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CRITICAL NOTES.] Solomon’s buildings (2 Chronicles 8:1-6); the tributaries (2 Chronicles 8:7-11); the festival worship (2 Chronicles 8:12-16); and the fleet of Solomon (2 Chronicles 8:17-18) (1 Kings 9:10-28).
Solomon’s buildings.—2 Chronicles 8:1-6. Twenty years (cf. 1 Kings 6:38; 1 Kings 7:1; 1 Kings 9:10). Cities north-west of Galilee, the occupation of which was granted to Huram, who seems, after consideration, to have refused them as unsuitable to the commercial habits of his people and returned them to Solomon, who built (Heb. repaired) and filled them with a colony of Hebrews. Ham., a territory bordering on Zobah, identified in Jewish tradition with Helbon (Aleppo). Tadmor, the famous Palmyra (palm city), which became capital of a province (sent 80,000 men to join the Assyrian army), the splendid ruins of which remain to this day (a wall 11 miles in circumference). Store cities for provisions, situated on great trade roads to relieve travellers and beasts of burden. 2 Chronicles 8:5. Beth-horons, two cities in Ephraim, very ancient (Joshua 16:3-5; 1 Kings 9:27; 1 Chronicles 7:24). 2 Chronicles 8:6. Baal. belonged to Dan (1 Kings 9:18-19).
Solomon’s tributaries.—2 Chronicles 8:7-10. Left, descendants of Canaanites in the country treated as war-prisoners, employed in vast building operations, and had to pay tribute. 2 Chronicles 8:9. Sons of Israelites not serfs, but soldiers and officers. 2 Chronicles 8:10. Chiefs of Israelites only given, 250 in number. 2 Chronicles 8:11. Daughter, writer assumes points of narrative in 1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 3:7-8, and further assigns motive for change of residence. Holy, sanctified by presence of the ark, and as she was an idolator, therefore could not permanently dwell in the city.
Solomon’s regulations of worship.—2 Chronicles 8:12-16. An expansion and amplification of 1 Kings 9:23. They add several important particulars. No departure from the ordinances established by Divine authority by Moses or David in offering of sacrifices—arrangements of priests and Levites (1 Chronicles 24:26)—and in provision and management of all sacred things. 2 Chronicles 8:16. This verse sums up in brief the whole previous narrative on the subject of the temple, which began with ch. 2. Solomon’s work “unto the day of foundation” was the subject of that chapter; his work subsequently has been related in chapters 3–8. [Speak. Com.].
Solomon’s fleet and gold.—2 Chronicles 8:17-18. Eloth (Elath) Œland of Greeks, north-east of the Gulf of Akaba. “The writer of Kings tells us that the fleet of Solomon was built at Ezion-geber (the giant’s backbone, Numbers 33:35-36), “which is beside Eloth” (1 Kings 9:26); and Ebon-geber alone is mentioned as the place where Jehoshaphat built his ships (2 Chronicles 20:36). Solomon, it appears by the present passage, visited both ports before determining at which he should establish his docks [Speak. Com.]. 2 Chronicles 8:18. Solomon made his navy by receiving ships as models, materials for building, carpenters, and seamen from Huram, who probably had ships lying in the ports of the Red Sea. His own servants went with the Phœnicians on the voyage. Ophir, son of Jokton (Genesis 10:29), gave name to the land of Ophir, which was at least originally in the south of Arabia, though some look for it in India or Ceylon. The 450 talents of gold (in Kings, 420) may have been the result of many voyages to this land [Murphy].
SOLOMON’S MILITARY ENTERPRISES.—2 Chronicles 8:1-6
Chiefly in acquiring cities rebuilt and taken from the enemy. Solomon not satisfied to build God’s house, ambitious to gain cities and enlarge his kingdom. Lawful ambition desirable—all interested in the welfare of the Christian Church will scheme for the good of the country.
I. Cities for stores (cf. 1 Kings 9:19). Centres, i.e., cities in which provisions for beasts, travellers, and troops (2 Chronicles 32:28). Chiefly north, in Hamath (2 Chronicles 8:4), and Naphtali (ch. 2 Chronicles 16:4). Solomon prudent in action and kind in planning for the necessities of his people.
II. Cities for colonisation. “Solomon built (rebuilt) them, and caused the children of Israel to dwell there” (2 Chronicles 8:2). Cities out of repair, quitted by population, or never occupied by Israelites. Anxious to locate trade, promote industry, and for all to dwell in right place.
