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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

1 Kings 4

Verses 1-34

1 Kings 3:1 to 1 Kings 4:34 . Early Days, Reign, and Wisdom of Solomon.— The sources of this section are various, and the arrangement of the narrative in the LXX should be noticed. There are ( a) a statistical account of Solomon s reign, referred to, apparently in 1 Kings 11:41, as “ the book of the acts of Solomon” ; ( b) a number of narratives about this reign; ( c) several Deuteronomic additions— e.g. 1 Kings 3:6; 1 Kings 3:14, etc.: and ( d) some very late passages, possibly originally explanatory notes. The history of Solomon’ s reign really extends from 1 Kings 3:1 to 1 Kings 11:43, and the sources throughout are practically the same, with a special one on the Temple. The LXX has a different arrangement and some long additions, which, however, are as a rule only repetitions from other parts of the section belonging to Solomon, Two of the longest are found after 1 Kings 2:35 and 1 Kings 2:46. The chapters also are somewhat differently arranged, and especially 1 Kings 4 and 1 Kings 5.

1 Kings 4. The list of Solomon’ s officers begins with Azariah the son of Zadok, whereas in 4 we read “ Zadok and Abiathar were priests.” This shows that the work of compilation leaves something to be desired, and the duplicate list in the LXX ( 1 Kings 2:46) is rather different. In the case of Saul ( 1 Samuel 14:50) only the captain of the host is mentioned with Saul’ s father and uncle. David ( 2 Samuel 8:15 ff.) has a captain of the host, a recorder, two priests, a scribe, and a commander of the Cherethites and Pelethites; in 2 Samuel 20:24 Adoram is said to have been “ over the tribute.” In Solomon’ s court (2) the priests stand first; next, two scribes, a recorder, a commander of the hosts, a chief of the governors, a superintendent of the household, a “ king’ s friend,” and a ruler of the “ tribute” or forced labour. In the LXX list ( 1 Kings 2:46 f.) a son of Joab is said to be commander of the host. The names of many of David’ s officers occur in Solomon’ s list. Both here and in 2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 20:26 the name priest” (Heb. cohen) is applied to officers and princes ( e.g. David’ s sons, who apparently did not exercise the priestly office, or at any rate could not have been even Levites). The “ tribute” ( 1 Kings 4:6) over which Adoram presided— whether the same person or not is questionable— under David, Solomon, and Rehoboam, was the forced labour or levy ( 1 Kings 9:15; 1 Kings 12:18), so unpopular among the Israelites.

In dividing his kingdom Solomon seems to have ignored or been ignorant of the tribal divisions mentioned in Joshua. Only four tribe names— Naphtali, Asher, Issachar, and Benjamin— occur in 1 Kings 4:8-19. Many of the place names are entirely unknown, but the districts can generally be conjectured. They are twelve in number: ( a) Mount Ephraim (p. 30, Joshua 17:15, etc.; Judges 2:9). ( b) The name Beth-shemesh in 1 Kings 4:9 shows that the ancient territory of Dan and the Philistine border is intended ( Joshua 15:10, 1 Samuel 6:7-20). ( c) The third district, Arubboth, is unknown; there are two Socohs, one on the Philistine border ( 1 Samuel 17:1), and the other south of Hebron (for Hepher see Joshua 12:17). The country here is probably that around the S. of Hebron. ( d) Dor is S. of Carmel. ( e) consisted of towns in the plain of Esdraelon (p. 29). (ƒ ) and ( g) were on the E. of Jordan. ( h) , ( i) Naphtali and Asher. ( j) Issachar. ( k) Benjamin. ( l) Gilead. Of the names of the rulers five are patronymics, and in all cases the father’ s name is mentioned. It is remarkable that the name of the ruler of Benjamin is Shimei.

In 1 Kings 4:21 Solomon is said to have ruled over all the petty princes from the Euphrates (for this is always called “ the River” in the Bible) to the border of Egypt. This was the ideal territory of Israel ( Deuteronomy 11:24), but probably Solomon’ s dominions were not so extensive, the verse being a comparatively late addition. The words translated “ on this side the River” really mean “ beyond the River” ( mg.) , and are used in this sense by dwellers to the E. of the Euphrates. In Persian, and perhaps in Assyrian and Babylonian days, the western provinces were called “ beyond the River” ( Ezra 5:3; Ezra 6:6). If this verse is post-exilic, it would be the natural way of describing Solomon’ s empire.

In 1 Kings 4:26 we have an allusion to Solomon’ s horses; “ forty thousand” should probably be ( cf. mg.) “ four thousand.” The horse was not used in early Israel, and the employment of chariots made the plains of Palestine very difficult to conquer from the inhabitants ( Joshua 17:18, Judges 1:19). The Philistines used chariots ( 2 Samuel 1:6). Even David destroyed most of the horses he captured from the Syrians ( 2 Samuel 8:4), though he reserved a few for his chariots. After Solomon, the kings of both Israel and Judah habitually used horses in war. In the AV ( 1 Kings 4:28) the word dromedaries “ occurs; the RV renders it “ swift steeds.” It is used in Esther 8:10, and Micah 1:13. The dromedary must be dropped from the list of Bible animals. The wisdom of Solomon ( 1 Kings 4:29-34) is described as consisting in “ largeness of heart” and superior to the wisdom of the East, of Egypt, and of four famous sages. His poems were twofold— gnomic, composed of proverbs or similitudes; and lyric, i.e. songs. The subjects were taken from the vegetable and animal kingdoms. In later days it was assumed that Solomon was possessed of magical powers and could control spirits, and that he understood the language of all birds and animals. His superhuman wisdom is commemorated by Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans, and the legends concerning it are inexhaustible.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Kings 4". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.