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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
1 Kings 9

 

 

Verse 1-2

SEVERAL IMPERIAL TRANSACTIONS

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

Chapter divides itself into two sections: 1Ki , Gods answer, of promise and warning, to Solomon's prayer; 1Ki 9:10-27, transactions between Solomon and Hiram, with a record of Solomon's levy of labourers, his officers and servants, his navy and foreign trade.

1Ki . It came to pass, &c.—i.e., "at the end of twenty years" (1Ki 9:10), for 1Ki 9:1 begins a narrative which 1Ki 9:2 interrupts; 1Ki 9:2-9 being a parenthesis. Solomon's desire, חֵשֶׁק—(1Ch 7:11), "All that came into Solomon's heart." Thenius suggests "pleasure buildings" as in distinction from public works. But 1Ki 9:19 explains his "desire" as having reference to "Jerusalem, Lebanon, and all the land of his dominion"—probably aqueducts, &c.

1Ki . That the Lord appeared, &c.—Rather, "for the Lord appeared," as interposing this section, which continues till 1Ki 9:10 resumes the narrative. The second time as, &c.—In Gibeon, during the night after his sacrifices (chap 1Ki 3:5); in this instance, during the night following the dedication prayer and sacrificial offerings; and again "in a dream."

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

THE PRIVILEGE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF DIVINE MANIFESTATION TO MAN

At two important eras in the career of Solomon, Jehovah appeared to him. The first appearance was at Gibeon, at the outset of his kingly career, when the Lord gave him not only what he asked for, but also riches, dignity, and fame: the second occurred some years after, when Solomon had completed all his great works, and stood at the highest pinnacle of his external and imperial grandeur. Each appearance had its own peculiar significance and worth. The one afforded the opportunity and power to advance on a pathway of unexampled greatness and authority; the other was fraught with warning as to the danger of apostasy and decline, and that at a time when he had reached the very summit of success. Favoured, indeed, is the man whose life is divinely guided in its beginning, prospered in its progress, and cautioned and guarded in its mid-career. To fall, after being thus divinely fenced, is a saddening proof of the fickleness of human promises, of base ingratitude, of gross criminality. Every revelation of God to man is a distinguished privilege and a grave responsibility.

I. That Divine manifestation to man is an act of gracious condescension. In all ages man has eagerly longed for revelations of the Divine. Heathen authors speak of the appearance of gods on the earth, and of the exaltation of heroic men to the dignity of deity; the former in the incarnations of the Eastern world, the latter in the apotheoses of the Western. Though these are but poetic fancies, they indicate the strong aspirations of the human heart after God. Sin has broken the union that once existed between God and man, and created a moral gulf which man is wholly unable to cross. But the infinite mercy of God has followed man in all his wanderings, met him more than half way, and bridged the otherwise impassable chasm. The yearnings of humanity have been satisfied by Divine manifestations. The revelations of Jehovah in Israel were preliminary and prophetic of the great revelation in which He was Himself to appear in the person of His Son, and thus restore the harmony between God and man that had been disturbed by sin. Sin was the reason for the incarnation: the needs of humanity were met by the gracious condescension of God.

II. That Divine manifestation to man often occurs at a critical juncture in his individual history. Solomon was now at the height of his fame—in the full tide of prosperity. Temptations unlike any he had had before assailed him, and he was, perhaps, less prepared to resist them. There was no one around him who had the courage or the ability to warn him of his dangers. At this crisis, Jehovah appeared to him a second time, and, while encouraging him in the pathway of integrity, cautioned him as to the consequences of disobedience. How deep and untiring is the interest God takes in His children. His manifestations are the most timely, and His words fraught with profound significance. The extremity of the individual life has been the opportunity for Divine interference; the crisis has been successfully passed, and the destiny changed. The Divine manifestations are unmistakable. A poor Arabian of the Desert was one day asked how he came to be assured that there was a God. "In the same way," said he, "that I am able to tell by the print impressed on the sand whether it was a man or a beast that had passed this way." The manifestation of the God-Man was at a critical period in the world's history; and who shall estimate the influence of that manifestation on the destinies of the human race!

III. That Divine manifestation to man involves a solemn responsibility.

1. Because it is made to one who can apprehend and appreciate its significance. It is not a display to insensate and unthinking matter. However gorgeous might be the revelation in its external aspect, there is nothing in star, or flower, or tree to catch and respond to its meaning; they robe themselves in the glory, while all unconscious of the truth it unfolds. But the revelation to man is to one gifted with intelligence and formed in the Divine image. "If we think of God, we think of Him after our image; and we do not think incorrectly. And as God has ever thought of and willed Himself, so has He ever lovingly willed man, in order to impart Himself to him." Thus having affinity with the Divine nature, man is competent to understand the meaning and appreciate the value of Divine manifestations.

