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the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 4

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-34

B.—Solomon’s officers, household, and his high intellectual culture

1 Kings 4:1-34 (1 Kings 4:1; 1 Kings 5:14)

1, 2So king Solomon was king over all Israel. And these were the princes which he had; Azariah the son of Zadok the priest.1 3Elihoreph and Ahiah, the sons2 of Shisha, scribes; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, the recorder. 4And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the host: and Zadok and Abiathar were the priests; 5and Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers: and 6Zabud the son of Nathan was principal officer, and the king’s friend:3 and Ahishar was over the household: and Adoniram the son of Abda was over the tribute.

7And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, which provided victuals for 8the king and his household: each man his month in a year made provision. And these are their names: 9The son of Hur, in mount Ephraim: The son of Dekar, in Makaz, and in Shaalbim, and Beth-shemesh, and Elon4-beth-hanan: 10The son of Hesed, in Aruboth; to him pertained Sochoh, and all the land of Hepher: 11The son of Abinadab, in all the region [highlands5] of Dor; which had Taphath the daughter of Solomon to wife: 12Baana the son of Ahilud; to him pertained Taanach and Megiddo, and all Beth-shean, which is by Zartanah beneath Jezreel, from Bethshean to Abel-meholah, even unto the place that is beyond Jokneam 13[Jokmeam]: The son of Geber, in Ramoth-gilead; to him pertained the towns of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead;6 to him also pertained the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, threescore great cities with walls and brazen bars: 14, 15Ahinadab the son of Iddo had Mahanaim: Ahimaaz was in Naphtali; he also took Basmath the daughter of Solomon to wife: 16Baanah the son of Hushai was in Asher and in7 Aloth:8 17Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar: 18Shimei the son of Elah, in Benjamin: 19Geber the son of Uri was in the country of Gilead, in the country of Sihon king of the Amorites, and of Og king of Bashan; and he was the only officer which was in the land.9 20Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry.

21And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river10 unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life. 22And Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty measures [cor] of fine flour, and threescore measures [cor] of meal. 23Ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and a hundred sheep, besides harts, and roebucks, and fallow deer,11 and fatted fowl. 24For 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. 25And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Song of Solomon 2:0; Song of Solomon 2:06And Solomon had forty12 thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen [saddle-horses]. 27And 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. 28Barley also and straw for the horses and dromedaries [coursers13] brought they unto the place where the officers were, every man according to his charge.

29And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. 30And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and14 his fame was in all nations round about. 32And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five.15 33And 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. 34And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his Wisdom 16

Exegetical and Critical

1 Kings 4:1. So king Solomon was, &c. According to Thenius, the section from 1 Kings 4:1-28 is borrowed from two different sources, and the contents of both are so woven together that the proper connection is now lost. 1 Kings 4:2-19 may belong to the older and purely historical source; 1 Kings 4:1; 1 Kings 4:20 to the later traditional one, as may also 1 Kings 4:21; 1 Kings 4:24-26. “1 Kings 1 Kings 4:22-23; 1 Kings 4:27-28 (probably in the following order: 1 Kings 4:27-28; 1 Kings 4:22-23) contain the continuation of the account of the functionaries (taken from the more ancient source).” It is true that a perfect accordance is obtained by this arrangement of the text, which is partly founded on the Septuagint; but the question is whether the text, as it lies before us, is so disconnected as to require such a forced alteration of style. We must presuppose the author possessed of enough understanding not to take what he found in good order, in his documentary sources, tear it apart, weave it together, and render the whole without connection. In chaps, 1–3 he related how Solomon’s kingdom became established and respected; in chap. 4 he tells how it was constituted, and in what a well-ordered and flourishing condition it was. Then he proceeds with the words of 1 Kings 4:1 : So king Solomon was king over all Israel, i.e., with the rule of Solomon over all Israel, such was its estate. Now comes the account of the regular government and management of the entire realm, by the various civil officers of different degrees (1 Kings 4:2-19); then the court establishment, which represented the prosperous state of the kingdom (22–28); and lastly, that of the extraordinary acquirements of the king himself (29–34). The first section is very naturally followed (1 Kings 4:20) by remarks on the great population and prosperous condition of the kingdom; and this leads to the further remark (1 Kings 4:21) that Solomon’s dominion not only extended over the populous nation of Israel, but over the neighboring tribes, that were brought under tribute. His court establishment, was equally brilliant, and it (1 Kings 4:22-28) corresponded with his extended sovereignty (1 Kings 4:24), and with the peacefulness which his subjects enjoyed (1 Kings 4:25). There is no want of connection in such a narrative.

