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Deeper Commentary

 

1Ki 4:1 King Solomon was king over all Israel-
The unity of Israel is associated with its glory. Israel's maximum point of glory under Solomon was also its historically most united period.

1Ki 4:2 These were the princes whom he had: Azariah the son of Zadok, the priest-
Azariah was therefore a king-priest (cp. Rev. 5:10). The kingdom of Solomon can indeed be viewed as a type of the future kingdom of the Lord Jesus. The twelve deputy rulers (:7) correspond with Mt. 19:28; the provision of food each month (:27) corresponds with Is. 66:23; Ez. 47:12 and Rev. 22:2. But in reality it was rather that Solomon had been potentially empowered to be the Messianic seed with a Messianic kingdom as promised to David, but he failed. And the Lord Jesus fulfilled the potentials of the seed perfectly, leaving Solomon and his kingdom as a failed, marred reflection of Him.


1Ki 4:3 Elihoreph and Ahijah, the sons of Shisha, scribes; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, the recorder-
Shisha was the Shavsha of 1 Chron. 18:16, the Sheva of 2 Sam. 20:25 and the Seraiah of 2 Sam. 8:17. Jehoshaphat would have now been elderly (2 Sam. 8:16; 20:24); see on :4.

1Ki 4:4 Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the army; Zadok and Abiathar were priests-
This is only a description of things as they initially were. For Abiathar was soon deposed by Solomon, and Benaiah was by now an old man who would not have lived long into Solomon's reign.


1Ki 4:5 Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers; Zabud the son of Nathan was chief officer, the king’s friend-
Solomon alludes to this in Prov. 27:9: "Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart; so does earnest counsel from a man’s friend". This is true, but Solomon may be using Divine truth to justify himself; for he had appointed the son of Nathan the prophet, loyal to David his father, as "the king's friend".


1Ki 4:6 Ahishar was over the household; and Adoniram the son of Abda was over the men subject to forced labour-
The emphasis upon the forced labour brigades is significant (1 Kings 5:13,14; 12:18), and it was Solomon's brutal treatment of his people which led to the complaint after his death that he had whipped the people and abused them. This was exactly as Samuel had warned the people would happen if they chose a human king rather than God as their king; for God is kinder than men. We see therefore that Solomon was no better than Saul. All his wisdom failed to make him value the meaning f the human person. It was therefore only held by him in theory not in practice.


1Ki 4:7 Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household: each man had to make provision for a month in the year-
See on :2. This implies a huge amount of food was required by Solomon to feed his extended family. His 700 wives and 300 concubines would have produced many children who all required feeding. Solomon's indulgence of every sexual whim came at a cost, which he forced his people to meet; and it gave him no family happiness, but rather led him to the cynical reflection of Ecc. 5:11.


1Ki 4:8 These are their names: Ben Hur, in the hill country of Ephraim-
It could be argued that Solomon's taxation system was effectively taxing the other tribes apart from Judah. For the twelve administrative districts exclude Judah:
1. Mount Ephraim
2. Makaz
3. Arubboth
4. Naphath-dor
5. Taanach and Megiddo
6. Ramoth-gilead
7. Mahanaim
8. Naphtali
9. Asher and Zebulun
10. Issachar
11. Benjamin
12. The land of Gad (1 Kings 4: 7-19)

This organization was not strictly according to the tribal divisions but was more geographically based. Thus group 2 was from both Dan and Ephraim; group 3 from both Manasseh and Ephraim. Perhaps this was an intentional attempt to undermine tribalism, which Solomon saw as a potential threat to his power base. If he had been obedient to God, he could have been quietly assured that God and not his cunning would establish and eternally maintain his kingdom. And yet the regional governors imposed by Solomon were largely from Judah or somehow related to David's "old guard". This group 9 was ruled by the son of David's advisor Hushai (2 Sam. 15:32-37). Group 8 by Solomon's son in law Ahimaaz (1 Kings 4:15). Group 5 was ruled by a connection with the priest Zadok, and possible by the brother of David, and Solomon's scribe Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 4:3). Abinadab of group 7 was probably the son of Iddo who had been one of David's men (1 Chron. 27:21). Abinadab who ruled Group 4 was Solomon's son in law (I Kings 4:11).


