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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 4

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

So king Solomon was king over all Israel.

So king Solomon was king. This chapter contains a general description of the state and glory of the Hebrew kingdom during the flourishing and advanced years of his reign, as is evident from two of the officers mentioned marrying Solomon's daughters.

Verse 2

And these were the princes which he had; Azariah the son of Zadok the priest,

These were the princes - or chief officers.

Azariah the son of Zadok the priest, [ hakoheen (H3548)]. This word koheen, priest, has been generally considered to be synonymous with prince. It is so interpreted in the Chaldee version (Genesis 41:45; Exodus 2:16; 2 Samuel 8:18: cf. 1 Chronicles 18:17; Psalms 110:4). 'From all these passages it appears that there were priests connected with the court, partly exercising their proper functions, and partly so friends and counselors of the sovereign, as was also often the case with prophets and priests in later times. The author of Chronicles, in the passage quoted, seems to have chosen his interpretation of the more ancient context, because priests of any other than the Levitical family were unknown to him. Hence, in all the passages referred to, the signification priest is the only true one' (Gesenius). From the precedency given to Azariah in this list, many commentators (as Keil, in loco) have concluded that he was prime minister, the highest office next the king. But there is another word used in this very passage for princes [ saariym (H8269)]; and it is certain that he was the high priest (cf. 1 Chronicles 6:10). The prominence given to him in this passage arose in all probability from circumstances noticed on the last clause of 1 Kings 4:4. [The Alexandrine version has ho hiereus in this passage; but the Vatican has only: Azarias huios Sadook.]

Verse 3

Elihoreph and Ahiah, the sons of Shisha, scribes; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, the recorder.

Elihoreph and Ahiah, [ 'Eliychorep (H456), God is his recompense; wa-'Achiyaah (H281), brother (friend) of Yahweh].

Scribes, [ copªriym (H5608); Septuagint, grammateis (G1122)] - secretaries of state, who wrote the royal edicts. Under David there had been only one. And the employment of three functionaries in this department indicates either improved regulations by the division of labour, or a great increase of business, occasioned by the growing prosperity of the kingdom, or a more extensive correspondence with foreign countries.

Recorder, [ hamazkiyr (H2142)] - i:e., historiographer, or annalist; an office of great importance in Oriental courts, and the duties of which consisted in chronicling the most interesting and important occurrences of every day.

Verse 4

And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the host: and Zadok and Abiathar were the priests:

Benaiah ... over the host. Formerly captain of the guard, he had succeeded Josh as commander of the forces.

Zadok and Abiathar were the priests. The latter had been banished to his country seat, and retained nothing more than the name of high priest, Zadok having been promoted to the pontificate in his stead. In the course of the sacred history a double priesthood appears, the origin or cause of which arrangement is nowhere explained. Jewish writers say that the one was high priest and the other sagan, or deputy-as, according to them, Moses was of Aaron, and Annas of Caiaphas. In like manner, Zadok and Abiathar stood in the same relative position; but if there was a distinction between them, it must have been very slight, as these persons are always associated as equals in official dignity, as also were Eleazar and Ithamar, Hophni and Phinehas. The common opinion is, that Zadok had been appointed high priest by Saul, the latter by David; and that as a matter of policy both were retained as joint-pontiffs when the son of Jesse became king of all Israel. But there is no Scriptural authority for this hypothesis. Zadok is always mentioned first, the precedency being assigned to him probably on account of his belonging to the older branch of the Aaronic house, and of the superior influence of his ancestral house; there being among the sons of Eleazar sixteen chief men, and only eight among the sons of Ithamar, for the twenty-four courses (1 Chronicles 24:4).

