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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
1 Kings 9

 

 

Verses 1-10

Solomon’s Dream Concerning YHWH’s Hallowing Of His House In Which YHWH Warns That By Itself The House Means Nothing. Its Continued Hallowing Will Depend On A Full Response By The House Of David To The Davidic Covenant And Thus Subsequently to the Mosaic Covenant (1 Kings 9:1-10).

The importance of this passage, which provides us with YHWH’s response to Solomon’s dedication, is brought out by an inclusio formed by 1 Kings 9:1; 1 Kings 9:10, stressing the connection of the words with Solomon’s successful completion of YHWH’s House and the King’s Palace Complex, which it is once again emphasised took up twenty years to build, taking us some way into the second half of his reign.

In it YHWH declares that He has hallowed (separated off totally to Himself) the House to put His Name there for ever, so that His eyes and heart would be there perpetually. In other words He has accepted it as taking the place of the Tabernacle and the Sacred Tent, where His Name had previously been (2 Samuel 6:2 and context). From then on there would be a sense in which His personal presence would ever be there as expressed through His eye and heart. But it was conditional. For if the house of David, and the people, failed to walk in the ways of David, the House would simply be cast out of His sight and become a place to be hissed at. The House in itself meant nothing apart from the loving and obedient response of the people.

The idea of the House being ‘hallowed’ is typically Mosaic (although not Deuteronomic). In Exodus 29:42-44 YHWH speaks of ‘the door of the Tent of Meeting before YHWH, where I will meet with you, to speak there to you, and there I will meet with the children of Israel, and it will be hallowed by my glory, and I will hallow the Tent of Meeting, and the altar. Aaron also and his sons will I hallow to minister to me in the priest’s office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they will know that I am YHWH their God, Who brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am YHWH their God.’

We note in the passage in Exodus the same emphasis as we find here on the hallowing of YHWH’s sanctuary; on YHWH’s dwelling with His people; and on them knowing that He is YHWH their God Who brought them forth out of the land of Egypt. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Exodus 29:42-44 was in mind in these words spoken to Solomon.

A further more indirect reference is found in Leviticus 21:23, where YHWH speaks of ‘hallowing -- My sanctuaries’ (i.e. the whole sanctuary including the inner court). These two are the only previous references to the ‘hallowing of the Sanctuary’, an idea which is not found at all in Deuteronomy, where sanctifying is always by the people (Deuteronomy 5:12, of the Sabbath; Deuteronomy 15:19, of the firstborn; Deuteronomy 32:51, of Moses and Aaron failing to hallow God before the people), the concept which is found most regularly throughout the Law of Moses.

It will be noted in the chiasmus of the section that this dream concerning the ‘hallowing’ of the House parallels the passage where the Ark was brought into the Temple and the cloud of YHWH descended on it, thus hallowing it with His presence.

Analysis.

a And it came about, when Solomon had finished the building of the house of YHWH, and the king’s house, and all Solomon’s desire which he was pleased to do, that YHWH appeared to Solomon the second time, as He had appeared to him at Gibeon (1 Kings 9:1-2).

b And YHWH said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, that you have made before me. I have hallowed this house, which you have built, to put my name there for ever, and my eyes and my heart will be there perpetually” (1 Kings 9:3).

c “And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep my statutes and my ordinances” (1 Kings 9:4).

d “Then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel for ever, according as I promised to David your father, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel’.” (1 Kings 9:5).

c “But if you shall turn away from following me, you or your children, and not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but shall go and serve other gods, and worship them” (1 Kings 9:6).

b “Then I will cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them, and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples, and though this house is so high (or ‘this house shall be very high’), yet will every one who passes by it be astonished, and will hiss, and they will say, “Why has YHWH done thus to this land, and to this house?” “And they will answer, ‘Because they forsook YHWH their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them. Therefore has YHWH brought all this evil on them” (1 Kings 9:7-9).

a And it came about at the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the two houses, the house of YHWH and the king’s house (1 Kings 9:10).

Note that in ‘a’ the emphasis is on the fact that this took place when both the Temple and the Palace Complex were complete, and in the parallel the same is emphasised. In ‘b’ YHWH declares that He has hallowed the House, so that His presence would be there, but in the parallel warns that the hallowing of the House is totally dependent on their faithfulness to Him so that if they are unfaithful it will be cut off and will become a place of hissing. In ‘c’ obedience in accordance with the ways of David is required, and in the parallel the possibility of the opposite is expressed. Centrally in ‘d’ the dynasty of David will be permanently established for ever.

1 Kings 9:1-2

And it came about, when Solomon had finished the building of the house of YHWH, and the king’s house, and all Solomon’s desire which he was pleased to do, that YHWH appeared to Solomon the second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon.’

This point at which Solomon had completed his desire to build the Temple and the Palace Complex is to be the second major moment of his life, the first having been when YHWH spoke with him at Gibeon. This is in itself a reminder that in spite of his great wisdom he received few direct revelations from God, for this was only his second visitation in twenty years. In it God accepted the genuineness of his attempt to please Him and accepted his gesture, but on conditions. God was already aware, as Solomon was not, of the wayward tendencies in his life. If he was to enjoy the blessing promised to David, he must walk as David walked.

