Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

1 Kings 4

Verses 1-34

1 Kings 4:20 Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry.

1 Kings 4:20Comments- The children of Israel had a reason to rejoice, because God was blessing their nation due to a righteous ruler ( Proverbs 28:12; Proverbs 29:2).

Proverbs 28:12, "When righteous men do rejoice, there is great glory: but when the wicked rise, a man is hidden."

Proverbs 29:2, "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn."

1 Kings 4:25 And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.

1 Kings 4:25 — "every man under his vine and under his fig tree" - Comments- This phrase came to mean a time of peace and prosperity ( Micah 4:4, Zechariah 3:10).

Micah 4:4, "But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it."

Zechariah 3:10, "In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree."

1 Kings 4:30 And Solomon"s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.

1 Kings 4:30Comments- In 1 Kings 4:30 we have a reference to ancient wisdom literature from two geographical regions, from the east and from Egypt. Although we are most familiar with the wisdom literature of the Holy Scriptures, ancient history has been full of wisdom literature. Roland E. Murphy refers to recent studies in ancient Sumerian and Babylonian Proverbs, the Aramaic Proverbs of Ahiqar, and Egyptian wisdom literature. 19] In the literature of Mesopotamia, Instruction of Shuruppak and The Counsels of Wisdom (c 1500-1200 B.C.), and the Words of Ahiqar (704-681 B.C.) are collections of sayings that deal with moral conduct. 20]

19] Roland E. Murphy, Proverb, in Word Biblical Commentary: 58 Volumes on CD- Romans, vol 22, eds. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word Inc, 2002), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004), "Excursus on International Wisdom."

20] Bruce K. Waltke, "The Book of Proverbs and Ancient Wisdom Literature," in Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 136 (July 1979): 222-239, in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004).

It appears that the largest body of ancient wisdom literature outside the Scriptures comes from Egypt. From the ancient Egyptian period of the Old Kingdom (2686-2160 B.C.), we find wisdom literature in The Instruction of Prince Hardjefed, The Instruction of Kagemni, and The Instruction of Ptahhotep (2450 B.C.). Later, we find The Instruction Addressed to King Merikare (2160-2040 B.C.), where a king gives advice to his son. In the Middle Kingdom, there have been found seven pieces of wisdom literature. In the New Kingdom period (1580-1100 B.C.), The Instruction of Any (c 1100 B.C.) records the wisdom of a father instructing his son about personal conduct, and The Instruction of Amenemope is found. to be similar to the book of Proverbs in its structure and in some of its proverbs. Finally, The Instruction of Ankhsheshonq (c 400-300 B.C.) is a piece of Egyptian literature that forms a large collection of about five hundred sayings that deal with the practical and religious concerns of the community. 21]

21] Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature A Book of Readings, 3vols. (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1908), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004).

Perhaps the most famous piece of ancient wisdom literature mentioned above is The Instruction of Amenemope, an Egyptian document written about 1200 to 1300 B.C. This writing is arranged into thirty sayings and compares to a similar arrangement found in Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22. This ancient writing also contains proverbs that are similar to those found in the book of Proverbs. 22]

22] Miriam Lichtheim, The Instruction of Amenemope, in Ancient Egyptian literature: Volume II: The New Kingdom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973- 80]), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004).

The fact that King Solomon sought out other sources of wisdom literature is confirmed in Ecclesiastes 12:9-10. Scholars consider Proverbs 22:16 thru Proverbs 24:34 to be collections of sayings that Solomon collected from other sources, which are commonly entitled "the words of the wise," a phrase taken out of Proverbs 22:17.

Ecclesiastes 12:9-10, "And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth."

Herodotus records the reputation of the Egyptians as being some of the wisest people on earth.

"Rhampsinitus admired him greatly and gave him his daughter to wife for his surpassing cleverness, for as the Egyptians (said he) excelled all others in craft, so did he excel the Egyptians." (The Histories 2121) 23]

23] Herodotus, Herodotus, vol 1, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1975), 423.