All this was an attempt by Solomon to establish the kingdom in his own strength. The regional governors were not locals, but rather under the direct control of Solomon in Jerusalem and appointed on the basis of loyalty to him. No wonder that after his death, the other tribes wanted to break free from Judah.


1Ki 4:9 Ben Deker, in Makaz, and in Shaalbim, and Beth Shemesh, and Elon Beth Hanan-
These were in Dan (Jud. 1:35). Beth Shemesh was a priestly city (Josh. 21:16), but Solomon still required them to pay taxes to him in Jerusalem, contrary to the spirit of the Mosaic law.

1Ki 4:10 Ben Hesed, in Arubboth (to him belonged Socoh, and all the land of Hepher)-
I suggest this Socoh is the one in Manasseh and not the one in Judah; see on :8.


1Ki 4:11 Ben Abinadab, in all the height of Dor (he had Taphath the daughter of Solomon as wife)-
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See on :8.


1Ki 4:12 Baana the son of Ahilud, in Taanach and Megiddo, and all Beth Shean which is beside Zarethan, beneath Jezreel, from Beth Shean to Abel Meholah, as far as beyond Jokmeam-
The brother of Jehoshaphat (:3), again reflecting how the rulers of the regions were not local men but part of Solomon's inner circle, or their relatives. See on :8.

1Ki 4:13 Ben Geber, in Ramoth Gilead (to him belonged the towns of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead; to him belonged the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, sixty great cities with walls and bronze bars)-
They had begun as small towns (Num. 32:41) but had grown since then. But they were all to pay their taxes to Jerusalem; see on :8.

1Ki 4:14 Ahinadab the son of Iddo, in Mahanaim-
-
See on :8.


1Ki 4:15 Ahimaaz, in Naphtali (he also took Basemath the daughter of Solomon as wife)-
-
See on :8.


1Ki 4:16 Baana the son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth-
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See on :8.


1Ki 4:17 Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar-
See on :8.


1Ki 4:18 Shimei the son of Ela, in Benjamin-
Although Judah and Benjamin were always connected, as explained on :8, Solomon expected Benjamin to pay taxes to him in Jerusalem. We note at this point the clear omission of Judah as a taxable area.


1Ki 4:19 Geber the son of Uri, in the land of Gilead, the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and of Og king of Bashan; and he was the only officer who was in the land-
"Only" could mean "the greatest", and "the land" may refer to the territory on the east of Jordan. "Officer" translates a military term; the idea may be that he was the only garrison officer stationed in that area, which had many Gentiles in it.

1Ki 4:20 Judah and Israel were many as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry-
This is alluded to by Solomon in Prov. 14:28 GNB: "A king's greatness depends on how many people he rules; without them he is nothing". Solomon is again justifying himself, for the people at his time are described as very many at his time (1 Kings 4:20). Solomon is harnessing Divine truth to his own agenda of self justification. And we who claim to hold His truths must take warning.

We must remember that baptism means that we are now the seed of Abraham, and the blessings of forgiveness, of all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, and God's turning us away from our sins are right now being fulfilled in us (Acts 3:27-29). Israel were multiplied as the sand on the sea shore (2 Sam. 17:11; 1 Kings 4:20), they possessed the gates of their enemies (Dt. 17:2; 18:6)- all in antitype of how Abraham's future seed would also receive the promised blessings in their mortal experience, as well as in the eternal blessedness of the future Kingdom.

"Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and making merry" combines allusions to two different passages. Clearly there is reference to the fact that the Abrahamic promises had a primary fulfillment at this time.  But the final phrase refers back to Israel's idolatry with the golden calf.  It is as if the dualism within Solomon at this time - in being the primary fulfillment of the seed, and yet also being apostate - was fulfilled in Israel. We see elsewhere several indications that Solomon and Israel were closely connected (cp. Christ and the church).


