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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
2 Chronicles 8

 

 

Verses 1-18

2 Chronicles 8

1. And it came to pass at the end of twenty years [the twenty years date from the commencement of the temple in the fourth year of Solomon"s reign, seven years having been devoted to the construction of the temple, and thirteen to the building of the royal palace. (See 1 Kings 6:37-38 : 1 Kings 7:1; and 1 Kings 9:10)], wherein Solomon had built the house of the Lord, and his own house,

2. That the cities which Huram had restored [literally, which Huram gave] to Solomon [ 1 Kings 9:11-13] Solomon built them [rather, rebuilt or repaired them. Their bad condition may have been one of the reasons why they were rejected by Hiram], and caused the children of Israel to dwell there.

3. And Solomon went [marched ( 2 Samuel 12:29)] to Hamath-zobah, and prevailed against it.

4. And he built Tadmor in the wilderness [that Isaiah , Palmyra, in the wilderness, on the traders" route between the coast and Thapsacus on the Euphrates. That Solomon was the founder of Palmyra is the tradition of the country to this day], and all the store cities, which he built in Hamath.

5. Also he built [fortified] Beth-horon the upper, and Beth-horon the nether, fenced cities, with walls, gates, and bars;

6. And Baalath, and all the store cities [according to 2 Chronicles 32:28, the store-cities were places for collecting stores of provisions; when they were situated on the great trade-roads they were no doubt intended to relieve the wants of travellers and their beasts of burden] that Solomon had, and all the chariot cities, and the cities of the horsemen, and all that Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and throughout all the land of his dominion.

[It is worthy of note that in the above section no mention is made of the fortification of Jerusalem, and the building of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer, which last city had been taken by Pharaoh, and given by him to his daughter, Solomon"s wife (See 1 Kings 9:15-16)].

7. As for all the people that were left of the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which were not of Israel,

8. But of their children, who were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel consumed not [were not able to exterminate], them did Solomon make to pay tribute until this day.

9. But of the children of Israel did Solomon make no servants for his work; but they were men of war, and chief of his captains [Heb. captains of his knights; which appears to be incorrect. Read, "his captains and his knights" or "aides- Deuteronomy -camp," as in Kings], and captains of his chariots and horsemen.

10. And these were the chief of king Solomon"s officers [" captains of the overseers," or "prefects," i.e, chief overseers, or inspectors of works], even two hundred and fifty, that bare rule over the people.

11. And Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he had built for her: for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come. [See footnote, post, p229].

12. Then [after the consecration of the temple] Solomon offered [not once, but habitually; according to the prescriptions of the Mosaic law ( 2 Chronicles 8:13)] burnt offerings unto the Lord on the altar of the Lord, which he had built before the porch,

13. Even after a certain rate [the Hebrew is ambiguous; the meaning probably is "day after day "] every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses [see Exodus 29:38; Numbers 28:3, et seq.], on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles.

14. And he appointed, according to the order of David his father, the courses of the priests [comp1Chronicles24] to their service, and the Levites to their charges [see 1 Chronicles 25:1-6], to praise and minister before the priests, as the duty of every day required: the porters [see 1 Chronicles 26:1-19] also by their courses at every gate: for so had David the man of God [this phrase, so common in Kings, is rare in Chronicles, and is applied only to Moses ( 1 Chronicles 23:14), David, and one other prophet ( 2 Chronicles 25:7-9)] commanded.

15. And they departed not from the commandment of the king [David] unto the priests and Levites concerning any matter, or concerning the treasures.

16. Now all the work of Solomon was prepared [rather, "thus was all the work of Solomon completed," or "set in order," as the same word is translated in 2 Chronicles 29:35] unto the day of the foundation of the house of the Lord, and until it was finished. So the house of the Lord was perfected.

[The Speaker"s Commentary points out that this verse sums up in brief the whole previous narrative on the subject of the temple, which began with chap2. Solomon"s word "unto the day of the foundation" was the subject of that chapter; his work subsequently has been related in chapters3-8.]

17. Then went Solomon to Ezion-geber, and to Eloth, at the sea side in the land of Edom.

18. And Huram sent him by the hands of his servants ships, and servants that had knowledge of the sea; and they [the servants, not the ships] went with the servants of Solomon to Ophir, and took thence four hundred and fifty [in Kings "twenty," one or other of the two texts has suffered from that corruption to which numbers are liable] talents of gold, and brought them to king Solomon.

