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THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE HEBREW EMPIRE
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
The list of officers in Solomon’s kingdom (1 Kings 4:2-19) seems to have been inserted without belonging to the narrative; for 1 Kings 4:1 connects itself naturally with 1 Kings 4:20, and the record moves on consecutively. The list supplies internal evidence that it belongs to the later period of Solomon’s reign, and not to this early portion of his career; for it includes two officers who had daughters of Solomon for their wives (1 Kings 4:11; 1 Kings 4:15). Probably it is a record of the most distinguished officers of the kingdom during the whole reign. Appropriately inserted here, as showing how well ordered and flourishing the kingdom was: managed by civil officers of different degrees of dignity in the realm.
1 Kings 4:1. King over all Israel, inclusive of Judah.
1 Kings 4:2. Azariah, the priest, הַכֹהֵז. Not a sacerdotal office, but secular; כֹּהֵז describes a secular office in 2 Samuel 8:18; 2 Samuel 20:26; and כֹּהֵז is used of “Zabud” (1 Kings 4:5, called “principal officer”); and of these highest state dignitaries Azariah was chief. The word thus denotes an officer answering to prime minister, or cheif of the privy counsellors, the first in the state next the king.
1 Kings 4:3. Scribes—Secretaries of state. Recorder—Historiographer or chronicler (the same officer was under David, 2 Samuel 8:16): in all oriental kingdoms, ancient and modern, this officer is of first rank.
1 Kings 4:4. Benaiah, over the host, formerly captain of the guard, now succeeded Joab as commander of the forces. Zadok and Abiathar were the priests: the former alone discharged the functions of the sacerdotal office, the latter was banished (1 Kings 2:26), and retained office only in nomine.
1 Kings 4:5. Over the officers: i.e., the prefects, or provincial governors (1 Kings 4:7). Principal officers—כֹּהֵז probably means a privy counsellor. And friend of the king: i.e., his confidentail friend or favourite. This attachment of Solomon to the sons of Nathan is natural and honourable, considering what service Nathan had rendered him (chap. 1, 1 Kings 2:22 sq).
1 Kings 4:6. Over the household—Steward or chamberlain of the palace master of the household. The tribute: הַמַּס, the levy, or labourers (comp. 1 Kings 5:13-14) overseer of the hirelings who were employed to maintain the splendour of Solomon’s court. 1 Kings 4:17-19. Twelve officers—Governors of territories allotted to their oversight, entrusted with securing the royal revenues. The division of the laud into twelve sections was not according to the boundaries of the tribes, but the fertility of the land. The returns from these districts were made, not in cash, but in the produce of the soil. Each district sent supplies for a month, and the twelve in succession completed the year.
1 Kings 4:20. As the sand which is by the sea—This shows the promise to Abraham (Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:13) fulfilled. Eating, drinking, and making merry suggests the contentment and social prosperity of the people.
1 Kings 4:21. From the river unto the land—The word “unto” is supplied; but instead of עד unto, בְ might be understood, over, thus: “From the river (Euphrates), over the land of the Philistines,” &c. “Brought presents,” means tribute. All the petty kingdoms from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean acknowledged the Hebrew monarchy.
1 Kings 4:22. Solomon’s provision for one day: i.e., for the king’s table, the court, principal officers, foreign visitors, &c. “The quantity of fine flour used is estimated at 240 bushels; that of meal or common flour at 480. The number of cattle required for consumption, besides poultry and several kinds of game, which were got in abundance on the mountains, did not exceed in proportion what is needed in other courts of the East” (Dr. Jamieson). “Ten fattened oxen, twenty from the pastures, and one hundred sheep,” &c. (1 Kings 4:23).
1 Kings 4:24. From Tiphsah: i.e., Thapsaeus, a large town on the west bank of the Euphrates. Even to Azzah: i.e., Gaza, on the extreme south-west, about ten miles from the Mediterranean.
1 Kings 4:25. Under vine and fig tree—A beautiful metaphor for security and comfort.
1 Kings 4:26. And 12,000 horsemen—Not horsemen, riders; but פָּרָשִׁים saddle-horses, as in contrast with harness-horses. These chariot and saddle horses Solomon kept partly in Jerusalem, and partly in other towns (1 Kings 10:26; 2 Chronicles 1:14; 2 Chronicles 9:25).