2. Because it is made to one who is capable of carrying out the Divine behests. Man has capacity for accomplishing great things. Vast, indeed, is his power for good or for evil. Marvellous are the productions of human genius. Solomon had just exemplified what one man could do, when divinely aided, in building up an empire which was the wonder of succeeding ages. Man is exalted to the highest dignity when he becomes a medium for carrying out Divine ideas and purposes.

3. Because it is made to one who may abuse the blessings it confers. The will of man is free, and that which may be the instrument of the greatest good may become a power for propagating terrible mischief. The noble may become ignoble, the refined base, the honoured contemptible. Few great men exercise the questionable caution of a certain celebrated musical composer who spent the last forty years of his life in almost complete idleness, saying, "An additional success would add nothing to my fame; a failure would injure it. I have no need of the one, and I do not choose to expose myself to the other." Mayhap, it would have been well for some lives if they had terminated when, to all appearance, they had reached the highest point of moral goodness, rather than be prolonged to present such pitiful examples of degeneracy and sin.

LESSONS:—

1. God honours man by His manifestations.

2. The most blessed manifestation is that which is made to the heart. 3 Every manifestation of God is a prelude and motive to loftier enterprise and toil.

4. To disregard Divine manifestation is to incur unutterable calamity.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . The second appearance of Jehovah to Solomon.—

1. The point of time at which it occurred: after the completion of the great works of the kingdom.

2. The object of the appearance: promise and warning.

—The appearance with which Solomon was favoured after the completion of his many grand edifices, as the text clearly and positively says, is expressly placed in relation to and contrasted with that which he had in the beginning of his reign at Gibeon (1Ki ). He had succeeded in all that he had undertaken. Not only did he himself stand at the summit of fortune, but his people had never before reached such a great and prosperous state, being blessed with peace and quiet without, and with prosperity and comfort within. Then came the second appearance, which contained, with the remembrance of the prayer answered at the dedication of the Temple and the promise of blessing in the future, a threatening and warning very wholesome, and even necessary now, for Solomon himself, who, though hitherto loyal and faithful to the Lord, was open to the temptation to fall away, as the after-history shows. It was also needed by that ever-restless, fickle people which, in the enjoyment of the greatest happiness, were in danger of forgetting their Lord and God, and of relapsing into the idolatrous worship which was more agreeable to the flesh.—Lange.

—This was a great engagement upon Solomon to cleave close to that God who had appeared unto him twice (1Ki ). See an analogical appearance to all that love Him (Joh 14:21); and be instructed, lest God's soul depart from us (Jer 6:8), for our evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God (Heb 3:12).—Trapp.

—The danger of transitions in life.—

1. Every period in life has its special dangers.

2. The greatest danger is present when in a state of transition from one period into another.

3. In every such transition special help and wisdom should be sought.

4. It is an unspeakable boon to be conscious at such times of the Divine presence and guidance.

5. To ignore the lessons of such periods is to invite disaster and ruin.


Verses 3-9

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . Sept. inserts, after "Supplication that thou hast made before me," "I have done to thee according to all thy prayer."

1Ki . If ye shall at all turn.—A. V. implies only the slightest dereliction, "at all turn;" whereas שוֹב תְּשֻׁבוֹן is an intensive Hebraism, implying entirety, absolute apostasy. Which I have set before you: or, Moses set before you; so Sept. Notice also that the threatening (1Ki 9:7) is a quotation from Moses (Deu 28:37).

1Ki . This house is high—Omit italicised words at and which; is high=future tense, shall be high עֶלְיוֹן not exalted in renown (as Von Meyer, De Wette, Bähr), but shall stand high, a conspicuous example, a pre-eminent illustration of destruction. Others (the Peshito and Dr. Böttcher), "this house shall be a heap." Sept.= ὁ οἶκος οὗτος ἔσται ὁ υψηλός. Vulg., et domus hæc crit in exemplum.

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

RELIGION THE GLORY OF A NATION

I. That the religion of a nation does not consist in anything external.

1. Not in the grandeur of its temples. Architecture and artistic decoration are not essential to true piety. The most exquisite creations of the trowel and mallet can never rival the glorious edifice which has been already reared by the master hand of Deity. Nature is one vast cathedral, with its roof fretted with clouds and gemmed with stars; its aisles are the long-extended valleys; its pillars the lofty, massive hills; its altar the spot where the worshipper reverently bends his knee; and its music the manifold voices that rise from bird, or forest, or sea. Some of the costliest temples built by the art and adorned by the genius of man are consecrated to the worship of other than the only true God.

