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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 9

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3012. B.C. 992.

God in a vision answers Solomon’s prayer, 1 Kings 9:1-9 . The mutual presents of Solomon and Hiram, 1 Kings 9:10-14 . His workmen and buildings, 1 Kings 9:15-24 . His devotion, 1 Kings 9:25 . His navy, 1 Kings 9:26-28 .

Verses 1-2

1 Kings 9:1-2. And it came to pass when Solomon had finished, &c. Or rather, according to 2 Chronicles 7:11, Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord, &c., and concluded all with the foregoing prayer, and the great festival which he kept. That the Lord appeared to Solomon the second time That is, the second time in a dream or vision; the divine message, mentioned 1 Kings 6:11, having been imparted unto him by some prophet or messenger sent from God on that errand. Accordingly this appearance, like the former at Gibeon, is said ( 2Ch 7:10 ) to have been made by night, and in all probability the very night after he had finished the solemnities of his festival, as the other had been. God had given a real answer to Solomon’s prayer, and tokens of his acceptance of it, immediately, by the fire from heaven which consumed the sacrifice, (2 Chronicles 7:1,) but here we have a more express and distinct answer to it.

Verse 3

1 Kings 9:3. The Lord said, I have heard thy prayer This shows that the first verse is to be understood as we have just stated: for otherwise we must suppose this appearance of God to Solomon to have taken place, and this answer to have been given to his prayer, eleven years after he had finished the house, and addressed that prayer to him at the dedication of it; which is very unlikely. I have hallowed this house By my glorious presence in the cloud, and by my acceptance of thy sacrifices. I have sanctified it to my proper use and service. Solomon had dedicated it, but it was God’s prerogative to hallow or consecrate it. Men cannot make a place holy; yet what we in sincerity devote to God, we may hope he will graciously accept as his. To put my name there for ever As long as the Mosaic dispensation lasts: whereas hitherto my worship has been successively in several places. And mine eyes My watchful and gracious providence. My heart My true and tender affection. Shall be there perpetually Shall be toward this place and people, upon condition of your obedience, as it here follows. Apply this to persons, to God’s living temples: those whom he hallows or sanctifies; whom he sets apart for himself, in consequence of their repentance and faith in Jesus, have his eye upon and his heart toward them; they have his love and his care, and this perpetually.

Verses 4-5

1 Kings 9:4-5. If thou wilt walk before me, &c. He shows him that he and his people were for the future upon their good behaviour: Let them not be secure now, as if they might conduct themselves as they please, having the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord among them, Jeremiah 7:4. No: this house was designed to protect them in their allegiance to God, not in their rebellion against him, or disobedience to him. As David thy father walked Who, though he foully miscarried in some things, yet in the general course of his life was upright and faithful, especially in things relating to the worship of God and civil government. Then will I establish the throne of thy kingdom Upon that condition, and not otherwise; for my promise to David was conditional, Psalms 132:12. If we perform our part of the condition, God will not fail to perform his. If we improve the grace God has given us, he will confirm us to the end. Let not the children of godly parents expect the entail of the blessing, unless they tread in the steps of those that are gone before them, and keep up the virtue and piety of their ancestors.

Verses 6-7

1 Kings 9:6-7. If you shall at all turn from following me Hebrew, If in turning you turn from me; that is, if you assuredly, and indeed, or, as some understand it, altogether turn from me; if you forsake my service, desert my altar, and go and serve other gods; (for that was the covenant-breaking sin;) if you or your children break off from me, and knowingly and wilfully violate my laws, this house will not save you. Then will I cut off Israel By one judgment after another, till they become the most despicable people under the sun, though they be now the most honourable. This implies the destruction of the royal family, though it is not particularly threatened; for the king is of course undone if his kingdom be destroyed. And this house will I cast out of my sight I will not regard it, but will take away my presence and protection from it: it shall be abandoned and laid desolate. And Israel shall be a proverb Their calamities and miseries shall be mentioned proverbially, to express extreme affliction and distress. And a byword among all people Who would mock at their calamitous and deplorable state.