1 Kings 4:2. And these were the princes, the dignitaries (comp. the double list of those under David, 2 Samuel 8:16-18, and ibid.1 Kings 2:23-26, where they are not, however, named הַשָּׂרִים), and there are two more here. The order of the offices is different in each of the three lists, so that we cannot therefrom form an opinion of their rank. It is characteristic that the military officers are named first in both of David’s lists, and the civil offices are first in Solomon’s. The Jewish expounders, the Vulgate, Luther, and Thenius, take הַכֹּהֵן in 1 Kings 4:2 to be in the genitive case: “Azariah, the son of Zadok the high priest; Elihoreph and Ahiah the sons of Shisha, were scribes.” But against this view are the accents (silluk with sophpasuk), according to which, a new sentence begins with Elihoreph; also “the omission of the copula ו before Elihoreph, which was absolutely necessary, if Azariah had been joined in the same office with the brothers Elihoreph and Ahiah” (Keil); finally, the son of the high-priest Zadok is named Ahimaaz in 2 Samuel 15:27; 2 Samuel 18:27; and 1 Chronicles 6:8-9, and then his son Azariah בֵּן must therefore certainly be translated here by: grandson. This, however, is not suitable here, because son is used six times consecutively in the following verses, so that we cannot understand why the writer does not say the son of Ahimaaz. It was scarcely possible either for a grandson of the priest Zadok to have been old enough then to stand at the head of the body of high dignitaries. All things considered, הַכֹּהֵן must here be understood like הַמַּזְכִּיר, 1 Kings 4:3, as predicate-nominative, according to the opinions of Piscator, Le Clerc, Keil, and others. We may not translate like Ewald and Bunsen: “Azariah, the son of Zadok, was the high-priest,” for according to 1 Kings 4:4, Zadok himself, and also Abiathar, were; but there never were three high-priests at the same time. We are rather compelled, on the contrary, to take כֹּהֵן in the sense it bears in 2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 20:26, where it signifies a secular office. The Chron. (1 Kings 1:18; 1 Kings 1:17) gives instead of כֹּהֲנִים in the first place הָרִאשֹׁנִים לְיַד הַמֶּלֶךְ, that is, the first at the king’s side, those whom we now name ministers, or privy counsellors. The word in 1 Kings 4:5 must necessarily have this meaning; where it stands without the article, Zabud was כֹּהֵן. If now Azariah is introduced in 1 Kings 4:2 as הַכֹּהֵן, wholly analogous to the way in which the high priest, contrasted with the other priests, is absolutely הַכֹּהֵן (Exodus 29:30; Leviticus 21:21; 1 Kings 1:8; 1 Kings 1:38; 2 Kings 11:9; 2 Kings 11:15, etc.), so is he designated as the first or chief of the secular כֹּהֲנִים, upon which account he stands first in the list of the great office bearers. “Among the trusted privy counsellors of the king, he held the first place” (Keil). It is not necessary to suppose that Zadok, whose son he was, was the high-priest, for this name occurs very often (2 Kings 15:33; Nehemiah 3:4-29; Nehemiah 13:13; Nehemiah 11:11), as well as the name Azariah (1 Chron. 5:36–40; 1 Chronicles 2:39; 2 Kings 15:30, &c.).

1 Kings 4:3-6. Elihoreph … were scribes, &c. סֹפֵר means generally any one whose business it was to write or to count. The סֹפְרִים, as the highest civil officers, had, no doubt, the care of all clerkly as well as financial matters; two are therefore specified.—For the office of the מַזְכִּיר see Introduc. § 2. It is plain that he was not the “highest minister of state,” as Winer thinks, because he is not the first, but the third in the list. As the copula is wanting before Josaphat, we cannot conclude, with Thenius, that he was above the סֹפְרִים, to whom Azariah must in that case also have belonged.—Shisha must be the same as Shavsha in 1 Chronicles 18:16, and Seriah in 2 Samuel 18:7. The office of the father under David, passed to his two sons under Solomon.—For Benaiah see 1 Kings 2:35.—Ewald thinks the words: And Zadok and Abiathar (were) the priests a mere unnecessary repetition of Sam. 1 Kings 20:25, because, according to 1 Kings 2:26; 1 Kings 2:35, Solomon deposed Abiathar and put Zadok in his place. However, there is no sufficient ground for this view. Abiathar is again introduced as a priest here, either “because he had officiated in the beginning of Solomon’s reign” (Philippson), or because, as Grotius remarks, though he was no longer re yet he was nomine high-priest, and though the ἀρχή was taken from him the ἱερωσύνη nevertheless remained to him (Theodoret). It is highly improbable that Solomon afterwards pardoned and restored him to office (Le Clerc).—Azariah and Zabud (1 Kings 4:5) were not the sons of the prophet Nathan (Thenius), but of the son of David, mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:14, therefore Solomon’s nephews (Keil). The former had the officials enumerated in 1 Kings 4:7-19 under him, the latter is designated as כֹּהֵן רֵעֶה הַמֶּלֶךְ. Ewald looks on this in a very modern way, and thinks it was a “special house-priest” of the king’s, “who was his peculiar minister in spiritual affairs.” However, there is no more mention of a priest here than in 2 Samuel 8:18; רֵעֶה explains כֹּהֵן, and both words form together one conception; Zabud was a “privy counsellor, i.e., friend of the king’s” (Keil). Luther’s translation: the son of Nathan, the priest, is quite false. Abiathar (1 Kings 4:6) was not “minister of the king’s household” (Keil), but “master of the palace and household” (Thenius), 1 Kings 18:3; 2 Kings 18:18; Isaiah 22:15. This office did not exist under David; but was required by the larger and more splendid court of Solomon. Adoniram is the same as 2 Samuel 20:24 and 1 Kings 12:18, where he is called Adoram. He was not tithe-master (Luther), but overseer of the hirelings that had to overlook the public works, for מַם nowhere means vectigal or impost. Ewald and Thenius think the addition of the Sept.: καὶ ’Ελιὰβ υἱὸς Σὰφ ἐπὶ τῆς πατριᾶς, original, but it is easy to see that it is a gloss.

1 Kings 4:7. Solomon had twelve officers. The wholly general expression נִצָּבִים (from נצב to place, i.e., people in office), is made clearer by the word: the provided for, &c. Hence they were not ἡγεμόνες καὶ στρατηγοὶ (Josephus), neither “court cooks” (Winer), but “chief rent-receivers” (Rosen-müller); whether they were regular chiefs or governors of provinces, the providing for the king being only a part of their office (Thenius), is uncertain. Probably their districts were not arranged with reference to the lands of the tribes, but to the fertility of the soil. Their number, twelve, has no relation to the twelve tribes, but to the twelve months of the year, in each of which one of them had to supply his quota. The list of the districts in 1 Kings 4:8-19 is perhaps made with reference to the time of delivery, and makes no account of the geographical position.—The proper names of five of the twelve officials are not given, but only their fathers’ names. It is uncertain whether they bore those names with the prefix of Ben, as the Vulgate supposes (Benhur, Bendecar, &c.). Ben-abinadab (1 Kings 4:11) is scarcely a proper name. As these men have no further historical importance, it matters little about their names. Two sons-in-law of Solomon being among them, only shows that the list gives us a view of the civil offices during the middle period of his reign.

