SOLOMON EXERCISED MAGNIFICENT WISDOM IN THE ORDERLY ADMINISTRATION OF HIS KINGDOM OF PEACE AND SECURITY AND PROSPERITY – PREFIGURING THE COMING MESSIANIC KINGDOM
This chapter ties closely with the previous chapter in extolling the wisdom of Solomon. We have already witnessed the display of that wisdom in practical matters of adjudication of complex judicial matters. Now we see that same wisdom and discernment exercised in the orderly administration of the affairs of the kingdom. Solomon understood how to delegate authority to capable leaders and how to navigate the diplomacy waters regarding relations with neighboring states. He effectively used taxation to enrich the state treasury and provide a kingdom where the people could joyfully celebrate their dominion in peace and security. His reputation captured wide-spread attention and adulation. This time period represented the pinnacle of the glory years for the Davidic kingdom in anticipation of the Messianic kingdom to come.
Donald Wiseman: Solomon’s wisdom is now shown to encompass his administration of state affairs, including his choice of cabinet members (4:1–6) and district governors (vv. 7–19) and his reordering of business to control palace and temple supplies, taxes and labour (vv. 20–28). The historian then summarizes the exceptional quality and breadth of the royal wisdom, which embraced international culture and learning (vv. 29–34).
August Konkel: The records show the sophistication of Solomon’s reign in contrast to the earlier stages of the kingdom and stress that his wisdom focuses on the urgent practicalities of providing an administration where the people will have prosperity and contentment (4:20). Though Solomon is famous for his thousands of proverbs on everything from a giant cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop growing out of the wall (4:33), the wisdom given to him by God that legitimizes his reign is an understanding of how to provide peace and prosperity for the people. The official records serve as a testimony to this gift of wisdom.
I. (:1-6) MAIN OFFICIALS OF SOLOMON’S KINGDOM
A. (:1) King of Israel
“Now King Solomon was king over all Israel.”
B. (:2-6) Listing of Main Officials
“And these were his officials:”
Iain Provan: The chief officials are first described to us: those at the very top of the hierarchy, just one step down from the king himself.
Constable: Delegation of authority is a mark of wisdom in a person with more to do than he or she can personally manage effectively.
1. (:2) High Priest in Jerusalem
“Azariah the son of Zadok was the priest;”
William Barnes: The high priest in Jerusalem probably is what is meant here.
2. (:3a) Secretaries
“Elihoreph and Ahijah, the sons of Shisha were secretaries;”
John Schultz: “Scribe” (spr) or secretary (NIV) was a professional title ranging from humble writer to Secretary of State. Here the existence of two officials may mean that one covered foreign and one home affairs or, as illustrated in Assyria, that they used different methods or languages when keeping records. NEB “adjutant-general” emphasizes their principal administrative role based on keeping lists (spr).
3. (:3b) Recorder
“Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was the recorder;”
John Dummelow: probably the keeper of the state archives (RM ‘chronicler’), though some suppose that his function was to remind the king of state matters that required his attention.
4. (:4a) Army Commander
“and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the army;”
5. (:4b) Priests
“and Zadok and Abiathar were priests;”
MacArthur: Zadok and Abiathar had served together as High Priests under David (2Sa 8:17; 20:25). Although Abiathar had been removed from priestly service and exiled (2:26-27, 35), he maintained his priestly title until his death.
6. (:5a) Manager of the Deputies
“and Azariah the son of Nathan was over the deputies;”
7. (:5b) Friend of the King
“and Zabud the son of Nathan, a priest, was the king’s friend;”
8. (:6a) Household Manager
“and Ahishar was over the household;”
Iain Provan: Ahishar (v. 6) is in charge of the palace, i.e., the royal steward
(cf. 1 Kgs. 16:9; 18:3; etc.).
9. (:6b) Forced Labor Manager
“and Adoniram the son of Abda
was over the men subject to forced labor.”
II. (:7-19) MAIN DEPUTIES OF SOLOMON’S KINGDOM
A. (:7) Summary of Duties
“And Solomon had twelve deputies over all Israel, who provided for the king and his household; each man had to provide for a month in the year.”
Guzik: Taxes were paid in grain and livestock, which were used to support the royal court and the central government. Each governor was responsible for one month of the year.