Verses 8-9

1 Kings 9:8-9 . And at this house, which is high Exalted in its privileges, and renowned for its riches and splendour, and the great resort of people to it. They gloried in the stateliness and magnificence of the structure; but God here lets them know it was not so high as to be out of the reach of his judgments, which should assuredly fall upon it and them, if they vilified it so as to exchange it for groves and idol-temples, and yet, at the same time, most inconsistently and absurdly magnified it, so as to suppose it would secure the favour of God to them, although they ever so much corrupted themselves. Every one that passeth by it shall be astonished At its unexpected and wonderful ruin. As they who now pass by it are astonished at the bulk and beauty, the richness, contrivance, and workmanship of it, and call it a stupendous fabric; so, if you forsake God, its height will make its fall the more amazing, and they that pass by will be as much astonished at its ruins. And shall hiss By way of contempt and derision; and shall say, Why hath the Lord, &c. What is the reason that this famous place, which boasted so much of the favour and protection of God, is thus laid in ruins? And they shall answer, Because they forsook, &c. The guilty, self-convicted, self-condemned Israelites will be forced to acknowledge with shame, that they themselves were the ruin of it. See Deuteronomy 29:24. Their sin will be read in their punishment. They deserted the temple, and therefore God deserted it; they profaned it with their sins, and laid it common; and therefore God profaned it with his judgments, and laid it waste. Of this God thus gave Solomon fair warning, now he had newly built and dedicated it, that he and his people might not be high-minded, but fear.

Verses 11-14

1 Kings 9:11-14. Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee Or, near the land of Galilee, bordering upon it; in those parts which were near, and adjoining to, Hiram’s dominions: with the cities, understand the territories belonging to them. These cities, though they were within those large bounds which God fixed to the land of promise, (Genesis 15:18; Joshua 1:4,) yet were not within those parts which were distributed by lot in Joshua’s time. It is probable they were not inhabited by Israelites, but by Canaanites, or other heathen; who having been subdued and made tributary by David or Solomon, those cities became a part of their dominions; and afterward were reckoned a part of Galilee, as Josephus notes. They pleased him not Were not suitable to his desire, and the genius of his people. He called them the land of Cabul A Phenician word, says Josephus, which signifies displeasing. But Rabbi Salomon writes that the land was so called because it was “quasi compedita, id est, argillacea, tenax, et infrugifera,” bound, stiff, clayey, and unfruitful. Hiram did not like it, because, though it might be very good, yet being a thick and stiff clay, and therefore requiring great pains to cultivate and manure it, it was very unsuitable to the disposition of the Tyrians, who were delicate, and lazy, and luxurious, and wholly given to merchandise. And, on his returning them, there is no doubt but Solomon gave him an equivalent, more to his taste. And Hiram sent to the king Or rather, For Hiram had sent, &c. And this seems to be here added, both to declare the quantity of the gold sent, which had been only named before, (1 Kings 9:11,) and as the reason why he resented Solomon’s action, because so great a sum required a better recompense.