1 Kings 4:28. Dromedaries—The fleet one-humped camel.
HOMILETICS OF 1 Kings 4:1-28
PROMINENT FEATURES OF NATIONAL PROSPERITY
THE author of the Books of Kings, true to the religious intention of the history, gives but a scanty description of the external magnificence of the Israelitish kingdom in its palmiest days. But the list of names, and brief allusions contained in this chapter, present glimpses of the glory and affluence of that period. “The general tone of the records of Solomon’s reign is that of jubilant delight, as though it were, indeed, a golden day following on the iron and brazen age of the warlike David and his half-civilized predecessors. The heart of the poets of the age overflows with the beautiful words of loyal delight (Psalms 45:0). The royal justice and benevolence are like the welcome showers in the thirsty East. The poor, for once, are cared for. The very tops of the bare mountains seem to wave with corn, as on the fertile slopes of Lebanon” (Psalms 72:2; Psalms 72:5-7; Psalms 72:13; Psalms 72:16). We have in the brief descriptions of this paragraph a portrayal of the prominent features of national prosperity, as illustrated more or less in the history of all nations.
I. The unity and submission of the whole nation to the reigning monarch. “So king Solomon was king over all Israel. And 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” (1 Kings 4:1; 1 Kings 4:21). Solomon was the only Hebrew monarch who ever governed for his whole lifetime so vast a territory. David for seven years ruled but a single tribe; and at the beginning of the reign of Solomon’s successor the kingdom was rent asunder by the revolt of the ten tribes, as the result of one churlish breath. The subject kingdoms, doubtless, preserved their separate organization and nationality, as when independent, but were ever ready both to contribute to the annual revenues of Solomon, and also to furnish, when occasion offered, their quota of men for any public service. The organization of a great empire into provinces, ruled by governors holding office at the pleasure of the crown, was a discovery of Darius Hystaspis. The time is hastening when all nations will be united in one grand confederation under the sceptre of Messiah (Psalms 72:0; Isaiah 60:5-11).
II. The splendour and order of the court (1 Kings 4:1-19; 1 Kings 4:26-28). 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.—Lange. The catalogue of names probably contains those of the most distinguished officers which during the whole reign of Solomon, or at least during its most flourishing period, helped to add lustre and dignity to his administration. The officers of the court were generally the same as those of David’s time. The great officers are now, for the first time, called by one general name—princes—a title which before had been almost confined to Joab; these officers of the first rank deriving their station from Solomon, and probably holding it during pleasure. The union of priestly and secular functions still continued. The prophets cease to figure among the dignitaries, as though the prophetical office had been overborne by the royal dignity. The chief-priesthood was concentrated in Zadok alone, though Abiathar, notwithstanding his deposition (1 Kings 2:27), continued to hold his priestly dignity and character, so that when he no longer executed the duties of his office his name remained on the official list. The three military bodies seem to have remained unchanged. The commander of the host is the priestly warrior Benaiah. The guard appear only as household troops, employed on state pageants. A number of inferior officers was appointed, under a principal officer, the greater part of whom had to control the taskwork exacted from the Canaanite population, and the remainder, consisting of twelve chiefs, had to be responsible for provisioning the royal household. The court was a scene of magnificence and gaiety, thronged with richly-apparelled attendants, and sparkling with evidences of boundless wealth. In the midst of this gorgeous array stood the stately figure of the king—fair in countenance, end resplendent in beauty—his robes scented with the perfumes of India, the crown on his head and the sceptre in his hand, and the guards and councillors surrounding his brilliant throne: or, as was often the case, the king, at early dawn, is driving out of Jerusalem in one of his numerous chariots, drawn by horses of unparalleled swiftness and beauty, himself clothed in white, followed by a train of mounted archers, all splendid youths of magnificent stature, dressed in purple, their long black hair flowing behind them, powdered with gold-dust, which glittered in the sun as they galloped along after their royal master.—(Josephus, Stanley passim.) A wealthier grandeur than that of the greatest earthly empire rests upon the throne of the Great Redeemer: His officers are the most gifted, and most numerous; His government is orderly and beneficent.
III. The vast increase of population (1 Kings 4:20). “As the sand which is by the sea in multitude,” a proverbial and hyperbolical expression, commonly used in all languages. Thus was fulfilled the promise made to Abraham (Genesis 13:16; Genesis 22:17; see also 1 Kings 3:8; and compare Psalms 127:0 which is traditionally ascribed to Solomon, and which celebrates the populousness and security of Israel in his day). A healthy and increasing population is an important evidence of national prosperity, an honour to the prince, and a terror to his enemies (Proverbs 14:28). The people of God—His spiritual Israel—are innumerable (Revelation 7:9).
