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At the end of the previous chapter we have an example of the wisdom God gave to Solomon. In this chapter we read about his wealth and prosperity. He receives what God has promised to give him after he has asked for wisdom (1Kgs 3:13). We see his wisdom here in the way in which he has regulated and maintains internal order in his empire:
1. his princes (1Kgs 4:1-6),
2. his governors who provide for his food (1Kgs 4:7-19; 27),
3. the number, prosperity and peace of its subjects (1Kgs 4:20; 25),
4. the vastness of his rule (1Kgs 4:21; 24),
5. the amount of food for his home (1Kgs 4:22-23) and
6. the food for his horses (1Kgs 4:26).
The chapter concludes with a detailed description of his wisdom and knowledge and the fame that comes from it (1Kgs 4:29-34). But however great Solomon may be, the Lord Jesus is infinitely greater than he (Mt 12:42).
The situation under Solomon’s government is very different from that under his father David’s government. David has always had to deal with internal revolt and also with enemies from outside. Solomon, after having dealt with some remaining enemies, until his public abandoning of the LORD (1Kgs 11:1-8), has known only peace, security, joy and abundance.
He has an army and an army commander, but he has not waged any war with a hostile power. None of the nations who are subject to him has tried to cast off his yoke or make any effort. On the contrary, they were happy in their dependence on him. Herein, his kingdom is a type of the kingdom of the Messiah. For the Messiah is promised that He will have the nations for His inheritance (Psa 2:8) and that princes will bow down before Him (Isa 49:7).
The Rule of Solomon
Solomon rules over “all Israel” (1Kgs 4:1), that is to say, over an – as yet – undivided empire. The whole empire is under his authority. In his government of the empire he has appointed several people as officials to perform different tasks. The first official who is mentioned is a priest (1Kgs 4:2). The fact that Azariah is the priest probably means that he is the high priest. Here the priesthood is attached to the kingship. The Lord Jesus is the true King-Priest (cf. Zec 6:13).
To be a good official we must be a priest. This means that our relationship to God, our approach to Him, determines our kingship towards people. Peter speaks about this in relation to us in his letter. He first says that we are “a holy priesthood” (1Pet 2:5) and that we offer up spiritual sacrifices. That is what happens towards God. Then he speaks of “a royal priesthood” (1Pet 2:9). That is what is happening towards the people.
The secretaries, or writers (1Kgs 4:3a), have an important task. They prepare royal decrees or ordinances for trade treaties and military unions, of which they keep the official records. There is also a recorder – who had also served under David (2Sam 8:16; 2Sam 20:24) – someone who is over the army, someone who is over the deputies, a priest who is a friend of the king, someone who is over the household and someone who is over the men subject to forced labor (1Kgs 4:3b-6).
This division of tasks among the officials indicates that everyone has his own responsibility, each of whom must be faithful in order to fulfil the task assigned to him in accordance with the law. As long as all are aware of their direct responsibility to Solomon, everything goes well. It goes wrong when tasks are transferred from one another without having received an assignment from Solomon. This is exactly how it works in the church. If everyone listens to the Lord Jesus and does what He says, things go well.
In addition to the officials, Solomon also appointed “twelve deputies over all Israel” (1Kgs 4:7) to serve him and his interests. Every deputy has a duty for a month to provide for the king and his household. Dividing his task over so many people and deploying them at different times is wise policy.
The distribution of the burden makes the task to be performed a task of which no one will succumb because too much and too long work would have to be done. It is like caring for the tabernacle and the temple which was also a care divided over a large number of priests and Levites. It also reduced the risk of abusing the position in order to enrich oneself or to obtain special benefits.
Two of the deputies are married to Solomon’s daughters, which means an extra honor in addition to the position they hold. One of them is Ben-abinadab which means son of Abinadab (1Kgs 4:11), with whom the ark has been in the house for twenty years (1Sam 7:1-2). The other is Ahimaaz (1Kgs 4:15).
The deputies are divided over the country, each being given its own area of responsibility. This also has a lesson for the church. Not only are there tasks to be performed, there is also an area in which each is working (2Cor 10:15-16). We must respect the field of work that the Lord has given someone. For example, we won’t be spreading the gospel tracts in an area if we know others are already there bringing the gospel.