Verse 15

1 Kings 9:15. This is the reason of the levy, &c. That the raising of a great tribute upon the people, and employing so many men in his works, might not seem strange, the sacred writer here shows the cause of it; which was, his great and numerous buildings, suitable to the high dignity to which God had advanced him. The Hebrew word, מס , mass, here rendered levy, as Mr. Selden hath shown, by many instances, is not only used for pecuniary tribute, but also for bodily labour; it means a levy of men as well as a levy of money. And he thus interprets this clause: This is the cause of requiring the labour of so many men; it was to build, &c. Having thus declared the cause, the historian proceeds ( 1Ki 9:20 ) to relate who they were that he employed in this service. And Millo David had built round about Zion, from Millo inward, (2 Samuel 5:9,) but had left the structure of Millo itself imperfect, which Solomon now completed, with a particular respect to Pharaoh’s daughter, whose house was near it, 1 Kings 9:24. It seems, from 1 Kings 11:27, and 2 Chronicles 32:5, to have been an eminent, large, and strong fort, or castle, in that part of Jerusalem termed the city of David, where the fortress which David took from the Jebusites anciently stood. Here, it is thought, the people of Israel assembled when there was any consultation to be made about public affairs. The name מלוא , Millo, appears to be derived from the word מלא , malee, which signifies full. Kimchi thinks it was so called because it was frequently full of people, being “locus amplus et latus, comitiis et conventibus publicis destinatus,” a large and open place, appointed for holding public courts and assemblies. And the wall of Jerusalem Which was a great structure: for there were three walls, one within another, as Abarbinel and Joseph Ben-Gorion explain it; the inner wall encompassing the house of God and the house of the king; the middle wall encompassing the houses of great persons; (termed the College, 2 Kings 22:14;) and the third the houses of all the people. And Hazor Which had been a very eminent city, and the head of some kingdoms before the conquest of Canaan, (Joshua 11:10,) and was given to the tribe of Naphtali, Joshua 19:36. Megiddo A city in the tribe of Manasseh, Joshua 17:11. And Gezer In the tribe of Ephraim, Joshua 21:21.

Verse 16

1 Kings 9:16. For Pharaoh had gone up and taken Gezer, &c., and slain the Canaanites For the Israelites did not dispossess the Canaanites, but they continued to dwell in Gezer in Joshua’s time and after, Joshua 16:10; Judges 1:29. And, it seems, neither David nor Solomon expelled them, but only kept them under tribute; till Pharaoh, upon some provocation which is not recorded, extirpated them, and burned their city. This, Sir John Marsham thinks, was the first expedition which the Egyptians made out of their own country.

Verses 17-19

1 Kings 9:17-19. And Beth-horon the nether The lower Beth-horon, which was in the tribe of Benjamin, Joshua 18:13. Baalath A city in the tribe of Dan, Joshua 19:44. And Tadmor in the wilderness The name of this city signifies wonderful, or admirable, and it was so named, probably, from the singularity of the thing, in finding here springs and wells of water, and other conveniences to subsist a city, among such horrid and parched sands, with which it was on all sides surrounded. It is probable that Solomon built this city among the deserts to hinder the communication between the Syrians and the inhabitants of Mesopotamia, that they might not join their forces in confederacy together against the Israelites, as they had done in the time of David. This city appears to have been the same which was afterward called Palmyra by the Greeks, the ruins of which still remain. Some English gentlemen of credit and fortune visited it about the year 1750, who have published such a description of the exceeding magnificence and beauty of its ruins, at this day, as is astonishing. We refer our readers to that publication, not only that they may receive great pleasure, but great improvement; since it is not possible to conceive higher ideas of Solomon’s magnificence than these ruins present, nor more humiliating ideas of the vanity and weakness of all human splendour. See Messrs. Dawkin’s and Wood’s Ruins of Palmyra. In the land Of Hamath Zoba, a part of Syria, as is said 2 Chronicles 8:3-4, which country Solomon had conquered. And all the cities of store that Solomon had Where he laid up corn against a time of need; or arms and ammunition in case of war. And cities for his chariots and his horsemen Which he had in great numbers.

Verses 20-21

1 Kings 9:20-21. All the people that were left of the Amorites Who, it is likely, by this time were become proselytes to the Jewish religion, as the Gibeonites were, or at least renounced their idolatry. Upon those did Solomon levy a tribute He used them as bond-men, and imposed bodily labours upon them. “But why did not Solomon destroy them, as God had commanded, when now it was fully in his power to do so?” The command to destroy them, (Deuteronomy 7:2,) did chiefly, if not only, concern that generation of Canaanites who lived in or near the time of the Israelites entering into Canaan. And that command seems not to have been absolute, but conditional, and with some exception for those who should submit and embrace the true religion, as may be gathered both from Joshua 11:19, and from the history of the Gibeonites. For if God’s command had been absolute, the oaths of Joshua, and of the princes, could not have obliged them, nor dispensed with such a command.