1 Kings 4:8-22. The son of Hur, in mount Ephraim. We give here only what is most necessary about the situations and nature of particular districts. Thenius on this place, speaks at length of both. (1) Mount Ephraim, in Central Palestine, one of the most cultivated districts of all Palestine (Winer, R.-W.-B., s. v.). (2) Makaz (1 Kings 4:9) is named only here, but must belong, like Shaalbim, Beth-shemesh and Elon, to the tribe of Dan (south of Ephraim and west of Judah). (3) Aruboth (1 Kings 4:10) also does not appear elsewhere, probably a place in the tribe of Judah, to which Sochoh in the south must also have belonged (Joshua 15:48). Hepher cannot be the town Gath-Hepher in Zebulon, but only a southern district, probably west of Sochoh, where a Canaanitish king had reigned before (Joshua 12:17). (4) Dor (1 Kings 4:11), a town on the Mediterranean, nine Roman miles north of Cæsarea (Joshua 17:11). Naphat (i.e., heights) Dor is the hilly stretch of country towards the south of the town, and to this Thenius reckons the whole very fertile pasture-plain of Sharon to Joppa. (5) Megiddo, and close to it, in a southeasterly direction, Taanach (1 Kings 4:12); two towns, that lie on the slope of the Carmel mountains, at the edge of the plain of Jezreel in the tribe of Manasseh. Beth-shean, on a straight line, east of Megiddo, where the plain of Jezreel ceases and that of the Jordan meadows begins. Zartanah lay near in a southerly direction, and Abel-meholah still more south; the latter was the birth-place of the prophet Elisha. Jokneam, according to 1 Chronicles 6:53, a levite town, the situation of which is doubtful, perhaps it was the same as Kibzaim (Joshua 21:22). The district must then have included the whole land of the tribe of Manasseh on this side (west of) Jordan. (6) Ramothgilead (1 Kings 4:13), a town of the levites beyond Jordan, in the tribe of Gad, which stretched northwards along the tribe of Manasseh, and southwards along that of Reuben (Joshua 21:38; Deuteronomy 4:43). Upon חַוֹּתof Jair, comp. Numbers 32:41; Deuteronomy 3:14; Joshua 13:30. Our passage says as plainly as possible that they were in the land of Gilead, but the country of Argob was in the land of Bashan. The sixty fortified cities that belonged to the last can therefore not be identical with חַוֹּת (Keil), as Bashan is always made quite distinct from Gilead (Deuteronomy 3:10; Joshua 12:5; Joshua 13:11; Jos 17:1; 2 Kings 10:33; Micah 7:14), the translation: the “towns of Jair” is not correct either, “because: חיה here does not mean to live, and the German: living in a given place does not signify vita but mansio” (Cassel, zu Richt., iii. 4). The land of Bashan with Argob lay northeast of that of Gilead. The brazen bars mean that the gates of the cities were protected with brass. (7) Mahanaim (1 Kings 4:14), a town beyond Jordan (2 Samuel 17:24-27), on the borders of the tribe of Gad and the further portion of Manasseh on the Jabbok (Joshua 21:38). We have no further information about this district of Abinadab. (8) Naphtali (1 Kings 4:15), the region of the tribe of this name, was quite in the north of Palestine, on this side Jordan, west of Asher’s inheritance and bordering, on its south, the tribe of Zebulon. (9) Asher’s (1 Kings 4:16) inheritance lay along the coast of the Mediterranean, northward of the tribe of Issachar (Deuteronomy 33:24 sq.). בְ in בְעָלוֹת must certainly be understood as in בְּאָשֵׁר (Luther), but Aloth, like Bealoth, is a quite unknown name, for the latter cannot be Bealoth in Judah (Joshua 15:24). Thenius boldly conjectures עד מעלה צור to the road leading to Tyre. (10) Issachar (1 Kings 4:17); its country lay on this side Jordan, between Zebulon on the north and Manasseh on the south (Joshua 19:17 sq.). (11) Benjamin (1 Kings 4:18); its inheritance was between Ephraim on the north and Judah on the south, and east of Dan (Joshua 18:11 sq.). (12) Gilead (1 Kings 4:19) is used here for all the east-Jordan lands in general, but it could only apply to that part which remained over after taking out the sixth and seventh districts, that is, the southern. The kingdom of Sihon originally extended from the river Jabbok in Manasseh to the river Arnon, which empties itself into the Dead Sea (Numbers 21:24), and passed over to the tribes of Gad and Reuben. Bashan lay northeast of Sihon (Numbers 21:33). The addition: an officer, &c., means: that although this district was perhaps the largest (probably because of the barrenness of the soil), it had only one officer. Ewald would insert יְהוּדָה after בארץ, which is very incorrect, because instead of twelve officers, according to 1 Kings 4:7, there would have been thirteen. The expression in 1 Kings 4:20 : as the sand which is by the sea, clearly refers to the promise in Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12. For eatingand drinking, &c., comp. 1 Samuel 30:16; Proverbs 5:17. One must either add עַד before אֶרֶץ (1 Kings 5:1) like the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 9:26, or bear in mind the בְ from the preceding passage, as Keil does. Presents, a mild expression for tribute, as in 2 Samuel 8:2-6; 2 Kings 17:3-4.

1 Kings 4:22-25. And Solomon’s provision, &c. 1 Kings 4:22. בֹּר (called חֹמֶר before) is the largest measure, and contains, according to Josephus, ten attic medimni [medimnus = nearly twelve gallons.—E. H.] which Böckh reckons at 19857.7 Paris cubic inches; however, it seems from exact calculations made by Thenius (in the Stud. u. Kritik. 1846, s. 73 sq.), that Josephus is wrong,17 and that the measures only contained 10143 Paris cubic inches. According to this, the 30 + 60 measures of meal make 171 bushels, from which 28,000 pounds of bread were baked. “If we allow two pounds of bread to each person, Solomon’s court must have contained 14,000 people” (others compute them at only 10,000), a number which does not seem too great for the middle period of this reign. Let us think, for instance, of the great harem, the numerous servants, the body-guard, &c., and consider besides, that the families of all the court officials belonged to it, and that there were only payments in provisions. “If we take the flesh of a slaughtered ox to weigh 600 (according to the calculation of those who understood the matter), that of a cow 400, and that of a sheep 70 pounds,” the total consumption of meat would be 21,000 pounds, that is, one and a half pounds for each person; and “this is not reckoning the game and fowl for the king’s table.” There are similar accounts of expenditure at other oriental courts. “According to an ancient author (Athen. Deipn., iv. 10), Alexander found on a column at Persepolis a placard containing an account of the daily consumption at the court of Cyrus; from this list we give the following: 1,000 bushels of wheat of different qualities, the same of barley-meal, 400 sheep, 300 lambs, 100 oxen, 30 horses, 30 deer, 400 fat geese, 100 goslings, 300 pigeons, 600 small birds of various kinds, 3,750 gallons of wine, 75 gallons of fresh milk, and the same of sour milk. Besides this, there was a quantity of maize, that was gathered in single rations for the cattle..… Tavernier reckons the number of sheep daily consumed in the seraglio of the Sultan, in his time, at 500, besides a number of fowls, and an immense quantity of butter and rice” (Philippson; comp. Rosenmüller, A. u. N. Morgenland, iii. s. 166). For יָחְמוּר (comp. Deuteronomy 14:5) see Winer, R.- W.-B., i. s. 494. בַרְבֻּרִים only occurs here, and is variously interpreted; Kimchi thinks it means capons; Gesenius, geese; Thenius, guinea-hens; and Ewald, swans. The splendor of the court is accounted for by 1 Kings 4:24-25. The extent of Solomon’s dominion is defined according to the two towns named in 1 Kings 4:24-25. Tiphsah, i.e., Thapsæus, was “a large and populous town on the west bank of the Euphrates ; it was a place where armies crossed over that river, and a place for landing and shipping wares coming from or going to Babylon on the Euphrates” (Winer, ii. s. 612). While this town was the extreme northeasterly point, Gaza in the Philistines’ land, about three miles (nine and a half or ten Eng.) from the Mediterranean, formed the extreme southwesterly one. It does not necessarily follow, from the expression: all the region (land) beyond the river [i.e., west], that our author dwelt on the east side of the Euphrates and wrote there (see Introd. § 1), as is to be learned from Ezra 4:10 sq.; the expression belonged to the time of banishment, but was retained after the return, and, as it seems, without regard to its geographical signification, just for instance as the expression Gallia transalpina. Living under the vine and fig tree (2 Kings 18:31) describes the happy and blissful state of peace, but was not, however, taken from the description of Messiah’s reign (Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10) (Ewald), but on the contrary was woven into the latter. From Dan to Beersheba, boundaries of Palestine north and east (Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20; 2 Samuel 3:10).

1 Kings 4:26-28. And. Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses, &c. In 1 Kings 4:26 the description of the court appointments, which had been interrupted by the remarks in 1 Kings 4:24-25, is continued. אֻרְוֹת are horse-stalls, stables, mangers (Bochart: loculi in stabulis distincti). According to 1 Kings 10:26, Solomon had 1,400 chariots; each of these was, as the representations on Egyptian and Assyrian monuments show, drawn by two horses, making 2,800 of these; the remaining 1,200 were reserves, for if one fell it was usual to attach a third horse (Xenophon, Cyrop., vi. 1–27). פָּרָשִׁים does not mean riders here, but saddle-horses in contrast with harnessed horses, as in 2 Samuel 1:6; Ezekiel 27:14. The opinion that Israel lived in peace (1 Kings 4:25) because Solomon had made great warlike preparations (1 Kings 4:26) with which he protected his kingdom (Thenius, Keil), is quite a wrong one; the question is not of war here, but to what the אֻרְוֹת refers, namely, the maintaining of harness- and saddlehorses, and the expenses of the court. In 1 Kings 4:27, therefore, it is again said that the twelve officers who had to provide for the sustenance of all the persons in the court, had also to provide for this great number of horses; 1 Kings 4:28 then gives the kind of provision the latter received, namely, barley and straw. Oats were not cultivated in the East, therefore barley was the usual food for horses; the poorer classes alone used it for bread also (Judges 7:13, and Cassel on the place. Comp. Winer, I. s. 410). For רֶכֶשׁ see Esther 8:10; Esther 8:14. The coursers served to carry “the king’s orders to the different districts” (Thenius). To אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה־שָּׁם the Sept., Vulgate, and Thenius supply as subject: the king, which is certainly false, for if Solomon sometimes changed his residence, he did not travel about with 16,000 horses (1 Kings 4:26). According to 1 Kings 10:26, the horses were placed in different towns, into which the barley and straw were brought, as Keil says: “where they (barley and straw) should be, according as the horses were distributed about.”