1 Kings 9:3

And YHWH said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, that you have made before me. I have hallowed this house, which you have built, to put my name there for ever, and my eyes and my heart will be there perpetually.” ’

YHWH began by declaring that He had heard Solomon’s prayer and supplication that he had made ‘before Him’ (in the Temple area). And as a result He had hallowed ‘this House’ just as He had previously hallowed the Tabernacle (Exodus 29:42-44; Leviticus 21:23). ‘This House’ is then defined as that in which Solomon had intended to ‘put His Name’, that is, in which he would house the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH (2 Samuel 6:2). And YHWH’s response is that as a result His eyes and His heart would be there perpetually. This connects up with the cloud of YHWH which had descended on the House in 1 Kings 8:10-11 once the Ark was brought into it, thus doubly hallowing the House, as similarly occurred in Exodus 40:34-38.

“My eyes --- will be there ---.” Solomon’s prayer had been that the eyes of YHWH would be upon this House (1 Kings 8:29; 1 Kings 8:52), in order that He might hear His people’s intercession, especially as regards forgiveness. Thus YHWH was promising that His eye would be there so that He would ever be ready to regard their genuine cry, and if necessary forgive. But the eye was regularly seen as the instrument of judgment (Deuteronomy 19:13; Deuteronomy 19:21; Deuteronomy 25:12; 2 Samuel 22:28; Psalms 11:4; Psalms 66:7). Thus it includes the thought that the eyes of YHWH would watch over His people, both in order to ensure that they were fulfilling His requirements (Deuteronomy 13:18; 2 Samuel 22:28; Psalms 11:4), and in order to demonstrate His continual compassion towards them (Genesis 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:12; Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalms 17:8; Psalms 32:8; Psalms 33:18; Psalms 34:15).

“My heart will be there.” If they were willing to hear Him and serve Him His heart would perform His will towards them. The heart was the seat of mind, will and emotion, and YHWH’s heart represented His very self (Genesis 6:6; Genesis 8:21). He would be there ready to act on their behalf, both for good and for bad.

For the combination of ‘prayer and supplication’ see 1 Kings 8:28; 1 Kings 8:38; 1 Kings 8:45; 1 Kings 8:49; 1 Kings 8:54; Psalms 6:9; Psalms 55:1; Psalms 86:6; Psalms 143:1. For the hallowing of His House see Exodus 29:42-44; Leviticus 21:23. For man seen as putting YHWH’s Name somewhere see 2 Samuel 6:2 in context. There may be a hint in the phrasing of dissatisfaction with an unsought for situation. This was where Solomon had set His Name, not where YHWH had sought to set His Name (Deuteronomy 12:5), even though, as in the case of the kingship, He would align Himself with man’s genuine efforts and seal them as His own.

1 Kings 9:4-5

And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep my statutes and my ordinances, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel for ever, according as I promised to David your father, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel’.”

As so often in the Torah (Leviticus 26:3; Leviticus 26:14; Deuteronomy 28:1; Deuteronomy 28:15) contrasting choices are offered to Solomon. Here the call is to walk before YHWH as David walked, in both integrity of heart and in uprightness (compare the Davidic Psalms 25:1), which would involve doing all that YHWH commanded and keeping His statutes, and His ordinances. The consequence would then be that YHWH would establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever, just as He had promised David (2 Samuel 7:13; 2 Samuel 7:16). This would fulfil His promise to David that, ‘there shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel’ (compare 1 Kings 2:4; 1 Kings 8:25).


Verse 6

But if you shall turn away from following me, you or your children, and not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but shall go and serve other gods, and worship them, then I will cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them,”

The contrasting alternative is then put, the possibility that they will turn away from following YHWH. (For ‘turning away from following YHWH’ see especially Joshua 22:18). Note the movement from singular to plural. The initial charge was personal to Solomon in the circumstances (although of course continually applicable), while the alternative leaves open the fact that it might be his sons who will later do it (‘you or your children’). And the thought is that they might fail to keep His commandments and statutes, and might go and serve other gods and worship them. The huge pressure on Israelites to do this, in a land where there were ‘ancient’ false sanctuaries everywhere, and where all nations round about had their prominent idols, has to be experienced to be understood. Such sanctuaries were easily available and provided a quick solution and an easy way out, as well as appealing to man’s primitive instincts. And they would be constantly being urged to it by previous inhabitants of the land. Furthermore they provided elements which excited the lower nature and made no excessive moral demands. That was why YHWH had taken such trouble to guard against them (Exodus 20:3-6; Exodus 23:24; Exodus 23:32-33; Exodus 34:12-14; Leviticus 19:4; Leviticus 26:1; Leviticus 26:30; Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 7:4; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 11:16; Deuteronomy 13:2-13; Deuteronomy 17:3; Deuteronomy 28:14; Deuteronomy 30:17; Joshua 24:16; Judges 2:19; Judges 10:13; 1 Samuel 8:8). As will be seen from the references ‘serve other gods’ is typically Deuteronomic, while for ‘serve other gods and worship them’ see uniquely Deuteronomy 11:16. For the ease with which Israel could be turned to the worship of other gods see Numbers 25:2.