The Greatness of Solomon
Solomon rules over a people “as numerous as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance” (1Kgs 4:20). “In a multitude of people is a king’s glory” (Pro 14:28a). If that is true for Solomon, how much more so then for the Lord Jesus. Those people eat and drink and rejoice. How could it be otherwise with such a king in power, who punishes evil and rewards good.
Here we have a beautiful picture of the situation in the kingdom of peace under the reign of the Lord Jesus. It is a preliminary fulfillment of the promise to numerous descendants (Gen 22:16-17) and the provision of food and drink (Lev 26:5). So it can be in our personal lives and among the people of God as a whole if the Lord Jesus, as the true Solomon, holds the rule in our lives and in the lives of each of His own.
They have joy in using their abundance of food and drink. Solomon not only enjoyed all the good things himself in abundance, but he also enabled all his subjects to do the same. He taught them that God has given them this abundance to make use of it with gratitude and satisfaction. Man may eat his bread with joy and drink his wine with a happy heart: “Go [then], eat your bread in happiness and drink your wine with a cheerful heart; for God has already approved your works” (Ecc 9:7). David has preceded the people in his psalms in the comforting pleasure of fellowship with God. Solomon leads them in the pleasant use of the good things of life.
As for the current situation under Solomon, the joy and peace are of limited duration. This is already apparent when we read about “Judah and Israel” at the beginning of 1Kgs 4:20, which reminds us that there will be a separation in the unity of the kingdom between Judah and Israel. It is as if the writer indicates that there is unfaithfulness below the surface which, as the history shows, will lead to the division of the empire in these two parts.
Another characteristic of the kingdom – after the officials and the food supply – is its size (1Kgs 4:21), which is also a preliminary fulfillment of the promised extent (Gen 15:18-21). The border runs from the Euphrates in the northeast to the area of the Philistines in the west and Egypt in the southwest.
The quantity of food Solomon needs (1Kgs 4:22-23) also shows his greatness. The quantity that is available for Nehemiah at a later date strikingly contrasts with that of Solomon (Neh 5:17-18). Ahasuerus once made a feast to show his royal glory to his servants. That feast lasts 180 days (Est 1:3-4). The glory of Solomon is that he has, so to speak, a table for the whole people and that throughout his life (1Kgs 4:25). However, Christ transcends everything. He has a table – a table is a picture of fellowship – at which all His own may forever feed themselves with the inexhaustible glories of His Person.
By the way, the supply by the people of these large quantities of food and all other necessities for such a royal household means that the people are prosperous. The income of Solomon also comes from the surrounding countries. Thirty kors of fine flour are about 6,500 liters and sixty kors of meal are double that. Derived from these quantities, it has been calculated that Solomon’s royal household consisted of approximately 14,000 persons.
We see how the kingdom of peace takes shape, even if it is not in its final, definitive form (1Kgs 4:24-25). Never has there been an empire that refers so beautifully to the empire of the Lord Jesus as this of Solomon. The people dwell at rest, “each one under his vine and his fig tree”. This expression is used for the kingdom of peace under the reign of the Messiah by the prophets Micaiah and Zechariah (Mic 4:4; Zec 3:10). Peace and justice (Jer 23:5-6), represented in the fig tree, and joy, represented in the vine (Jdg 9:13a), are generally enjoyed in the realm of peace.
The people are at ease, they live safely. No one is jealous of what another has. There is no dissatisfaction. There is also no fear of danger from enemies, from outside or inside. Everyone is happy. Each one of them dwells under his vine and under his fig tree. Solomon does not claim anyone’s possessions for himself, he does not take anyone’s field or vineyard, as it is said that the king would do whom the people had desired (1Sam 8:14). Everyone who has a vine and a fig tree eats the fruits of it. The peace in the land is so great that everyone lives just as safely under the shadow of his vine and fig tree as within the walls of a city.
This pleasant state of Israel extends from Dan to Beersheba, which is the whole country from the extreme north to the extreme south (Jdg 20:1). In no part of the country is there any risk of external danger or internal unrest. Wherever someone is, he sees abundance, peace and contentment everywhere. This situation continues throughout the days of Solomon.
The characteristics of the realm apply to us in their spiritual sense. For us it is about peace, joy (vine) and righteousness (fig tree) (Rom 14:17). Every believer who places himself under the authority of the Lord Jesus experiences it realm of peace in its characteristics, in the midst of a world of misery and sorrow.