Solomon: Builder and Statesman

"And it came to pass at the end of twenty years, wherein Solomon had built the house of the Lord, and his own house, that the cities which Huram had restored to Song of Solomon , Solomon built them, and caused the children of Israel to dwell there" ( 2 Chronicles 8:1-2).

SOLOMON was not content to build the house of the Lord alone. This is a remarkable circumstance, as illustrating the spirit which is created and sustained by all truly religious exercises. It would have been ambition enough for any man religiously uninspired to have erected one such edifice as the temple. Most men are contented to do one thing, and to rest their fame upon its peculiar excellence. Solomon having completed the house of the Lord, and his own house, began to build the cities which Huram had restored to him, and to cause the children of Israel to dwell there. A religion that ends only in ceremony building is little better than a superstition. No man can be zealously affected in the interests of the Church without having his whole philanthropic spirit enlarged and ennobled, so that he may become a builder of cities as well as a builder of churches. It must be remembered, on the other hand, that he who builds a synagogue really helps to build the town in which it is located. A synagogue or temple or church is not to be looked upon in its singularity, as if it were so many walls, with so many doors and windows; a church is a representative institution, through which should flow rivers that will fertilise all the districts of the city,—rivers of knowledge, rivers of charity, rivers of brotherhood, rivers of cooperation, so that men should turn to the church, assured that every rational and healthy expectation would be satisfied by its provisions.

"And Solomon went to Hamath-zobah, and prevailed against it. And he built Tadmor in the wilderness, and all the store cities, which he built in Hamath. Also he built Beth-horon the upper, and Beth-horon the nether, fenced cities, with walls, gates, and bars; And Baalath, and all the store cities that Solomon had, and all the chariot-cities, and the cities of the horsemen, and all that Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon and throughout all the land of his dominion" ( 2 Chronicles 8:3-6).

Song of Solomon , having completed for the time being the measure of building upon which his mind was set, went forth to war. It would seem as if in ancient days kings could not be satisfied to dwell at peace. Even Song of Solomon , whose very name signifies peace, had in him the military spirit, characteristic of his race and time; it was in him indeed as the word of the living God; Solomon did not go forth to war for the sake of war; he believed he was obeying a divinely implanted instinct, or carrying out to the letter some divinely written law. Blessed be God, we have no such war to undertake. It does not follow therefore that our days are to be spent in indolence, or in the contemplation which exists without activity or beneficence. There is always an enemy to be fought; in our days a subtle lurking enemy, prowling in the darkness, crying loudly and defiantly even at noonday, pursuing the young, mocking the aged, taunting everything that is young and beautiful; by a thousand names is this enemy known, and in a thousand guises he walks forth; yet by whatsoever name known, or by whatsoever disguise concealed, he is the enemy of the Lord, and every Solomon who builds a temple for God should feel called upon to go forth and do away with this energetic and cruel giant: now his name is ignorance, now vice, now fashion, now drunkenness, now oppression, now selfishness; but though he may change his name, his nature he can never change, it is alien from God, it is without tenderness, without nobility, without love. The whole Church of the living God should go forth to war, and return not until the enemy is slain.

Having passed through another military period, Solomon began once more to build; he built Tadmor, and all the store cities; he built Beth-horon upper and lower, and fenced cities with walls, gates, and bars. A busy time it was in the reign of Solomon. But even all this building is not without its suggestion of corresponding evil. Why were the cities fenced? Why the gates? Why the bars? We have instances of the same kind in our own civilisation, silent witnesses against the honesty of the society in which we live. Every bolt upon the door is a moral accusation; every time we turn the lock we mean that there is an enemy outside who may endeavour to violate the sanctity of the house. We forget sometimes the moral suggestiveness even of our commonest institutions and plans of procedure. Every precaution that is taken for our preservation implies the presence of hostile elements in society. It would seem as if nature and society alike required us to protect ourselves against them. The mischievous fact is that men who most sedulously protect themselves against the irruptions of nature, or uncalculated tempests and fires, and the men who protect themselves against accident and mishap of every kind, often fail to defend themselves against the more tremendous dangers that threaten and assault the soul. A man may be prudent about the preservation of his house, and careless respecting the cultivation of his mind. Thou wicked and slothful servant, out of thine own mouth I condemn thee! If men would apply the same degree of common-sense to departments distinctively moral and spiritual that they apply to the general affairs of life, what religious solicitude would be developed, what a marvellous revival would characterise the action of the whole Church! But still the spiritual is underestimated; the unseen is undervalued; the distant conceals its magnitude: if our eyes could see things in their reality, and take in all their proportion and their colour, the whole basis of life would be changed, the whole action of life would be lifted to a new level.