As to the division of pontifical duties between them, Zadok appears to have ministered in the tabernacle at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:1-7; 1 Chronicles 16:37-40). Abiathar took charge of the ark at Jerusalem principally, though not exclusively (see the notes at 2 Samuel 15:24-29; 1 Chronicles 15:11). Abiathar must have been an old man at the time of Solomon's accession; and it is probable that owing to age and bitter mortification under the sentence of degradation, he did not long survive that public disgrace. Zadok, too, must have been advanced in life, considering that he was a "a young man" when he is first mentioned as joining David's party at Ziklag (1 Chronicles 12:28), and that not a single act of his is recorded in the history of Solomon's reign. We may conclude, therefore, that though nominally the high priest, he devolved the active duties of the pontificate on his grandson Azariah (1 Kings 4:2). The appointment of the high priest seems at first to have lain with the Sanhedrim or elders; but in the times of the monarchy the crown exercised the patronage.

Verse 5

And Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers: and Zabud the son of Nathan was principal officer, and the king's friend:

Over the officers, [ hanitsaabiym (H5324)] - the prefects; i:e., the provincial governors enumerated in 1 Kings 4:17-19.

And Zabud ... was principal officer, and the king's friend - perhaps president of the privy council, and Solomon's confidential friend or favourite (cf. 2 Samuel 15:37). This high functionary had probably been reared along with Solomon. That he should heap those honours on the sons of Nathan was most natural, considering the close intimacy of their father with the late king, and the deep obligations under which Solomon personally lay to the prophet.

Verse 6

And Ahishar was over the household: and Adoniram the son of Abda was over the tribute.

Over the household - steward or chamberlain of the palace (cf. Isaiah 22:15), whose duties embraced a supervision of the arrangement and expenditure, including probably that of the royal harem.

Adoniram - or Adoram (2 Samuel 20:24; 1 Kings 12:18), or Hadoram (2 Chronicles 10:18).

Was over the tribute, [ hamac (H4522)] - the tribute service (see the notes at 1 Kings 9:21). Not the collection of money or goods, but the levy of compulsory labourers (cf. 1 Kings 5:13-14).

Verse 7

And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, which provided victuals for the king and his household: each man his month in a year made provision.

Twelve officers over all Israel. The royal revenues were raised according to the ancient, and still existing in many parts, usage of the East, not in money payments, but in the produce of the soil. There would always be a considerable difficulty in the collection and transmission of these tithes (1 Samuel 8:15); and therefore, to facilitate the work, Solomon appointed twelve officers, who had each the charge of a tribe or particular district of country, from which, in monthly rotation, the supplies for the maintenance of the king's household were drawn, having first been deposited in 'the store cities' which were erected for their reception (1 Kings 9:19; 2 Chronicles 8:4-6).

Verse 8

And these are their names: The son of Hur, in mount Ephraim:

The son of Hur - or, as the margin has it, Ben-hur.

Verse 9

The son of Dekar, in Makaz, and in Shaalbim, and Beth-she'mesh, and Elon-beth-hanan:

The son of Dekar - margin, Bendekar. In the rural parts of Syria, and among the Arabs, it is still common to designate persons not by their own names, but so the sons of their fathers.

Shaalbim (Joshua 19:42) - Shaalabbin.

Beth-shemesh - (see the notes at 1 Samuel 6:12; 1 Samuel 6:20.)

Verse 10

The son of Hesed, in Aruboth; to him pertained Sochoh, and all the land of Hepher:

The son of Hesed - or Ben-hesed.

Sochoh - (see the notes at Joshua 15:35.)

All the land of Hepher - (see the notes at Joshua 12:17; Joshua 17:2.)

Verse 11

The son of Abinadab, in all the region of Dor; which had Taphath the daughter of Solomon to wife: The son of Abinadab - or Ben-abinadab.

Dor - (see the notes at Joshua 12:23; Joshua 17:11; Judges 1:27.)

Verse 12

Baana the son of Ahilud; to him pertained Taanach and Megiddo, and all Bethshean, which is by Zartanah beneath Jezreel, from Bethshean to Abelmeholah, even unto the place that is beyond Jokneam:

Taanach - (see the notes at Joshua 17:11; Judges 5:19.)