The consequence of their serving other gods and worshipping them will be that they will be cut off from the land which God has given them, the point being that the land was given to them because He was their Overlord and they were His people, and on rebelling against Him they would thus no longer have any right to it. Compare Leviticus 18:24-28; Leviticus 20:22. The phrase ‘be cut off out of the land’ is unique in respect of Israel. But a very similar idea is found in Leviticus 18:24-28; Leviticus 20:22 where His people were warned that they might be spewed out of the land for the same reason, (something which would have the same effect), while the godless nations had previously been ‘cast out’ of the land for the same reason (Leviticus 18:24. Those in Israel who did this would also be ‘cut off from among My people’ (Leviticus 18:29). This phrase ‘cut off from among My people’ occurs regularly in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, but is not found in Deuteronomy. In Leviticus 20:3; Leviticus 20:5 it has reference to idol worship. For being ‘cut off’ from God see Leviticus 22:3. (Being ‘cut off’ is thus not a Deuteronomic idea).

The theoretical idea that Israel could lose their land if they were disobedient was clearly a well known one, and does not therefore require a specific reference to the Exile. Indeed a similar idea of what could happen to YHWH’s House is found in Micah 3:12 where the Exile was certainly not in mind. They were to see their privileges as constantly dependent on obedience.

For ‘the land which I have given them’ see Numbers 20:12; Deuteronomy 9:23; Deuteronomy 25:19. For the idea behind it see Numbers 20:24; Numbers 27:12; Numbers 32:7; Numbers 32:9; Numbers 33:53; Deuteronomy 3:20; Deuteronomy 26:15. The point is that they have a duty and resonibility to Him as their Benefactor and Overlord.


Verse 7

And this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples.”

And they are not to see the fact that YHWH has ‘hallowed’ the House as an indication that He will give it special treatment. The ‘holiness’ of the House is not to be seen as intrinsic. Rather it is hallowed (set apart uniquely as His earthly Dwellingplace) because, and while, He is among them (1 Kings 8:10-11) and they are His obedient people. But if they rebel against Him then He will cast the house out of His sight. He will have no interest in it at all.

Furthermore Israel themselves are warned that as a result they will become a kind of private joke, a jest, a ‘proverb’ (illustration) which acts as a warning to others, and a ‘byword’ (a saying with teeth). Because they have rejected Him YHWH will have no concern at all for their good name.

For ‘cast out of My sight’ compare Jeremiah 7:15. For the idea of being ‘a proverb and a byword’ see Deuteronomy 28:37; Jeremiah 24:9, but note that in neither case do the two words stand alone. Those verses are not likely therefore to be the direct source of the idea.


Verse 8

And though this house is so high (or ‘this house shall be very high’), yet will every one who passes by it be astonished, and will hiss, and they will say, “Why has YHWH done thus to this land, and to this house?.” And they will answer, “Because they forsook YHWH their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them. Therefore has YHWH brought all this evil on them.”

What is more, whatever reputation the Temple might achieve, it will collapse so that all who pass by will be astonished, and will hiss, and will say, “Why has YHWH done thus to this land, and to this house?” Compare Deuteronomy 29:24-29, although there is no thought there of astonishment and hissing. The reply, however is otherwise very similar, although with interesting dissimilarities. Here the covenant is not mentioned and the emphasis is now therefore more on the idea of the personal forsaking of Him (in Deuteronomy it is Moses speaking, here it is YHWH speaking, and He clearly ‘feels’ their attitude).

The strict translation of the Hebrew is ‘this house shall be very high’, with a recognition of the reputation that it would gain. But the contrast is clearly intended. The height of its renown will not prevent it becoming an astonishment, and something to be hissed at. Rather it will ensure it. For the idea and significance of the hissing see Lamentations 2:15; Ezekiel 27:36; Zephaniah 2:15.

For ‘YHWH your God Who brought forth your fathers out of the land of Egypt’ compare Exodus 29:46 where it is ‘YHWH your God Who brought them forth from the land of Egypt’, and where it is also connected with the hallowing of YHWH’s Sanctuary. Compare also Judges 2:12.

1 Kings 9:10

And it came about at the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the two houses, the house of YHWH and the king’s house.’

This verse represents part of the inclusio with 1 Kings 9:1 and re-emphasises that this occurred once Solomon’s twenty year building stint was over, a period during which he had built two house, the house of YHWH and the king’s house. For the use of ‘it came about’ as a concluding comment in this way compare for example Genesis 7:10; Genesis 8:13; Genesis 19:29; etc.

It will be noted that YHWH’s words are presented as well diversified, with ideas taken from different parts of the Books of Moses, and indeed from elsewhere as well. In spite of the undoubted Deuteronomic echoes there are no real grounds for calling any part of it specifically ‘Deuteronomic’. We do better to call it ‘Mosaic’ recognising that the echoes come from all sections of the Books of Moses.


Verses 11-14

Solomon Has So Extended His Resources That He Feels It Necessary To Obtain A Secured Loan From Hiram, Secured Against Galilean Settlements (1 Kings 9:11-14).

It is an indication of the wealth that Solomon had laid out on his enterprises, and the great cost involved, that even he had subsequently to resort to a private loan, in spite of the wealth continually flowing into his kingdom. But, of course, no hint is given of a commercial transaction here (unless possibly in the naming of the lands as Cabul). It simply consisted of ‘gifts’ between extremely wealthy kings. The ‘settlements’ (cities/towns/villages) are ‘given’, both as a gesture of gratitude and as security for a further loan, without any such commonplace suggestions being made. Hiram then views them and is not very pleased with their ‘quality’ but nevertheless decides to send Solomon a huge amount of gold. He knew, of course, that his investment was safe and that he would eventually get it back in return for the ‘settlements’, no doubt at a somewhat enhanced premium.