2. Not in the elaborateness of its ritual. The rites and ceremonies of the Israelitish religion in the days of Solomon were minute and exacting. Their worship was a rich, imposing pageant, calculated to impress both the worshipper and the spectator; and their history shows with what scrupulosity they observed the forms of their ritual when the spirit which gave those forms life and meaning was altogether quenched. It is the tendency of man to rest in the outward; and the devoutest worshipper has often to complain—

But I of means have made my boast,

Of means an idol made;

The spirit in the letter lost,

The substance in the shade.

3. Religion consists in the sincere worship of an ever-present God. The true glory of Moriah's Temple was the hallowing presence of Jehovah. "I have hallowed this house which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually" (1Ki ). When we fail to recognize the true God, when we forget His eye is upon us, when we are no longer conscious of His personal and all-compassionate love, religion ceases to be a power, ceases to be a reality. We may take our place in the temple, we may engage mechanically in its services, but there is no longer any true, acceptable worship (Mat 15:8-9).

II. That the religion of a nation depends for its permanence on obedience to God (1Ki ).

1. Obedience is regulated by clearly defined injunctions. "To do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments." Obedience must be intelligent, be governed by a studious appreciation of the Divine commands. We are surrounded by law. We cannot properly fulfil the great purpose of life without some acquaintance with the laws and forces in operation around us. The mariner needs it in order to pilot his vessel aright, the scientist to guide him in research, the physician to ameliorate human suffering. There should not be less study given to the laws of God for the government of our moral actions than is given to the laws of nature.

2. Obedience must be genuine and complete. "In integrity of heart and in uprightness." We must be sincere. When we remember with what energy and publicity we have sometimes served sin, we should be animated with the more courage and earnestness in serving God. "He doeth not God's will but his own, who doeth no more than himself will. Everything must be done as well as anything, else we do nothing."

3. Obedience is illustrated by noble examples. "If thou wilt walk before me as David thy father walked." God expects no impossibility. What one man has done, another may do. David had great imperfections; but he had also great virtues. The seed of the godly cannot expect to enjoy the entail of the blessing unless they tread in the steps of those who have gone before, and keep up the piety of their ancestors. Solomon's subsequent fall lends to these repeated warnings a special interest.

4. Obedience ensures perpetuity of blessing. "Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever" (1Ki ). Obedience and blessing run together. If we are faithful to our part of the covenant, God will never fail on His part. All the promises of God are conditional; and failure in fulfilment of the promise is no proof of changeableness in God, but of infidelity in man. While the condition is observed, the promise is inviolably kept.

III. That the decay of the religion of a nation is inevitably followed by national ruin (1Ki ).

1. The ruin of its national greatness. "Then will I cut off Israel out of the land I have given them." In the very land where the Jews were most highly exalted did they witness the most abject degradation. When the people forsook God, and turned to idols, the Temple of Solomon—the world-wide evidence of national prosperity and blessing—was destroyed, Israel ceased to be an independent kingdom, and the people were banished; and when, after the second temple was built, they rejected David's greater Son—their promised, true, and eternal king in whom all nations of the earth were to be blessed—this temple was destroyed never to be rebuilt, and the people were scattered through the whole world, ceasing for ever to be an independent kingdom and nation. Irreligion will ruin a nation more completely than an invading army could do. The external evidences of national greatness are the last to go: the first fatal weakness begins within, and may progress for a time silently and unnoticed.

2. The ruin of its religious prestige. "And this house which I have hallowed for my name will I cast out of my sight." The temple was the symbol and external evidence of the intense religiousness of the people. Never was there before a nation so favoured with religious privileges: it was its solemn mission to preserve and promulgate the idea of the Only True God, which idea had become lost amid the mists of heathenism. When Israel lost its religion it lost everything—temple, character, influence. The same is true of every nation that abandons God.

3. The ruin is held up as a terrible warning to all ages. "And Israel shall be a proverb and a bye-word among all people; and this house which is high (Heb. shall be high), every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss" (1Ki ). Not a scornful hiss, but a hissing of terror (Jer 19:8; Jer 49:17). The temple and the nation shall be as conspicuous in their desolation as in their glory. No people in the world ever became such a proverb—everywhere despised, reviled, and persecuted. By its story it illustrates to all nations the unchanging truth uttered by the prophet Azariah to King Asa, "If ye forsake Him, He will forsake you" (2Ch 15:2).