B. (:8-19) Listing of Main Deputies
“And these are their names:”
August Konkel: The division of Israel into districts for political purposes is according to geographical areas that traditionally formed agricultural, social, and ethnic units. It is most probable that Solomon follows and reorganizes David’s district system. . .
The district governors are to levy taxes and make provision for king and court (4:7). One of their duties is to provide the royal court with food and the draft animals with fodder (4:27–28). They also assist the official responsible for the forced labor (v. 6), required for the king’s projects. Each governor is assigned one month in the year so that no period of time is missed. It is often assumed that the officers worked on a twelve month calendar, each taking a month in turn, but this is not explicit. Each of the districts varies considerably in their potential to provide tribute, so it is unlikely that they provide equal services and goods. The divisions reflect social and political realities of tribes and territories that provided a reasonable division for administration and obligation, resulting in satisfaction for everyone (v. 20).
Constable: The district arrangement seems designed to move Israel away from tribal independence to cooperation, and taxation, under the new centralized government. Though the district boundaries approximated the tribal boundaries, they were not the same.
“Ben-hur, in the hill country of Ephraim;”
“Ben-deker in Makaz and Shaalbim
and Beth-shemesh and Elonbeth-hanan;”
“Ben-hesed, in Arubboth (Socoh was his and all the land of Hepher);”
“Ben-abinadab, in all the height of Dor
(Taphath the daughter of Solomon was his wife);”
“Baana the son of Ahilud, in Taanach and Megiddo, and all Beth-shean which is beside Zarethan below Jezreel, from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah as far as the other side of Jokmeam;”
“Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead (the towns of Jair, the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead were his: the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, sixty great cities with walls and bronze bars were his);”
“Ahinadab the son of Iddo, in Mahanaim;”
“Ahimaaz, in Naphtali
(he also married Basemath the daughter of Solomon);”
“Baana the son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth;”
“Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar;”
“Shimei the son of Ela, in Benjamin;”
“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 deputy who was in the land.”
F. W. Farrar: We see with surprise that Judah seems to have been exempted from the burdens imposed on the other districts, and if so the impolitic exemption was a main cause of the subsequent jealousies.
III. (:20-28) MANIFEST PROSPERITY AND SECURITY OF SOLOMON’S KINGDOM
A. (:20) Internal Signs of Kingdom Prosperity
1. Populated Land
“Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance;”
2. Pleasant Living
“they were eating and drinking and rejoicing.”
Tone of Joy and Celebration
Iain Provan: The consequence of the new system of organization is that Judah and Israel … ate … drank … were happy. Solomon’s concern in 3:8–9 had been that he would not be able to govern so many people. Even though the people are as numerous as the sand on the seashore (a fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise in Gen. 22:17), he has proved equal to the task, for his wisdom is of equal measure (as 4:29 will make explicit). He has devised an economic system that, while it ensures the royal household has enough to eat and drink, does not oppress or deprive the king’s subjects of what they need. It is government by the righteous person; when he thrives (lit. “grows great”) the people rejoice (Prov. 29:2). It is not government by the wicked person who makes the people groan (Prov. 29:2; cf. 1 Sam. 8:10–18). This picture of harmony in Israel is, of course, implied by 1 Kings 2:5–9—all tribal dissension is banished, and Israel and Judah are united around the king’s table as the symbol of their unity (cf. also 4:27).
John Schultz: Life at the court was one of extraordinary ease and wealth. Every day was lived as a celebration as if life on earth was an image of heaven to come. The Pulpit Commentary comments on the king’s table: “The daily consumption of the royal household is now related to show the grandeur and luxury of the court. And it agreed well with the greatness of the kingdom. The lavish provision of Oriental palaces was evidently a subject of wonder and of boasting to the ancients, as the inscriptions and monuments show.”
B. (:21) External Signs of Kingdom Prosperity
1. Geographical Dominion
“Now Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms
from the River to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt;”
2. Tribute and Servitude
“they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.”