What a countless company
Stand before yon dazzling throne!
IV. The ample supply of provisions (1 Kings 4:22-23; 1 Kings 4:27-28). The daily provision for Solomon’s table was sufficient to serve, at two pounds of bread each, besides meat, no less than 29,160 men. Thenius computes the number daily fed at the palace of the Israelitish king to be 14,000. It is said that one hundred oxen were daily slaughtered for the kings of Persia, and that 15,000 persons have been daily fed at the court. And Tavernier relates that as many as five hundred sheep and lambs were daily consumed at the court of the Sultan, besides a number of fowls, and an immense quantity of butter and rice. No nation can boast of prosperity when its people are starved and famine prevails. When we consider how closely population follows on the heels of production, how great is the goodness of God in ensuring a constant supply of food tor man and beast! He who is greater than Solomon feeds a more numerous household, not only with the bread that perisheth, but with that which endureth to everlasting life.
V. The universal prevalence of peace. “He had peace on all sides round about him” (1 Kings 4:24). Wherein also he became a lively type of Christ, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), who as he was brought from heaven with that song of peace (Luke 2:14), so he returned up again with that farewell of peace (John 14:27), leaving to the world the doctrine of peace, the gospel of peace (Ephesians 2:17); which worketh that peace which passeth understanding (Philippians 4:7).—Trapp.
VI. The conscious security and happiness of the people (1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 4:25). They were cheerful in their enjoyment of abounding plenty—eating, drinking, and making merry—evidences those of a happy, peaceful, and prosperous administration. Every man dwelt safely “under his vine,” that clustered round his court; “and under his fig tree,” which grew in his garden. They were no longer obliged to dwell in fortified cites for fear of their enemies; they spread themselves over all the country, which they everywhere cultivated; and had always the privilege of eating the fruits of their own labours. In this was typified the spiritual peace and joy and holy security of all the faithful subjects of Messiah’s kingdom. “It must be regarded as an unspeakable blessing of God, when, under the protection of a wise and righteous government, everyone 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. National prosperity is the gift of God.
2. Is fraught with many dangers.
3. Is permanent only when used for the highest religious welfare of the people.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
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. 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 endure nor have 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). 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 4:4-5. Compare 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 4:20. 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. 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).
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 have 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, to give to the people the bad example of extravagant show, luxury, and riot; but it must, in abundance and splendour, surpass every private establishment, and ought not to appear needy and impoverished.
1 Kings 4:24-25. 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).—Lange.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
1 Kings 4:29. Wisdom and understanding exceeding much—High powers of mind, and sharpness of perception. Largeness of heart—רֹחַב לֵב amplitude of soul, capacity for receiving and communicating knowledge; for the “heart” with the Hebrews stood for capacities of the soul.
1 Kings 4:30. Children of the East Country—Arabians, Chaldeans, and Persians (Genesis 25:6). Opposite these in the West was Egypt, whose fame for wisdom was throughout the ancient world (Isaiah 19:11; Acts 7:22).
1 Kings 4:31. Ethan, the Ezrahite—Of the Levitical family of Merari (1 Chronicles 6:14); president of the music in David’s tabernacle (1 Chronicles 15:17-19), and composer of Psalms 89:0. Heman—A chief of the tabernacle musicians, and the king’s seer (1 Chronicles 25:6), a son of Joel. Chalcol and Darda, sons of Machol—Unknown. The Rabbinical book Seder Olam says, “These were prophets that prophesied in Egypt,” but all is uncertain.
1 Kings 4:32. Proverbs—מָשָׁל denotes epigrammatic sentences, pithy and witty sayings holding moral sentiments and wise observations on human life and character. Songs—Of these we possess only Psalms 72, 132, probably 127, and the Canticles. How few of these lavish creations of his capacious mind survive the destructive work of Time! The Koran praises him us conversant with the languages of men and demons, birds and ants, with all of whom he had intercourse. The whole of the occult learning in the East is still associated with his name.
