Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, May 19th, 2024
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 4

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-19


SOLOMON'S STATE AND COURT OFFICIALS.—The account of Solomon's marriage and entry upon his religious and judicious functions is appropriately followed by a description of his court, of the great functionaries of the realm, of his royal state and magnificence, and, lastly, of his varied and unprecedented wisdom. It must not be supposed, however, from the occurrence of the lists in this particular place, that they necessarily represent the appointments of the early part of Solomon's reign. The mention of two of the married daughters of the king (1 Kings 4:11, 1 Kings 4:15) has been generally thought to prove that the record belongs to a much later period, and it certainly affords a powerful presumption in favour of a later date. Too much stress, however, must not be laid on this consideration, as the girls of the East marry early, and these may well have been given to officers much their seniors, who had long been in office, and who had merited this distinction (cf. Joshua 15:16; 1 Samuel 17:25; 1 Samuel 18:17) by the important services they had rendered to the State. Ewald sees in these lists unmistakeable evidence of compilation from the public archives. But see Introduction, sect. 6. If the historians of Israel were the prophets, nothing is more natural than that they should record such details of the Augustan age of their race.

1 Kings 4:1

So King Solomon was king over all Israel [All later kings ruled but a part of the land of Israel, as also did David at first.]

1 Kings 4:2

And these were the princes [i.e. ministers, officers. Cf. 2 Samuel 8:15-18, and 2 Samuel 20:23-26] which he had, Azariah the son [i.e; descendant, probably grandson. See on 1 Chronicles 6:10] of Zadok the priest. [We are here confronted by two questions of considerable difficulty. First, to whom does the title "priest" here belong, to Azariah or to Zadok? Second, what are we to understand by the term, a spiritual, or a more or less secular person—ἱερεύς or βουλευτής? As to

1. the Vulgate (sacerdotis) and apparently the Authorized Version, with the Rabbins, Luther, and many later expounders, connect the title with Zadok (who is mentioned as priest in verse 4), and understand that Azariah, the son of the high priest Zadok, was, together with the sons of Shisha, one of the scribes (verse 3). It is true that this view obviates some difficulties, but against it are these considerations.

(1) The accents.

(2) The Chaldee and LXX. (ὁ ἱερεύς Cod. Alex.; Cod. Vat. omits the words) Versions.

(3) Hebrew usage, according to which the patronymic is regarded as almost parenthetical.

(4) The fact that in every other case in this list the title is predicate nominative (verses 3-6).

(5) The position of Azariah's name, first in the list—a position which would hardly be assigned to a scribe.

(6) The absence of any copula ()ו, which, it is submitted, would be required if Azariah and the sons of Shisha alike were scribes. The question is one of some nicety, but the balance of evidence is distinctly in favour of connecting the title with Azariah, i.e; "Azariah son of Zadok was the priest." This brings us to

2. What are we to understand by "the priest "—הַכֹהֵן? It is urged by Keil, Bähr, al. that this cannot mean "priest" in the ordinary sense of the word, still less "high priest," for the following reasons:

(1) Because the high priests of Solomon are mentioned presently, viz; Abiathar and Zadok, and the Jews never had three high priests.

(2) Because the Azariah who was high priest under Solomon for the words of 1 Chronicles 6:10, "He it is that executed the priest's office," etc, must belong to the Azariah of verse 9, and have got accidentally misplaced—was the son of Ahimaaz, not of Zadok.

(3) Because no grandson of Zadok could then be old enough to sustain the office of high priest.

(4) Because in one passage (2 Samuel 8:18, compared with 1 Chronicles 18:17) כֹהֲנִים is used of privy councillors and of the sons of David, who cannot have been sacrificing priests. Keil consequently would understand that Azariah was "administrator of the kingdom, or prime minister." Similarly Bähr. But in favour of the ordinary meaning of the word are these powerful considerations:

(1) All the versions translate the word by "priest," i.e; they understand by the term a spiritual person.

(2) Whatever may be the case with כֹהֵן, הַכֹהֵן, "the priest" (par excellence) can only be understood of the high priest.

(3) It is extremely doubtful whether כֹהֵן is ever used except in the sense of ἱερεύς, Rawlinson, who says it sometimes indicates "a civil officer, with perhaps a semi-priestly character," refers to Gesenius sub hac voce, who, however, distinctly affirms that the word only means priest, and accounts for the application of the term to the sons of David (2 Samuel 8:18) on the supposition that the Jews had priests who were not of the tribe of Levi. The question is discussed with great learning by Professor Plumptre (Dict. Bib; art. "Priest"), who suggests that "David and his sons may have been admitted, not to distinctively priestly functions, such as burning incense (Numbers 16:40; 2 Chronicles 26:18), but to an honorary, titular priesthood. To wear the ephod in processions (2 Samuel 6:14) at the time when this was the special badge of the order (1 Samuel 22:18), to join the priests and Levites in their songs and dances, might have been conceded, with no deviation from the Law, to the members of the royal house." There is one difficulty however in the way of accepting this ingenious and otherwise sufficient explanation, namely, that it seems hardly likely that the title of priest would be freely accorded by Hebrew writers to men who were expressly excluded from all "distinctively priestly functions," especially after the use of the same word in the preceding verse (17) to designate the high priest. And I venture to suggest that the discharge by David's sons of the semi-priestly functions just referred to occasioned so much remark as to head to the application of the term "priest" to them in a special conventional sense; in fact, that it became a sort of soubriquet, which rather implied that they were not priests than that they were. (Notice the order of 2 Samuel 8:18, Hebrews) And observe

(4) if we are to understand by "the priest" in verse 2, "prime minister;" by "priests" in verse 4, "high priests," and by "priest" in verse 5, "principal officer," language has no certain meaning.

(5) The mention of Azariah as "the priest" in the same list with Zadok and Abiathar is easily accounted for. We know that Abiathar was deposed at the beginning of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 2:27), and Zadok must then have been an old man. Their names consequently are recorded (verse 4) because they were high priests for a brief period of the reign, but Azariah is mentioned first as "the priest" because he was high priest during most of the time.

(6) "Azariah the son of Zadok" is quite compatible with the fact that Azariah was really the son of Ahimaaz. בֵּן is constantly used in the sense of "descendant," and especially "grandson." (Genesis 29:5 : Genesis 31:28, Genesis 31:55 : and see on Genesis 2:8,"the son of Gera.") Zadok is no doubt mentioned as better known than Ahimaaz, and probably because Azariah succeeded him directly in the office.

(7) The age of Azariah must be uncertain, and Solomon's reign was a long one.

(8) The position of his name—first—accords well with the idea that he was high priest, which I conclude that he was. It is worthy of remark that in the lists of David the military officers of the kingdom occupy the first place; in those of Solomon, the civil and religious dignitaries. "The princes of Solomon are, with one exception (verse 4) ministers of peace."—Wordsworth.

1 Kings 4:3

Elihoreph and Ahiah, the sons of Shisha [probably the same person who is mentioned in 2 Samuel 20:25 as Sheva; in 2 Samuel 8:17, as Seraiah; and in 1 Chronicles 18:16, as Shavsha, David's scribe. The office thus descended from father to sons. The variations in this name are instructive. Compare Kishi and Kushaiah, Abijah and Abijam, Michaiah and Maachah, Absalom and Abishalom, etc. Names written ex ore dictantis are sure to differ. See below on 1 Chronicles 18:12], scribes [the scribes, סֹפְדִים, were Secretaries of State: they wrote letters and proclamations, drew up edicts, and apparently kept the accounts (2 Kings 12:10). Their position in the list indicates their importance]; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, the recorder. [He held the same office under David, and is mentioned in all three lists (2 Samuel 8:17; 2 Samuel 20:25; 1 Chronicles 18:15). The recorder or "remembrancer" (marg.) was, perhaps, "chancellor" (Keil), or keeper of the king's conscience, rather than, as is generally supposed, chronicler of public events, and keeper of the archives. See Introduction, sect. 6.]

1 Kings 4:4

And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada [see on 1 Kings 1:32] was [the A. V. supplies was and were quite needlessly in this and succeeding verses. This is simply a list of Solomon's princes and of the offices they discharged] over the host [cf. 1 Kings 2:35]: and Zadok and Abiathar were the priests [the mention of Abiathar's name after his deposition (1 Kings 2:27, 1 Kings 2:35) has occasioned much remark, and has even led to the belief that he was subsequently pardoned and restored to office (Clericus). Theodoret remarks quite truly, τὴν ἀρχὴν ἀφείλατο οὐ τῆς ἱερωσύνης ἐγύμνωσεν, and similarly Grotius. But a simpler explanation is that his name is put down here because he had been high priest, though for a brief period only, under Solomon. See above on 1 Kings 2:2.]

