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B. The Foundation of Solomon’s Reign 2:13-4:34
The writer noted that Solomon’s sole reign began well. The things most responsible were God’s gift of wisdom to Solomon (the central section), his political decisions (the first section), and his administrative ability (the third section).
Solomon’s chief officials 4:1-6
Delegation of authority is a mark of wisdom in a person with more to do than he or she can personally manage effectively. Azariah (1 Kings 4:2) was apparently Zadok’s grandson (1 Chronicles 6:8-9). "The priest" is a common designation for the high priest. Secretaries (1 Kings 4:3) prepared official documents and records while recorders (1 Kings 4:3) maintained diaries of daily events in the kingdom. Even though Solomon had dismissed Abiathar (1 Kings 4:4) from his official duties, Abiathar retained his title and honor. Zabud (1 Kings 4:5) was probably the king’s personal chaplain and adviser. [Note: See A. Van Selms, "The Origin of the Title ’The King’s Friend,’" Journal of Near Eastern Studies 16 (1957):118-23.] Forced laborers (corvée, 1 Kings 4:6) were non-Israelites whom the king conscripted to work for the government (cf. 1 Kings 5:13-14; 1 Kings 9:15; 2 Chronicles 2:2; 2 Chronicles 8:8).
Solomon’s district governors 4:7-19
These men were responsible for providing for the needs of Solomon’s large household, including his courtiers, and for his thousands of horses (1 Kings 4:28). Two were Solomon’s sons-in-law (1 Kings 4:11; 1 Kings 4:15). The district arrangement seems designed to move Israel away from tribal independence to cooperation under the new centralized government, though the district boundaries approximated the tribal boundaries. [Note: See the map "Solomon’s 12 Districts and Surrounding Nations" in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 496.]
". . . this was a radical and decisive step, and that not only because it imposed upon the people an unprecedented burden. It meant that the old tribal system, already increasingly of vestigial significance, had been, as far as its political functioning was concerned, virtually abolished. In place of twelve tribes caring in turn for the central shrine were twelve districts taxed for the support of Solomon’s court!" [Note: Bright, p. 201.]
The writer did not include Judah and Jerusalem in this list of areas that Solomon taxed. This gave Judah a great advantage economically. Perhaps Solomon favored Judah because it was his tribe. This favoritism may have been a factor in the revolt of the northern tribes later (1 Kings 12:4).
Solomon’s throne exercised four spheres of political influence. First, there was the homeland. This was the geographical area Joshua had assigned to the 12 tribes. In Solomon’s day Israel occupied only this area. Second, there were adjacent provinces (i.e., Damascus, Ammon, Moab, Edom, et al.). Solomon taxed these and conscripted them for military service. They enjoyed protection and the benefits of Israel’s central government. Third, there were the vassal states (i.e., Zobah, Hamath, Arabia, possibly Philistia, et al.) that Israel controlled. These enjoyed some autonomy such as native rulers and internal fiscal policies. They recognized Solomon’s authority, however, provided some tribute, and pledged loyalty to him. Israel in return defended them from alien forces when necessary. Fourth, there were the allied states (i.e., Phoenicia, Egypt, et al.). These countries enjoyed equality with Israel. They defended each other as needed, traded with each other, and generally cooperated with one another. [Note: Merrill, pp. 300-302.]
Clearly Solomon’s kingdom had a large bureaucracy.
Solomon’s prosperity 4:20-28
One explanation of the writer’s unusual reference to Judah and Israel (1 Kings 4:20) is that when he wrote Kings the nation had split, so perhaps the writer was using the designation that was common in his day. However, years before the formal division took place, northern and southern factions had already developed (cf. 1 Samuel 11:8; 1 Samuel 15:4; 1 Samuel 17:52; 1 Kings 1:35; et al.). Solomon’s kingdom was very populous (cf. Genesis 22:17) and peaceful (1 Kings 4:25; cf. Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10).
Usually when a great king died, the nations subject to his leadership would withhold taxes and rebel against his successor. This forced the new king to attack those nations to establish his sovereignty over them. However, Solomon did not have to do this. God gave him a peaceful reign in which he could concentrate on building projects. [Note: Patterson and Austel, p. 53.]
"To live in safety, in reliance on God (LXX elpizo, ’hope’), echoes Deuteronomy 12:10. God alone can provide this (Psalms 4:8; Proverbs 1:33; Deuteronomy 33:12; Deuteronomy 33:28)." [Note: Wiseman, p. 94.]
Even though Solomon controlled the land area promised to Abraham’s descendants in Genesis 15:18-20, his control did not fulfill these promises completely in his day. The city of Tiphsah (1 Kings 4:24) stood on the banks of the Euphrates River. The territory described did not lie within the geographic borders of Israel. [Note: See Gwileym Jones, 1 and 2 Kings , 1:146.] Israel’s geographic extent was only about 150 miles long, from Dan to Beersheba (1 Kings 4:25).
The figure of 4,000 stalls of horses (2 Chronicles 9:25) appears to be the correct one, rather than 40,000 (1 Kings 4:26). Horses and chariots were military machines at this time. These were Solomon’s weapons.
"At Megiddo, excavations have revealed stables for some 450 horses, as well as fortifications and the governor’s residence. Similar Solomonic constructions are likewise attested at Hazor, Taanach, Eglon, and Gezer." [Note: Bright, p. 192. Cf. William F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, pp. 124-25.]
Solomon’s skill 4:29-34
Here is more evidence that God gave Solomon wisdom (Heb. hokmah) as He had promised (1 Kings 3:12). He was one of the outstanding sages of the ancient world. [Note: See John E. Johnson, "The Old Testament Offices as Paradigm for Pastoral Identity," Bibliotheca Sacra 152:606 (April-June 1995):182-200.] What Solomon received was the ability to make correct decisions. Even though he possessed this ability he did not always choose to use it. He made some very foolish decisions in his lifetime. The men of the East (cf. Job 1:3) and Egypt (1 Kings 4:30) were famous for their wisdom in the ancient biblical world.
Solomon’s literary output was prolific (1 Kings 4:32). His name appears on two of the psalms in the Book of Psalms (Psalms 72; Psalms 127), and he also evidently wrote the Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. 1 Kings 4:34 is hyperbole. The writer meant that Solomon’s court was open to all and that as a wise man he attracted many important visitors. [Note: John T. Gates, "First and Second Kings," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 315. Gates wrote the commentary on 1 Kings only in this volume.]
This chapter shows God’s response to Solomon’s dedication to Yahweh (1 Kings 3:6-13). Even though Solomon was God’s elect, he had the opportunity either to respond properly to God’s grace, and experience further blessing, or to respond improperly to it and experience chastening. This is a choice God gives all His elect. Solomon made the wise choice at first but later did not do as well. Solomon’s descendant, Jesus Christ, made the perfect response.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Kings 4". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19