Iain Provan: Solomon and the Nations – The previous section, 4:1–20, was clearly defined by its beginning and ending (“all Israel … Judah and Israel”). It was a passage about Solomon’s rule over Israel. With 4:21 we begin a new section concerning Solomon’s rule over other kingdoms and his impact on the world more generally. It is revealed that Israel’s peace and prosperity are related to Solomon’s dominion over the surrounding kingdoms (they contribute to the prosperity and represent no threat to the peace, vv. 21–28). It is further revealed just how great Solomon’s wisdom is: it is unsurpassed (vv. 29–34).
R. D. Patterson: The countries that David had conquered remained subject to Solomon and brought him tribute throughout his reign. This was one of the noteworthy signs of God’s blessing in keeping with the Davidic covenant. The usual experience of ancient empire builders was that when the old king died, the subject nations would withhold tribute and challenge the new king in rebellion. This necessitated repeated punitive expeditions to reinforce the former king’s terms and to prove the ability of the new king to enforce his will. Solomon did not have to do this. God granted him a peaceful reign in which he could focus his energies on the temple and other building projects. He was also able to devote himself to administrative matters, to the building up of extensive and expanding foreign trade, and to his pursuit of wisdom and knowledge.
C. (:22-23) Personal Prosperity of the King and His Court
“And Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty kors of fine flour and sixty kors of meal, 23 ten fat oxen, twenty pasture-fed oxen, a hundred sheep besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl.”
Philip Ryken: Solomon thus enjoyed what every self-respecting monarch must have: a table fit for a king. Kings do not become famous for their frugality. When people go to the palace for dinner they expect a feast, and if the king is unable to provide one, his reputation will suffer.
D. (:24-25) Peace and Security of the Kingdom
1. (:24) External Peace and Security Outside of the Kingdom Borders
a. Widespread Dominion
“For he had dominion over everything west of the River,
from Tiphsah even to Gaza, over all the kings west of the River;”
b. Widespread Peace
“and he had peace on all sides around about him.”
John Gill: in which he was a type of Christ, the Prince of peace.
2. (:25) Internal Peace and Security Within the Kingdom Borders
“So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.”
Guzik: This was a proverbial expression for a time of peace and prosperity in Israel (Isaiah 36:16, Micah 4:4, Zechariah 3:10), indicating safety from both internal and external enemies.
Dale Ralph Davis: And when we dig beneath the writer’s joy we discover its foundation: the fulfillment of Yahweh’s covenant promises. The writer alludes to three promise components in this section.
– The first had to do with people (v. 20). He says that Judah and Israel were ‘many—as the sand which is by the sea.’ That is an inexact census figure, but it is covenant code from the promises to Abraham (see Gen. 22:17), sometimes called the seed-aspect of the promise.
– The second involves place (vv. 21, 24). These assertions about the scope of Solomon’s sway pick up the land aspect of the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:18–21), which was confirmed under the Sinaitic covenant (Exod. 23:31; Deut. 11:24; Josh. 1:4).
– The third component is peace (vv. 24b, 25), that is, the stability and security God designed for Israel under the Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7:10–11), a foregleam of still future realities (Mic. 4:4).
Yahweh has heaped up fulfillments to his promises under Solomon’s regime.
E. (:26-28) Military Might and Capabilities of the Kingdom
1. (:26) Abundant Numbers of Horses and Horsemen
“And Solomon had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots,
and 12,000 horsemen.”
MacArthur: Though the Heb. text reads 40,000, this was probably a copyist’s error in transcribing the text, and it should read 4,000 as in 2Ch 9:25.
2. (:27) Abundant Provision for King Solomon’s Table
“And those deputies provided for King Solomon and all who came to King Solomon’s table, each in his month; they left nothing lacking.”
3. (:28) Abundant Provision for King Solomon’s Horses
“They also brought barley and straw for the horses and swift steeds to the place where it should be, each according to his charge.”
Paul House: It is interesting to realize that at this point in the story the author expresses neither approval nor disapproval of Solomon’s activities. Certainly the writer presents Solomon as a man made wise by the Lord. Of course, the people seem happy now. Yet Moses’ warnings, especially the one against collecting “great numbers of horses” (cf. Deut 17:14–20), and Samuel’s cautions against royal excesses (1 Sam 8:10–18) linger in the minds of seasoned readers. What long-term good can come of such traditionally non-Israelite practices?