"While this Psammis was king of Egypt he was visited by ambassadors from Elis, the Eleans boasting that they had ordered the Olympic games with all the justice and fairness in the world, and claiming that even the Egyptians, albeit the wisest of all men, could not better it. When the Eleans came to Egypt and told the purpose of their coming, Psammis summoned an assembly of those who were said to be the wisest men in Egypt." (The Histories 2160) 24]

24] Herodotus, Herodotus, vol 1, trans. A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1975), 473.

Josephus recognized the great wisdom of the Egyptians as well.

"Now the sagacity and wisdom which God had bestowed upon Solomon was so great, that he exceeded the ancients, insomuch that he was no way inferior to the Egyptians, who are said to have been beyond all men in understanding; nay, indeed, it is evident that their sagacity was very much inferior to that of the king's." (Antiquities 825)

The Scriptures allude to the wisdom of Egypt in Isaiah 19:11 and Acts 7:22.

Isaiah 19:11, "Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?"

Acts 7:22, "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds."

However, amidst the backdrop of ancient wisdom literature, the book of Proverbs stands alone in its requirement of a personal faith in YHWH alone. To the Jews, wisdom could not be attained outside a life of fear and submission to the Lord. Although other ancient wisdom literature exists, it is obvious that the Proverbs of Solomon excels them all. While others require someone to comply with wise instruction, these divine proverbs require a personal faith in a living God. They give a moral standard of living that excelled that required by other nations. They cover every area of life, remaining as valid today as they did three thousand years ago.

1 Kings 4:30Comments- Wise men played an important role in ancient societies, serving as the king's chief advisors. We see this in the books of Genesis, Daniel and Esther.

Genesis 41:8, "And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh."

Genesis 41:33, "Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt."

Exodus 7:11, "Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments."

Daniel 1:4, "Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all Wisdom of Solomon, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king"s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans."

Daniel 1:20, "And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm."

Daniel 4:18, "This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee."

Esther 1:13, "Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king"s manner toward all that knew law and judgment:"

Many nations set wise men in the positions of leaders and counsellors.

Jeremiah 49:7, "Concerning Edom, thus saith the LORD of hosts; Is wisdom no more in Teman? is counsel perished from the prudent? is their wisdom vanished?"

These wise men served as leaders in the nation of Israel.

Deuteronomy 1:15, "So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men, and known, and made them heads over you, captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens, and officers among your tribes."

They stood with the priests and prophets of the land in shaping the moral fiber of the nation.

Jeremiah 18:18, "Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words."

They often sat at the city gates with the elders ( Job 29:7-25).

Wisdom was not limited to the palace or city gates. It was also honoured in the villages and in the homes.

Ecclesiastes 9:15, "Now there was found in it a poor wise Prayer of Manasseh, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man."

1 Kings 4:32-33Comments - Solomon's Proverbs on Nature- Solomon must have seen the glory of God in His magnificent creation in order to write about trees, beasts, birds, creeping thing and fish ( 1 Kings 4:32-33).

1 Kings 4:32-33, "And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes."

Note these insightful words by Rick Joyner regarding the glory of God's creation:

"Soon after, I awoke. For days afterward, I felt an energy surging through me making everything look glorious. I loved everything that I saw. A doorknob seemed wonderful beyond comprehension. Old houses and cars were so beautiful to me that I was sorry I was not an artist so that I could capture their beauty and nobility. Trees and animals all seemed like very special personal friends. Every person I saw was like a library of revelation and meaning, and I was so thankful for eternity so that I could get to know them all. I could not look at anything without seeing magnificence, hardly believing that I had walked through so much of my life and missed so much." 25]

25] Rick Joyner, The Call (Charlotte, North Carolina: Morning Star Publications, 1999), 33-4.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on 1 Kings 4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.