1 Kings 4:29-30. And God gave Solomon wisdom, &c. Hitherto the narrative treats of the organs by means of which the order and happy condition of Solomon’s kingdom was conditioned, but now it turns to the head of the realm, the king himself, and remarks that in him which particularly distinguished him and qualified him to be the ruler, namely, the wisdom he had received from God. “While חכמה denotes more the entire spiritual condition, תבונה designates sharpness of insight, but in רחב לב the ingenium capax is set forth” (Thenius), the talent to take up and comprehend all, even the most diversified objects of knowledge. Hence the addition: as the sand which is by the sea, which is a figurative description of an innumerable multitude (1 Kings 4:20; Genesis 41:49; Genesis 32:13; Psalms 139:18). Luther’s translation, a comforted heart, is wrong.—All the sons of the east, that is, not only those Arabians distinguished for their skill in proverbs, but all the tribes living to the east of Palestine (also the northeast), who were famous in any branch of knowledge (Jeremiah 49:28; Genesis 29:1; Numbers 23:7; Job 1:3). Opposite these, in the west, was Egypt, the wisdom of which was almost proverbial in the ancient world (Isaiah 19:11; Acts 7:22; Joseph., Antiq., viii. 2–5; Herodot., ii. 160). There were no other lands distinguished for wisdom in Solomon’s time; the Greek learning only commenced 400 years later.

1 Kings 4:31. The sons of Mahol, not the poets (Luther), for מָחוֹל means as appell. dance, round dance (Psalms 30:12; Psalms 149:3); but here it is a proper name. It must remain uncertain whether these four men were celebrated persons of more ancient time, or whether they were contemporaries of Solomon; we have no further information about them. Ethan and Heman, named in 1 Chronicles 15:17; 1 Chronicles 15:19 among the musicians appointed by David, but it is scarcely to be supposed that the wisest men of the time were among them. The headings of Psalms 88, 89 are more likely to refer to our Heman and Ethan, as they are there called Ezrahites. All four names are close together 1 Chronicles 2:6 : “the sons of Zerah (the sons of Judah); Zimri, and Ethan, and Calcol, and Dara;” Grotius and Le Clerc believed them to be identical with these; as also Movers and Bertheau, more recently; but even if דרדע is the same as דרע, and Ezrach the same as Serach, the difficulty still remains that Chalcol and Darda are here named sons of Mahol, and that there is nowhere else any intimation of the wisdom of Zerach’s sons. The rabbinical book Seder Olam (ed. Meyer, p. 52 sq.), alone says of them: “these were prophets that prophesied in Egypt.”

1 Kings 4:32. And he spake three thousand proverbs, &c. Proverbs 1:1-6 explains what proverbs are and what their use is. He spake is as much as: he originated them. The fixed number, 3,000, certainly shows that they were written down and collected, possibly only in part, or possibly not at all, by himself. Unfortunately, the greater number of these proverbs are lost; for if we admit that all those in the biblical book of Proverbs were composed by Solomon, yet there are only 915 verses in the book, and these are not all proverbs. There remains still less of the thousand and five songs. It is doubtful if Canticles be one of those. The 72d and 127th Psalms have Solomon’s name at the beginning, and there is no real reason to doubt the genuineness of the heading; many think ho was the author of the 132d Psalm; Ewald thinks he wrote only the 2d Psalm.

1 Kings 4:33. He spake of trees, &c. His wisdom was not only in spiritual, religious, and social matters, and displayed in doctrine and poetry, but in natural things, the entire kingdoms of plants and animals. Josephus is wrong in saying that he derived his proverbs (parables) from all these things. The cedar is the largest, most beautiful, and useful of trees, and the hyssop the smallest and most insignificant plant. The hyssop which grows on the wall is a particular kind of wall-moss (Thenius), the other hyssop is a stem-formed plant, that grows to one or two feet high (comp. Winer, R.- W.-B., s. v.). The many kinds of beasts mean the whole animal kingdom, divided according to the manner of motion: four-footed (בְהֵמָה), flying, creeping, and swimming (Genesis 6:20; Genesis 7:8). This passage can scarcely mean that Solomon also wrote works on all plants and animals, but only that he understood these subjects and could “speak” of them. We need not suppose that such works, because they may have had no significance for God’s kingdom, should not also have been preserved.

1 Kings 4:34. There came of all people, &c. The greatness and extent of Solomon’s fame for wisdom are shown by the fact that he not only continued to be the type and model of all wisdom to his own people; but is so regarded in the East, even at the present day. The Koran (Sur. 27:17) praises him as knowing the languages of men and demons, of birds and ants; these all, it says, he could hold intercourse with. The Turks still possess a work of seventy folio volumes, which is called the book of Suleiman, i.e., Solomon. The whole of the wisdom and secret learning of the East is connected with his name.—From all kings, certainly means, as Thenius maintains, that they sent ambassadors, who did him homage, or received more certain information about him; comp. the narrative, chap.10.

