel 3) the plain of Sharon; 4) coastal plain south of Mount Carmel; 5) the valley of Jezreel and surrounding area; 6) Bashan and Jair east of the Jordan; 7) Mahanaim in Gilead, and that area east of Jordan; 8) Naphtali, north and west of Chinerreth (Galilee); 9) Asher, in the northwest; 10) Issachar, southwest of Chinnereth; 11) Benjamin, west of the lower Jordan, northwest of the Salt (Dead) Sea; 12) southern Gilead, in the tribe of Reuben, east of the Jordan R may be noted that most of the tribe of Judah was excluded from the commisariat division. This may have been because it was the tribe of the king and, immediately adjacent to Jerusalem, may have furnished a large proportion of the supply without the need of an appointed official.

Verses 20-28

Solomon’s Greatness, Verse 20-28

There are a number of noteworthy things in this passage. First, it may be noted how God was fulfilling His ancient promise to Israel’s first father, Abraham. After the patriarch had been tested by the offering of his son, Isaac, the Lord had promised to make his seed as the stars of the sky and sand of the seashore (Genesis 22:17). The inspired author of First Kings records that this has come to pass in the reign of Solomon. His promises are always to be fulfilled (Titus 1:2, and context).

Secondly, God’s specific promises to Solomon were being fulfilled. It is to be recalled from 1 Kings 3:13 that God had promised Solomon riches, honor, and prestige along with wisdom. This can be seen in the great court he maintained at Jerusalem, the wide dominion over which he ruled, the rich prosperity of his kingdom and its inhabitants.

Thirdly, the Lord had kept His promise to extend the boundaries of Israel in accordance with their faithfulness to Him. This appears to have been a time of greatest faithfulness on the part of the majority of Israel. Solomon’s dominion extended from the borders of Egypt to the river, meaning the Euphrates. He ruled over all Israel’s ancient enemies surrounding him; the Moabites, Edomites, Ammonites, Syrians, Philistines, and he had a treaty of friendship with the Phoenicians of Tyre and Sidon. All this had been promised to Joshua (Joshua 1:4). All these lands brought Solomon tribute presents.

Fourthly, the magnitude of Solomon’s court is admirable. It must have consisted of thousands from the daily supply of food and forage required, which it was the duty of the commissary officers to provide. Every day was supplied with thirty measures (about 196 bushels) of. fine flour (wheat), sixty measures (392 bushels) of meal (barley), ten fattened oxen, twenty pasture-fed oxen, a hundred sheep, besides all sorts of wild game, such as harts (deer), roebucks (gazelles, or antelope), fallow deer (which is the roebuck), and fattened fowl (such as pigeons, quail, and doves). Besides this the commissary officers must provide an abundance of barley and fodder for the horses and camels. This they brought to a gathering place where each officer was stationed.

Fifthly, the people enjoyed the blessings of God’s abundance during the reign of Solomon. There was no war, the land was at peace, so that people’s productivity could be used for their own welfare. It is said that all dwelled under his own vine and fig tree from Dan to Beer­sheba, or from the northern borders to the south. God’s peace is unsurpassed (Philippians 4:7).

Finally, it may be noted that Solomon’s power manifested itself also in military might. This was, in fact in violation of the deuteronomic law concerning the kingship (De 17:16). But Solomon built himself a cavalry. He built forty thousand stalls for horses in the fortified cities, the ruins of which are still to be seen in this day. He also trained men to be charioteers and cavalrymen. Much of the supplies required of the twelve commissary districts went to feed these men and animals.

Verses 29-34

Examples of Wisdom, Verses 29-34

The metaphor of the sand of the seashore is used again with reference to the wisdom of Solomon. God’s promise to make Solomon exceedingly wise had also come to pass.

The Revised Version renders "largeness of heart" as "breadth of mind," meaning that he had a broad knowledge of subject matter. His wisdom surpassed all the vaunted wisdom of the wise men of the east in his time.

Notable among these are mentioned four by name. Ethan the Ezrahite was an Israelite psalmist, if he is the same one so called as author of Psalms 89, which is probable. The other three, Heman, Chalcol, and Darda are called sons of Mahol. Some say that "Mahol" is not a proper name and simply means "music, dance, etc."

These men are said to be among the five sons of Zerah (1 Chronicles 2:6), which would imply that the rendering in this passage should be "sons of music." Zerah was the son of the tribal father, Judah, so the three mentioned here must not be considered as contemporary with Solomon. They were wise men, otherwise unknown, who lived in prior generations to him. Heman is not to be confused with the psalmist and musician, son of Joel and grandson of Samuel.

The fame of Solomon’s wisdom was widespread, throughout all the nations around Israel He is credited with authorship of three thousand proverbs and a thousand and five songs, only a few of which were inspired and left as part of the Scriptures.

His subject matter was varied, some of his noted subjects being from nature. In the realm of trees and plants he wrote of the lordly cedar and the lowly hyssop.

In the animal kingdom he sang of beasts, fowl, creeping things, and fish. People came great distances to hear him discourse from his broad knowledge.

The writings of Solomon preserved by divine inspiration include the Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Some think the Book of Job was first written in its inspired form in the days of Solomon, although it was far older and had come down in traditional form until then.

These are among the most loved sections of the Bible today. Their sage advice is still recognized as worthy of emulation by all men today. Yet Solomon knew that his wisdom was not worthy of comparison with that of God (Proverbs 30:5-6; note also Ecclesiastes 12:11-14).

Lessons to learn: 1) Government is good when the leaders are good men, who fear the Lord; 2) orderliness is prudent and productive of good in every realm of life; 3) God can be expected to fulfill His promises to the fullest extent and even beyond men’s expectations; 4) the wisdom of Solomon is commendable to men of the present day, for the Lord has had much of it preserved for men’s admonition; he continues to be the wisest man who ever lived, as the Lord promised.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Kings 4". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-kings-4.html. 1985.
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