It is interesting that in the section chiasmus this passage parallels the activities of Hiram the Metalworker from Tyre. He also was seen by the author as not quite ‘up to scratch’, in that while he was genuinely skilful, he lacked the Spirit (in contrast with Bezalel).

Analysis.

a Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar-trees and pine-trees, and with gold, according to all his desire (1 Kings 9:11 a).

b Then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty settlements in the land of Galilee (1 Kings 9:11 b).

c And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the settlements which Solomon had given him, and they did not please him (1 Kings 9:12).

b And he said, “What settlements are these which you have given me, my brother?” And he called them ‘the land of Cabul’ to this day (1 Kings 9:13).

a And Hiram sent to the king six-score talents of gold (1 Kings 9:14).

Note that in ‘a’ Hiram had already provided Solomon with much wealth, now in the parallel he will send more. In ‘b’ he receives twenty Galilean settlements, and in the parallel expresses his unhappiness with them. Centrally in ‘c’ we learn of his great displeasure with them. It may well have affected how much he sent as a ‘royal loan’, but nothing would be stated. They were after all allies.

1 Kings 9:11 a ‘Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar-trees and pine-trees, and with gold, according to all his desire.’

The passage commences by referring back to all that Hiram the King had provided towards the building of the Temple and the Palace Complex. He had provided cedar-trees, pine-trees and gold in accordance with all his requirements (something for which Solomon had paid well - 1 Kings 5:11). Relations between the two kings was very amicable. This is preparing for the next stage in their commercial transactions. No giving of gold had been previously referred to and the gold described here may be that in 1 Kings 9:14, thus bringing all their dealings together as one.

1 Kings 9:11 b ‘Then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty settlements (cities/villages) in the land of Galilee.’

King Solomon now gave Hiram twenty ‘settlements’ in the land of Galilee. These would be in a region close to Tyre. ‘Settlements’ could be cities, towns, or villages. ‘Galilee’ means ‘the circle or circuit’, and clearly indicated a large area of land which included Naphtali (Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:32; 2 Kings 15:29) and probably at this time parts of Asher. Tiglath Pileser will later refer in his inscriptions to both Galilee and Naphtali, indicating that they were not identical. It is referred to in Isaiah 9:2 as ‘Galilee of the nations’, an area with a mixed poulation.

In 18th century BC Alalakh in Syria the exchange of ‘settlements’ by contracts was seen as a means of adjusting borders. That may well be what is happening here. Solomon was ceding to Hiram a part of YHWH’s inheritance, a further indication of his casual attitude towards the covenant in spite of his protestations. The author would certainly not have been anything but displeased at the idea, but leaves us to pass our own judgment. (They may, of course, have been Canaanite settlements, especially in view of their poverty-stricken appearance, but this is nowhere stated, and the land was still part of YHWH’s inheritance. When they were later returned to Solomon he is said to have ensured their habitation by Israelites - 2 Chronicles 8:2)

1 Kings 9:12

And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the settlements which Solomon had given him, and they did not please him.’

Hiram came from Tyre to complete the negotiations, meeting with Solomon at the sites in question, and not being pleased with what he saw. He did not feel that the area being ceded came up to expectations. In his view the gold that he would be giving was worth much more than he was getting, even if it was only as security. He had probably hoped that they would be lucrative trading towns.

The use of the appellative ‘king’ in the narrative as a whole is interesting. In 1 Kings 9:11 it is ‘Hiram king of Tyre’ who supplies ‘Solomon’ followed by ‘King Solomon’ giving twenty settlements to ‘Hiram’. In each case the appellative is applied to the supplier. Now it is ‘Hiram’ and ‘Solomon’ as co-negotiators.

1 Kings 9:13

And he said, “What settlements are these which you have given me, my brother?” And he called them ‘the land of Cabul’ to this day.’

Hiram then politely expressed his dissatisfaction, although we do not know what affect it had. “What settlements are these which you have given me, my brother?” He was clearly not happy. He had probably expected larger towns. We can, however, understand why Solomon was careful about quite he was ready to cede. He had the feelings of his people to consider. ‘My brother’ expressed the treaty relationship between them.

The reference to ‘the land of Cabul’ produces difficulties. Some see it as a contemptuous term ‘ka bul’ (‘as nothing’), but tht would have been offensive to Solomon. Others refer it to the Arabic ‘kabala’ indicating ‘mortgaged’. Still others point to the Hebrew ‘yebul’ which signifies ‘borderland’. The last suggestion contains the right hint of displeasure without being insulting and may well be right.

1 Kings 9:14

And Hiram sent to the king six-score talents of gold.’

Hiram’s response to ‘the king’s’ gift was to send him one hundred and twenty talents of gold, possibly around four tons, a substantial sum. This is not to be seen as his valuation of the worth of the land. He would expect at some stage to receive back the equivalent in value, possibly in valuable produce (1 Kings 5:11) but that would simply be ‘read in’ (compare the similar description of the purchase of a cave by Abraham in Genesis 23 which sounded like a general give-away, but was in fact careful negotiation). Later the settlements would be returned to Solomon who would in fact fortify them and settle them with Israelites (2 Chronicles 8:2).

The significance of this extract from the official annals was that it indicated Solomon’s temporary embarrassment caused by his overspending. It may also have been expressing his unhappiness at the relationship between the two states. Why else should he draw attention to this displeasure, which did not reflect well on Solomon? We have already seen that the author of Kings was not totally satisfied with the sources used in building the Temple, seeing them as tainted.