III. Cities for pleasure. “Cities for his chariots, and cities for his horsemen;” dwellings for pleasure as distinguished from fortresses and store-cities. “I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure.” But pleasure is expensive, and demands costly sacrifices. “He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man.”
IV. Cities for defence. The cities of Bethhoron and Baalath were fortified. His kingdom exposed required defence. Surrounding enemies dangerous, especially in north; strong garrisons required, and a levy of men and money to support a gigantic military system. Hence danger from wars, taxation, and oppression. Suggested Lessons from Solomon’s Military Enterprises.—
1. That those who attend to the spiritual will not neglect the temporal interests of a nation. Solomon built the temple, but patriotic enough to build cities. True religion ends not in ceremony, but in philanthropy. Those who build churches build hospitals. A libel to say that Christians who support missionary agencies neglect home.
2. That amidst the temporal enterprises of a nation great risks exist. Fortified cities needful, but indicate evils to be checked; incursions, insurrections, and subjugation. Hence—
(1) Lessons of Prudence. Why “fenced cities with walls, gates, and bars?” “Silent witnesses against the honesty of the society in which we live. Every bolt upon the door is a moral accusation; every time we turn the lock we mean that there is an enemy outside who may endeavour to violate the sanctity of the house” [Dr. Parker].
(2) The Danger of Prosperity. “Commercial intercourse with foreign nations, the assimilation of the Israelitish monarchy to corresponding institutions of surrounding kingdoms, though indispensable to certain elements of the Church and State of Judea, yet was fraught with danger to a people whose chief safeguard had hitherto been their exclusiveness, and whose highest mission was to keep their faith and manners distinct from the contagion of the world around them. The gigantic experiment of Solomon, though partially and prospectively successful, yet in a greater part and for the moment failed. As he is the representative of the splendours of the monarchy, so is he also the type and cause of its ruin” [Stanley].
SOLOMON’S STATESMANSHIP.—2 Chronicles 8:7-10
Civil government a divine institution. Cannot exist without laws and adjustments. These require wisdom to express and enforce. The people have instinct to obey, but lack power to govern. Hence need of statesmen and rulers. Solomon a wise ruler.
I. In the tributary services rendered by the people.
1. Foreigners non-Israelites employed as serfs. Treated as prisoners of war, compelled to drudgery, hard labour, and to pay tribute (2 Chronicles 8:8). This a matter of policy and borrowed from Egyptian customs of employing lowest caste on public works.
2. Native Jews employed in superior labour. “Not bondmen, but men of war, servants, princes, captains, rulers of chariots and of horsemen” (1 Kings 9:22). Positions of honour and influence.
II. In the choice of officers to rule the people. Officers divided into two bodies. The lesser consisted of twelve chiefs corresponding to the twelve princes of the twelve tribes, who administered the kingdom under David. Hence their wisdom and experience would be profitable to direct. The larger body were officers chosen from Israelites to control task work, exacted from Canaanites. No way of accounting for discrepancies in number (cf. 1 Kings 5:16; 2 Chronicles 2:18, and 2 Chronicles 8:10 of this ch.) except by error of copyist, or to imagine with many, that 250 were on duty at once. Solomon desired the ablest men for the best work. Some fitted, born to rule, and others to serve.
III. In the appointment of all classes of the people to their proper sphere. Work for all and every one at work for which best adapted. Some to labour, others to think and direct. Not great men to do small work and weak men to fail in responsible work. Canaanites and Israelites all useful. This law of adaptation essential to success in family circles, church government, and national legislation. “Thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and show them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do.”
SOLOMON’S MARRIAGE.—2 Chronicles 8:1
At beginning of his reign he married an Egyptian princess, assigned her a temporary abode in Jerusalem until a suitable place could be found.
I. As a matter of worldly policy. A startling act, for since Exodus no intercourse between two countries. Sprang from desire to counteract influence of Hadad, who was received with royal honours and formed alliances with king of Egypt (1 Kings 11:14-20); from wish to obtain support for his new dynasty and recognition from one of older fame and greater power; from anxiety to strengthen himself by foreign alliances. Besides the new queen brought with her a frontier city as a dowry. Gezer still possessed by remnant of Canaanites. Pharaoh had led his armies against it, and tranquillity of Israel threatened. But this worldly policy. Many marriages for inferior motives. Better look to bonds that unite families and thrones to God.