HOMILETICS OF 1 Kings 4:29-34
THE UNIQUE WISDOM OF SOLOMON
I. It was vast in its range and profound in its insight (1 Kings 4:29). The terms of this verse indicate that Solomon was gifted as a man of profound thought, of deep understanding, with vast powers of judgment, and a broad and diversified experience. Largeness of heart is intended to convey the idea of great intellectual capacity. In Scripture the heart is often used for the intellect. The expression, as the sand that is on the sea shore, was proverbial in reference to numerical multitude (Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12; Genesis 41:49; Joshua 11:4; Judges 7:12; 1 Samuel 13:5; 2 Samuel 17:11; 1 Kings 4:20; Psalms 78:27). It is used here to denote the amplitude and multiplicity of the knowledge and wisdom of Israel’s greatest king. It was said of a certain great man that he was a very gulph of learning; of another, that he was a closet or market of all sciences and learning; of another, that he was skilful in everything; and of a fourth, that he might be said to know all that was knowable. All these eulogies might be fitly applied to Solomon. His wisdom was not only vast in extent, but, like the sea-sand, minute and accurate in detail. As the sand upon the sea-shore, observes Lord Bacon, incloses a great body of water, so Solomon’s mind contained an ocean of knowledge. Intellectual endowments are better than wealth (Proverbs 3:13-14), better than long life (ib. 1 Kings 3:2), better than the uncertain prizes of worldly honour (ib. 1 Kings 3:16). But there is a wisdom deeper, vaster, and more satisfying than that of Solomon’s, and which can be learned only at the feet of Him who is greater than Solomon, and “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” The mere child of faith is wiser than the most profoundly intellectual unbeliever. The wisdom of Solomon gave no peace to his restless mind, did not prolong his days, and did not prevent his falling into grievous sins. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, &c. (James 3:17). The life of man is short; but the glory that blooms upon it—the outburst and glitter of intellectual genius—is shorter still. But they that be wise—wise in the truest and highest sense—are invested with an undying and celestial radiance—“they shine as the brightness of the firmament and as the stars for ever and ever.”
II. It surpassed the wisdom of the best known philosophers (1 Kings 4:30-31). The East is the cradle of the sciences, and in Solomon’s day was the only part of the world famous for wisdom. The children of the East country would embrace the Chaldeans and Arabians, both of whom were distinguished for scientific research, and as the authors of sage and sententious utterances, which became proverbial. The wisdom of Egypt held a high position in the ancient world, and was varied and extensive in its character. It included magic, geometry, medicine, astronomy, architecture, and a dreamy mystic philosophy, of which metempsychosis was the main principle. The Egyptians despised the Greeks as only children in knowledge: and, indeed, the Greak learning only commenced four hundred years after the era of Solomon. It is not certain whether the philospers mentioned in 1 Kings 4:31 were contemporaries of Solomon, or men of a more ancient time, whose fame for wisdom was still celebrated. When compared with the best known philosophers of his own and all former time, Solomon is declared to be supreme in wisdom. The knowledge which is divinely bestowed is superior to that which is acquired as the result of human labour: grace is more potent than art. To possess a wealth of wisdom involves a solemn responsibility. Woe be to that man who prostitutes God-given talent to base and ignoble purposes! The abuse of wisdom will only make the transgressor more exquisitely alive to the misery he draws upon himself. True wisdom exalts the possessor, and blesses the race.
III. It enriched the practical and poetic literature of the ages (1 Kings 4:32). Of these three thousand proverbs a very valuable though a comparatively small portion remains in the book of Proverbs, and, perhaps, also in Ecclesiastes. The remark that he spake these proverbs may imply that they were not all written, or actually recorded, and so far from being preserved only by oral tradition, they either became gradually lost, or their authorship became uncertain. Being the son of the greatest of human lyrists, the sweet psalmist of Israel, Solomon naturally inherited the gift of poetry and song. Of the thousand and five songs, there now remain, probably, the 72. and 127. Psalms, and the Canticles, though the authorship of the latter is a controverted question. But though most of the proverbs and songs of Solomon are lost to us, their silent influences, flowing through unseen channels, may have greatly affected both the ancient and modern literature of the East, and may still be studied in the apocryphal books of Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon.—Whedon. The man who adds one really good book to the already wealthy literature of the world is a benefactor to mankind. When preferment was offered to Thomas Aquinas, he was wont to sigh and say, “I would rather have Chrysostom’s Comment on Matthew.” A pure and healthy literature is a mighty force in shaping individual and public opinion, in consolidating moral character, in defining and directing the career of a nation, in exposing time-honoured fallacies, and in promoting the highest ends of truth and righteousness. On the other hand, who can estimate the pernicious influence of a single bad book? It is lamentable to observe how the loftiest genius is employed in teaching downright immorality, and shattering the faith of man in the supreme good. Truth is sacrificed for effect, and purity for a temporary bubble reputation. The monetary gain of a vile book soon vanishes, but the mischief remains long after the cunning hand of the writer has turned to dust. Many would have sacrificed all they possessed to be able to undo the evil their own pens produced.