1 Kings 4:5

And Azariah the son of Nathan [Azariah was clearly not an uncommon name (verse. 2, and cf. 1 Chronicles 2:39; 1Ch 5:1-26 :36-40 Hebrews; A.Hebrews 6:9-14), especially in the high priest's family. Keil and Bähr pronounce somewhat positively that this Nathan is not the prophet of that name, but Nathan the son of David (2 Samuel 5:14; Luke 3:31). It is quite impossible to decide with certainty which is meant, if either, though Zechariah 12:12 undoubtedly favours the supposition that the latter is here intended] was over the officers [the twelve prefects mentioned in Zechariah 12:7 sqq.]: and Zabud the son of Nathan was principal officer [Heb. priest, Vulg. sacerdos. Singularly, as before, the LXX. (Vat.) omits the word. The expression can hardly mean "the son of Nathan the priest," but it may either signify that "Zabud ben Nathan, a priest, was king's friend," or that (as in the A. V.) he was a priest and king's friend. But the former is every way preferable. I find it easier to believe that the true import of 2 Samuel 8:18 the passage which is cited (sometimes along with 2 Samuel 20:26, where the LXX; however, has ἱερεύς) to prove that there were secular "priests"—is not yet understood, than to hold (with Gesenius, Ewald, etc.), that there were sacrificing priests who were not of the sons of Aaron (cf. 2 Chronicles 26:18), or that the word כהֵן, the meaning of which was thoroughly fixed and understood, can have been familiarly applied, except in the strictly conventional way already indicated, to lay persons], and [omit] the king's friend. ["This appears to have been now a recognized office (2 Samuel 15:37; 2 Samuel 16:16; 1 Chronicles 27:33)," Rawlinson.]

1 Kings 4:6

And Ahishar was over the household [steward and manager of the palace. We meet this office here for the first time, an evidence of the growing size and magnificence of the court (cf. 1 Kings 18:3; 2 Kings 18:18; Isaiah 22:15). That such an officer was needed, the fact mentioned below (on 1 Kings 4:23) as to the enormous size of the royal household will prove]: and Adoniram [see on 1 Kings 12:18] the son of Abda was over the tribute. [Marg. "levy," i.e; the forced labour (1 Kings 5:13, 1 Kings 5:14). See on 1 Kings 12:3.]

1 Kings 4:7

And Solomon had twelve officers [lit; persons "placed" or "set over" others, i.e; superintendents. The term is used of Doeg (1 Samuel 22:9). They were twelve, not because of the twelve tribes, but the twelve months] over all Israel, which provided victuals for [Heb. nourished] the king and his household: each man his month in a year made provision [lit; a month in the year it was (i.e; devolved) upon each to nourish. It has been thought by some that these superintendents were also governors of provinces (ἡγενισισόνες καὶ σταηγοί, Jos. Ant. 8.2, 3), as well as purveyors. But of this nothing is said in the text. Their principal function was to collect the royal dues or taxes which were evidently paid, as they still are in the East, in kind].

1 Kings 4:8

And these are their names [the order is not geographical, nor do the districts correspond, except roughly, with the territories of the tribes. The order is probably that of the months for which they were severally responsible, and the districts were marked out according to the capabilities of the country.]: The son of Hur [Heb. as marg; Ben Hur. Of the twelve prefects, five are only known by their patronymics, for it is hardly likely that these are proper names, like Ben-hanan and Ben-zoheth (1 Chronicles 4:20). No satisfactory explanation of this curious circumstance has hitherto been given. The most probable is that in the document from which this list was compiled, the part of the page containing the missing names had been accidentally destroyed], in mount Ephraim. [See on 1 Kings 12:25. This district, which practically coincided with the territory of Ephraim, was one of the most fertile in Palestine. Hence, possibly, it stands first.]

1 Kings 4:9

The son of Dekar [Ben. Dekar], in Makaz [unknown otherwise], and in Shaalbim [Joshua 19:42; Judges 1:35] and Beth-shemesh [called Irshemesh, Joshua 19:41. Now 'Ain Shemes], and Elon-beth-hanan. [Elon, Joshua 19:43. Probably Beth-hanan is a different place, the "and" ()ו having accidentally dropped out of the text. The LXX. (ἕως Βηθανὰν) favours this view. It has been identified by Robinson with Beit Hunun. This second district embraces Daniel]

1 Kings 4:10

The son of Hesed [Ben. Hosed], in Aruboth (Heb. Arubboth, unknown]; to him pertained Sochoh [there were two cities of this name, one in the mountain (Joshua 15:48), and one in the "valley" (the Shefelah, Joshua 15:33, Joshua 15:35), and both in the tribe of Judah, from which, therefore, this third district was taken], and all the land of Hepher. [Joshua 12:17. Ewald holds that this place was in Manasseh, and that "it is impossible in the twelve districts to find any portion of… Judah." But see above.]

1 Kings 4:11

The son of Abinadab [Ben Abinadab. Possibly the Abinadab of 1 Samuel 16:8; 1 Samuel 17:13. If so, this officer, who married Solomon's daughter, was also his cousin], in [Heb. omits] all the region [נָפָה, height; the term is only used in connection with Dor] of Dor [Joshua 11:2; Joshua 12:23; Joshua 17:11. Dor, now represented by the miserable village of Tantura, lies on the strand of the Mediterranean, north of Caesarea. A "spur of Mount Camel, steep and partially wooded, runs parallel to the coastline, at the distance of about a mile and a half" (Porter). This is the "height of Dor." Thenius supposes this fourth district embraced the plain of Sharon. Josephus (8. 2. 3.) limits this prefecture to the sea coast, which may well include Sharon. Indeed, without it, this district would have been destitute of cornlands] which had Taphath, the daughter of Solomon, to wife. ["It has always been a practice amongst Oriental potentates to attach to themselves the more important of their officers by giving them for wives princesses of the royal house .... The practice of polygamy has generally enabled them to carry out this system to a very wide extent" (Rawlinson).

1 Kings 4:12

Baana, the son of Ahilud [cf. 1 Kings 4:3. Probably the recorder's brother], to him pertained [the original, true to its character as a list, omits these words, simply giving the name of the officer and then the towns of his district or province] Taanach and Megiddo [similarly associated, Joshua 12:21; Judges 5:19; Judges 1:27. These towns, which became famous in later Jewish history (2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chronicles 35:22), lay at the foot of the E. spurs of Carmel, on the margin of the plain of Esdraelon. See Conder's "Tent Work in Palestine," p. 67] and all Bethshean [Joshua 17:11, Joshua 17:16; Judges 1:27. Otherwise Bethshan (1 Samuel 31:10, 1 Samuel 31:12; 2 Samuel 21:12), now Beisan. The LXX. here translate the word ὁ οῖκος Σὰν; elsewhere they write βαιθσὰν or βαιθσὰμ, and in Judges 1:27 explain ἥ ἐστι Σκυθῶν πόλις, hence its later name Scythopolis. Rawlinson, by an oversight, interprets the name to mean "house of the sun," which is the translation of Bethshemesh. Bethshan prob. means "house of rest." "The site of the town is on the brow of the descent by which the great plain of Esdraelon drops down to the level of the Ghor." The present writer was much struck by its situation. See Conder, pp. 233, 234. The text shows that it gave its name to the adjoining district], which is by Zartanah [probably the Zaretan of Joshua 3:16 and the Zarthan (same word in the Heb.) of 1 Kings 7:46, which place is called Zeredathah in 2 Chronicles 4:17, and is probably the Zererath of Judges 7:22. (The variations in spelling are again to be noticed). Here Solomon cast the Temple vessels. By some it is identified with Kurn Sartabeh, a few miles below Bethshan. It is noticeable (in connexion with Joshua 3:1-17.Joshua 3:16) that at this point the Jordan valley narrows (Keil). It occupies high ground and commands an extensive view (Robinson)] beneath [or below] Jezreel [Wordsworth remarks that "Jezreel, now Zerin, is a lofty site." But the idea of "beneath" is not that of depression, but of geographical position = the district southeast of Jezreel] from [LXX. and from) Bethshean to Abelmeholah [lit. meadow of the dance. It lay ten miles south of Bethshean. It is mentioned in connexion with Zererath (Zaretan) in Judges 7:22, but is best known as the home of Elisha (1 Kings 19:16)] even unto the place that is beyond [Heb. unto the other side of] Jokneam. [Properly, Jokmeam. Identified by the Survey with Tell Keimun. A Levitical town (1 Chronicles 6:68) probably the same as Kibzaim (cf. Joshua 21:22). This district coincided practically with the tribe of Manasseh. It embraced a part (see verse 17) of the fertile plain of Esdraelon and of the Jordan valley.]