Verses 22-23

1 Kings 9:22-23. Of the children of Israel did Solomon make no bond-men He spared them, and did not employ them in any servile labours about his public works, but put them into nobler offices, as it here follows. They were men of war Which was accounted an honourable employment. And his servants Officers in his court. And his princes Governors of provinces. And his captains, &c. Commanders of his guards. Five hundred and fifty In 2 Chronicles 8:10, they are said to be but two hundred and fifty. But perhaps the meaning there is, that there were two hundred and fifty set over those that wrought in the temple; the rest probably being employed in overseeing his public works in other places. And it must be observed also, that there were far greater numbers employed when the temple work was carried on with great speed.

Verse 24

1 Kings 9:24. Pharaoh’s daughter came up, &c. In 2 Chronicles 8:11, we learn the reason why she did not continue in the house where David had dwelt; which was because it was a kind of holy place, where it was not fit she should remain, the ark of God having dwelt there.

Verse 25

1 Kings 9:25. Three times in a year did Solomon offer burnt offerings That is, at least three times, namely, at the three solemn feasts which God had commanded to be observed by till the people. Then he offered sacrifices suitable to those great mercies which were at these seasons commemorated, and to the great blessings which God had bestowed on his family. But undoubtedly he also offered at all other appointed times. And he burned incense upon the altar In the holy place, before the ark. The meaning is not that he burned it himself, but only that he gave it to the priests at his own charge, to be offered with a particular respect to him. This he probably did every morning and evening. So he finished the house This, though said before, is now repeated, because, after he had kept the three great festivals there, the temple was not only consecrated, but all divine offices had been performed in it, and nothing more was to be added.

Verses 26-27

1 Kings 9:26-27. King Solomon made a navy of ships Not now, in the order in which it is placed in the history, but in the beginning of his reign; as appears from this consideration, that the almug-trees, used in the work of the Lord’s house, were brought in this navy from Ophir, ( 1Ki 10:11-12 ; 2 Chronicles 9:10-11,) which was a three years voyage, 1 Kings 9:22. And Hiram sent in the navy his servants The navy was Solomon’s, who had servants of his own on board the ships, to manage the traffic; but as they had no skill in navigation, Hiram sent as many sailors as were necessary to man the ships, the Tyrians being in general bred at sea, and famous for their knowledge in maritime affairs.

Verse 28

1 Kings 9:28. They came to Ophir A place famous for gold, which was found there in great plenty, and peculiarly fine. It is highly probable that this place was in India, but in what part of it is not easy to determine. Bochart thinks it was Taprobana, now called Ceylon, and shows that the account which the ancients give of the former, answers to that which the moderns give of the latter. It is certain that this island affords gold, ivory, and precious stones. The authors of the Universal History after confuting at large those opinions which seemed to them less probable, observe as follows: “Ophir appears most likely to have been in some of those remote, rich countries of India beyond the Ganges, and perhaps as far as China or Japan; which last still abounds with the finest gold, and several other commodities in which Solomon’s fleet dealt, as silver, precious stones, ebony, and other valuable sorts of wood, to say nothing of spices, peacocks, parrots, apes, and other such creatures; and by its distance best answers to the length of the voyage.” Gold, four hundred and twenty talents It is said ( 2Ch 8:18 ) that they brought four hundred and fifty; but we may well suppose that thirty talents might be partly spent in the charges of the voyage to and fro, and partly allowed to Hiram and his men; so that only four hundred and twenty came clear into the king’s treasury. This, however, was a prodigious sum, being calculated to be above three millions two hundred thousand pounds sterling. How they obtained this vast quantity of gold, whether by exchanging various merchandises for it, or by finding out mines, or procuring it from the natives, does not appear.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 9". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-kings-9.html. 1857.
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