1Ki 4:21 Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, and to the border of Egypt: they brought tribute, and served Solomon all the days of his life-
Israel was at its largest extent in Solomon's Kingdom; lost land was restored, and the borders re-established (2 Chron. 9:26; 8:4  cp. Josh. 16:3,5); it was also at its political strongest; nations submitted to Solomon (1 Kings 4:20); Israel was the chief of the nations and the nations brought "presents" (s.w. sacrifices) to him  (1 Kings  4:21). All this looked ahead to the Messianic Kingdom; but see on :25. 


1Ki 4:22 Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and sixty measures of meal-
Solomon in Prov. 23:3 warned not to desire huge meals. But Solomon clearly revelled in his food, and speaks in Ecclesiastes of how he tried to find fulfilment in gluttony. He knew God's truth, but "it was far from me" personally, as he laments in Ecclesiastes. There mere possession of Divine truth can in fact lead a man to think it doesn't apply to him. This is why the word must be made flesh in us, as it was in the Lord.


1Ki 4:23 ten head of fat cattle, twenty head of cattle out of the pastures, one hundred sheep, besides harts, gazelles, roebucks and fattened fowl-
"Fattened fowl" has been translated as geese or swans. Not all these animals were clean food, but Solomon (according to Ecclesiastes) wanted to experiment with all human experience.

1Ki 4:24 For he had dominion over all on this side of the River, from Tiphsah even to Gaza, over all the kings on this side of the River: and he had peace on all sides around him-
In the context of this chapter, the "dominion" in view may mean that all had to pay taxes to Solomon.

1Ki 4:25 Judah and Israel lived safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon-
Clearly this language, and the great fertility of the land implied by :22-28, is the language of the Messianic kingdom (Mic. 4:4; Ez. 34:28; Is. 35:1,2). But in reality it was rather that Solomon had been potentially empowered to be the Messianic seed with a Messianic kingdom as promised to David, but he failed. And the Lord Jesus fulfilled the potentials of the seed perfectly, leaving Solomon and his kingdom as a failed, marred reflection of Him.


1Ki 4:26 Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen-
Solomon's enthusiasm for Egyptian horses is clearly chronicled (1 Kings 4:26-28), although this was studied disobedience to Dt. 17:16. There is a powerful point to be made here: we can deceive ourselves that God is blessing us, when actually we are breaching explicit commands. Would Solomon had understood the concept of self-examination. 

1Ki 4:27 Those officers provided food for king Solomon, and for all who came to king Solomon’s table, every man in his month-
“He that loves silver (as Solomon did, Ecc. 2:8; 1 Kings 10:21-29) shall not be satisfied with silver (as he wasn’t- see Ecc. 2); nor he that loves abundance (s.w. used about the abundance of Solomon’s wives, 2 Chron. 11:23) with increase. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them (cp. the large numbers at his table, 1 Kings 4:27)” (Ecc. 5:10,11). The Hebrew word translated “not be satisfied” occurs around 25 times in the Proverbs, with Solomon warning of how the way of the flesh couldn’t satisfy. Solomon said all this with an eye on himself. He preached it to others, he felt deeply the truth of it, but he saw no personal way out of it. All he had was the accurate knowledge of his situation, but no real motivation to change- like the alcoholic or drug abuser who knows every aspect of the harm of his habit.

They let nothing be lacking-
Heb. ‘they let nothing be missing'. This is in the context of describing the taxation system, whereby taxation was enforced and the taxes were indeed gathered to Solomon.


1Ki 4:28 Barley also and straw for the horses and swift steeds brought they to the place where the officers were, each man according to his duty-
Just as Solomon's abundance of wives led to having a few thousand mouths to feed, and Israel needed to provide for that; so his obsession with thousands of horses meant that there was a need for a huge amount of fodder for them. And all Israel had to provide this- all for the sake of Solomon's obsessive desires. That he reigned for as long as he did was truly a sign of God's grace to him for the sake of his father David, and is a tacit reflection of how much God loved David despite all his failures.