1 Kings 4:13

The son of Geber [possibly son of the Geber mentioned in 1 Kings 4:19] in Ramothgilead [two districts east of the Jordan are now enumerated. And first, the territory of Gad. Bamoth-gilead was a Levitical city (Deuteronomy 4:43; Joshua 21:38). Its selection as a city of refuge (Joshua 20:8), and as the seat of Bengeber's prefecture, together with the constant wars waged for its possession (1 Kings 22:3; 2 Kings 8:28; 2 Kings 9:14) show that it was a position of great strength and importance]; to him pertained the towns of Jair [the Havoth Jair are strictly the lives (i.e; villages, because men live there) of Jair. So Gesenius, who cites Eisleben and similar names] the son Manasseh [it is doubtful whether the judge of that name (Judges 10:3) or Jair, the son of Segub (called a "son of Manasseh" in Numbers 32:41, because his grandmother was a daughter of the great Machir, though his father belonged to Judah, 1 Chronicles 2:21), is intended. Probably it is the latter. (They can hardly be one and the same person, though they are often identified, as, e.g; in the Speaker's Comm. on Judges 10:3. But they belong to different periods.) Curiously enough, the Havoth Jair are mentioned in connexion with each (see Numbers 32:41; Deuteronomy 3:4, Deuteronomy 3:5, Deuteronomy 3:14; Jos 13:30; 1 Chronicles 2:22; Judges 10:4), but in every ease except the last the reference is to the son of Segub. As the judge was probably one of his descendants, it is not surprising that the judge's sons should possess some of the villages of Jair], which are in Gilead; to him also pertained the region [חֶבֶל, lit; measuring cord, came to signify the region measured] of Argob [elsewhere "the Argob," i.e; the stony. This is the region subsequently known as Trachonitis, now called the Lejah. It is distinguished here and in Joshua 13:30, and 1 Chronicles 2:22 from the Gileadite district just mentioned, with which it is sometimes confounded. Both seem to have been conquered by Jair, but the towns of the former bore the name of Havoth Jair and these of Bashan Havoth Jair. Cf. Deuteronomy 3:4, Deuteronomy 3:5,Deuteronomy 3:14 with Numbers 32:41. The latter consisted of threescore cities, with walls, gates, and bars. This remarkable district, twenty-two miles in length by fourteen in breadth, is "wholly composed of black basalt, which appears to have issued from innumerable pores in the earth in a liquid state .... Before cooling, its surface was violently agitated, and it was afterwards shattered and rent by convulsions .... Strange as it may seem, this ungainly and forbidding region is thickly studded with deserted cities and villages"] which is in Bashan, threescore great cities with walls and brazen bars. [These words are a reminiscence of Deuteronomy 3:4, Deuteronomy 3:5.]

1 Kings 4:14

Ahinadab the son of Iddo [probably the seer of that name, 2 Chronicles 9:29] had Mahanaim [Heb. to Mahanaim, as marg. That is, went, or was appointed, to Mahanaim. Rawlinson understands that his district was "from the places last mentioned to Mahanaim," but for this the usus loquendi of the writer would lead us to expect עַד. For Mahanaim, see Genesis 32:2; Joshua 13:26].

1 Kings 4:15

Ahimaaz [probably the son of Zadok, 2 Samuel 15:27; 2 Samuel 17:17] was in Naphtali; he also [like Ben-Abinadab, 2 Samuel 17:11] took Basmath the daughter of Solomon to wife.

1 Kings 4:16

Banaah [or Baana, the second prefect of that name (1 Kings 4:12). The names are identical in the Hebrew. In 2 Samuel 4:2 the name is Baanah] the son of Hushai [the Archite, David's friend. Cf. 2 Samuel 15:32] was in Asher and Aloth. [No town or district of this name is known. Probably the word should be Bealoth, as in the LXX; Syr; and Vulg. Our translators have taken the initial בְּ for a prefix, but it is almost certainly part of the name. There was a Baaloth in Judah (Joshua 15:24) and a Baaloth in Dan (ibid. 19:44), but neither of these can be meant here.]

1 Kings 4:17

Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar. [He had consequently the plain of Esdraelon, with the exception mentioned above, 1 Kings 4:12.]

1 Kings 4:18

Shimei the son of Elah [by some identified with the Shimei of 1 Kings 1:8. But see note there], in Benjamin. [It is noteworthy that Shimei was a Benjamite name, 2 Samuel 16:5, 2 Samuel 16:11.]

1 Kings 4:19

Geber the son of Uri was in the country of Gilead [i.e; he presided over the parts not already assigned to Bengeber (perhaps his son) and Ahinadab. Gilead is often used (see Deuteronomy 34:1; Judges 20:1) to designate all the country east of the Jordan. And so apparently here, for] the country of Sihon king of, the Amorites, and of Og king of Bashan] embraced the whole trans-Jordanic region, Deuteronomy 3:8; Numbers 21:24-35 : cf. Psalms 135:11; Psalms 136:19, Psalms 136:20]; and he was the only officer which was in the land. [This cannot mean "the only officer in Gilead," notwithstanding the great extent of territory—the usual interpretation—for that would contradict Psalms 136:13, Psalms 136:14. Nor can can it mean the only officer in his district, or portion, of Gilead, for that is self-evident, and the remark would apply equally to all the other prefects. And we are hardly justified in translating נְצִיב אֶחָד "he was the first (i.e; superior), officer" (set over those mentioned above, Psalms 136:13, Psalms 136:14), as Schulze. אֶחָד is used as an ordinal number, but it is only in connexion with days and years (Gesen. s.v.) Some, following the LXX. (εἷς ἐν γῇ ̓Ιούδα) would detach Judah from Psalms 136:20, where it must be allowed it occurs with a suspicious abruptness, and where the absence of the copula, so usual in the Hebrew, suggests a corruption of the text, and would connect it with this verse, which would then yield the sense, "and he was," (or "there was") "one officer which purveyed in the land of Judah." it is to be observed, however, that though no mention has as yet been made of Judah in any of the districts, yet the prefecture of Ben Hesed (Psalms 136:10) appears to have extended over this tribe, and the remark consequently seems superfluous. (Can it be the object of the writer to show that the royal tribe was not favoured or exempted from contributing its share?) On the whole, the difficulty would seem still to await a solution. We can hardly, in the teeth of Psalms 136:7, suppose with Ewald, al. that a thirteenth officer is here intended.


1 Kings 4:2

The Servants of Solomon.

"These were the princes which he had." "All Scripture is… profitable for instruction," etc. A bare list of names may teach some lessons. We shall find in this list, first, some proofs of Solomon's wisdom, and secondly, some principles to guide our own conduct. First, however, let us remember that to select faithful and efficient servants is one of the most difficult tasks of rulers. The welfare of the whole State depends very largely on the choice. (Cf. Psalms 101:5-7.) Now observe that here—

I. THE FIRST PLACE IS FILLED BY GOD'S PRIEST (1 Kings 4:2). The minister of religion takes precedence of the ministers of state. The universal tendency is to put man first and God second. Solomon—if this list preserves the order of his arrangenments—put God first, in the person of His high priest. Under the theocracy the king was a sort of summus episcopus. It was meet that next to the anointed Prince should stand the anointed Pontiff.

II. PRIORITY IS GIVEN TO THE OFFICERS OF PEACE (1 Kings 4:3, 1 Kings 4:4). Scribes come before warriors. In David's day it was otherwise. But there has been an advance, and here is the proof of it. War is essentially barbarous. Among savage tribes warfare is chronic. As men become wiser and more civilized, the appeal to brute force is less frequent. Wiser, for war means unwisdom somewhere. More civilized, for the history of civilization tells how the wager of battle, which is now confined to nations, was once employed by tribes, provinces, and private persons. So that, in this particular, the wise son was greater than the pious father. For this reason Solomon may build the temple which his father's blood-red hand may not touch. For this reason the son, not the father, is the favourite type of the Prince of Peace. One of the world's greatest generals (Napoleon) said there were but two great powers, the sword and the pen, and that, in the long run, the former was sure to be overcome by the latter. Solomon would seem to have been of the same opinion. The "scribes" and the "recorder" precede the "captain of the host."

III. MANY PLACES ARE FILLED BY THE FUNCTIONARIES OF HIS FATHER (1 Kings 4:3, 1Ki 4:4, 1 Kings 4:6, and cf. 1 Kings 4:16). An Eastern autocrat generally appoints his associates of the harem (1 Kings 12:10), his personal favourites, to positions of trust. Solomon showed his wisdom in retaining the faithful servants of his predecessor (compare the folly of Rehoboam, 1 Kings 12:8), and his example thus confirms his precept (Proverbs 27:10), "Thine own friend and thy father's friend forsake not."

IV. SOME PLACES ARE FILLED BY HIS OWN SONS-IN-LAW (1 Kings 4:11, 1 Kings 4:15). This does not argue nepotism, or favouritism as the hand of the king's daughter was often bestowed as the reward of distinguished services (1 Samuel 17:25; 1 Samuel 18:17, 1 Samuel 18:27). It may have been the due recognition of fidelity and ability. In any case the alliances would strengthen Solomon's throne.

"The friends thou hast, and their adoption, tried,
Grapple them to thy heart with hooks of steel."

Alien princes would, no doubt, have been proud to espouse Solomon's daughters, but he preferred to marry them to faithful subjects. Blood is thicker than water.

V. ALL PLACES OF TRUST WERE FILLED BY PERSONS OF PIETY. The number of priests' or prophets' sons employed by Solomon is very remarkable (1 Kings 4:4, 1 Kings 4:5, 1 Kings 4:14, and possibly 15). He knew that those who were taught in the law of the Lord would best keep and best enforce the law of the realm. Those who "fear God" are those who "honour the king" (1 Peter 2:17). Witness Joseph, Obadiah, Daniel, and the three Hebrew children. Even irreligious masters know the value of God-fearing servants. God blesses the house of Potiphar for the sake of its pious steward. Piety involves probity and excludes peculation and malfeasance.