The many horses also contribute to Solomon’s glory and greatness (1Kgs 4:26-28). The numerous horses and chariots (2Chr 1:14) are stationed, except in Jerusalem, in various places, in the so-called ‘chariot cities’ (2Chr 9:25). The deputies provide Solomon and his family with food once a year for one month each, leaving nothing lacking (1Kgs 4:27). Thus we should provide the members of God’s people with food and leave nothing lacking, but “declaring … the whole purpose of God” to them (Acts 20:27). Do we long to be a “faithful and sensible slave” (Mt 24:45)?
The deputies provide both the horses and swift steeds with food by bringing it to them. This contains the spiritual lesson that we may provide all the servants of the Lord with what they need, in whatever way they are doing. This can be through financial support, for example, or also through spiritual encouragement.
The Wisdom of Solomon
All that Solomon possesses in wisdom, discernment and mind, he has received from God. He not only rules through them, but it also gives him ‘name reputation’ (1Kgs 4:31), that is to say that one speaks about him with respect.
Wisdom, discernment and mind are different concepts that show how much he is a man of insight. “Wisdom” is more the practical wisdom of life, the ability to do and act and to choose the effective. “Discernment” is more the sharpness of the mind to judge difficult and complex problems correctly. Understanding or “mind” is the spiritual ability to contain the most diverse fields of science.
His wisdom, discernment and mind are described as “the sand that is on the sea shore”. These words are also used to indicate the size of the people (Gen 22:17a). This means that his understanding is so great that he encompasses the whole people. He takes care of all their needs and makes all their occasions his own. The Lord Jesus will do this in the kingdom of peace for everyone, and He does this now for all His own.
His wisdom is compared to other wisdom. His “wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt”. Possibly the sons of the East are the Chaldeans or Babylonians. That area, and Egypt too, are areas known for their wisdom. The magi or wise men come from the east (Mt 2:1) and Moses is “Moses was educated in all the learning [or: wisdom, Darby Translation] of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22; Isa 19:11-12).
There is a worldly wisdom, but Solomon is wiser than all the wisdom of the world. The wisdom of the world has a certain value on earthly territory. However, this wisdom should not have any influence among believers regarding the knowledge of Christ, because it harms the wisdom that is only in Christ (Col 2:8). Christ is the “wisdom from God” (1Cor 1:30).
His wisdom is also greater than all the wise men of God’s people. Men are mentioned from Judah, among them are the singers Ethan and Heman chosen by David (1Chr 15:19; 1Chr 25:5). From Ethan and Heman we have psalms in the Bible (Psa 89; 88). They are wise men who God has been able to use for psalms that express the greatest wisdom. Ethan speaks in his psalm (Psalm 89) of grace and Heman (Psalm 88) of someone who is deeply impressed by the consequences of disobedience to God.
His proverbs, his songs, and his knowledge reflect the excellent spirit with which Solomon is endowed by God. He did not keep his knowledge and wisdom for himself, but passed it on to others, so that they can take profit of it as well. For us too, some expressions have been preserved, for our benefit. Of his 3,000 proverbs we have about 600 in the Bible, in the book of Proverbs. From his 1,005 songs we have in the Bible the book of Song of Songs and some psalms (Psalms 72; 127). Of all that he has spoken and written, we have only that part in the Bible. That is the part that is of lasting value to God’s people throughout all times.
He spoke about the great and small things of creation, about the most impressive (“the cedar”) and unobtrusive (“the hyssop”) parts of it. The cedar and the hyssop are also spoken about in the cleansing of the leper, where we see that the large and small of man must all be judged (Lev 14:4-7). He also talks about the animals, which we also have in Genesis 1. He knows them as Adam knew them. Adam ruled them and Solomon rules them by his wisdom.
His knowledge gives him dominion. He knows the life of every living being and every plant. He knows their origin, their development, their relationship to each other and to the whole of creation. Today he would be called ‘a walking encyclopedia’. Although his knowledge of creation is not perfect, it reminds us of the time when all the secrets of creation will be revealed by Him Who will deliver the now still sighing creation from the curse (Rom 8:21). Then everything will be restored in perfect harmony with each other.
The fame of his wisdom is all over the earth (1Kgs 4:34). In the following chapters we have two examples of rulers coming from far to hear his wisdom. These are Hiram, the king of Tyre (1Kgs 5:1), and the queen of Sheba (1Kgs 10:1).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Kings 4". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14