IV. (:29-34) MAGNIFICENT WISDOM OF SOLOMON’S KINGDOM
A. (:29-31) Gift of Wisdom and Discernment Defined Solomon’s Reign
1. (:29) Source and Depth of This Gift of Wisdom and Discernment
“Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment
and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore.”
2. (:30) Surpassing Nature of This Gift of Wisdom and Discernment
“And Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.”
3. (:31) Superlative Reputation of This Gift of Wisdom and Discernment
“For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations.”
R. D. Patterson: The one attribute most characteristic os Solomon is wisdom. Interest in wisdom was widespread in the ancient world. In the Gentile world wisdom was primarily associated with the ability to be successful. It was not a speculative discipline but intensely practical. It pertained to all walks of life . . .
He who fears the Lord receives wisdom from him, the ability to see things from God’s perspective. Thus true wisdom gives discernment in spiritual and moral matters. It also enables man to discriminate between that which is helpful and that which is harmful. Every aspect of human endeavor is included: the spiritual, intellectual, secular, and practical. It covers man’s relationship to God as well as his relationship to other men.
B. (:32-33) Exercise of Wisdom and Discernment Demonstrated
1. (:32) Form of Speech = Proverbs and Songs
“He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.”
Donald Wiseman: Proverbs were collected in books; these māšāl include parables, similes, metaphors and proverb-riddles, all common in the ancient Near East from the third millennium onwards. Extensive writings from Mesopotamia and Egypt attest a similar tradition to that exercised by Solomon. The biblical book of Proverbs is said to contain 582 of Solomon’s proverbs. Songs were catalogued by their initial line in antiquity. For Solomon and love songs see the Song of Solomon.
Constable: Solomon’s literary output was prolific (v. 32). His name appears on two of the psalms in the Book of Psalms (Ps. 72; 127), and he also evidently wrote the Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.
2. (:33) Subjects of Speech
a. Inanimate = Trees and Plants
“And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon
even to the hyssop that grows on the wall;”
Donald Wiseman: The cedar of Lebanon was the tallest tree with the greatest spread (cf. 5:6; Ps. 80:10) and the Syrian hyssop (’ezōb) was the smallest, stunted from its usual height (50–70 cm) by growing in a wall.
b. Animate = Created Beings
“he spoke also of animals and birds and creeping things and fish.”
Dale Ralph Davis: The sheer extent of Solomon’s wisdom, the range of his interests, is even more impressive than the quantity of his proverbs and songs. He speaks of the moral and the material and moves between living and lyrics. He appreciates the stately (cedar in Lebanon) yet notices the trivial (the hyssop sprouting out of or on the wall). His interests include both what is in the barn and what is in the lake, what graces the skies and what slithers across the kitchen floor. How liberating wisdom can be! Wisdom, Solomon shows us, is incurably and rightly curious—it ranges over the whole domain of God’s realm, joyfully investigating and describing all God’s works. Nothing is hid from the sun’s heat (Ps. 19:6)—nor from wisdom’s interest.
Since God has left the fingerprints of his wisdom everywhere, since there is no place where God does not furnish us with raw materials for godly thinking, Christians should be seized with a rambunctious curiosity to ponder his works, both the majestic and the mundane. The task of wisdom is joyfully to describe and investigate all God’s works. We may not be Solomons in insight, but we can gratefully examine the same data.
Mordechai Cogan: Wisdom based on observation of animal behavior is well represented in Proverbs (see Forti 1996) and is summarized in Job 12:7–8: “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the sky, they will tell you. Or speak to the earth, it will teach you; the fish of the seas, they will inform you.”
Arno Gaebelein: Creation itself was known by the great King. (See verse 33.) According to an apocryphal book (Wisdom of Solomon) he had knowledge of cosmogony, astronomy, the alteration of solstices, the cycles of years, the natures of wild beasts, the forces of spirits, the thoughts of men, the qualities of plants and roots. Jewish tradition even declares that he could converse with the wild beasts.
C. (:34) Reputation for Wisdom and Discernment Attracted Attention
“And men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.”
John Gates: The writer here expresses himself in hyperbole. He means that Solomon’s court was open to all, and that as a wise man he attracted many important and influential visitors (cf. ch. 10).