VI. EVERY OFFICER HAD HIS PLACE AND KEPT IT. There were definite duties, definite districts. The prefectures were so many parishes. Each was responsible for his own and for that only. Order is Heaven's first law. The prosperity of Solomon's reign may have been largely due to his system and method. There is a hierarchy and a due order in heaven. The angels would almost seem to have their districts (Deuteronomy 32:8, LXX.) The great King gives "to every man according to his work" (Mark 13:34).

1 Kings 4:7-19

The Twelve Prefects and the Twelve Apostles.

"And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel." Considering how closely he foreshadows our blessed Lord, the twelve officers of Solomon can hardly fail to remind us of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. It may be instructive to compare their dignities, functions, etc. Observe—

I. THEIR RESPECTIVE POSITIONS. The officers of Solomon were princes (1 Kings 4:2); the officers of Jesus were peasants and fishermen. Ability, energy, etc; dictated Solomon's choice; humility, dependence, weakness, our] Blessed Lord's (Matthew 18:3, Matthew 18:4; Matthew 23:11; and cf. Matthew 11:11). "Not many mighty, not many noble are called," etc. (1 Corinthians 1:26). "Unlearned and ignorant men" (Acts 4:13).

II. THEIR RESPECTIVE REPUTATIONS. The officers of Solomon were reverenced and feared; the apostles of our Lord ,were despised and defamed. Each of the twelve prefects was, no doubt, a little potentate. The court of Abinadab in Mahanaim, or Shimei in Benjamin, would be a copy in miniature of that of the king in Jerusalem. And we know what the Eastern tax-gatherer is like, what despotic powers he wields, etc. Witness the Pashas and Valis of Turkey. How different were the twelve apostles. The contrast could not well be greater. "Hated of all men," esteemed "the filth and offscouring of all things; .... a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men" (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). What the life of an apostle was like we may learn from 2 Corinthians 11:24-29. "Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled and live delicately are in king's courts" (1 Luke 7:25). "Behold, we have forsaken all and followed thee" (Matthew 19:27).

III. THEIR RESPECTIVE JURISDICTIONS. The twelve officers presided over tribes; the twelve apostles ministered to continents. The whole of Palestine is about the size of Wales, and this strip of territory was divided into twelve parts. Compare with this the apostolic commission, "GO ye into all the world," etc. "Ye shall be witnesses unto me .... unto the uttermost part of the earth" Judaism was tribal religion; the faith of Christ is for humanity.


1. The twelve officers were receivers-general; the twelve apostles were general givers. The first took from the people to give to the king: the latter received from their King to bestow on the people. To the former, the subjects of Solomon brought taxes or tribute; the latter have obtained blessings and gifts from their Lord for men. (Cf. Acts 1:8; Acts 2:18; Act 8:18; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6, etc.) "It is more blessed to give," etc.

2. The officers nourished the king (2 Corinthians 11:27, Heb.) and his armies: the apostles fed the Church. (Cf. Acts 20:28.) The 14,000 dependants of the court, the 4000 charioteers, the 12,000 horsemen, all were maintained by the twelve purveyors. Through the apostles, the Lord fed, now 4000, now 7000, and through them, their doctrine and their successors, He still feeds, with word and sacrament, the millions of the Church. So far the comparison is largely in favour of the prefects. As regards this world's gifts and dignities, they bear away the palm. In their lifetime they received their good things and the apostles evil things. But an old authority—it is the dictum of Solon to Croesus (Herod. 1:30-38)—warns us to pronounce on no man's fortune or happiness until we have seen the end. And the real end is not in this world. Let us therefore consider

(1) What is the verdict of posterity? And

(2) What will be the issue of futurity as to these two classes? Here we observe -

I. THE NAMES OF SOME OF THE PREFECTS ARE FORGOTTEN; THE NAMES OF THE APOSTLES ARE IN EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE. The fame of Solomon's twelve was shortlived. Several of them are now known to us only by their patronymics. Those much dreaded satraps, before whom subjects trembled, their very names are in some cases lost in oblivion. But the apostolic college, every member is still famed, reverenced, loved throughout the whole round world. Their names are heard, Sunday by Sunday, in the Holy Gospel (cf. Matthew 26:18). Better still, their "names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20; cf. Philippians 4:3). As to

II. THE TWELVE APOSTLES WILL JUDGE THE TWELVE PREFECTS. In their time, the latter sate on twelve thrones, each in his capital city, ruling the twelve tribes of Israel. But their glory, like that of the Roman general's pageant, "lacked continuance." In the midst of their brief authority

"Comes the blind Fury with the abhorred shears
And slits the thin-spun life."

The dominion of the apostles is in the future. It belongs to the "regeneration." "When the Son of Man"—the true Son of David—"shall sit on the throne of his glory," then shall they "sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes," etc. (Matthew 19:28). The despised fishermen shall judge the high and mighty officers—yes, and magnificent Solomon himself. Even now, it may be, their glory is in part begun.

"Lo, the twelve, majestic princes
In the court of Jesus sit,
Calmly watching all the conflict
Raging still beneath their feet."

Shall we follow the officers of Solomon, or the twelve apostles of the Lamb? Shall we, that is, desire earthly advancement, high position, contemporary fame, or shall we count all as dross that we may "win Christ and be found in Him" (Philippians 3:8-11). "What shall it profit a man, if he gain," etc. We cannot all be ἡγενισισόνες καὶ στρατήγοι, still less can we all wed kings' daughters. But we may all sit with Christ upon His throne (Revelation 3:21); may all receive the crown of life (Romans 2:10); may all be "called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb" (Revelation 19:7-9).

Verses 20-34


SOLOMON'S RULE, STATE, AND WISDOM.—The remainder of this chapter, which de-scribes to us the extent and character of Solomon's sway (1 Kings 4:20, 1 Kings 4:21, 1 Kings 4:24, 1 Kings 4:25), the pomp and provision of his household (1 Kings 4:22, 1 Kings 4:23, 1 Kings 4:26-28), and his profound and varied wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34), has every appearance of a compilation from different sources. It scarcely has the order and coherence which we should find in the narrative of a single writer.

1 Kings 4:20

Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude [a reminiscence of Genesis 13:16; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12 (cf. Genesis 3:8). In the reign of Solomon these promises had their fulfilment], eating and drinking, and making merry. [Cf. 1 Samuel 30:16. The Hebrew here begins a new chapter. The LXX. omits 1Sa 30:20, 1 Samuel 30:21, 1 Samuel 30:25, 1 Samuel 30:26, and places 1 Samuel 30:27, 1 Samuel 30:28, "and those officers," etc; after the list of prefects, 1 Samuel 30:19.]

1 Kings 4:21

And Solomon reigned [Heb. was reigning] over all kingdoms [Heb. the kingdoms. That is, as suzerain, as is explained presently. So that Psalms 72:10, Psalms 72:11 had its fulfilment] from the river [i.e; the Euphrates, the river of that region: so called Genesis 31:21; Exo 23:1-33 :81; 2 Samuel 10:16. In Genesis 15:18 it is called "the great river, the river Euphrates." Similarly Joshua 1:4] unto [not in the Hebrew. It is found in the parallel passage, 2 Chronicles 9:26, and perhaps we may safely supply it here. Its omission may have been occasioned by the recurrence of the same word (עַד) presently. Some would render, "reigned… over the land," etc; supplying בְּ in thought from above. But "unto" seems to be required after "from." Cf. 2 Chronicles 9:24] the land of the Philistines [this, i.e; the Mediterranean shore, was the western border of his realm], and unto the border of Egypt [this was his southern boundary. We have here a reference to Genisis 2 Chronicles 15:18, the promise which now first received its fulfilment]: they brought presents [i.e; tribute. Similar expressions, 2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Kings 17:3, 2 Kings 17:4, and especially Psalms 72:10. What the presents were we are told 1 Kings 10:25, where, however, see note], and served Solomon all the days of his life.

The daily consumption of the royal household is now related to show the grandeur and luxury of the court. And it agreed well with the greatness of the kingdom. The lavish provision of Oriental palaces was evidently a subject of wonder and of boasting to the ancients, as the inscriptions and monuments show.

1 Kings 4:22

And Solomon's provision [marg. bread, but לֶחֶם, strictly signifies any kind of food] for one day was thirty measures [Heb. cots. The כֹר was both a liquid and a dry measure (Hebrews 5:11) and was the equivalent to the homer (Ezekiel 45:14), but its precise capacity is doubtful. According to Josephus, it contained eighty-six gallons; according to the Rabbins, forty-four] of fine flour and threescore measures of meal. [Thenius calculates that this amount of flour would yield 28,000 lbs. of bread, which (allowing 2 lbs. to each person) would give 14,000 as the number of Solomon's retainers. This computation, however, could have but little value did not his calculations, based on the consumption of flesh, mentioned presently (allowing 1.5 lbs. per head), lead to the same result.

1 Kings 4:23

Ten fat [Heb. fatted, i.e; for table] oxen, and twenty fat oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, beside harts and roebucks [or gazelles] and fallowdeer [Roebucks. The name Yahmur is still current in Palestine in this sense], and fatted fowl [This word (בַּרְבֻּדִים) occurs nowhere else. The meaning most in favour is geese.]

1 Kings 4:24

For [the connexion seems to be: Solomon could well support such lavish expenditure, because] he had dominion over all the region on this side [בְּעֵבֶר strictly means, on the other side, beyond (עָבַר, transiit). But here it must obviously mean on the west side, for Solomon's rule did not extend east of the Euphrates. The use of this word in this sense (Joshua 5:1; Joshua 9:1; Joshua 12:7; 1 Chronicles 26:30; Ezra 8:36; Nehemiah 2:7) is generally accounted for on the supposition that the writers were living in Babylon in the time of the captivity; but this appears to be by no means certain. (See, e.g; Ezra 4:10, Ezra 4:11.) The truth seems to be, not that "the expression belonged to the time of the captivity, but was retained after the return anti without regard to its geographical signification, just, for instance, like the expression, Gallia Trans-alpina" (Bähr), but that from the first it was employed, now of one side, now of the other, of the Jordan; of the west in Genesis 1:10, Genesis 1:11; Joshua 9:1, etc.; of the east in Numbers 22:1; Numbers 32:32; "and even in the same chapter is used first of one and then of the other Deuteronomy 3:8, Deuteronomy 3:20, Deuteronomy 3:25" (Spk. Comm. on Deuteronomy 1:1), and that it was subsequently applied, with similar variations of meaning, to the Euphrates. See Introduction, sect. 5.] from Tiphsah [cf. 2 Kings 15:16, apparently the town on the west bank of the Euphrates, known to the Greeks as Thapsacus. It derived its name from the fact that the river at that point was fordable פָּסַח = pass over; תִּפְסַה = crossing. A bridge of boats was maintained here by the Persians. It was here that the river was forded by Cyrus and the Ten Thousand, and was crossed by the armies of Darius Codomannus and Alexander] to Azzah [i.e; Gaza, now called Guzzeh, the southernmost city of Philistia, ten miles from the Mediterranean, and the last town in Palestine on the Egyptian frontier. Cf. 2 Kings 15:21], over an the kings on this side the river ["Petty kings were numerous at this time in all the countries dependent upon Judaea" (Rawlinson). Cf. 1Sa 6:16; 2 Samuel 8:3-10; I Kings 2 Samuel 20:1. The "kings on this side the river" were those of Syria (2 Samuel 8:6. Cf. 2 Samuel 10:19) conquered by David, and of Philistia, 2 Samuel 8:1]: and he had peace on all sides [Heb. from all his servants] round about him [in fulfilment of 1 Chronicles 22:9. The objection of Thenius that this statement contradicts that of 1 Chronicles 11:23, sqq; is hardly deserving of serious notice. The reign of Solomon, on the whole, was undoubtedly a peaceful one.

1 Kings 4:25

And Judah and Israel [here we have the copula, the absence of which in 1 Kings 4:20 suggests a corruption or confusion of the text] dwelt safely [Heb. confidently. Cf. Judges 8:11; 1 Samuel 12:11], every man under his vine and under his fig tree. [A proverbial expression (see 2 Kings 18:31, where it is used by Rabshakeh; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10) to denote rest and the undisturbed enjoyment of the fruits of the earth, not necessarily, as Keil, "the most costly products of the land." In invasions, raids, etc; it is still the custom of the East to cut and carry off all the crops, and fruits. Wordsworth notices that the vine often" clustered on the walls of houses (Psalms 128:3), or around and over the courtyards", from Dan even to Beersheba [i.e; from the extreme northern to the extreme southern (not eastern, as the American translator of Bähr) boundary, Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20; 2 Samuel 3:10].

1 Kings 4:26

And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses [40,000 is certainly a clerical error, probably for 4000 (i.e; אַרְבָּיעים for אַרְבָּעָה). For

(1) in the parallel passage in Chronicles the number is stated as 4000.

(2) 4000 agrees, and 40,000 does not, with the other numbers here given.

The chariots, e.g; numbered 1400; the horsemen 12,000. Now for 1400 chariots the proper allowance of horses would be about 4000. We see from the monuments that it was customary to yoke two horses (seldom three) to a chariot; but a third or supernumerary horse was provided to meet emergencies or accidents. 4000 horses would hence be a liberal provision for Solomon's chariots, and it would also agree well with the number of his cavalry. 12,000 cavalry and 40,000 chariot horses are out of all proportion. As to stalls, it seems clear that in ancient, as in modern times, each horse had a separate crib (Vegetins in Bochart, quoted by Keil). Gesenius, however, understands by אֻרְוֹת, not stalls, but teams, or pairs] for his chariots [or chariotry: the word is singular and collective] and twelve hundred horsemen [rather, horses, i.e; riding or cavalry, as distinguished from chariot horses above. See note on 1 Kings 1:5. It has been supposed that this warlike provision is mentioned to account for the peace ("si vis pacem, para bellum") of Solomon's reign, and was designed to overawe the tributary kings. But it is more probable that the idea of the historian was, partly to exhibit the pomp and circumstance of Israel's greatest king, and partly to record a contravention of the law (Deuteronomy 17:16), which was one of the precursors of his fall].

1 Kings 4:27

And those [rather, these, i.e; the officers mentioned 1 Kings 4:7-19] officers provided victual for [Heb. nourished] king Solomon and for all that came unto king Solomon's table [we can hardly see here (with Keil) "a further proof of the blessings of peace." The words were probably suggested by the mental wonder how the cavalry, etc; could be maintained, and so the author states that this great number of horses and horsemen depended on the twelve purveyors for their food] every man in his month; they lacked nothing [rather, suffered nothing to be lacking. So Gesen.; and the context seems to require it].

1 Kings 4:28

Barley also [the food of horses at the present day in the East, where oats are not grown. (Cf. Hom. II. 5:196)] and straw for the horses and dromedaries [marg. mules or swift beasts. Coursers, or fleet horses of superior breed are intended. רֶכֶשׁ = Germ. Renner. These coursers were for the use of the king's messengers or posts. See Esther 8:10, Esther 8:14] brought they unto the place where the officers were ["officers" is not in the Hebrew. The LXX. and Vulg. supply "king "(the verb is singular, "was"). But the true meaning is to be gathered from Est 10:1-3 :26. There we learn that the horses were distributed in different towns throughout the land. To these different depots, therefore, the purveyors must forward the provender, "unto the place where it should be" (יִהְיֶה), not, as Rawlinson, "where the horses were."] every man according to his charge.

1 Kings 4:29

And God gave Solomon [in fulfilment of the promise of 1 Kings 3:12] wisdom and understanding (חָכְמָה, wisdom, knowledge; תְּבוּנָה, discernment, penetration. The historian, after describing the prosperity of the realm, proceeds to speak of the personal endowments of its head] and largeness of heart exceeding much [the Easterns speak of the heart where we should talk of head or intellect (1Ki 3:9, 1 Kings 3:12; 1 Kings 10:24. Cf. Matthew 15:19; Ephesians 1:18 (Greek); Hebrews 4:12). The "large heart" is the ingenium capax, as Thenius. These different words indicate the variety and scope of his talents, in agreement with verse 33] as the sand that is on the seashore. [Same expression in Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12; Genesis 41:49; Joshua 11:4; Judges 7:12, etc.]

1 Kings 4:30

And Solomon's wisdom excelled [or exceeded; same word as in 1 Kings 4:29] the wisdom of all the children of the east country [By the Beni-Kedem we are hardly to understand (with Rawlinson) a distinct tribe on the banks of the Euphrates. It is true that the land of the Beni-Kedem is identified with Haran or Mesopotamia (Genesis 29:1), and the mountains of Kedem (Numbers 23:7) are evidently those of Aram. It is also true that "the children of the East" are apparently distinguished from the Amalekites and Midianites (Judges 6:8, Judges 6:33; Judges 7:12; Judges 8:10). It is probable, nevertheless, $hat the name is here employed to designate all the Arabian tribes east and southeast of Palestine—Sabaeans, Idumeans, Temanites, Chaldeans. What their wisdom was like, we may see in the Book of Job. Cf. Jeremiah 49:7; Obadiah 1:8] and all the wisdom of Egypt. [The learning of Egypt was of great repute in the Old World. It differed very considerably from the wisdom of Kedem, being scientific rather than gnomic (Isaiah 19:11, Isaiah 19:12; Isaiah 31:2, Isaiah 31:8; Acts 7:22) and including geometry, astronomy, magic, and medicine. See Jos; Ant. 8.2.5; Herod. 2.109. 160. Wilkinson, "Ancient Egyptians" vol. 2. pp. 316-465.

1 Kings 4:31

For (Heb. and) he was wiser than all men [Keil adds "of his time," but we have no right to restrict the words to his contemporaries (see note on 1 Kings 3:12). It is very doubtful whether the names mentioned presently are those of contemporaries] than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda [It is impossible to say whether these are the same persons as the Ethan and Heman and Chalcol and Dara of 1 Chronicles 2:6, or the Ethan and Heman who were David's singers. The resemblance is certainly remarkable. Not only are the names practically the same, but they occur in the same order. Our first impression, consequently, is that the two lists represent the same persons, and if so, these four sages were the "sons" of Zerah, the son of Judah (Genesis 38:30). But against this it is urged that Ethan is here called the Ezrahite, as are both Ethan and Heman in the titles of Psalms 89:1-52, and Psalms 88:1-18. respectively. The resemblance, however, of Ezrahite (אֶזְרָתִי) to Zerahite (זַרְתִי) is so close as to suggest identity rather than difference. There is, perhaps, more weight in the objection that Chalcol and Darda are here distinctly said to be "the sons of Mahol," though here again it has been observed that Mahol (מָחוֹל) means pipe or dance, and the "sons of Mahol," consequently, may merely be a synonym, agreeably to Eastern idiom (Ecclesiastes 12:4, with which cf. 2 Samuel 19:35), for "musicians." We may therefore allow that the four names may be those of sons (i.e; descendants) of Zerah. But the question now presents itself: Are Ethan and Heman to be identified with the well known precentors of David? Against their identity are these facts:

1. That Ethan the singer (1 Chronicles 6:31) is described as the son of Kishi (1 Chronicles 6:44), elsewhere called Kushaiah (1 Chronicles 15:17), and of the family of Merari; as a Levite that is, instead of a descendant of Judah, and that Heman, who is called the singer, or musician (1 Chronicles 6:33), and the "king's seer" (1 Chronicles 25:5) is said to be a son of Joel, a grandson of the prophet Samuel, and one of the Kohathite Levites (1 Chronicles 15:17). The first impression in this case, therefore, is that they must be distinct. But it should be remembered

(1) that the sons—in the strict sense—of Zerah are nowhere else named for their wisdom, whereas the royal singer and seer probably owed their appointments to their genius, and

(2) that though Levites, they may have been incorporated into the tribe of Judah. The Levite in Judges 17:7 is spoken of as belonging to the family of Judah, because he dwelt in Bethlehem of Judah, and Elkanah the Levite is called an Ephraimite in 1 Samuel 1:1, because in his civil capacity he was incorporated into the tribe of Ephraim" (Keil). It must be admitted, however, that the natural interpretation of 1 Chronicles 2:6 is that the "sons" of Zerah there mentioned were his immediate and actual descendants, and not Levites who long centuries afterwards were somehow incorporated into his family. But the question is one of so much nicety that it is hardly possible to come to a positive conclusion] and his fame [Heb. name] was in all [Heb. all the] nations round about. [Cf. Hebrews 10:24, etc.]

1 Kings 4:32

And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. [Of the former, less than one-third are preserved in the Book of Proverbs (see Proverbs 1:1; Proverbs 25:1); the rest are lost to us. The Book of Ecclesiastes, even if the composition of Solomon, can hardly be described as proverbs. Of his songs all have perished, except the Song of Solomon, and possibly Psalms 72:1-20; Psalms 127:1-5. (see the titles), and, according to some, 128.

1 Kings 4:33

And he spare of [i.e; discoursed, treated, not necessarily wrote] trees [In his proverbs and songs he exceeded the children of the East. But his knowledge was not only speculative, but scientific. In his acquaintance with natural history he outshone the Egyptians, 1 Kings 4:20], from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon [A favourite illustration. The Jews had a profound admiration for all trees, and of these they justly regarded the cedar as king. Cf. Judges 9:15; Psalms 80:10; Psalms 104:16; Song of Solomon 5:15; Ezekiel 31:3] unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall [His knowledge, i.e; embraced the least productions of nature as well as the greatest. The common hyssop (Exodus 12:22; Le Exodus 14:4) can hardly be intended here, as that often attains a considerable height (two feet), but a miniature variety or moss like hyssop in appearance, probably Orthotrichura saxatile]: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. ["The usual Biblical division of the animal kingdom" (Rawlinson). The arrangment is hardly according to manner of motion (Bähr). If anything, it is according to elements—earth, sky, sea. Both Jewish and Mohammedan writers abound in exaggerated or purely fabulous accounts of Solomon's attainments and gifts. We may see the beginning of these in Jos; Ant. 8.2.5.

1 Kings 4:34

And there came of all people [Heb. the peoples, nations] to hear the wisdom of Solomon [1 Kings 10:1], from all the kings of the earth [i.e; messengers, ambassadors, as in the next chapter], which had heard of his wisdom.


1 Kings 4:20-25

The Golden Age.

It has been cynically said that men always place the golden age in the past or in the future. Possibly they are not so far wrong after all. For, if our historian is true, there has been such a period in the history of the world. And if the Holy Gospel is true, there will be such a period hereafter. The reign of Solomon was the Augustan, the golden age, of Israel. The reign of Jesus, of which Solomon's empire was a foreshadowing, will be the golden age of the world. Let us then consider what light the first period—the past—throws upon the future; in what respects, that is to say, the sway of Solomon is a type and prefigurement of the holy and beneficent rule of our Redeemer. Observe—


1. He was the wisest of men. This was the root of the universal prosperity. He was capax imperii; he had the understanding to judge that great people (1 Kings 3:9). From a throne stablished in equity and intelligence (Psalms 72:2) flowed a tide of blessing through the land. But "Messiah the Prince" is the Incarnation of Wisdom. He is "made unto us wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:30). In Him "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). He is "the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24).

2. He ruled in the fear of the Lord. The precept of his father (2 Samuel 23:3) was not forgotten (1 Kings 3:6-9). Compare the account of Messiah's reign—the reign of the Branch of the root of Jesse in Isaiah 2:2-5. This "King shall reign in righteousness" (Isaiah 32:1).


1. Its extent. He had dominion from "the river to the border of Egypt," "from Tiphsali even to Azzah." The petty kings brought presents and did fealty. Now observe how Psalms 72:1-20; descriptive or prophetic of the reign of Solomon, is also prophetic of the reign of our blessed Lord. Of Him alone is it strictly true that "He shall have dominion from sea to sea," etc. (Psalms 72:8), that "all kings shall fall down before Him," etc. True, His enemies do not yet "lick the dust" (Psalms 72:9), for "we see not yet all things put under Him," but we know that all power is given to Him in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18), and that "the kingdoms of this world" shall "become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15).

2. Its duration. Solomon's was a long reign, and would have been much longer (1 Kings 3:14) had he been faithful But He who shall possess "the throne of his father David shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32, Luke 1:33; cf. Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:14, Daniel 7:27; Psalms 145:13; Micah 4:7).


1. Their number. They were "many," "as the sand which is by the sea in multitude." Compare Daniel 7:10, "ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him," and Revelation 5:11; Revelation 7:9, "a great multitude which no man could number."

2. Their character. Solomon's sway extended over Gentiles as well as Jews (verses 21, 24). A foreshadowing of the inclusion of Gentiles in the kingdom of Christ. In the one fold, two flocks (John 10:16). Compare Acts 26:23; Acts 28:28; Romans 11:15; Ephesians 3:6; Ephesians 2:14, etc. There are three particulars, however, in which the subjects of our Lord will differ from those of Solomon.

(1) There will be no bondage, no forced labour, none to bear burdens.

(2) The free labour of love will require no rest (1 Kings 5:14). The servants who serve Him "rest not day and night" (Revelation 4:8), yet keep perpetual sabbath (Hebrews 4:9.)

(3) All shall be holy. No Jeroboam shall "lift up his hand" against the Lord. He shall be all and in all.


1. It was peaceful (verse 24; cf. 1 Kings 5:4 and 1 Chronicles 32:9). In Messiah's reign they shall "beat theft swords into ploughshares," etc. (Isaiah 2:4). Into His court "neither foe entereth nor friend departeth." He is the King and Prince of Peace (Hebrews 7:2).

2. It was joyous and prosperous. "Eating and drinking and making merry." "Ibi festivitas sine fine". And Athanasius speaks τῶν ἁγίων καὶ τῶν ἀγγέλων ἀεί ἑορταζοντων. The vine and the fig tree may remind us of the tree of life with its twelve manner of fruits; the security (verse 25) of the pillars in the temple of God (Revelation 3:12). "In his days Israel shall dwell safely" (Jeremiah 23:6; cf. Isaiah 11:6-9). That golden age lasted "all the days of Solomon" (verse 23). That which is to come shall be coeternal with the endless life of the Son of God (Hebrews 7:16; John 14:19; Psalms 16:11).

1 Kings 4:31

The greatest, wisest, meanest of mankind.

It is a spirited and glowing description which the historian here gives of Solomon's wisdom. We may believe that it was not without a pardonable pride that he recounted the rich endowments and the widespread fame of Israel's greatest monarch. But it is really one of the saddest chapters in the whole of Scripture—and one of the most instrucfive. Manifold as were his gifts, marvellous as was his wisdom, they did not preserve him from falling. It is a strange, shuddering contrast, the record of his singular powers and faculties (1 Kings 4:29-34), and the story of his shameful end (1 Kings 11:1-14) How came it to pass that a man so highly gifted and blessed of God made such complete shipwreck of faith and good conscience; that over the grave of the very greatest and wisest of men must be written, "Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen from his high estate"? Let us consider

(1) The character of his wisdom; and

(2) The causes of his fall. As to (1), observe—

I. IT WAS UNPRECEDENTED AND HAS SINCE BEEN UNEQUALLED. The sages of Hebrew antiquity, the shrewd Arabians, the sagacious Egyptians, he has eclipsed them all. "Wiser than all men," such was the judgment of his contemporaries. And such is also the verdict of posterity. At the present day, among Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans, no fame equals his. Among the wise men of the world Solomon stands facile princeps.

II. IT WAS PRODIGIOUS. To the writer it seemed inexhaustible, illimitable. He can only compare it to "the sand that is on the sea shore;" and he could hardly use a more forcible illustration of its boundless and infinite extent.

III. IT WAS VARIED AND COMPREHENSIVE. It was both scientific and sententious. He was at once philosopher and poet. Nothing was too great and nothing too small for him. It is seldom that a man excels in more than one or two branches of knowledge, but Solomon was distinguished in all. He could discourse with equal profundity of the cedar and the hyssop, of beast and bird. It was lofty, it was wide, it was deep.

IV. IT WAS TRUE WISDOM. Not superficial, and not mere book learning. Book. worms are often mere pedants. Students often know little of the world and know less of themselves. But Solomon knew man ("The proper study of mankind is man") knew himself. He needed not the charge, γνῶθι σεαυτὸν. He was not one of the μετεωροσοφισται whom the Attic poet justly ridicules. His writings proved that he had studied the world, and was familiar with the heart.

V. IT WAS GOD GIVEN WISDOM (1 Kings 4:29; cf. 1 Kings 3:12, 1 Kings 3:28; Daniel 2:21). Not "the wisdom of this world which is foolishness with God" (1 Corinthians 3:8), and which "descendeth not from above" (James 3:15), but that which the Supreme wisdom teacheth. (Cf. Proverbs 2:6.) Solomon was truly θεοδίδακτος.

VI. IT WAS GOD-FEARING WISDOM. "The fear of the Lord," he says, "is the beginning of wisdom." (Cf. Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10.) There is a wisdom (falsely so called) which dishonours and despises God. This did not Solomon's. The Proverbs point men to the Lord.

VII. HIS WISDOM STILL WARNS AND TEACHES THE WORLD. Some of the thousand and five songs (Psa 72:1-20 :126.) are still chanted by the Catholic Church. (It is significant, though, how few of this vast number remain to us. David was not as wise as Solomon, nor so prolific a writer, but his songs have survived in considerable numbers. They are among the greatest treasures of Christendom. Piety is before wisdom. "Knowledge shall vanish away," but "charity never faileth.") Some of his Proverbs are still read to the congregation. Pie still warns the young and the sensual (chs. 2-7.) He is fallen, but his words stand. Now turn we to

(2) The causes of his fall. How came this wisest of men, without fellow before or since, whose wisdom was so profound, so real, so boundless, whose wisdom came from God and led to God, and who though dead yet speaketh, how came he of all men to go astray? Was it not—

II. BECAUSE THE HEART WAS NOT KEPT. The intellect, i.e; was developed and cultivated at the expense or to the neglect of the spiritual life. "His wives turned away his heart." But how came one of so much wisdom to let his wives turn it away? Because the wisdom had dwarfed and overshadowed the soul; because the moral did not keep pace with the intellectual growth, and it became flaccid and yielding. It is dangerous for wisdom to increase unless piety increases with it. The higher the tower, the broader should be its foundations. If all the weight and width is at the top, it will come to the ground with a crash. Even so, if wisdom is not to destroy its possessor, the basis of love and piety must be broadened. "Knowledge bloweth up, but charity buildeth up." The head of a colossus needs the trunk of a colossus to sustain it.

II. BECAUSE HIS OWN PRECEPTS WERE NOT KEPT. It was because he leaned to his own understanding that this giant form fell prostrate. It was because he forgot his warnings against the strange woman that he fell a prey to strange women. The keeper of the vineyards did not keep his own (Song of Solomon 1:6). He was not true to himself, and he soon proved false to his God. After preaching to others, he himself became a castaway. A solemn warning this to every preacher and teacher that he should not do

"As some ungracious pastors do,
Show men the steep and thorny road to heaven,
While, like a puffed and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance tread
And recks not his own rede."

III. BECAUSE PRIDE POISONED HIS WISDOM AND PERVERTED HIS GIFTS. There was no decay of mental power; the force was unabated, but it was misdirected. Pride took her place at the helm. It is pride, not sensuality, accounts for his army of wives and concubines. But if pride brought them, pleasure kept them. And when he put his heart into their keeping, they turned him about at their will (c.f. James 3:3, James 3:4). The heart carries the intellect along with it. (Here again compare his own words, Proverbs 16:18, and Proverbs 4:23; cf. Daniel 5:20.) Magnificent Solomon, unequalled in wisdom, how art thou fallen from heaven! Aye, and if we could but draw aside the veil; if we could but visit the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19), we might perchance find among them one clothed of yore "in purple and fine linen" (Luke 16:19; cf. Luke 12:27), and who "fared sumptuously every day," and looking into the anguished face might find it was none other than the brilliant and illustrious son of David, the chosen type of the Messiah, the very wisest and greatest of mankind. "The wisest, greatest, meanest of mankind." We know of whom these words were spoken. But their true application is not to England's greatest chancellor, but to Israel's greatest king.


1 Kings 4:20-25

A Prosperous Reign.

This chapter presents a general view of the prosperity of Solomon's reign, much of which was owing to the extraordinary, glory of the reign of David. Such a rule as David's sowed seeds of blessing m the land which it was Solomon's privilege to reap. David united the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and Solomon came into quiet possession of the completed commonwealth. David laid the foundation, Solomon developed the fabric and adorned it. Each succeeding generation inherits the good stored up for it by those that went before. Happy they who are the descendants of a noble ancestry. If it is true that "the sins of the fathers are visited on the children," etc; equally true is it that "the good men do lives after them." We all reap the fruits of the care and toll and suffering of our fathers. "Other men labour and we enter into their labours." The text suggests—

I. THE GRANDEUR OF A MULTITUDINOUS PEOPLE. "Judah and Israel were many, etc. What is the secret of the feeling of solemnity akin to awe with which we gaze upon a vast concourse of human beings? It is the fulness of life—not mere physical force, but thinking, emotional life, with all its latent capacities that impresses us. But think of a great nation—what a world of busy, many-sided life is here! What complex relations; what slumbering energies; what rich resources; what mines of undeveloped thought; what tides of feeling; what boundless possibilities of good or evil, of glory or of shame! Consider the mutual action and reaction of the individual and corporate life in such a nation; the conditions of its well being; the tremendous responsibility of those who are set to guide its forces, to guard its interests, to control its destinies. We can understand the trembling of spirit Moses felt when he looked on the thronging host of Israel in the wilderness. "Wherefore layest thou the burden of all this people upon me?" etc. (Numbers 11:11). So with Solomon—"Who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" (1 Kings 3:9). Rulers who show that they are alive to the dread significance of their position claim our deepest sympathy. Well may we pray for them (1 Timothy 2:2) that they may be inspired by the right spirit, prompted by purest motives, never allowed to fall into the sin

"Of making their high place the lawless perch
Of winged ambitions."

II. THE FAR REACHING INFLUENCE OF A WISE AND RIGHTEOUS RULE. "And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms," etc. (1 Kings 4:21). These were tributary kingdoms. It was not the division of one great empire into many provinces, but the recognition by outlying principalities of the superior sovereignty of the Hebrew monarch. What was the cause of this widespread influence? Won by force of arms in David's reign, it was retained, probably, by force of good government and beneficent policy. Israel presented an example of a well-ordered state—entered, under Solomon, On a remarkable career as a commercial people—Solomon himself a royal merchant. Note his sagacity in "making affinity" with the king of Egypt (1 Kings 3:1), and in his treaty with Hiram, king of Tyre (1 Kings 5:1-18.) This was the secret of Solomon's influence. As far as we can judge, it was not so much the result of overmastering force, but of a policy by which the bonds of mutual confidence and helpfulness were strengthened. We are reminded that this is the real stability of any nation—the spirit of justice, integrity, beneficence that inspires it, coupled with the disposition to form friendly and helpful relations. The influence that arises from the display of military strength not worthy to be compared with this. "Righteousness exalteth a nation" (Pro 14:1-35 :84). "The throne is established by righteousness" (Proverbs 16:12). Every nation is strong and influential just in proportion as its internal order and external relations are conformed to the law of righteousness.

III. THE PEACE THAT IS THE RESULT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. "He had peace on all sides round about him" (1 Kings 4:24). This was the fulfilment of a prophecy that attended his very birth. David, the "man of war," yearned for a time of peace, and the yearning expressed itself in the names he gave his sons—Absalom, "the father of peace;" Shelomoh, Solomon, "the peaceful one." The peacefulness of Solomon's reign was the natural outcome of his own personal characteristics, and of the policy he adopted. "When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7). False maxim of international life, "If you want peace prepare for war"—multiply the means and provocations of strife! Maintain an attitude of distrust, defiance, menace! Men have strange confidence in the pacifying effect of desolating force. They "make a solitude and call it peace," forgetting that tranquillity thus gained does but cover with a deceptive veil the latent seeds of hostility and revenge. How much better the Scripture idea, "The work of righteousness shall be peace," etc . (Isaiah 32:17); "The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace" (James 3:18).

IV. THE SECURITY THAT SPRINGS FROM PEACE (1 Kings 4:25). "And Judah and Israel dwelt safely," etc.—this became almost a proverbial expression (2Ki 18:1-37 :81; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10). Suggests the quiet enjoyment of the good of life, the fruit of honest labour, under the protection of impartial law. This is the result of peace. Often urged that war is an education in some of the nobler elements of national character; safeguard against luxury and indolent self indulgence, etc. But may not these good results be bought at too terrible a price? Are there no other fields for the healthy development of a nation's energies?—no foes of ignorance, and vice, and social wrong, to say nothing of forms of beneficent world wide enterprise, that call them forth in manly exercise? It is the reign of peace that fosters the industries that enrich the life of a people, and the beneficent activities that beautify it. 'Tis this that "makes the country flourish and the city smile." The happy condition of things here described is said to have lasted through "all the days of Solomon;" chiefly true of the earlier part of his reign. Sins and disasters involved the latter part in gloom. So far, however, we have in it a prophecy of the reign of David's "greater Son." Psalms 72:1-20. has its partial fulfilment in the days of Solomon; but the grandeur of its prophetic meaning is realized only in the surpassing glory of His kingdom who is the true "Prince of righteousness and peace."—W.


1 Kings 4:33

The voice of Nature speaking for God.

This is given as an example of the wisdom for which Solomon was justly famed. His information was at once accurate and far reaching. Nothing escaped the notice of his observant eye, nothing was too insignificant to deserve his attention. The" hyssop" which was remarkable neither for size nor beauty, neither for fragrance nor utility, as well as the noble "cedar," was the subject of his research and discourse.

I. THE GERM OF HIS KNOWLEDGE WAS FROM GOD. He was enriched with natural capacities above the average, as the preceding chapter shows. Men do differ widely in keenness of perception, in retentiveness of memory, in power of imagination, in love or dislike for the studies of natural science. A remembrance of this is of peculiar value to us in the training of children. The dullard in mathematics may prove the scholar in classics, etc. The wisdom of the Divine arrangement which makes differences between us in our natural tastes and capacities is seen in this, that it is on the one hand a blessing to society, enabling all spheres of life to be filled, and on the other a means of culture to character, by calling forth our sympathy, our forbearance, and our generosity in rejoicing over the triumphs of others.

II. THE GROWTH OF HIS KNOWLEDGE WAS FROM STUDY. Solomon did not have all the mysteries of nature unveiled to him by revelation. No "royal road to learning" existed then, or ever. His studiousness as a youth may be fairly inferred from his strenuous exhortations to diligence and his frequent rebukes of sloth. Out of the depths of personal experience he declared that the "hand of the diligent maketh rich"—in thought, as well as in purse. See also Proverbs 10:5; Proverbs 19:24; Proverbs 26:13, etc. Press home on the young the value of habits of diligence. Illustrate by examples from biography. It would be interesting to know with certainty the substance of Solomon's discourses. Probably he knew more than any other of his own day of horticulture, physiology, and kindred topics. But the reference is not so much to scientific treatises and orderly classifications as to the ethical use he made of the phenomena of nature. This may be inferred, partly from the fact that in those days, and in Eastern lands, this rather than that would be accounted "wisdom;" and partly from such writings of his as are still extant—certain of the Psalms, the Song of Solomon, and the Proverbs. Study the text in the light thrown by these books, and it will be seen that through Solomon's wisdom the voice of Nature spoke to his people for God, in the same fashion as in far nobler tones it spoke afterwards through Him who made the lilies whisper of God's care, and the fallow fields speak of Christian duty. Inanimate things and dumb creatures spoke to Solomon's people through him, and should speak to us.

I. THE CREATURES OF GOD SPEAK TO US OF DIVINE CARE. Solomon, like his father, could say, "The heavens declare the glory of God;" or like One greater than himself, "Consider the lilies of the field," etc. See how he speaks (Proverbs 16:15) of the cloud of the latter rain that rifled out the ears of corn; of the dew upon the grass (Proverbs 19:12); of the gladness of nature, when the winter is past and the rain is over and gone (Song of Solomon 2:11-13). To see God's hand in all this is true wisdom. The phenomena are visible to pure intellect, but He who is behind them can only he "spiritually discerned." Many now are losing sight of God because the mental perception only is employed, and believed to be necessary. Once the world appeared to men as the expression of God's thought, the outcome of His will. Now some look on it as you may look on a friend who is not dead so far as natural life is concerned, but is worse than dead, because intelligence and will are gone, and he is an idiot! May we be aroused by the Divine Spirit to yearn for the lost Father, for the vanished heaven.

II. THE CREATURES OF GOD SPEAK TO US OF HUMAN DEPENDENCE. Neither "hyssop" nor "cedar" can grow without Heaven's benediction, and of every "beast," and "fowl," and "creeping thing," and "fish," it may be said, "these all wait upon Thee." Man, with all his attainments and powers, cannot create a single element required by his life. He can use God's gifts, but they are God's gifts still; and because He is good, our Lord bids us learn the lessons of content and trust (Matthew 6:25-34). We depend on these creatures in the natural world for food, clothing, shelter, etc; and they only live because God cares for them.

III. THE CREATURES OF GOD SPEAK TO US OF DAILY DUTIES. How often in Proverbs we are reminded of that. Agur, who had wisdom similar to that of Solomon, speaks of the diligence of the ant, of the perseverance of the spider, of the strength in union of the locusts, of the conscious weakness and provided shelter of the conies. Solomon speaks of the blessing that came to the keeper of the fig tree (Proverbs 27:18) as an encourament to servants to be faithful and diligent. Adduce similar examples.


1. In Song of Solomon 2:15 Solomon alludes to "the little foxes who so stealthily approach and spoil the vines and their tender grapes" as illustrations of the small evils which desolate men's hearts and homes. Apply this.

2. Then in Proverbs 24:30-34 he draws a picture of a neglected garden, grown over with thorns and nettles, and shows how looking on it he "received instruction," and warning against sloth.

3. Again turn to Proverbs 23:32, where, speaking of intoxicating drink, he says, "at last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." It was in this way he referred to the animals and plants around him.

V. THE CREATURES OF GOD SPEAK TO US OF SOCIAL EVILS. In those days, as in other days, foolish favourites, and unworthy.men, were exalted to places of trust and honour. Seeing it Solomon draws again on his observance of nature; and having noted the disorder and injury caused by untimely storms, says, "As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honor is not seemly in a fool" (Proverbs 26:1). Another example of this teaching occurs in Proverbs 28:3. A heavy rain after long drought, raising the streamlets to floods, would sweep away the mud-built dwellings of the poor and the harvest already reaped; and to those who had seen that the wise king said, "A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food."

VI. THE CREATURES OF GOD SPEAK TO US OF NOBLE POSSIBILITIES. Solomon saw growth around him on every side. The seed dropped in the crevice of a wall was not forgotten, but appeared in the "hyssop;" and the sapling, which a child could break, at last became the great "cedar of Lebanon." God's benediction and man's toil developed life; and the feeblest was not forgotten, the smallest not despised. We can imagine how from such facts Solomon would draw lessons of trust and hope.

IN CONCLUSION let us learn from the subject the following lessons—

1. Never be afraid of the teachings of natural science. Show how geology, botany, astronomy, etc; are regarded by some Christians with terror, as if their influence would affect the spiritual truths revealed of God. Demonstrate the folly of this. Let theology recognize the sisterhood of science.

2. Never become absorbed in pursuits which are merely intellectual. The soul of man needs more than his intellect can win. The "hunger and thirst after righteousness" only a living God can satisfy. Use the suggestions of nature as the witnesses of God.

3. Never neglect the wonderful works of God. Many a frivolous life would be redeemed from vacuity and ennui if young people were trained to observe and take interest in the habits of animal life and the marvels of inanimate existence. Show the wholesomeness of such studies, as those of Charles Kingsley and others. But let us walk through this fair world as those who follow Christ, and then from the fragrant lilies and golden harvest fields He will speak to us of our Father in heaven.—A.R.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Kings 4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/1-kings-4.html. 1897.
Ads FreeProfile