II. As a source of moral perplexity. What must be done with her? If she conformed with the Hebrew faith, yet as a foreigner she must dwell in a separate place, not near the ark, the symbol of Divine presence. The house of God, holy, must be free from personal and official pollution. This a matter of conscience to Solomon, who felt that God’s presence sanctified all localities; that a broad distinction must be made between Judaism and heathenism, between idolatry and the worship of Jehovah. When this distinction is ignored and worldly policy adopted, men plunge into temptations and find it difficult to rectify errors by punctilious morality and zealous care about trifles.
III. As the beginning of trouble. The policy advantageous at first, but ultimately proved hollow and impolitic. A revolution in Egypt changed its dynasty or its policy, and the court welcomed the fugitive Jeroboam in his efforts to secure kingly power. By seeking fresh alliances, giving way to lust for “strange women,” Solomon involved in worship of strange gods, &c. The reign which began so gloriously ended in gross darkness and fetish worship.
SOLOMON’S RELIGIOUS SERVICE.—2 Chronicles 8:12
Solomon not only built the temple, but worshipped in it. What use a temple without worship? The duty of high and low to meet for worship.
I. Remarkable for its conformity to Divine Law. “According to the command of Moses.” God the supreme object and his revealed will the rule of worship.
1. In its appointed seasons. Daily sacrifices. “A certain rate every day.” “Every day will I bless thee.” “On the sabbaths.” Weekly sacrifices; monthly “on the new moons;” and yearly at the three solemn feasts. “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose.”
2. In its customary method. As Moses commanded and David observed (2 Chronicles 8:14), care should be taken to observe divine order, but custom should never fetter spirit. Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, we should be free, thankful, and devout. “The heart will observe its own order.”
II. Remarkable for its systematic arrangements. “Order is heaven’s first law.”
1. Arrangements divinely appointed. Priests in their courses; Levites in their charges; porters at the gates, and persons to manage the treasures (cf. 1 Chronicles 26:20-23).
2. Arrangements scrupulously observed. By every person and in every particular. “They departed not from the command of the king concerning any matter” (2 Chronicles 8:15).
3. Arrangements completing the work. “So the house of the Lord was perfected.” This the finishing touch to erection and consecration. Something incomplete without real worship, reverent order and self-surrender. Sacrifice the essence and result of worship. “I will freely sacrifice to thee.”
“One act that from a thankful heart proceeds,
Excels ten thousand mercenary deeds” [Cowper].
SOLOMON’S GREATEST WORK.—2 Chronicles 8:16
This verse a brief summary, describing method and completion of Solomon’s greatest work. Temple work was prepared, i.e., contemplated and fixed, before built and completed.
I. It was wisely planned. Prudence displayed in collection and preparation of materials. The cost counted—
1. Suggesting wise forethought. Every part of an undertaking should be well considered and weighed. “Prepare thy work without and make it fit for thyself.”
2. Providing against failure. What wrecks in all departments of human labour through want of forethought and preparation! “This man began to build and was not able to finish.”
II. It was nicely furnished. Not half done, nor slovenly done. Finished in furniture, style, and ceremonies. Perfected in harmony with God’s will. “A thing of beauty and a joy for ever.” Choose your life’s work. Collect materials and build for God. Begin well and in God’s strength finish. Never be
“Like one who draws a model of a house,
Beyond his power to build it; who, half through,
Gives o’er, and leaves his part-created cost
A naked subject to the weeping clouds,
And waste for churlish winter’s tyranny.”
SOLOMON’S FLEET.—2 Chronicles 8:17-18
I. The method of its construction. Huram sent, supplied him, i.e., built him ships, viz., in docks at Eloth (cf. 1 Kings 9:26-27) [Jamieson]. Or Solomon made his fleet, by receiving model ships, materials, and carpenters from Huram. “The probability is either that the Tyrians maintained at this period a fleet in the Red Sea, or that Hiram’s shipwrights constructed, at their master’s expense, some ships on that sea, and then presented them to the Jewish monarch” [Speak. Com.].
II. The voyages it undertook. Solomon monarch and merchant. Egyptians might have been rivals in southern maritime traffic, but their religion and exclusive principles unfavourable to sea voyages. They probably abstained from sending their own people abroad for commerce. Solomon’s fleet opened the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean, the far east and the far west. The extraordinary influence of these voyages on their own and on all future times was remarkable [see Stanley’s Jew. Ch., vol. ii., p. 155].
III. The cargo it brought. Articles of commerce most abundant; almug, ivory, aloes, cassia, cinnamon, apes and peacocks, strange plants and animals, fragrant woods and brilliant metals, silver and gold. “Gold of Ophir” the most famous in the world. Men more precious than gold; wisdom more precious “than the merchandise of silver.” “I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.”