Historical and Ethical

1. To represent Solomon’s kingdom in its greatness and in its prosperous, well-ordered condition, is the plain design of this entire section, and upon this account the lists of officers, &c., which in themselves are dry, acquire a higher, historical (heilsge-schichtliche) signification. The period of the judges was the time of public crudeness in which there was an absence of order, and of organic unity of the kingdom. The age of David was that of continuous wars and battles, in which indeed victory over all enemies at last came, and with it at the same time the beginning of a well-ordered condition; but not complete peace for the kingdom. This first came with Solomon’s reign (1 Chronicles 22:8-9). The reign of Solomon is the result of all preceding conflicts and divine teachings. It is the kingdom of Israel in its highest maturity. To represent it as such, it needed the authentication which our section supplies, and which in like manner in the whole history of the kings does not occur again. At this highest reach this kingdom was, upon the one side, the fulfilment of the divine promise (Genesis 22:17, and Exodus 3:17 sq.; cf. with 1 Kings 4:20, and 1 Kings 5:5), and, upon the other side moreover, it was itself a promise, an historical prophecy, a σκιὰ τῶν μελλόντων. As the whole Old Testament economy in its sensuousness and outwardness points beyond itself, to the New Testament in its spirituality and inwardness, so especially is Solomon’s kingdom the type of the Messiah’s. What the former is κατὰ σάρκα, the latter is κατὰ πνεῦμα. For the delineation of the latter, the prophets borrowed words from the delineation of the former in our section here (Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10. Cf. above, on chap. 1).

2. The great expensiveness of Solomon’s household is brought into the closest connection with the happiness, the prosperity and peace of the whole people (1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 5:5). It is hence an entire perversion when recent writers sever one passage from the connection, and cite that expensiveness among the things with which the people under Solomon were burdened, and which by and by had excited dissatisfaction and restlessness (Ewald, Gesch. Isr., iii. s. 376; Duncker, Gesch. des Alterthums, i. s. 389). In absolute states, namely, in the ancient oriental, the king is the nation in person. The splendor of the royal household represents the splendor of the entire people. Far from being a sign of the oppression of the people, it shows rather their happiness and prosperity. The account does not say: the king lived in luxury while the people were poor and felt oppressed, but: as the people, so the king, and as the king, so the people; both were satisfied and enjoyed prosperity and peace.

3. The delineation of Solomon’s wisdom follows immediately the delineation of the outward and material well-being of the kingdom, and shows in this connection that as Solomon was the representative of this well-being, so also from him, in consequence of special divine endowment, a rich, higher spiritual life, such as hitherto had not been, proceeded, and poured itself like a stream over the whole land (Eccles. 47:14 sq.). “All may be ready in a given time and people,” says Eisenlohr (das Volk Isr., ii. s. 110), “for a spiritual elevation and living action, but one only has the mind and the power for it. Hence we cannot set sufficiently high the influence of the creative personality of the highly-gifted king Solomon.” And Ewald observes (Gesch. Isr., iii. s. 350), “so there was for the people in this noble time a new age also for science, poetry, and literature, whose rich fruits continued long after the sensuous wealth and superabundance which this time brought, together with the powers of the nation, had melted away.” It was just this high condition of spiritual culture which procured for the king, and indirectly for the people, great authority, and which attracted men from all neighboring lands to hear this “wisdom.” But also in the connection in which the material and the spiritual well-being of the people are brought together, there is a reference to the truth that for the glory of a king there must be something more than greatness, power, wealth, quiet, or “eating and drinking and amusements,” and that where there is not spiritual culture and a higher life, where, for the furtherance of material interests, spiritual interests are thrust aside or neglected, the thought of a glorious condition cannot be entertained. Solomon himself says (Proverbs 3:13-14): “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.”

4. The wisdom of the East and of Egypt is not so much below that of Solomon in its outward circumference (extensive), as in its most inward, characteristic being (intensive). While the former, in its deepest ground, rests upon the identification of the world with God, and at last discharges itself in pantheism, and, in consequence, is deprived almost wholly of the ethical element, this proceeds from the principle which is expressed in the words which form the title of Solomon’s proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7; cf. with 1 Kings 9:10). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Comp. Umbreit, Commentar über die Spr. Sal. Einleit., s. 1–65.) It rests upon the knowledge of the one God of heaven and earth, who hath chosen Israel and made with them a covenant, i.e., has revealed himself to them through His word, viz., “the Law.” Consequently it is essentially monotheistic, ethical, and, therefore, practical. It does not exclude the knowledge of nature, for which Solomon was also renowned (1 Kings 4:13); but the latter is only true and right when it rests upon the former, and is permeated by it. In so far the wisdom of Solomon stood unrivalled throughout the whole of the ancient Orient, and was like an oasis in the desert to which men from all the neighboring countries made pilgrimages, a radiating light which attracted all involuntarily who loved light rather than darkness. “Only forth from the soil of the spirit watered by the spring of religious faith can the tree of wisdom grow strong, and spread out its branches into all regions of life” (Umbreit, a. a. O., s. 5). But as Solomon’s kingdom refers generally to that of the Messiah (see above), so especially does Solomon’s wisdom (monotheistic-legal) point to the wisdom of Him who is greater than Solomon (12:42), who is the light of the world, and to whom all kings both from the West and the East shall come, and upon whom all the heathen shall call (Psalms 72:10-11; Isaiah 60:1-3).

Homiletical and Practical

Chap. 4 The Kingdom of Solomon a type of the Messiah’s (1) in its greatness and extent; (2) in its prosperity and peace; (3) in his wisdom and knowledge.—1 Kings 4:1 to 1 Kings 5:1. Würt Summ.: Fortunate is the government where all goes orderly. Their eyes shall look around after the faithful in the land, and pious subjects are loved and esteemed; but false people and liars, and those of a perverse heart, who have proud ways and haughtiness, and who calumniate others secretly and maliciously, it will not have nor endure about it, but will clear away and destroy after the example of David (Psalms 110:0).—A well-ordered state constitution is the condition of the growth and prosperity of every kingdom; but all ordinances and institutions avail nothing when requisite and proper persons are wanting for their administration and execution. To select such, and to entrust them with different administrative offices, is the first and most difficult task of a ruler. Happy the prince to whom God grants the grace to find the right persons, who can counsel him and deserve his confidence (Ecclesiastes 10:2-5).—Starke: As a court, where it is beset with flatterers, backbiters, carousers, &c., generally goes down, so also it prospers, on the other hand, when pious servants are there.—1 Kings 4:20. Starke: Not the multitude of a people causes a scarcity in the land, but the wickedness and avarice of men.—Food and drink and amusement are a gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:13), when used in the fear of God (Ecclesiastes 11:9) and with thanksgiving (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17); but they become sin when, in the gift, the giver is forgotten, the belly made a god of, and serves the lust of the flesh. 1 Kings 4:21.—Cramer: The kingdom of Christ is still far greater. He rules from one end of the sea to the other, from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof (Zechariah 9:10). All kings shall call upon Him: all the heathen shall serve Him (Psalms 72:8-10).

[E. Harwood: Chap. 4 1 Kings 4:4-5. Comp. 1 Chronicles 22:7-10. David, the man of action; Solomon, the man of rest. The man of active life usually has more conspicuous virtues and more conspicuous faults than the man of rest. David proposed to build the house—the man of action was the founder: Solomon carried the plans of his father into execution. David was the founder: Solomon the builder.]

1 Kings 4:22.—As, by divine providence and ordering, there are always different conditions, high and low, rich and poor, so their manner of life cannot be the same, but must be conformable to the rank and position which has been assigned to every one by God. The household of a prince who stands at the head of a great and distinguished people ought not, indeed, give to the people the bad example of extravagant show, luxury, and riot; but it must, in abundance and splendor, surpass every private establishment, and ought not to appear needy and impoverished. 1 Kings 4:24-25 (chap. 4 1 Kings 4:20). The Blessings of Peace. (1) Wherein they consist; (2) to what they oblige. Peace nourishes: disturbance consumes. Only in peace, not in war, does a nation attain to well-being, therefore should we offer prayer and supplication for kings and all in authority, &c. (1 Timothy 2:2). Happy the land where goodness and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Psalms 85:10). May the eternal God grant us, during our life, an heart ever joyous, and give us noble peace! It must be regarded as an unspeakable blessing of God when, under the protection of a wise and righteous government, every one in the nation; even the least, can remain in the undisturbed possession of his property, and can enjoy the fruits of his industry in the bosom of his family.

1 Kings 4:29-34. The Wisdom of Solomon. (1) Its origin, 1 Kings 4:29 (Proverbs 2:6; Daniel 2:21; Daniel 2:6); (2) its greatness (1 Kings 4:30 sq.); (3) its result (1 Kings 4:34).

1 Kings 4:29. Not every one receives from God an equal measure of spiritual endowment; but every one is obliged, with the gift he has received, to dispose of it faithfully, and not to allow it to be fallow (Luke 12:48; Matthew 25:14-29). In the possession of high spiritual endowment and of much knowledge, man is in danger of over-estimating himself, of becoming proud and haughty, hence the highly-gifted Solomon himself says: “Trust in the Lord” &c. (Proverbs 3:5-6). Not to elevate one’s self above others, but in order to serve them, does God bestow special gifts of the Spirit (1 Peter 4:10).

1 Kings 4:30. Heathen wisdom, great as it may be in earthly things, understands nothing of divine, heavenly things, and is therefore far below the wisdom whose beginning is the fear of the personal, living God, who has revealed himself in His word. This wisdom alone yields true, good, and abiding fruit (James 3:15; James 3:17).

1 Kings 4:32. All those who have received special gifts of spirit and understanding, act inexcusably and sin grievously when, instead of giving God the honor, and of applying them to the good of their fellow-men, they promote, by doctrine and treatise, forgetfulness of God and unbelief, and the love of the world, and the lusts of the flesh, or gross or refined immorality (Ecclesiastes 12:9; Jeremiah 9:23-24). The glory which is obtained in the world through bad books, is shame and disgrace before Him who demands account of every idle word.

1 Kings 4:33. Starke: Far better would it befit lords and princes to find their enjoyment in study rather than to seek satisfaction in dramas, plays, and in immoderate drinking. A man may be able to speak of all possible things, and, at the same time, be without wisdom, for this does not consist in varied knowledge and widespread acquirements, but in recognition of the truth which purifies the heart and sanctifies the will. Observation and investigation of nature is only of the right kind, and fraught with blessing, when it leads to the confession of Psalms 104:24; Psalms 92:6-7.—Mark what the man who was wiser than all the men of his generation declares as the final result of all his wisdom and research: It is all vanity! Fear God, and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 1:2; Ecclesiastes 12:8; Ecclesiastes 12:13).

1 Kings 4:34. To Solomon came from all nations people to hearken unto his wisdom; but to Him who is greater than Solomon, the wise men of to-day will not listen (1 Corinthians 1:19-21).—How many travel over land and sea to seek gold and silver, but stir neither hand nor foot to find the wisdom and knowledge of the truth, which lie close at hand, and are better than gold and silver (Proverbs 8:11; Proverbs 24:14; Job 28:18). It is not enough for a wise prince that his people eat, drink, and make merry, and dwell in safety, each one beneath his own vine and fig-tree (1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 5:5); but he aims likewise at this, that spiritual education, science, and recognition of the truth should be extended and fostered, for this brings more consideration than power or wealth.