LESSONS:—

1. Religion is at once the strength and the adornment of a people.

2. The chief concern of the monarch should be for the religious welfare of his people.

3. The nation that abandons God will be abandoned by Him.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . "To put my name there for ever." God's gifts are without repentance. When He puts His name in the temple, He does it, in intention, for ever. He will not arbitrarily withdraw it after so many years or so many centuries. Once placed there, it will remain there for ever, so far as God is concerned. But the people may, by unfaithfulness, drive it away.

—"Mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually." Solomon's prayer had been that God's eyes might be directed towards the temple continually. The answer given is—Not mine eyes only, but mine eyes and mine heart. To every house where the name of God is truly honoured applies the Divine saying, "Mine eyes and my heart shall dwell there for ever."

—The Divine solicitude for the Church. 1. He investigates its moral condition.

2. He sympathises with its struggles.

3. He rejoices in its triumphs.

4. His care is unremitting.

1Ki . "If Thou wilt walk before me" (compared with 1Ki 9:6). The power of individualism.

1. The national is vastly influenced by the personal.

2. A monarch may foster or blast the religious interests of his people.

3. The greater the authority placed in the hands of one man, the greater is his responsibility for its use or abuse.

4. How momentous are the opportunities presented within the compass of a single life!

1Ki . Because men endure uninterrupted prosperity with much greater difficulty than they do crosses and afflictions, therefore, when they are at the summit of their wishes and their hearts' desire, it is most necessary that the grave importance of God and of eternity should be held up before them, so that they may not fall into security, and forget to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Mat 16:26; 1Co 10:12). The more abundantly God displays His mercy and love towards an individual or towards a nation, so much the more fearful will be the righteous sentence, if the riches of His mercy are despised. In happy and prosperous days forget not that the Lord tells us, "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." How many men, how many families, how many nations, blessed in every respect, have come to a fearful and shameful end! Askest thou—"Wherefore is this? The only reply is—Because they have forsaken the Lord their God; for what a man sows that shall he also reap. Let him who will not recognize a Divine justice, turn to the twice-destroyed temple of Jerusalem, and to the world-scattered people who have become a byeword amongst all nations.—Lange.

1Ki . If our growth in grace does not correspond with our privileges, our boast of the temple and the best form of worship will but delude and destroy us.

1Ki . Apostasy is hateful even among the heathen. Solyman, the Grand Signior, rejected the revolt of his Christian subjects to Turkism, and doubled their taxations.


Verses 10-14

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . At the end of twenty years—Seven and a-half years spent in erecting temple, twelve and a-half upon his own house. This verse takes up again the suspended narrative (1Ki 9:1, supra). After Solomon, with the aid of Hiram, had completed his work, the king gave Hiram twenty cities, &c.

1Ki . Cities in the land of Galilee—Adjacent to Tyre (Josephus), until then unconquered, and occupied by the Canaanites.

1Ki . They pleased him not … he called them Cabul—Gesenius regards Cabul as a name of contempt; Keil considers the word to be a contraction from כְּהַבּוּל as a vacuity, a desolate region.

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

QUESTIONABLE GENEROSITY

I. It is questionable generosity when a gift is tardily rendered. "And it came to pass at the end of twenty years—that then King Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities"—one city for every year of building. The charm of generosity is its promptness. That is well done that is done quickly. To give slowly is to give grudgingly. The Arabians are said to be remarkably lavish in their generosity. Gibbon relates that a dispute had arisen who, among the citizens of Mecca, was entitled to the prize of generosity, and a successive application was made to the three who were deemed most worthy of the trial. Abdallah, the son of Abbas, had undertaken a distant journey, and his foot was in the stirrup when he heard the voice of a suppliant, "O son of the uncle of the Apostle of God, I am a traveller, and in distress!" He instantly dismounted to present the pilgrim with his camel, her rich caparison, and a purse of four thousand pieces of gold, excepting only the sword, either for its intrinsic value, or as the gift of an honoured kinsman. The servant of Kais informed the second suppliant that his master was asleep; but he immediately added, "Here is a purse of seven thousand pieces of gold—it is all we have in the house—and here is an order that will entitle you to a camel and a slave." The master, as soon as he awoke, praised and enfranchised his faithful steward, with a gentle reproof that by respecting his slumbers he had stinted his bounty. The third of these heroes, the blind Arabah, at the hour of prayer, was supporting his steps on the shoulders of two slaves—"Alas!" he replied, "My coffers are empty; but these you may sell: if you refuse, I renounce them." At these words, pushing away the youthful slaves, he groped along the wall with his staff. There is a generosity that is questionable in its excess; when it surpasses the limits of discretion. A true generosity is regulated by justice.