Verses 15-25

Solomon’s Extensive Building Projects (1 Kings 9:15-25).

The author now links the building of the Temple and the palace complex with a number of other large scale building works in which Solomon engaged, all of which required extensive slave-labour. The emphasis is on the fact that it caused the raising of the levies, suggesting the prophet’s disapproval of the situation. Solomon obtained this slave-labour by conscripting the Canaanites who were left in the land, for while it has previously been mentioned that he pressed Israelites into part-time service while building the Temple (1 Kings 5:13-14), causing great dissatisfaction (1 Kings 12:4), he had been careful not to make them into slave-labourers. That would have gone against all the recognised customs in Israel. Instead they were made responsible for the defence of the realm as well as the oversight of the slaves. The Canaanites were, however, seen as suitable material for being turned into bond-slaves. That was the old traditional way of dealing with them (Joshua 9:27; Judges 1:28; Judges 1:30; Judges 1:33; Judges 1:35).

Engaging in huge amounts of building works was a policy amongst great kings, who were often judged on that basis. Solomon was thus out to demonstrate his own greatness, as well as to fortify the land.

Analysis.

a And this is the reason for the levy which king Solomon raised, to build the house of YHWH, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer (1 Kings 9:15).

b Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up, and taken Gezer, and burnt it with fire, and had slain the Canaanites who dwelt in the city, and given it for a portion to his daughter, Solomon’s wife (1 Kings 9:16).

c And Solomon built Gezer, and Beth-horon the nether, and Baalath, and Tamar in the wilderness, in the land, and all the store-cities that Solomon had, and the cities for his chariots, and the cities for his horsemen, and what Solomon desired to build for his pleasure in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion (1 Kings 9:17-19).

d As for all the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of the children of Israel, their children who were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel were not able utterly to destroy, of them did Solomon raise a levy of bondservants to this day, but of the children of Israel Solomon made no bondservants, but they were the men of war, and his servants, and his princes, and his captains, and rulers of his chariots and of his horsemen (1 Kings 9:20-22).

c These were the chief officers who were over Solomon’s work, five hundred and fifty, who bore rule over the people who wrought in the work (1 Kings 9:23).

b But Pharaoh’s daughter came up out of the city of David to her house which Solomon had built for her (1 Kings 9:24 a).

a Then did he build Millo. And three times a year did Solomon offer burnt-offerings and peace-offerings on the altar which he built to YHWH, burning incense with them, on the altar which was before YHWH. So he finished the house (1 Kings 9:24-25).

Note that in ‘a’ Solomon engaged in building many building works including the Temple and Millo, and in the parallel he built Millo and completed the Temple. In ‘b’ Pharaoh supplies a marriage portion for his daughter, and in the parallel, his daughter takes possession of her new palace. In ‘c’ the many building works are described, and in the parallel the overseers of the work are described. Centrally in ‘d’ we learn how Solomon obtained his slave labour, and how he behaved towards his own people.

1 Kings 9:15

And this is the reason for the levy which king Solomon raised, to build the house of YHWH, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer.’

We note the continual references to the Temple and the palace complex, which were not necessarily required here, having been mentioned previously. This possibly indicates what pride Solomon had in them, or the point might be the cost of them in human lives (this is a prophet writing). In the chiasmus the theme also connects back to the parallel passage of building the Temple and palace complex in 1 Kings 5:1 to 1 Kings 7:12, with a further parallel being found in the levy on the Israelites in 1 Kings 5:13. Here we have an explanation of the full-scale slave levy on the previous inhabitants of the land. It is in fact almost as though the author is apologising for it. Such levies of subject peoples were common with great kings who had massive building projects planned. We can compare Exodus 1:11, and there are many parallels in inscriptions. Here Solomon is described as ‘building’ not only the Temple and the palace complex, but also the Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. Lists of building projects like this are common in inscriptions.

“The Millo (filling).” This is unquestionably referring to fortification work in Jerusalem. It has been suggested that it refers to the system of terraces, which consist of retaining walls with levelled filling, discovered by archaeologists on the eastern slope of Ophel Hill. This enabled the construction of defensive buildings on the slope, and would tie in with the repairs to the walls of Jerusalem.

“Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.” These were important defensive cities from north to south. Casemate walls and six-roomed gate towers from the Solomonic period have been discovered at all three. Hazor was in northern Naphtali. It was a substantial city, eight kilometres (five miles) south of the now nearly dry Lake Huleh, and guarded the road from the north. Megiddo, an even larger city, guarded the route from Phoenicia and the important trade route through the Valley of Esdraelon. Gezer was the southernmost large city in Palestine and guarded the way to Jerusalem from the coast. It dominated the south western Philistine plain.

1 Kings 9:16

Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up, and taken Gezer, and burnt it with fire, and had slain the Canaanites who dwelt in the city, and given it for a portion to his daughter, Solomon’s wife.’

Gezer had been an independent ‘Canaanite’ city, but Pharaoh Siamun, a Pharaoh of the weak twenty first dynasty, who ruled around 978-959 BC, had engaged in a police action against it and had subdued it. The weakness of the twenty first dynasty is known from external sources but is apparent here in that it is clear from what is said that Egypt were making no claims on ‘Canaan’, an area which, in their strongest periods, they had looked on as containing vassal city states. They did, however, continue to conduct local actions against the Canaanites and Philistines in protecting their borders from supposed incursions, in the course of which, according to inscriptions, they ‘smote Gezer’. Thus they were not totally quiescent. A damaged triumphal relief scene at Tanis depicts Siamun smiting a foreigner, seemingly a Philistine judging by the Aegean type axe in his hand, which confirms that Siamun did engage in such ‘police action’ in Philistia. But with regard to the area of Canaan as a whole Siamun was apparently quite content to make his northern border safe by means of a marriage treaty with the powerful Solomon as described here, something which would be to their mutual benefit, especially tradewise. One of the obvious benefits of this treaty to Solomon was seen in the multiplicity of horses that he later possessed, for Egypt was a well known source of such horses (1 Kings 10:26-29). There is again here the hint of disapproval. This was the ‘Pharaoh’s daughter’ of 1 Kings 3:1.

1 Kings 9:17-18

And Solomon built Gezer, and Beth-horon the nether (Lower Beth-horon), and Baalath, and Tamar in the wilderness, in the land,’

The fortification of Gezer is mentioned here again because of 1 Kings 9:16. Also fortified were Lower Beth-horon (something also evidenced archaeologically) which guarded the road through the Ayalon Valley, protecting the route to Jerusalem from the Coastal Plain, together with Baalath, which was possibly south west of Beth-horon in Dan (Joshua 19:44). Alternately the Baalath in mind may have been in the southern wilderness (Joshua 15:24). ‘Tamar in the wilderness’ was south of the Dead Sea, protecting trade with Southern Arabia and with the port of Elath. ‘In the land’ may signify Judah, compare 1 Kings 4:19.

1 Kings 9:19

And all the store-cities that Solomon had, and the cities for his chariots, and the cities for his horsemen, and what Solomon desired to build for his pleasure in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion.’

As well as the great fortified cities Solomon built store cities, and cities for his chariots and horsemen, all necessary for the defence of the land. And on top of these he built many other things, both in Jerusalem, Lebanon and throughout the land. Long, pillared store places have been discovered at a number of places, and at Megiddo there is evidence of earlier Solomonic stables beneath the remains of the stables of Ahab.

It may be that Solomon built a summer house in Lebanon, or it may be that the buildings were connected with iron mines. Alternately ‘Lebanon’ is a name sometimes applied to sections of northern Canaan (southern Lebanon) which would be ‘within Israel’, and it may be building work there that is in mind here.

1 Kings 9:20-21

As for all the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of the children of Israel, their children who were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel were not able utterly to exterminate (put under the Ban), of them did Solomon raise a levy of bondservants to this day.’

The ‘Canaanites’ would be used to the idea of the slave-levy as exercised by their own kings, as we discover from Ugarit. Thus they would not have been surprised as a subject people to find themselves drafted for this work. As with the Israelites in Egypt they and their families would be provided with food of a kind, and would still have their own homes. That is not to say that they found it palatable. No doubt they too groaned under their taskmasters. Nor is it likely that a prophet in 6th century BC found such slavery any more palatable as a concept. It represented the side of Solomon that he was unhappy with (1 Kings 12:4).

Strictly these Canaanites should have been slaughtered or driven from the land. They had been ‘devoted’ to YHWH as being unfit to live amongst because of their evil and perverted ways (Genesis 15:16).

“Amorites” was a term that could signify all the pre-conquest inhabitants of the land, or could alternatively signify the hill-dwellers in the hill country. The Hittites would be groups which had wandered into Canaan centuries before and were related in some way to the Hittite empire to the north (see ‘the sons of Heth’ in Genesis 23). T he Perizzites (‘villagers’) who dwelt in the hills were probably native primitive peoples. The Hivites were principally in the Lebanon hills and the Carmel range. The Jebusites were the ancient inhabitants of the hills around Jerusalem. The population of Canaan as a land which was open to settlers had previously been a very mixed one. Compare for these names the names of the original inhabitants of the land regularly mentioned in the Law of Moses (e.g. Exodus 3:17; Exodus 23:23; Deuteronomy 7:1; Deuteronomy 20:17; Joshua 3:10; etc.).

“To this day” may have been in the original record, the author incorporating it in order to remind people that they were still around, suggesting a date for his writing before the final Exile (say in the days of Zedekiah).

1 Kings 9:22

But of the children of Israel Solomon made no bondservants, but they were the men of war, and his servants, and his princes, and his captains, and the third men in his chariots and his chariot horsemen.’

The children of Israel were seen as ‘free-men’ and could not be turned into bond-slaves except by personal choice for debt or in order to ensure a livelihood, even by such a tyrant as Solomon had become. They were thus called into service as soldiers, officers, commanders, captains, chariot shield-bearers and drivers. This was in fact what Samuel had warned the people would be the result of having a king (1 Samuel 8:12). Again the prophet is letting us know that Solomon was the typical harsh non-YHWH-like monarch.

This does not contradict 1 Kings 5:13-14. That was only a partial levy (mas) and was in order to work on the timber for the Temple in a foreign country. That was not a task that could not entrusted to the inhabitants of the land, if only because they were not ‘holy’. These were mas-‘obed, the slave-levy.

1 Kings 9:23

These were the chief officers who were over Solomon’s work, five hundred and fifty, who bore rule over the people who wrought in the work.’

And over the levy were five hundred and fifty taskmasters. Seemingly there were three hundred semi- senior Canaanite taskmasters (over the three units (thousand) of ordinary taskmasters in 1 Kings 5:16, making three units and three hundred) and two hundred and fifty senior Israelite taskmasters.

1 Kings 9:24 a ‘But Pharaoh’s daughter came up out of the city of David to her house which Solomon had built for her.’

Adding to his disapproval the prophet points out that much of this work had been carried out in order to make provision for Pharaoh’s daughter. (You can almost hear himself saying, ‘that woman’). Now that the palace complex had been completed, and the Ark had been removed from the Sacred tent in David’s house, the Egyptian princess, with her false deities, could be allowed to live there.

1 Kings 9:24 b ‘Then did he build The Millo.’

And this was the time when he built The Millo. ‘The Millo (filling)’ unquestionably referring to fortification work in Jerusalem. It has been suggested that it refers to the system of terraces, which consist of retaining walls with levelled filling, discovered by archaeologists on the eastern slope of Ophel Hill, strengthening the hillside. This enabled the construction of defensive buildings on the slope, and would tie in with the repairs to the walls of Jerusalem.

1 Kings 9:25

And three times a year did Solomon offer burnt-offerings and peace-offerings on the altar which he built to YHWH, burning incense with them, on the altar which was before YHWH. So he finished the house.’

The Temple having been built it was used as the Central Sanctuary to which the men of Israel gathered for the three great feasts, Passover, Sevens (Weeks) and Tabernacles. And during those feasts Solomon arranged for the offering of the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings as required by Law, and as required for the subsequent feasting. The burnt- offering was a dedicatory offering, and was wholly consumed. The peace or wellbeing offerings were also atoning, but parts of the animal could be eaten by the worshippers. These would be offered on the bronze altar. The incense would be burned by the priests ‘before YHWH’ on the incense altar in the Holy Place before the veil. The reference of the original word to incense is however secondary, and the word may simply refer to ‘fire-offerings’. (There is no requirement that we see Solomon as doing this himself. It was the responsibility of the priests. Indeed if Solomon had offered all the offerings himself he would have been a very busy man).

“The altar which he built to YHWH.” The bronze altar was hollow and had to be built up inside so as to take the heat of the flames.

“So he finished the house.” Compare 1 Kings 6:14; 1 Kings 6:22; 1 Kings 6:38. The House could not be considered to be ‘finished’ until it had been put to its proper use in the offering of the required offerings and sacrifices, and that had awaited the transfer of Pharaoh’s daughter to the palace complex, and the establishment of the Ark in its unique position in the Most Holy Place. Now at last it was fully operational.


Verses 26-28

Solomon’s Seafaring Activity And The Visit Of The Queen Of Sheba (1 Kings 9:26-28).

In this passage we learn of Solomon’s international influence and widespread trading activities, while central to it is Solomon’s reputation for wisdom as evidenced by the visit of the Queen of Sheba. Even though very much aware of Solomon’s weaknesses and failures the author hides nothing of his splendour. He is fair and open minded while making clear his disapproval simply by the way in which he words things. The sad thing about Solomon is that such a wise man, to whom God had given so much, should have been so foolish as to destroy his kingdom because of his vanity, pride and lust. He was fulfilling all the prophetic warnings of what happened when men were given supreme kingship (1 Samuel 8:11-18; Deuteronomy 17:16-17).

The coming of the Queen of Sheba was almost certainly because she wanted to ensure the maintenance of trading routes between her kingdom in Arabia, the Red Sea trade through Ezion-Geber, the northern trade routes, and the maritime trade through Tyre and Sidon. Solomon’s kingdom bestrode and controlled all the trade routes. We know from Assyrian records that queens were a regular feature of Arabian rule of Saba around this time, along with their priest-kings, so that this visit is not surprising. She clearly wanted to search out and sum up her prospective trading partner. She was suitably impressed. But, of course, no hint of such trading activities is given. Kings did not ‘trade’. They gave each other things (compare Hiram above).

Analysis.

a And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom (1 Kings 9:26).

b And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen who had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon, and they came to Ophir, and fetched from there gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon (1 Kings 9:27-28).

c And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of YHWH, she came to prove him with hard questions. And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels which bore spices, and very much gold, and precious stones, and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart (1 Kings 10:1-2).

d And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not anything hid from the king which he told her not (1 Kings 10:3).

e And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, and the house which he had built, and the food of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up to the house of YHWH, there was no more spirit in her (1 Kings 10:4-5).

f And she said to the king, “It was a true report that I heard in my own land of your acts, and of your wisdom” (1 Kings 10:6).

e “Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and my own eyes had seen it, and, behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame which I heard” (1 Kings 10:7).

d “Happy are your men, happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you, and who hear your wisdom. Blessed be YHWH your God, who delighted in you, to set you on the throne of Israel, because YHWH loved Israel for ever, therefore he made you king, to do justice and righteousness” (1 Kings 10:8-9).

c And she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones. There came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon (1 Kings 10:10).

b And the navy also of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug-trees and precious stones. And the king made of the almug-trees pillars for the house of YHWH, and for the king’s house, harps also and psalteries for the singers. There came no such almug-trees, nor were seen, to this day (1 Kings 10:11-12).

And king Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatever she asked, besides that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned, and went to her own land, she and her servants (1 Kings 10:13).