1Ki 4:29 God gave Solomon great wisdom and understanding, and very great perception, according to the sand which is on the seashore-
His wisdom was to guide Israel, but it concerned the natural creation; as if his expositions concerning this were teaching spiritual lessons (1 Kings 4:29,32,33)- as the Lord's parables. The "largenss of heart" (AV) was to be experienced by all Israel, whose largeness of heart was to lead to the Gentiles flowing to them (Is. 60:5). Paul's appeal to allow the Holy Spirit to enlarge our hearts could be seen as alluding to the gift given Solomon (2 Cor. 6:11,13).

The description of the "largeness" of heart in 1 Kings 4:29 uses the  same word used about the largeness of the land of Israel in Ex. 3:8; Neh. 9:35; his wisdom was "as the sand that is on the sea shore",  as Israel were described in Gen. 22:17. He wanted wisdom, but so as to teach it to others, not to personalize it. Even in his spiritual  collapse  at the time of Ecclesiastes, Solomon still  taught  Israel  true  wisdom,  and organized his wisdom into more accessible books (Ecc. 12:9-12), giving himself the title koheleth (‘the preacher’). And yet he himself tried alcohol, wealth, women, indeed every addiction, in order to “see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven” (Ecc. 2:3). And yet he knew from childhood the conclusion of the matter- man’s duty is to fear God and be obedient (Ecc. 12:13). He who had been given wisdom started out in a search for it… showing clearly enough that what he knew was so much theory, but never touched his own heart. Solomon taught wisdom to the youngsters, but he gave himself over to search for some kind of vague philosophical truth outside of God. 

 
1Ki 4:30 Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt-
If this is simply God's comment, then it would be axiomatic that Solomon's Divinely given wisdom was better than that of the Gentiles. So we should rather read this as stating how his wisdom was perceived amongst the Gentiles.


1Ki 4:31 For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman-
Ethan and Heman are mentioned together in 1 Kings 4:31 as men whom Solomon's wisdom exceeded; and in 1 Chron. 15:19 they are both singers whom David appointed. We can assume that they were famed for their wisdom; but Solomon's wisdom exceeded theirs.  

Calcol, Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all the nations all around-
Calcol and the other names mentioned in 1 Kings 4:31 as wise men are all mentioned in 1 Chron. 2:6 as sons of Zerah, men of Judah. The idea of 1 Kings 4:30,31 is that Solomon's wisdom exceeded that of famous Gentile wise men, and also of the wise men of Judah.  

1Ki 4:32 He spoke three thousand proverbs; and his songs were one thousand and five-
LXX says 5000 songs. David was famed as Israel's psalmist, and his songs were distributed to the surrounding nations, appealing for them to turn to Israel's God. Solomon's obsession with writing songs can be seen as an attempt to live out his father's image.

1Ki 4:33 He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; he spoke also of animals, birds, creeping things and fish-
The greatest of trees in Palestine, the cedar, is contrasted with the smallest, the hyssop; the idea being that Solomon spoke of the entire range of plant life. But later Solomon sadly reflects in Ecc. 1:8 LXX that "a man will not be able to speak of them". And yet Solomon had spoken of all things by the wisdom given him (1 Kings 4:32,33), but now he says that the vanity of all human experience is beyond speaking of. Whilst Solomon retained his wisdom, he felt that it was not the full answer to the mystery of life; and the answer was, so far as he could see it, that all things are vain and wearisome. Life is not therefore particularly worth living. This is the attitude which arises when we fail to personalize wisdom, and refuse to accept that this life is not God's Kingdom; that is yet to come. This wisdom about plants and animals was given Solomon for the sake of God's people Israel. It was intended to boost their agriculture. See on 1 Kings 5:6.


1Ki 4:34 There came of all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom
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The repetition of the two phrases gives the impression that they heard of his wisdom, and so they came to hear his wisdom. As exemplified by the visit of the Queen of Sheba, it is one thing to hear wisdom; but there is a natural desire to hear the word made flesh. This principle is so true for our witness today. The presentation of God's truth as words on a screen is far less persuasive than hearing them as a word made flesh, from a live person. And that is why God did not leave His word as it was, but made it flesh in the Lord Jesus; so that He speaks to us "in His Son".