And Megiddo - (see the notes at 2 Kin. 1:23,29-30 .)

And all Beth-shean - (see the notes at 1 Samuel 31:10-12.)

Which is by Zartanah - (1 Kings 7:46, Zarthan.)

Beneath Jezreel - (1 Kings 18:40.)

Abel-meholah - (1 Kings 19:16.)

Verse 13

The son of Geber, in Ramoth-gilead; to him pertained the towns of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead; to him also pertained the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, threescore great cities with walls and brasen bars:

The son of Geber - or Ben-geber.

In Ramoth-gilead - (1 Kings 22:3; Deuteronomy 4:43; Joshua 20:8; Joshua 21:38.)

The towns of Jair - (Numbers 32:41; Deuteronomy 3:14.)

Argob - (see the notes at Deuteronomy 3:4-8; Deuteronomy 3:13-14.)

Verse 14

Ahinadab the son of Iddo had Mahanaim:

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 15

Ahimaaz was in Naphtali; he also took Basmath the daughter of Solomon to wife:

Ahimaaz - probably a native of Naphtali; at all events, a different person from the son of Zadok of that name (2 Samuel 17:17).

Verses 16-20

Baanah the son of Hushai was in Asher and in Aloth:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 21

And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life.

Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river. All the petty kingdoms between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean, which are always mentioned in the Pentateuch as the extreme limits of the kingdom, were tributary to him. Similar is the statement in 1 Kings 4:24.

Verse 22

And Solomon's provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal,

Solomon's provision for one day - not for the king's table only, but for all connected with the court, including, besides the royal establishment, those of his royal consorts, his principal officers, his body-guards, his foreign visitors, etc. The quantity of fine flour used is estimated at 240 bushels; that of meal, or common flour, at 480 bushels. The number of cattle required for consumption, besides poultry and several kinds of game, which were obtained in abundance on the mountains, did not exceed in proportion what is needed in other courts of the East. It may serve to illustrate this statement to quote Morier's account of the household provision of the king of Persia in the present day ('Second Journey through Persia'):-`The provisions collected for the king were brought from different parts of the country; and the allowance, like the provision made for Solomon, was calculated daily at so many mauns, or measures, and consisted of fine flour, distinct from the common, on purpose for the king's use; and meal, besides provisions of meat, poultry, and game. Barley and straw in large quantities were laid up for the cattle. These are the two articles of food principally used for that purpose in the present, as in the most ancient times (cf. 1 Kings 4:23; 1 Kings 4:28).

Verse 23

Ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallowdeer, and fatted fowl.

Fatted fowl, [ uwbarburiym (H1257)]. Kimchi thinks capons are meant, but it was more probably geese.

Verse 24

For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him.

From Tiphsah - i:e., Thapsaeus, a large and flourishing town on the west bank of the Euphrates, the name of which was derived from a celebrated ford near it, the lowest on that river.

Even to Azzah - i:e., Gaza, on the southwestern extremity, not far from the Mediterranean. This period is a splendid parenthesis in the historic page of Israel.

Verse 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.

Every man under his vine and ... fig tree. This is a common and beautiful metaphor for peace and security (Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10), founded on the practice, still common in modern Syria, of training these fruit tress up the walls and stairs of houses, so as to make shady arbour, beneath which the people sit and recreate themselves.

Verse 26

And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.