1 Kings 4:2; 1 Kings 4:2.—[Our author translates הַכּהֵן “war der höchste” for reasons given in the Exeg. Com. Keil also takes the same view of the word. On the other hand, all the ancient VV. (the Vat. Sept, however, omits the word) give the usual rendering, priest; so also Luther, and the A. V. The question really turns upon which of the names, Azariah or Zadok, the word is to be placed in apposition with. By the Masoretic punctuation, by the Chald., and by the Sept., (ὁ ἱερεύς in the nominative), it is placed in apposition with Azariah, which, according to 1 Kings 4:4, cannot be correct, if the translation priest be retained. Hence the adoption of the other sense by our author and Keil. But by the Vulg. (sacerdotis in the Gen.), by the Syr., and the A.V., it is placed in apposition with Zadok, and the difficulty is thus removed, while the ordinary sense of the word is retained. In this way, too, the absence of the ו before Elihoreph is accounted for. The sense will then be, Azariah (the son of Zadok the priest) was one of the scribes with Elihoreph and Ahiah.

1 Kings 4:3; 1 Kings 4:3.—[Three MSS., followed by the Sept., write בן in the singular, thus making Ahiah only the son of Shisha.

1 Kings 4:5; 1 Kings 4:5.—[Here again we have the same question of translation as in 1 Kings 4:2, but differently solved in the A.V. The Heb. expression וְזָבוּד בֶן־נָתָן כֹּהֵן רֵעָה הַמֶּלֶךְ is rendered by the author as well as by Keil, in the same way as in the A.V. It is urged that כֹּהֵן cannot be in apposition with Nathan because it is without the article (see Nordheimer’s Heb. Gr., § 816). Admitting that the Heb. usage requires כֹּהֵן to be regarded as a predicate, it is further urged that it cannot mean priest, because Zadok and Abiathar were “the priests.” They certainly were the high-priests; but Zabud also may have been a priest. The Chald., Syr., and Vulg., all retain the sense of priest, and there seems no sufficient reason for rejecting it. “Zabud, the son of Nathan, was a priest, and the king’s friend.” Twelve MSS. and the Syr., for זָבוּד read זכור.

1 Kings 4:9; 1 Kings 4:9.—[Eleven MSS., followed by the Vulg., prefix the conjunction וְ to בֵית; the Sept. supply its place by ἕως, and so our author translates. The Arab. uses the relative, “Elon which is in Beth-hanan.” The locality is quite unknown.

1 Kings 4:11; 1 Kings 4:11.—[Here, as in Joshua 11:2; Joshua 12:23, it is better to preserve the force of the Heb. נָפַת, as in the author’s version. The Vulg., Syr., Sept., and Arab. make it a part of the proper name.

1 Kings 4:13; 1 Kings 4:13.—[The Vat. (not Alex.) Sept. omits the previous clause, and in each case, after the mention of the officer and his district, adds εἶς.

1 Kings 4:16; 1 Kings 4:16.—[The Vulg., Sept., Syr., and Arab. make the preposition part of the name, and read Baaloth. This cannot be right. See Exeg. Com.

1 Kings 4:17; 1 Kings 4:17.—[The Vat. Sept. omits 1 Kings 4:17 here, and gives it afterwards instead of the last clause of 1 Kings 4:19. It also omits 1 Kings 4:20-26 (cf. 1 Kings 3:0). This whole list of proper names is variously modified in the VV.

1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 4:20.—[Most printed editions of the Heb. begin chap. 5 at this point; so our author, and hence his note.—F. G.] The Sept., the Vulg., and Luther [also the A. V. and Walton’s Polyglot] reckon 1 Kings 5:1-14 as belonging to chap. 4, and begin chap. 5 with 1 Thessalonians 1:05th verse.—Bähr.

1 Kings 4:21; 1 Kings 4:21.—[There is here no preposition in the Heb., although it is supplied in the parallel place, 2 Chronicles 9:26. וְעַד־אֶרֶץ פִּלִשְׁתִּים. The Chald. has made up the deficiency by translating “from the river Euphrates unto the land of the Philistines and unto the border of Egypt,” but the Vulg. (a flumine terrœ Philisthium usque ad terminem Ægypti), Syr., and Arab. reduce Solomon’s empire to nothing. The Alex. Sept. has ἀπὸ τοῦ ποταμοῦ γῆς� ’Αιγύπτου.

1 Kings 4:23; 1 Kings 4:23.—[מֵאָיַּל Vulg., cervi; Sept. (Alex.), ἐλάφοι. צְבִי Vulg., capriœ; Sept. (Alex.), δορκάδα. יַחִמוּר Vulg. bubali; Sept. (Alex.) omits. On צְבִי cf. Rosenmüller’s Bochart Hierozoicoro, ii. 303.

1 Kings 4:26; 1 Kings 4:26.—The parallel place 2 Chronicles 9:25 shows, that not אַרְבָּעִים but אַרְבָּעָה. should be read, with which also Chron. 1 Kings 10:26 and 2 Chronicles 1:14 accord.—Bähr. [The author accordingly rightly translates “four thousand;” but there is no variation in the MSS. nor in the VV.

1 Kings 4:28; 1 Kings 4:28.—[Heb. רֶכֶשׁ, a superior kind of horse to the chariot-horses just mentioned. None of the VV. sustain the translation dromedaries. Keil translates “runners.”

1 Kings 4:31; 1 Kings 4:31.—[The Vat. Sept. omits this clause.

1 Kings 4:32; 1 Kings 4:32.—[Sept.: five thousand.

1 Kings 4:34; 1 Kings 4:34.—[The Vat. Sept here adds 1 Kings 3:1, and continues: τότε� ’Αιγύπτου, καὶ προκατελάβετο τὴν Γαζέρ, καὶ ἐνεπύρισεν αὐτὴν καὶ τὸν Χανανίτην τὸν κατοικοῦντα ἐν Μεργάβ· καὶ έ̔δωκεν αὐτὰς Φαραὼ�, καὶ Σαλωμὼν ᾠκοδόμησε τὴν Γαζέρ,—F. G.]

[17]See below, chap. 5. 1 Kings 4:7.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-kings-4.html. 1857-84.
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