II. It is questionable generosity where the right of disposal is doubtful. According to the law, Solomon had no right to give away these cities, or any part of the inheritance of Israel (Lev ). But this was not the first nor last instance in which this great king stepped aside from the law of Moses. Already, contrary to the express commands of the law, he had multiplied horses and chariots. In the case before ns the appearance of transgression is somewhat modified when we remember that these cities, when given to Hiram, were not peopled by Israelites, but by heathens. Solomon may have regarded it as a prudent policy to hand over the government of these heathen cities, which were evidently of no great worth, to his friendly neighbour who had rendered him so much service in building the Lord's house. It is worse than a questionable generosity, it is a positive injustice, for a man to give away in charity what ought to be paid in discharge of his just debts. It is easy for a man to be lavish with money that is not his own, but which in all fairness belongs to his creditors. It is the impulse of benevolence blinding the sense of justice.

III. It is questionable generosity where the gift creates disappointment rather than pleasure. "And Hiram came out of Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him; and they pleased him not" (1Ki ). It is not always that a generous spirit meets with the appreciation and gratitude it merits; but it strives so to administer its gifts as to meet the wants and promote the happiness of the recipient. There is a way of bestowing benefits in which the giver makes himself appear as the obliged party. On the other hand, a gift may be so inadequate in comparison with the resources of the donor and the merits of the recipient as to produce chagrin and displeasure. Hiram might naturally have coveted some of Solomon's coast towns—perhaps had cast his eyes on the noble bay of Acco or Ptolemais—and was therefore dissatisfied with the gift of a comparatively useless inland region. It would be well for us to have as light an esteem of all things temporal as Hiram had of these twenty cities!

IV. An act of questionable generosity need not interfere with a long-tried friendship. "And Hiram sent to the king six score talents of gold" (1Ki ). Apparently to show that, although disappointed, he was rob offended. The sum sent was very large—above a million and a quarter of on money, according to Mr. Poole's estimate of the weight of the Hebrew gold talent, or about £720,000 according to the estimate preferred by Mr. S. Clarke. At any rate, it was more than equal to a sixth part of Solomon's regular revenue (chap. 1Ki 10:14). The cities despised by Hiram were restored to Solomon, who rebuilt and colonized them with Israelities (2Ch 8:2). No doubt Solomon compensated Hiram in some other way. Their friendship was not sacrificed by what might have been thought an act of parsimoniousness on the one hand, or an act of ungrateful contemptuousness on the other. In the dearest friendships, anomalies will occur which are difficult to reconcile. The conduct of a friend may seem questionable and blameworthy. Then is the time to exercise patience and forbearance, to put the best construction on the most unfavourable appearances, and wait calmly the issue of events. Many a valuable friendship has been wrecked by a single injudicious act; and a wound inflicted which has rankled in the heart for years. It is a bitter experience when the soul realizes for the first time the heartless infidelity of a long trusted friend!

Is all the counsel that we two have shared,

The sisters' vows, the hours that we have spent

When we have chid the hasty-footed time

For parting us—O! is all forgot?

All school-days' friendship, childhood innocence?

—And will you rend our ancient love asunder

To join with men in scorning your poor friend?

Midsummer Night's Dream.

LESSONS:—

1. It requires great wisdom to be truly generous.

2. Generosity is often abused, both in the donor and in the recipient.

3. A genuine friendship is too valuable to be forfeited by trifles.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . The demeanor of Solomon and Hiram towards each other. I. Friends and neighbours should be of one mind, and mutually ready to help each other. II. Let not him who has kindly aided thee with his substance be long awaiting the proofs of thy gratitude, and render to him more rather than less, even if he need it not. III. Regard not so much the gift which thou receivest, as the disposition of the giver, remembering always, it is more blessed to give than to receive.

1Ki . A generous spirit.

1. Is careful in estimating.

2. Liberal in providing.

3. Prompt in giving.

4. Is one of the noblest fruits of Christianity.

1Ki . These twenty cities were mere villages, of course, and it is a genuine Eastern trick to dignify a small present with a pompous name. And so the remonstrance of Hiram with Solomon is very natural: "What cities are these which thou hast given me, my brother?" and then he fastens upon the gift a name of contempt—Cabul, vile or displeasing—a mode of expressing and of perpetuating dissatisfaction eminently Oriental.—The Land and the Book.

—From the heathen Hiram, many Christians may learn, even where real cause for dissatisfaction and just claims exist, to state the disproportion between gifts and recompenses with friendly words and in a kindly manner.

1Ki . Friends who through long years have aided each other must not be estranged, even when one thinks himself injured by the other, but must strive to come to a thorough understanding and agreement.—Lange.


Verses 15-28

CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—

1Ki . Solomon fortified the border cities especially open to attacks from foes, and carried out building projects for the public health and advantage. The levy which King Solomon raised—Comp. notes on chap. 1Ki 5:13.

1Ki shows whom the levy included.

1Ki . Men of war עֲבָדָים = officials of the war department. Rulers of his chariots שָׁלִישִׁים—Rather, royal adjutants—the royal body guard. 1Ki 9:24-25 are inserted here without apparent connection with the narrative, but by referring back to the events which embarrassed Solomon at the beginning of his reign (chap. 1Ki 3:1-4), they mark the completion of his building projects and hence the fulfilment of "all his desire."

1Ki . Navy of ships—The Sept., Chald.' and Arab. have the singular ship, both here and 1Ki 9:27; yet אֳנִי means a fleet. Ezion-geber, a port at the eastern head of the Red Sea. Elioth, Elim, where a grove of terebinth trees still stands at the head of the gulf.

1Ki . Gold, four hundred and twenty talents—2Ch 8:18 states 450, a mere change of the cipher נ (50) into כ (20): calculated to value £2,604,000.—W. H. J.

HOMILETICS OF 1Ki

THE IMPERATIVE EXIGENCIES OF REGAL MAGNIFICENCE

Solomon had the wisdom to conceive how his little inland kingdom could be raised into greatness and importance; and it excites our admiration to observe the skilful combinations by which he accomplished his aims. His relations with Egypt, Arabia, and Tyre, by which he seemed to open up the resources of the East and the West, tended to the rapid aggrandisement of his empire. One luxury demanded another; and the increase of riches seemed to beget the desire for more. In these verses we have some indications of the manifold exigencies of regal magnificence.

I. There is the demand for architectural display (1Ki ; 1Ki 9:17-19). The character of a nation is known by its public buildings. The great nations of antiquity have been famous for the grandeur of their erections. No other Israelitish king ever built so much as Solomon. The sacred narrative would not have given such prominence to his buildings but for their relation to the Theocratic kingdom. They were designed to further the greatness, power, and splendour of the Theocracy of which the Temple—the House of Jehovah—was the ostensible centre. After first building the Temple, his chef-d'æuore' Solomon erected his own royal palace, fortified Jerusalem, and built cities and fortresses in different parts of his dominions. And yet where are these vast structures to-day? They have succumbed to the violence of dynastic changes, and the relentless ravages of time. From the gorgeous temple of Moriah to the massive and elaborate edifices of Tadmor in the Wilderness, whose ruins now lie "lonely and forsaken, like bleached bones on a long-neglected battle-field," the same fate has overtaken them. It is not possible to conceive higher ideas of Solomon's magnificence than these ruins present, nor more humiliating ideas of the vanity and weakness of all human splendour.

II. There is the employment of forced labour (1Ki ; 1Ki 9:20-21). The greater portion of the levies of men employed by Solomon in his public works were drawn from the subjugated nations; but still the Israelites were not exempt. This was, perhaps, the first time the Israelites were called upon to perform forced labour. It had been prophesied, when they desired a king, that, if they insisted on having one, he would "take their men-servants and their maid-servants, and their goodliest young men, and put them to work" (1Sa 8:16); and David had bound to forced service "the strangers that were in the land of Israel" (1Ch 22:2); but hitherto the Israelites had escaped. Solomon now, in connection with his proposed work of building the Temple, with the honour of God as an excuse, laid this burden upon them. As to the system adopted, see chap. 1Ki 5:13-14. This, though a light form of task work, was felt by the Israelites to be a great oppression. But the great works of an imperious prince must proceed, and he who will not voluntarily help must be compelled. Every form of human slavery is degrading. Most of the great buildings of antiquity are the work of slaves. Will the works of freemen be more enduring?

III. There is the maintenance of a costly court (1Ki ). The court of Solomon was on a scale of magnificence never attempted in Israel before or since his day. The great officers are now for the first time called by one general name—Princes. The union of priestly and secular functions still continued. The Palace was next in point of splendour to the Temple, and the Porch of the Palace was the gem and centre of the whole empire. The royal banquets were of the most superb kind. All the plate and drinking vessels were of gold. There was a constant succession of guests. The train of servants was such as had never been seen before. There were some who sat in the king's presence, others who always stood, others who were his cup-bearers, others musicians. His stables were on the most splendid scale. In the midst of this gorgeous array was the sovereign himself. The king is fair, with superhuman beauty; his sword is on his thigh; he rides in his chariot, or on his war-horse; his archers are behind him, his guards are round him; his robes are so scented with the perfumes of India or Arabia that they seem to be nothing but a mass of myrrh, aloes, and cassia. The queen, probably from Egypt, the chief of all his vast establishment of wives and concubines, themselves the daughters of kings, was by his side, glittering in the gold of Ophir—one blaze of glory, as she sat by him in the interior of the palace; her attendants, gorgeously arrayed, are behind her; she has left her father and her father's house; her reward is to be in the greatness of her descendants. Such is the splendour of Solomon's court, which, even down to the outward texture of their royal robes, lived in the traditions of Israel (Stanley in loco). The dignity of royalty should be maintained in accordance with the wealth and resources of the nation.

IV. There is the call for elaborate defence.

1. A standing army must be maintained (1Ki ). The three military bodies remain as in the days of David. The commander of the host is the priestly warrior, Benaiah, who succeeded the murdered Joab. The six hundred heroes of David's early life only once pass across the scene. Sixty of them attended Solomon's litter, to guard him from banditti on his way to Lebanon. The guard appear only as household troops, employed on state occasions.

2. Strong fortifications must be erected (1Ki ; 1Ki 9:19). Jerusalem, the capital, is surrounded by massive walls and strengthened with a huge tower. Garrison cities are built in various parts of the country to keep the insurrectionary inhabitants in check, and to protect the nation against invaders. As a people grows in riches and in power, every necessary preparation is made at least to defend its possessions. The wealth of a nation tempts the cupidity of greedy and ambitious marauders.

V. There is the burden of an oppressive taxation (1Ki , comp. with chap. 1Ki 12:1-4). The vast levies of men raised by Solomon to build the Temple, the palace, and the fortifications of Jerusalem and other cities, must have severely taxed the people, and this grievous yoke perhaps grew heavier with Solomon's advance of years. The people who once clamoured for a king, that they might be like the nations around them, now began to realize the truth of Samuel's prediction as to the cost of maintaining a king and court (1Sa 8:11-18). This taxation was so heavy that it appears to have been the principal cause of the revolt of the ten tribes on the death of Solomon. "The government of the wise king was rapidly becoming as odious to the Israelites as that of the race of Tarquin, in spite of all their splendid works, to the patricians of Rome. Matterings of the coming storm were already heard, both abroad and at home." No government can long flourish that rests on the tyranny and oppression of the people. An excessive taxation drains the fountain of a nation's productive power.

VI. There is the necessity for extended commerce (1Ki ). The exhaustion of the ample means left by his father, and the inadequacy of the ordinary sources of revenue to cover his vast expenses in sacred and regal building, as well us to sustain the great expense of his magnificent court and numerous household, led Solomon to turn his attention to commerce. His sagacity taught him that the Phœnicians, with whom he had become acquainted, had risen to extraordinary prosperity and great wealth solely as the result of commerce. He therefore joined Hiram in building and equipping a fleet of ships which sailed from the Red Sea, and brought in the rich productions from the far East. Necessity is the mother of invention for nations as for individuals. The grandest commercial ventures have sprung out of the pressing necessity of the hour. The increase of commerce is the increase of fresh necessities: commerce begets commerce. It is the life of national prosperity.

LESSONS:—

1. Royalty has its undoubted rights and privileges.

2. The glory of royalty is to promote the best welfare of the people.

3. The government that suppresses commerce beggars itself.

GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES

1Ki . National architecture.

1. Is an evidence of the wealth and genius of a nation.

2. Has a powerful influence in the culture of the national taste and character.

3. May remain when the true greatness of a nation has passed away.

1Ki . The plans and arrangements of Solomon for the benefit and protection of the land.

1. He built the house of the Lord, forth from which would come all salvation for Israel; then he built the store-houses for times of need and famine, and as protection against the enemies of the kingdom. A wise prince cares alike for the religious and spiritual, and for the material and temporal well-being of his people, and in times of peace does his utmost to provide against every danger which may assail the land, either from without or within. For this a nation can never be grateful enough, and should uphold him with readiness and might, instead of murmuring and complaining, as is often the case.