Forty thousand stalls, [ 'urwot (H723)] - perhaps pairs of horses for the royal mews (see the notes at 2 Chronicles 1:14-17; 2 Chronicles 9:25). The word, according to Gesenius, denotes a certain number; which usually stood in one stall, or were harnessed to one vehicle-probably two. [The Hebrews applied cuwciym (H5483) to chariot horses, and paaraashiym (H6571) to riding horses: so that the passage is rendered by the great lexicographer, 'And Solomon had 40,000 pairs of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 steeds' - i:e., for riding.] The Hebrew kings were forbidden to multiply horses (Deuteronomy 17:16). 'The nation was concerned in this matter. But there is not even a hint dropped that Solomon was wrong; and he certainly was not personally punished for it. Whereas transgressing as ruler and representative of the nation, the sin was national, and so was the punishment, which is evident from the history, although not expressed in words. For, before Solomon's time the nation, with no war horses, were singularly fortunate in battle; yet after his time, when they had a cavalry, they were as remarkably unfortunate' (see Michaelis, 'Commentary,' Appendix to article 166; 'Israel after the Fleah,' p. 112; Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' 2:, p. 178).

Verse 27

And those officers provided victual for king Solomon, and for all that came unto king Solomon's table, every man in his month: they lacked nothing.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 28

Barley also and straw for the horses and dromedaries brought they unto the place where the officers were, every man according to his charge.

Barley also and straw. Straw is not needed for litter, but barley mixed with chopped strew is the usual fodder of horses.

Dromedaries - the one-humped camels, distinguished for their great fleetness.

Verse 29

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.

Wisdom and understanding ... and largeness of heart - i:e., high powers of mind, great capacity for receiving, as well as aptitude for communicating, knowledge.

Verse 30

And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.

The children of the east - i:e., the Arabians, Chaldeans, and Persians (Genesis 25:6).

All the wisdom of Egypt. Egypt was renewed as the seat of learning and sciences; and the existing monuments, which so clearly describe the ancient state of society and the arts, show the high cultivation of the Egyptian people (see Wilkinson's 'Ancient Egyptians,' 2:, p. 23).

Verse 31

For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about. Wiser than all men - i:e., all his contemporaries, either at home or abroad than Ethan-or Jeduthun of the family of Merari (1 Chronicles 6:44). Heman (1 Chronicles 15:17-19) - the chief of the temple musicians, and the king's seers (1 Chronicles 25:5); the other two are not known.

The sons of Mahol - either another name for Zerah (1 Chronicles 2:6) or, taking it as a common noun, signifying a dance, a chorus; "the sons of Mahol" signify persons eminently skilled in poetry and music. The regions south of Palestine, and bordering upon Egypt, were very celebrated for the sages who resided there; and even the Temanites in Idumaea were distinguished in this respect (Jeremiah 49:7; Obadiah 1:8). In fact, the whole spirit of refinement proceeded from the south. The wise woman employed by Joab was brought from Tekoah (2 Samuel 14:2); and the celebrated sages mentioned here (cf. 1 Chronicles 2:6) belonged to the tribe of Judah.

Verse 32

And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five.

Three thousand proverbs - embodying his moral sentiments and sage observations on human life and character.

Songs were a thousand and five., [The Septuagint, translating from a copy in which the waw (w), and, was omitted, or from the smallness of the Hebrew letter waw (w) overlooked, rendered it: 'and his songs were pentakischiliai, five thousand.] Psalms 72:1-20; Psalms 127:1-5; Psalms 132:1-18, and the Song of Songs, are his.

Verse 33

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.

He spake of trees, from the cedar ... unto the hyssop [ haa'eezowb (H231)] - the hyssop, called by the Arabs sahtary; the wild marjoram, an aromatic plant of the labiate order, loving a dry and rocky soil, and often seen growing up in the midst of old ruins (see Munk's 'Palestine'). But Hasselquist supposed that the reference is to a species of moss, Gymnostomum jasciculare, which grows still on the shady parts of the walls of Jerusalem. The meaning is, that his works comprehended a description of all plants, from the greatest to the least. The Spirit of God has seen fit to preserve comparatively few memorials of the fruits of his gigantic mind. The greater part of those here ascribed to him have long since fallen a prey to the ravages of time, or perished in the Babylonian captivity, probably because they were not inspired.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Kings 4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/1-kings-4.html. 1871-8.
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