Solomon may be taken in this instance as representing the great doctrine that men should seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and afterwards attend to minor matters, or even leave those minor matters to the adjustment of providence. Taking the chapter as a whole, it represents Solomon as first most anxious about the temple, giving himself wholly to its erection, occupying his thoughts night and day, turning everything to account in its relation to the temple; and then, having finished that marvellous structure, he was prepared to descend to other levels and do the commoner work which lay to his hand. Many persons leave the temple half-finished: what wonder if they go out to the war and return wounded and disabled? Our religious purposes are broken off: what wonder if our political ends pierce us and sting us by way of retribution? Seek first the kingdom of God, attend first to the building of the temple, apply the soul in the very dawn of the day to the highest religious concerns; then if the remainder of the day should prove a battlefield, the victory shall be on the side of holiness, or if it should prove to be a field calling to tillage, or ground inviting us to build, the eventide should see us contented because our labour has been honest and abundant.

"But of the children of Israel did Solomon make no servants for his work; but they were men of war, and chief of his captains, and captains of his chariots and horsemen" ( 2 Chronicles 8:9).

The statesmanship of Solomon is as distinctly proved by this arrangement as by anything we have yet seen in his whole policy. Solomon knew that one man was not as good as another, however much democratic philosophy may have endeavoured to prove the contrary. One man is a genius, and another man is a slave, an imitator, a hewer of wood; very serviceable, and in fact indispensable, but not adorned with the very highest excellence and dignity of mind. Solomon made a distribution of classes, saying in effect, some men can do the drudgery, some men can dig and build, some can pull down and take away and prepare for the exertions of others: the higher class of men can think and direct, they are inspired with the genius of administration, they are men of powerful mind, of fertile resources in government and war; I must therefore make the best of the material at my disposal, not getting great men to do small work, or setting small men to fail in great work.

Adaptation is the secret of success: for want of knowing this how many men fail in life! There are employers who are making themselves little better than toilers, when they might by an expenditure of money apparently distinctly not economical, greatly assist the progress and solidity of their fortunes. A man may be industrious in a way which involves the absolute frittering and humiliation of his energies. We are to be careful not only to be industrious, but industrious about the right things and in the right proportion. A man might slave himself to death in cutting down wood or in throwing away stones, but if some other man of inferior mental faculty could be employed to do that work the superior man should turn his attention to other and nobler pursuits, and thus with apparently less expenditure of strength he might be doing immeasurably greater good. A thought may sometimes be more valuable than a victory in war. It is possible indeed that the victory might be dependent upon the thought, might be its result and expression. Until we understand the metaphysics of life in some practical way we shall mistake the range and the degree of industry proper to individuals. When we do get hold of the metaphysical idea of personal and social responsibility, we shall see that a man may be doing much who is apparently doing little or nothing, and that many a man may be doing quite an inconsiderable service who is apparently carrying all the world before him. There is more in this conception of society than may at first be obvious. Men are inexplicably prone to undervalue the spiritual and the intellectual; we say "inexplicably" because a moment"s consideration will show that action is only the embodiment of thought, and that he who can think best can most thoroughly start, inspire, and control the action of mankind. If the thinker is not to degrade himself to the level of a drudge, neither is the drudge to attempt to force his way to positions for which he is not qualified. Nothing is mean that is not meanly done. The Canaanites might be useful as the Israelites in their own way. With the eye of a statesman, with the inspiration of a genius, Solomon saw that he must distribute and classify men, and set each man to do what he was most fit for. We must have this arrangement even in the Church of Christ. Some men are doorkeepers and lamplighters by right of birth and election, for by many qualifications they are called to such useful offices: other men are qualified for the leading of public worship, and the direction of spiritual studies; the one class is not to decry or underrate the other, but all are to remember that there may be unity in diversity, and that without the diversity some portion of the most necessary work would be left undone.

"And these were the chief of king Solomon"s officers, even two hundred and fifty, that bare rule over the people" ( 2 Chronicles 8:10).