2. Solomon's plan was, in his undertaking, to spare his nation all servile labour as far as possible. Therefore for all compulsory service he employed the conquered enemy, who, as such, were slaves. A wise prince will never impose burdensome taxes or heavy labour upon his people, and reigns much more willingly over freemen than over slaves; but a good and loyal people does not make freedom a pretext for villainy, and ever follows the king's call for arms when the defence of "Fatherland" is concerned. For Israel can no more say with truth, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer" (Psa ), if all the nation does not aid in its defences and fortifications. In the kingdom of the true and eternal Prince of Peace bondage will cease, and all men shall obtain the freedom of the children of God.—Lange.

1Ki . Though in the East husbands generally pay for their wives, yet dower is given in some cases. Sargon gave Cilicia as a dowry with his daughter when he married her to Ambris, king of Tubal. Antiochus Soter gave his claims on Macedonia as a dowry to his stepdaughter Phila, when she married Antigonus Gonatas. Cœle-Syria and Palestine were promised as dowry to Ptolemy Epiphanes when he married Cleopatra, sister of Antiochus the Great. The Persian kings seem generally to have given satrapial or other high offices as dowries to the husbands of their daughters.—Rawlinson.

1Ki . The curse of slavery.

1. It is personally degrading. It robs man of his self-respect, poisons his sense of rectitude and honour, demoralizes his sensibilities, imbrutes his entire nature, and brands him with unutterable infamy.

2. It is degrading to the oppressor. It is an insult to his own manhood, it lowers his estimate of humanity, it blunts his sympathies for the race, and leads him to the shameless commission of other wrongs. The hideous character of oppressors is depicted in a few words by Wordsworth—

The good old rule

Sufficeth them, the simple plan,

That they should take who have the power,

And they should keep who can.

3. It is an element of weakness and decay in the nation. The nations of antiquity in which slavery was maintained have come to ruin. It blights the fairest country, spoils its chivalry, and saps its strongest foundations.

1Ki . The public worship of God.

1. Is the duty of all—king and subjects.

2. Cannot be neglected without mischievous results (chap. 1Ki ).

3. Should be observed with regularity and solemnity.

4. Is the secret of national prosperity and greatness.

5. Is fraught with blessing to the individual worshipper.

—A king must make religion the rule of government, and not to balance the scale; for he that casteth in religion only to make the scales even, his own weight is contained in those characters—Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin; he is found too light; his kingdom shall be taken from him.—Bacon.

1Ki . A wise government seeks not only to preserve existing prosperity, but also to discover new sources thereof. Many there are who travel over land and sea to seek gold and to become rich, and forget that the Lord hath said, "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich" (Rev 3:18). Expeditions into far countries must serve not only to obtain gold and treasure, but also to carry thither the treasure which neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal (Mat 6:19). Commerce may become a rich blessing for a nation, but a greedy thirst for gold often leads to extreme luxury and neglect of God, as is many times exemplified in the history of Israel.—Lange.

1Ki . Commerce.

1. Taxes the ingenuity of a people.

2. Stimulates travel and discovery.

3. Is the source of a nation's wealth.

4. Promotes international amity and brotherhood.

1Ki . The controversy concerning the locality of Ophir will probably never be settled. It has been placed in Arabia, in India, in the Burmese Peninsula, at Ceylon, on the East coast of Africa, in Armenia, in Phrygia, in Iberia, and in South America, where it has been identified with Peru! Among these various opinions three predominate, all moderns, except a very few, being in favour either of Arabia, India, or Eastern Africa. Africa has comparatively few advocates, but M. Quartremere and Dean Milman are among them. India is preferred by Lassen, Thenius, Ewald, and Berthau. Arabia's claims are supported by the greatest number, among whom are Winer, Keil, Kalisch, and Mr. Twistleton. The grand argument in favour of Arabia is derived from the occurrence of Ophir in the manifestly Arabian list of names in Gen 10:25-29. To the objection that Arabia could not produce either gold or almug trees, it is replied—

1. It has not yet been proved that she could not produce them; and

2. At any rate she might have furnished them to the Jews from an emporium.—Speaker's Comm. We do not contend that Ophir was a place on the Indian coast. Nay, more, we do not insist that it was any particular place. It seems to us that Heeren is quite right in his remark that Ophir, like the name of all other distant places or regions of antiquity—as Thule, Tartessus, and others—denotes no particular spot, but only a certain region or part of the world, such as the East or West Indies in modern geography. Hence Ophir was a general name for all the countries lying on the African, Arabian, or Indian seas, so far as at that time known.—Kitto.

—Even the gold of Ophir perishes in the using; but the treasures of grace never wax old nor decay. He that is possessed of these hath that fine gold which constitutes the true riches (Rev ).

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Kings 9:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/1-kings-9.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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