Note that in ‘a’ Solomon had established maritime trade routes through the port of Ezion-Geber, trade routes which were important to Arabian trade, and in the parallel ‘all her desire’ would include access to these trade routes on reasonable terms. In ‘b’ Hiram enabled Solomon to set up his fleet, which went to Ophir, and in the parallel Hiram’s navy brings goods back from Ophir. In ‘c’ the Queen of Sheba arrived bring many precious gifts, and in the parallel she supplies these gifts to Solomon. In ‘d’ Solomon revealed his wisdom to the Queen of Sheba, and in the parallel she extols his wisdom. In ‘e’ the Queen saw all the splendour of Solomon’s court, and in the parallel she expatiates on its magnificence. Centrally in ‘f’ she gives her fulsome verdict on Solomon.

1 Kings 9:26

And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Ezion-geber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom.’

As a result of David’s conquest of Edom Solomon had control of the port of Ezion-Geber on the Red Sea. This is now Guzarat al-Far’un, and the nearby ancient storage facilities have been excavated. Traces of ship-building materials (long nails, lumps of pitch, carbonised cables) were found on site. It was an important maritime trade route for Arabia. Elath also was on the Gulf of Aqabah, and is mentioned for identification purposes. These facilities would provide Solomon with huge revenues, as well as enabling his own trading ventures.

1 Kings 9:27-28

And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen who had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. And they came to Ophir, and fetched from there gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon.’

Taking advantage of his treaty friendship with Hiram Solomon set up his own fleet, with his own people receiving expert guidance and help from the experienced Tyrian sailors and shipbuilders. And they regularly set sail for Ophir, and returned bringing back large consignments of gold (compare Job 22:24; Job 28:16; Isaiah 13:12), a trade attested on the Tell Qasileh ostracon inscriptions. We do not know the identity of Ophir, which may have been in southern Arabia (Genesis 10:29), or East Africa (e.g. Somalia which was a source of frankincense and myrrh) or even India. India is known to have had a thriving trade with the Persian Gulf region in 2nd-1st millenniums BC, and all the commodities mentioned were available from there.

There is no reason for doubting the huge amount of gold which would accumulate over many voyages. Solomon’s trade was expansive, and such levels are mentioned in inscriptions elsewhere.

1 Kings 10:1

And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of YHWH, she came to prove him with hard questions.’

The real purpose of the visit, trading negotiations, would naturally be passed over, and there is no good reason for doubting the Queen of Sheba’s genuine interest in what she had heard of Yahwism. The fame of Solomon’s Temple had no doubt spread, and together with it the mystery of the covenant chest, topped by the Cherubim which represented the invisible God, which ‘bore the Name of YHWH of Hosts’ (2 Samuel 6:2). It would be quite clear to all the greatness that He had given to Solomon, as He had raised up this powerful empire on his behalf. Furthermore Solomon’s reputation for wisdom had reached her ears, and she wanted to test him out with riddles, as well as to discuss diplomatic and ethical questions. All this is quite in accord with what we might expect.

1 Kings 10:2

And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels which bore spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.’

The Queen was taking advantage of the visit for trading purposes, and brought with her a huge train of valuable commodities, no doubt well guarded. Her camels brought the spices, gold and precious stones for which Arabia was famous. They would, of course, have been a gift, in return for which she would be entitled to expect similar ‘gifts’. But the main purpose of her own coming was in order to sound Solomon out, and discover what she could about him, with thoughts of future dealings in mind. Thus they talked about many things.

1 Kings 10:3

And Solomon told her all her questions. There was not anything hid from the king which he did not tell her.’

She found Solomon competent and capable, and able to live up to the reputation that he had earned. He was able to give satisfactory answers to all her questions, and was not caught out by any of them.

1 Kings 10:4-5

And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, and the house which he had built, and the food of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up to the house of YHWH, she was breathless with wonder (there was no more spirit in her).’

The magnificence of Solomon’s court impressed even such a great queen, while his wisdom, the magnificence of his palace complex, and the engineering ingenuity of the access which had been built between the palace and the Temple, filled her with awe. It fulfilled all her expectations. Also included among her impressions was the quality and quantity of food, the protocol of his chief ministers, the wide variety of lesser ministers, and the kind of clothing that they wore, together with the hugely important ‘cupbearers’ (not just wine waiters. Compare the Rabshakeh in 2 Kings 18:17, and the later Nehemiah) who supervised all drinking and ensured that no important persons were poisoned. Everything was magnificent, and it took her breath away.

Alternatively what might have impressed her about his ascent to the house of YHWH may have been the huge bodyguard with their shields of glistening gold (1 Kings 14:28 with 1 Kings 10:17).

1 Kings 10:6-7

And she said to the king, “It was a true report that I heard in my own land of your acts, and of your wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and my own eyes had seen it, and, behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame which I heard”.’

While fulsome praise was expected by kings, and indeed its lack would have been looked on as an insult, there is no reason for doubting the genuineness of the Queen’s words. She had heard of his doings and his wisdom, and had hardly been able to believe that it was true, but now she had seen it with her own eyes. Indeed what she had seen had surpassed all that she had heard. Both in wisdom and in wealth, Solomon surpassed all expectations. Sadly it was these very things which would contribute so very much towards his downfall. Reputation and wealth can destroy the best of men, especially when they have absolute power.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 9:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-kings-9.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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