Even Solomon could not do all the work himself. Society is so constituted that there must be grades of official relationship and responsibility. The greater the king, the abler must his ministers be; the larger the work, the more competently qualified must be all who are engaged it: little men may do for little work: little children may watch little gates: but the Church has undertaken to evangelise the whole world, to leave no language unsanctified, no clime unvisited, no heathenism unassailed; a Church with such a policy, animated by such a purpose, should be a great Church, and should call to its aid all that is strongest in intellect, all that is most penetrating in sagacity, all that is most inspiring in imagination, and all that is most unselfish in sacrifice. Yet, though the officers be many, the sovereign is one. It was not the throne that was divided; it was the work that was distributed. Herein is the perfection of society, that it shall find unity in variety, and variety in unity, and that the many shall revolve around the one, as smaller lights may revolve around a central sun. Nor must the sovereign around whom all the lights revolve be fickle, arbitrary, and so eccentric as to be beyond the lines of a rational calculation: he must represent the steadfastness of law, he must incarnate the continuity of the holiest thought; men must know where to find him on moral questions; how perplexed soever he may be in understanding, or in the handling of mechanical instruments and effects, men will know that his conscience always repeats the word of the living God, and always renews its purity and its judicial faculty by communion with the Most High.

"And Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he had built for her: for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come" ( 2 Chronicles 8:11).

We may take this as an instance of punctilious morality. We are not able to understand all that was involved in the incident. We are evidently in the presence of conscience working under some eccentric law or suggestion. Yet here is a conscience, and by so much the action of Solomon is to be respected. He will not have any place or institution even ceremonially defiled. He will go back to precedents, he will consult the genius of history, he will preserve the consistency of the royal policy. Solomon felt that the ark of the Lord had sanctified every locality into which it had come, and that a broad distinction must always be maintained between heathenism and Judaism; between the idols of pagan lands, and the Spirit of the living God. In these matters Solomon"s wisdom was displayed as certainly as in the greater concerns of State and Church; we are to remember that at the beginning Solomon was endowed with the spirit of wisdom and of a sound mind. The Lord quickened his sagacity, gave him that marvellous insight which enabled him to penetrate into the interiors and cores which were hidden from the scrutiny of other men. We are therefore to give Solomon credit for being at once wise and conscientious; we are to see in his action the working of a tender conscience; even though he may be appeasing his conscience by some trick or ceremony, yet he is showing us the working of the moral nature within the kingly breast. Yet there is a point to be noted here which is common to human experience: why should Solomon have married the daughter of Pharaoh? Why should he have, in the first instance, placed himself in so vital a relation to heathenism? Are there not men who first plunge into great mistakes, and then seek to rectify their position by zealous care about comparatively trifling details? Do not men make money by base means, and then zealously betake themselves to bookkeeping, as if they would not spend money except in approved directions? Are there not those who have steeped their hearts in iniquity, and yet have washed their hands with soap and nitre? There is nothing more misleading than a conscience that does not rest upon a basis of reason. We are to beware of the creation of a false conscience, or a partial conscience, or a conscience that operates only in given directions, but that makes up for sins of a larger kind by ostentatious devotion at the altar of detail and ceremony and petty ritual.

"Then Solomon offered burnt offerings unto the Lord on the altar of the Lord, which he had built before the porch, even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles" ( 2 Chronicles 8:12-13).

Solomon was great in burnt offerings. Do not men sometimes make up in burnt offerings what they lack in moral consistency? Is not an ostentatious religion sometimes the best proof of internal decay? It ought not to be so. The hand and the heart should be one, the outward and the inward should correspond, the action should be the incarnation of the thought. We are not always to look upon the ceremonial action of the Church as indicative of its real spirituality. Sometimes men make a great noise in order that they may conceal a courage that is giving way. The poet represents the boy as whistling in the churchyard to keep his courage up. There may be men who speak loudly in order to drown the inward voice which is accusing them of cowardice. It is beautiful to look upon the Church engaged in much church-building, and in great strenuous endeavours against public sin; yet we must never forget that all this may possibly coexist with internal loss, decay, corruption. All action does not spring from life. Sometimes we try to make up by complex mechanism what is wanting in real vitality. Here, however, we must not fall into a spirit of angry criticism or thoughtless and wanton accusation, but remit the inquiry to every man"s conscience and to the conscience of every Church. Blessed is the day when the work of the Church is abundant because the spirit of the Church is holding high fellowship with God. Grand is the spectacle of a Church working because a Church is praying! When we are most frequently on our knees in communion with God we should be most frequently in the battlefield fighting openly under his banner, and proclaiming his name as the name of the King of nations. It is often easier to offer a burnt offering than to do some deed of moral heroism. It may be pleasanter to go to the altar in order to perform a religious ceremony, than to go up to an offended brother and fall down before him in token of brokenheartedness on account of wanton offence against his honour or his feeling. Here again we must come back upon the discipline of self-examination, and let every man stand or fall by the result of that penetrating scrutiny.

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 8:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/2-chronicles-8.html. 1885-95.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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