IV. It embraced a minute acquaintance with the principal subjects of natural history (1 Kings 4:33). This is the first idea of a complete system of natural history as far as it includes the animal and vegetable kingdoms; and Solomon was probably the first natural philosopher in the world. His knowledge ranged from the most gigantic trees to the humblest plant; from mammoths to insects. The writings of Solomon bear evidence of his keen appreciation of the beauties of nature, and of the habit of minute observation and sage reflection. His extended commerce with other nations afforded him ample opportunity for becoming acquainted with rare and varied specimens of plants and animals. His discourse would consist not simply in scientific description and analysis, but in tracing evidences of Divine skill and power. Unlike some inflated scientists of the present day, his profound knowledge of the mysteries of nature did not obscure, but brighten and expand, his conceptions of the Divine. Irenaeus observes that Solomon expounded psychologically the wisdom of God which is manifest in creation. And Josephus states, “He spake a parable upon every sort of tree, from the hyssop to the cedar; and in like manner, also, about beasts and all sorts of living creatures, whether upon the earth, in the seas, or in the air; for he was not unacquainted with any of their natures, nor omitted inquiries about them, but described them all like a philosopher, and demonstrated his exquisite knowledge of their several properties.” It is the function of science to interpret nature; and the record of its triumphs in recent years reads like the pages of a thrilling romance. But alongside the growth and expansion of science there has grown up an unhealthy and dangerous scepticism. This has been more especially evident when one branch of the great family of the sciences has been the exclusive object of study, for then the flow of thought becomes narrowed in its channel, the range of vision limited, and the harmony of truth, which lies not so much in one thing as it pervades all, is seriously disturbed. The sublime object of all true science is to interpret and illustrate the highest truth, and aid the anxious inquirer in its attainment. There is something overpoweringly affecting in contemplating a gifted human soul, baffled in its unaided search after truth, and drifting, ever drifting, like a lonely raft on a shoreless sea. The invariable result of the kind of scepticism which certain doctrines of modern science has helped to create is to plunge the mind into greater doubts than those from which it professes to liberate; but it is the office of a genuine philosophy—a Christianized science—to bring the light that dispels the gloom and guides the distraught inquirer into hallowed rest and peace.
V. It acquired a universal reputation. “His fame was in all nations round about” (1 Kings 4:31; 1 Kings 4:34). Solomon was the Aristotle of the Jewish nation; but his fame excelled that of the Grecian sage, and is to-day familiar with thousands to whom the name of Aristotle is unknown. Solomon not only continued to be the type and model of all wisdom to his own people, but in the East is so regarded to the present day. The Koran praises him as knowing the languages of men and demons, of birds and ants, with all of which, it is said, he held intercourse. The Turks still possess a work of seventy folio volumes which is called the Book of Solomon. The occult wisdom of the East is still connected with his name. His court was a centre round which gathered the great and learned of all nations, who were attracted either by curiosity, or with a desire to add to their stores of wisdom (1 Kings 4:34). It is not always the good fortune of the wise to attain a wide-spread popularity. The highly talented often pine in obscurity (Ecclesiastes 9:13-16). Messiah is the embodiment of a wisdom infinitely surpassing that of Solomon (Proverbs 8:22-23; Colossians 2:3). His reputation is the most exalted, and is imperishable (Philippians 2:9; Psalms 72:17); they who would be wise unto salvation must come to Him (1 Corinthians 1:30). The perpetuity and blessedness of true wisdom are best ensured by imparting it to others.
1. We are again reminded that superior wisdom is the gift of God (1 Kings 4:29).
2. Uncommon abilities increase the responsibility to use them with uncommon diligence for the glory of the Donor.
3. The wisdom of the few should be diffused for the instruction of the many.
4. He who it wise unto salvation, and wise to win souls, acquires an undying reputation.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
1 Kings 4:29-34. The wisdom of Solomon.
1. Its Divine origin (1 Kings 4:29).
2. Its vastness (1 Kings 4:29).
3. Its superlative excellency (1 Kings 4:30-31).
4. Its marvellous productiveness (1 Kings 4:32).
5. Its practical utility (1 Kings 4:33).
6. Its irresistible attractiveness (1 Kings 4:34).
—Solomon a type of Christ
1. As the child of promise.
2. As consecrated to the regal office.
3. Though ready to spare, as finally destroying every obstinate rebel against his government.
4. In the tranquillity and equity of his reign.
5. As the builder of the Temple of the Lord.
6. As possessed of extraordinary Wisdom
7. As attracting all ranks to resort to him (Psalms 45:12; Psalms 60:6).—Robinson.
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 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 overestimating himself, of becoming proud and haughty; hence the highly gifted Solomon himself says, “Trust in the Lord,” &c. (Proverbs 3:5-6).—Lange.