IV. The sailors who manned it. Hebrews had none capable of performing distant expeditions; were only fishermen, whose boats coasted on the shores of the Mediterranean, or plied on inward lakes. Tyrians manned the navy of Solomon, who excelled in nautical science (cf. 1 Kings 5:6; 1 Kings 9:27) “When we consider that in the case of Solomon the commercial wealth of the entire community was concentrated in the hands of the government, that much of the trade was a monopoly, and that all was assisted or directed by the experience and energy of the Tyrians, the overwhelming riches of this eminent merchant-sovereign are, perhaps, not surprising.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
2 Chronicles 8:2. Caused Israel to dwell there. Principles of colonisation—
1. A matter of necessity often. To provide for employment, surplus population; and
2. Should always be in the interests of humanity. Not for national glory, material prosperity, or destruction of uncivilised races. What remains of the colonies founded by ancient nations? Prosperity and duration only when God plants a people (America and the Pilgrim Fathers).
2 Chronicles 8:4-6. If some of the public works had the plea of utility, the fortifications of some cities for purposes of defence (Millo the suburb of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, the two Beth-horons); the foundation of others (Tadmor and Tiphsah) for purposes of commerce. These were simply the pomps of a selfish luxury; and the people, after the first dazzle was over, felt that they were so. Forty thousand horsemen made up the measure of his magnificence (1 Kings 4:26). As the treasury became empty taxes multiplied, and monopolies became more irksome. If, on the one hand, the division of the kingdom came as a penalty for Solomon’s apostasy from Jehovah, on the other, it was the Nemesis of a selfish passion for glory, itself the most terrible of all idolatries [Bib. Dict.].
2 Chronicles 8:14. David the man of God. A wonderful title. Only applied to Moses and a nameless prophet, besides David.
1. How gained;
2. What it implies in character and life.
2 Chronicles 8:12-18. Here we find—
1. Solomon “diligent in busines.” Building and fortifying cities; engaging ships and trading to Ophir. Thus occupied usefully for his country, and employed many that would, perhaps, have otherwise been idle.
2. Solomon “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Carefully guarding the sanctity of God’s house, duly offering sacrifices at all appointed times, and seeing that priests and Levites performed the sacred duties devolving upon them. Here Solomon exhibited religion as it should be; the concerns of life not unfitting him for religion, nor religion unfitting him for the concerns of life [Ingram Cobbin’s Com.].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8
2 Chronicles 8:2. Cities. Some of these fortified places may have been necessary to keep in check the Canaanitish population, who were likely to fret under the forced labour which he exacted from them [Tuck]. Dwell there. The increase of a great number of citizens in prosperity is a necessary element to the security and even to the existence of a civilised people [Buret].
2 Chronicles 8:7-8. Pay tribute. A mercantile democracy may govern long and widely; a mercantile aristocracy cannot stand [Landor].
“Curs’d merchandise! where life is sold,
And avarice consents to starve for gold”
2 Chronicles 8:12-15. Burnt offerings. Before we ask what a man worships, we have to ask whether he worships at all [Ruskin]. Solomon was great in burnt offerings. Do not men sometimes make up in burnt offerings what they lack in moral consistency? Is not an ostentatious religion sometimes the best proof of internal decay? It ought not to be so. The hand and the heart should be one, the outward and the inward should correspond, the action should be the incarnation of the thought. We are not always to look upon the ceremonial action of the church as indicative of its real spirituality. Sometimes men make a great noise in order to conceal a courage that is giving way [Dr. Parker].
2 Chronicles 8:16. Prepared. When Bishop Heber read his beautiful poem, “Palestine,” in manuscript to Sir Walter Scott, his friend remarked that in speaking of the temple of Solomon he had forgotten to refer to the silence which prevailed during its erection. The poet immediately retired for a few minutes, and introduced the following beautiful lines:—
“No workman’s steel, no ponderous axes wrung;
Like some tall palm the noiseless fabric sprung.”
This circumstance is remarkable as an indication of the method of preparation and of the deep sense which Solomon had of the sacredness of his work.
2 Chronicles 8:17-18. Ships. I am wonderfully delighted to see a body of men thriving in their own fortunes, and at the same time promoting the public stock; or, in other words, raising estates for their own families, by bringing into their country whatever is wanting, and carrying out of it whatever is superfluous. Nature seems to have taken a particular care to disseminate her blessings among the different regions of the world, with an eye to their mutual intercourse and traffic among mankind, that the nations of the several parts of the globe might have a kind of dependence upon one another, and be united together by their common interest [Addison].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13