1 Kings 4:30-31. The responsibility of intellectual greatness.
1. Intellectual greatness should be distinguished by eminent goodness.
2. Is exposed to many subtle temptations.
3. Is powerful in exerting a beneficent or malevolent influence upon the age.
4. Is all the more lamentable in its fall.
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 3:15-17).—Lange.
1 Kings 4:31. With the accession of Solomon a new world of thought was opened to the Israelites. The curtain which divided them from the surrounding nations was suddenly rent asunder. The wonders of Egypt, the commerce of Tyre, the romance of Arabia—nay, it is even possible, the Homeric age of Greece—became visible. Of this, the first and most obvious result was the growth of architecture. But the general effects on the whole mind of the people must have been greater still. A new direction seems to have been given to Israelite thought. Prophets and psalmists retire into the background, and their place is taken by the new power called by the name of “Wisdom.” Its two conspicuous examples are the wisdom of Egypt and the wisdom of the Children of the East—that is, of the Idumæan Arabs. Four renowned sages appear as its exponents: Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol. It would almost seem as if a kind of college had been founded for this special purpose—a house of wisdom on seven pillars. A class of men sprang up, distinct both from priest and prophet, under the name of “the wise.” Their teaching, their manner of life, was unlike that of either of those two powerful orders. The thing and the name had been almost unknown before. In a restricted sense, the word had been used of the Danite architects of the Tabernacle, and in a somewhat larger sense of two or three remarkable persons in David’s reign. But from this time forward the word occurs in the sacred writings at least three hundred times. What it was will best be perceived by seeing it in its greatest representative. A change must have come over the nation, any way, through the new world which he opened. But it was fixed and magnified by finding such a mind to receive it. His wisdom excelled the wisdom of any one of his time. From his early years its germs had been recognized.—Stanley.
1 Kings 4:32-33. A pure literature.
1. Embalms the best thoughts of the wise and good of all times and all lands.
2. Is of unspeakable value in the formation of moral character.
3. Deals with every phase of scientific truth.
4. Should be widely disseminated.—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 4:32. It is, we might say, an accident that the Proverbs of Solomon are not called the “Parables,” and that the teachings of the New Testament are called the “Parables,” and not the “Proverbs,” of the Gospels. The illustrations from natural objects, the selection of the homelier instead of the grander of these, are not derived from the prophets or from the psalmists, but from the wise naturalist, “who spake of trees, and beasts, and fowls, and creeping things, and fishes, of the singing birds, of the budding fig tree, of the fragrant vine.” The teaching of Solomon is the sanctification of common sense in the Old Testament, and to that sanctification the final seal is set by the adoption of the same style and thought in the New Testament by Him who, with His apostles, taught in “Solomon’s porch,” and expressly compared His wisdom to the wisdom which gathered the nations round Solomon of old.—Stanley.
1 Kings 4:33. 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 wide-spread 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 confessions of Psalms 104:24; Psalms 92:6-7.—Starke.
—Solomon was, at least in one great branch, the founder, the only representative, not merely of Hebrew wisdom, but of Hebrew science. As Alexander’s conquests had supplied the materials for the first natural history of Greece, so Solomon’s commerce did the like for the first natural history of Israel. He spake of trees from the highest to the lowest, “from the spreading cedar of Lebanon to the slender caper-plant that springs out of the crevice of the wall.” He spake also of beasts, and of fowls, and of creeping things, and of fishes. We must look at him as the first great naturalist of the world, in the midst of the strange animals—the apes, the peacocks—which he had collected from India; in the garden, among the copious springs of Etham, or in the bed of the deep ravine beneath the wall of his newly erected temple, where, doubtless, was to be seen the transplanted cedar, superseding the humble sycamore of Palestine; the paradise of rare plants, gathered from far and near; “pomegranates with pleasant fruits, camphire with spikenard, spikenard and saffron, calermus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices.”—Stanley.
1 Kings 4:34. The fascination of learning.
1. Appeals to the inquisitive instinct of man.
2. Stimulates its votary to still higher achievements.
3. Creates and strengthens a community of sympathy among minds of varying capacity.
4. Elevates the successful competitor to a pinnacle of enduring fame.
—To Solomon came from all nations people to hearken to 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)!—Lange.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Kings 4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent