SOLOMON’S KINGDOM MARKED BY WORSHIP, WISDOM AND WEALTH
Frederick Mabie: The idea of divine presence (as reflected in the Chronicler’s note that the Lord God was “with” Solomon, 2Ch 1:1) is an important theological motif that threads it way through the pages of Scripture. In the beginning of the creation of humankind, the presence of God was up front and center, before being marred and lost through sin. From the opening chapters of Genesis to the closing chapters of Revelation, the redemptive plan of God is working to reestablish the fullness of divine presence to his people.
August Konkel: Wealth and wisdom seem to be a rare combination, as much as they are universally regarded as desirable. Not many in contemporary time would be generally acclaimed as having both qualities. Solomon is legendary in both respects. The Chronicler shows how the legend is true. . .
Solomon is introduced as wise and wealthy, a result of God’s gifts to him. Wisdom in Chronicles is precisely for building the temple. Solomon is modeled after Bezalel (Dillard 1980: 296); it is only after seeking God at the altar built by Bezalel that Solomon is endowed with wisdom. In 2 Chronicles 1:12, God promises to grant Solomon riches, wealth, and honor; these are declared in verses 14–17 and again after the account of temple building in 9:25 and 27–28. The wealth of Solomon frames the narrative to highlight Solomon’s wisdom as temple builder. The word ḥokmah (wisdom) is used for technical skill and life skills. The wisdom of technical skill is given to Bezalel to build the tabernacle (Exod 31:1–3; 35:30–35). This is the wisdom the Chronicler attributes to Solomon at Gibeon. . .
Solomon is renowned for wealth and wisdom. The Chronicler is correct in affirming these virtues. Sadly, Solomon’s end was not as the beginning. Solomon’s life ended in disaster, and his kingdom divided at his death. Nevertheless, the kingdom promised to David endured.
Martin Selman: The covenant theme in fact underlies Chronicles’ entire presentation of Solomon, which is much more concerned with Solomon’s significance in the purposes of God than listing the major events of Solomon’s life. It is for this reason that Chronicles has left out many important features found in the Kings account, such as Solomon’s personal details.
Andrew Hill: Solomon’s request for wisdom serves as a foil for the opening chapter and provides the framework for the entire literary unit (chs. 1–9). Instead of “wealth, riches or honor,” Solomon entreats Yahweh for wisdom and knowledge to govern God’s people effectively (1:11). Although he does not ask for these material blessings, God chooses to grant them to Solomon as a reward for his righteous prayer (1:12). The report of Solomon’s wealth found in 1 Kings 10:26–29 are placed as bookends encasing the story of David’s successor and the building of the Jerusalem temple (cf. 2 Chron. 1:14–17; 9:25–28). The emphasis of the opening chapter on wisdom and wealth as divine gifts mean they do not die with King Solomon. This is a cue to the postexilic Hebrew community that they too might acquire similar gifts from God through prayer.
J.A. Thompson: Above all else, this chapter reminds us that Solomon began his reign by seeking God (v. 5). Here, as elsewhere, it is not the specific facts of Solomon’s reign but the principles behind it that the Chronicler stresses. The postexilic Jews, like Israel after the death of David, faced an uncertain future. The right place to begin was with God. His favor and direction alone could give health and peace to the nation. Once again, therefore, the king is portrayed in a favorable light not in order to obscure his sins but in order to make the point that the good things he did are what we should imitate.
Iain Duguid: The opening chapter of Solomon’s reign describes three different aspects of preparation that set the scene.
– First comes affirmation of continuity of the worship established by Moses in the wilderness: Solomon and the nation’s leaders go to Gibeon to offer on the “bronze altar” of the “tent of meeting of God” (2 Chron. 1:2–6).
– Second, there the Lord appears and promises to Solomon “wisdom and knowledge” together with “riches, possessions, and honor” that will be used mainly for the temple (vv. 7–13).
– The final aspect of preparation is the riches acquired through trading that provide for the building and its ongoing worship (vv. 14–17).
(:1) PROLOGUE – DIVINE FAVOR SECURES SOLOMON’S KINGDOM
A. Secure Establishment of Solomon’s Kingdom
“Now Solomon the son of David established himself securely over his kingdom,”
B. Secret to Exaltation = Divine Favor
“and the LORD his God was with him and exalted him greatly.”
Frederick Mabie: The Chronicler begins his account of Solomon’s reign by emphasizing God’s favor on Solomon during the transition from Davidic to Solomonic rule in Israel. The theological notions of divine election, presence, and enablement are all succinctly noted within this opening statement of 2 Chronicles. In addition, this opening remark connects Solomon with the divine favor of the Davidic dynasty via similar statements of divine favor made concerning David (cf. 1Ch 11:9; 17:8).
Andrew Hill: The Chronicler opens and closes his “photo album” of Solomon’s reign with a similar “snapshot”: the king firmly in control of the empire he has inherited from his father, David (1:1; cf. 9:26). The expression “established himself firmly” (Hithpael of ḥzq) may be an oblique reference to the steps taken by Solomon to secure the throne after his accession (including “showing kindness” to political assets and “striking down” political liabilities, cf. 1 Kings 2:5–46). The introductory verse also affirms Solomon as God’s choice for governing his people. Much like his father, God is “with” Solomon (2 Chron. 1:1b; cf. 1 Chron. 11:9; 17:8).
Raymond Dillard: “Exalted him.” The Chronicler twice uses the piel in reference to Solomon (1:1; 1 Chr 29:25). The same verb is also used twice in reference to Joshua (Josh 3:7; 4:14), suggesting that the Chronicler has used the succession of Moses and Joshua as a paradigm for his account of the succession of David and Solomon.
I. (:2-6) SOLOMON’S WORSHIP AT GIBEON
A. (:2) Motivational Speech of Solomon to the Unified Leaders of Israel
“And Solomon spoke to all Israel, to the commanders of thousands and of hundreds and to the judges and to every leader in all Israel, the heads of the fathers’ households.”
Andrew Hill: The reference to “all Israel” (1:2) hearkens back to the unity of God’s people under King David as Israel’s divinely appointed leader (cf. 1 Chron. 28:4; 29:21, 23, 25).
Frederick Mabie: Solomon’s speech to all levels of the Israelite leadership emphasizes the breadth of unity and oneness that shapes this pilgrimage to Gibeon by the Israelite community. A gathering of a similar group of individuals was organized by David to announce that Solomon would build the temple for the Lord (1Ch 28:1–8) as well as the procession that accompanied David in moving the ark of the covenant from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem (1Ch 13 and 15).
Raymond Dillard: In Kings Solomon’s visit to the high place at Gibeon is presented essentially as an act of private devotion; the Chronicler has recorded instead a national cultic assembly in which representatives of “all Israel” assemble in Jerusalem and journey to the high place. The Chronicler had earlier shown the same concern to introduce “all Israel” into the record of David’s reign (1 Chr 11:4 // 2 Sam 5:6; 1 Chr 11–12); the unity and fullness of the people continue through the reign of Solomon.
B. (:3) Mass Pilgrimage to Worship at Gibeon
“Then Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place which was at Gibeon; for God’s tent of meeting was there, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness.”
Frederick Mabie: The mention of a mass pilgrimage to a high place is at first startling in the light of the negative association of high places within biblical literature. However, prior to the construction of the temple, high places were often generic worship sites not necessarily connected with pagan worship, and they reflect a noncentralized worship setting (cf. 1Ki 3:2). Because of the possibility that the Chronicler’s audience would view Solomon’s trip to a high place negatively, much is done to emphasize that the high place at Gibeon was a legitimate place of worship. Of particular importance, we learn here that the Tent of Meeting made by Moses “the LORD’s servant” as well as the bronze altar for burnt offerings crafted by Bezalel (2Ch 1:5; cf. Ex 38:1–2) were at Gibeon (see also 1Ch 21:29).
The Tent of Meeting underscores continuity with Moses, while the bronze altar connects the site with the Israelite sacrificial system and the Aaronic priesthood (see 1Ch 16:39–40). These details combine to make it clear that the high place at Gibeon was not only a legitimate sacred place, but also an important site prior to the construction of the temple (note its description as the “great” or “most important” high place in the parallel text at 1Ki 3:4).
Andrew Hill: Worship is also a topic of paramount importance for the Chronicler. His narrative of Solomon’s reign underscores the purpose of the Jerusalem temple as both a place of prayer and ritual sacrifice (6:29, 40; 7:12). The king’s own worship life illustrates the complementary nature of prayer and sacrifice, as Solomon began his rule by inquiring of the Lord and presenting burnt offerings to him (1:5–6). Beyond this, Solomon prays and God immediately and explicitly answers his requests (e.g., 1:8–10 [see 1:11–12]; 6:14–42 [see 7:12–22]). As David’s son and successor, Solomon understands that only “wholehearted” worship is acceptable to God (6:14).
For the Chronicler prayer is the heart of worship, which ensures that ritual sacrifice is more than just the empty form of religion (6:21). Maintaining a proper relationship with God and restoring wholehearted worship is at times dependent on the forgiveness of God as a response to humble repentance (cf. 7:14). Yahweh is a merciful God (Deut. 4:31), and his compassions never fail (Lam. 3:22). No doubt, the Chronicler’s “shorter catechism” for postexilic Judah includes these essential theological truths: Prayer still works, and there is always hope for the sinner!
C. (:4) Mention of the Location in Jerusalem of the Ark of God
“However, David had brought up the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the place he had prepared for it; for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem.”
D. (:5-6) Main Focus = Burnt Offerings on the Bronze Altar of Bezalel in Gibeon
“Now the bronze altar, which Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, was there before the tabernacle of the LORD, and Solomon and the assembly sought it out. 6 And Solomon went up there before the LORD to the bronze altar which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it.”
Frederick Mabie: Solomon’s extensive sacrifice at Gibeon (“a thousand burnt offerings”) is a tangible way of showing his reverence of God at the outset of his reign. Similarly abundant sacrifice is connected with the dedication of the temple (cf. 7:5). As reflected in the dedication of the temple, there is a close connection between sacrifice and prayer in this setting.
August Konkel: The Chronicler is fully supportive of the high place at Gibeon. This high place is part of the process by which a single location for centralized worship can be established. David had already moved the ark with its cherubim to Jerusalem, at the location he had designated. The bronze altar and worship at the tent of meeting were still accommodated at Gibeon. Solomon went there to worship, offer sacrifices, and seek divine guidance. The action and the location are both laudatory.
Andrew Hill: The prayer and ritual sacrifice offered at Gibeon is symbolic of the new king’s primary task, as the acts of piety show Solomon to be a fitting candidate for building Yahweh’s temple. The worshipers convene at Gibeon (or Gibeah of God), a town with an adjacent worship center some five miles northwest of Jerusalem (1:3a). The Chronicler reminds his audience (and us as later readers of his history) of the importance of Gibeon, a flashback to the account of David’s transfer of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (1:3–5; cf. 1 Chron. 13–17). After a temporary shrine for the ark was established in Jerusalem, David appointed a group of priests and Levites to minister there before the Lord (1 Chron. 16:4–6). But the other priests and Levites remained stationed at Gibeon because “the tabernacle of the LORD [was located] at the high place” there (16:39).
The draw of Gibeon for the new king is more than simply its reputation as the site of the Mosaic portable shrine or “God’s Tent of Meeting” and the original altar associated with Israelite sacrificial ritual. The pilgrimage to Gibeon is a return to first things for Solomon, a reconnection with the ancient Hebrew religious traditions. This report is in keeping with the Chronicler’s interest in the theological principles informing Solomon’s reign. . .
The verb “to inquire of [drš; lit., to seek] the LORD” is an important theme in Chronicles. It denotes an act of faith, and the goal or aim of this spiritual quest is generally to seek God’s direction and help at a crucial moment in one’s life (or even confirmation of an earlier divine word of instruction).
The propensity “to inquire” of God is one measure of the faithfulness of the leaders of Israel (e.g., 1 Chron. 10:14; 2 Chron. 22:9). Curiously (and sadly) Selman observes that the term is not used of Solomon again, despite his exhortation in the prayer of dedication for the temple (2 Chron. 7:14). Isaiah’s admonition is still pertinent for the Chronicler’s audience (and the church today)—“Seek [drš] the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isa. 55:6).
II. (:7-12) SOLOMON’S WISDOM GIFTED BY GOD
A. (:7) Remarkable Invitation
“In that night God appeared to Solomon and said to him,
‘Ask what I shall give you.’”
Frederick Mabie: Solomon’s dream (noted as such in the parallel passage at 1Ki 3) at Gibeon includes a theophany (appearance by God) and provides the setting for Solomon’s reception of wisdom from above. Note that Solomon’s temple building project is “framed” by revelatory dreams (here and at 7:12–22, following the completion of the temple).
B. (:8-10) Insightful Request
“And Solomon said to God, ‘Thou hast dealt with my father David with great lovingkindness, and hast made me king in his place. 9 Now, O LORD God, Thy promise to my father David is fulfilled; for Thou hast made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10 Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can rule this great people of Thine?’”
Frederick Mabie: Solomon’s attitude of thanksgiving and declaration of God’s covenantal faithfulness within a context of prayer and worship form a significant reminder and exhortation to the Chronicler’s postexilic audience (cf. Solomon’s prayer in conjunction with the dedication of the temple; 2Ch 6:14–42).
Following Solomon’s expression of thanksgiving, Solomon asks for two things:
(1) that God will continue to bring the fullness of the Davidic covenant to pass (v.9), and
(2) that God will grant him wisdom and knowledge (v.10).
As with the theme of divine favor (cf. 1:1), Solomon’s words stress continuity with Yahweh’s covenantal promises to David. In addition, the phraseology describing the people as being “as numerous as the dust of the earth” implies continuity with the Abrahamic covenant (cf. Ge 13:16; 28:14).
It is interesting to note that Solomon’s words here together with the previous verse imply that while some aspects of the Davidic covenant have been fulfilled, other elements have not yet come to pass (compare David’s prayer in 1Ch 17:16–27, esp. 17:23). In addition, both verses imply that Solomon understands himself as being part of God’s promise to David. . .
With respect to decision making, Solomon’s request for wisdom is connected to his ability to govern (judge) God’s people and facilitate an ordered, God-honoring society. It is significant to note that the term translated “govern” (GK 9149) is the verbal form of the noun “judge.” The relationship between judgeship and kingship is stressed repeatedly at the outset of the Israelite monarchy (see 1Sa 8:1–22, esp. vv.5–6, 20). The overlap between the role of judge and king may imply that the office of king in Israel could be likened to a national (supratribal) judgeship. Along these lines, Solomon’s first “wise” act is an act of judgeship (see 1Ki 3:16–28). In order to judge wisely, Solomon must be able to discern and apply God’s will. This element of wisdom is paramount in leading a God-pleasing life for all believers.
Andrew Hill: The Chronicler seems to emphasize Solomon’s recognition of the theocratic ideal, that he as the Davidic king is God’s vice-regent because the people of Israel are “God’s people” (2 Chron. 1:10). This is the gist of the Chronicler’s message for his own audience. Israel is still God’s people after the return from the Exile, and God is still the de facto sovereign of Israel. The Chronicler reminds his generation that God is enthroned in Israel through the worship of his people and that the Davidic kingdom (as the precursor of the kingdom of God) will be established through the prayers of the righteous. . .
Here Solomon is a model of how the righteous should pray because
– he first inquires or seeks God (implying he approaches God in good faith, 1:5).
– He then couches his prayer in the history of God’s “great kindness” to David (1:8), acknowledging that the Lord has indeed proven himself as a good God (cf. Ps. 25:7–8; 31:19; 34:8).
– Next, Solomon voices his humility and dependence on God in his rhetorical question, “Who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chron. 1:10).
– Beyond this, Solomon seeks spiritual blessing over material blessing in asking God for wisdom and knowledge to rule instead of personal wealth and riches (1:10–11).
J.A. Thompson: Solomon’s request for “wisdom and knowledge” to lead and govern “this great people of yours” is an acknowledgment of his own weakness in the tasks of government and of the fact that Israel was God’s people, not Solomon’s.
C. (:11-12) Unprecedented Response
“And God said to Solomon, ‘Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth, or honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge, that you may rule My people, over whom I have made you king, 12 wisdom and knowledge have been granted to you. And I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings who were before you has possessed, nor those who will come after you.’”
August Konkel: The items Solomon did not ask for are in a group of three and a group of two. God grants the first set of three things that Solomon does not ask for (v. 12 b-c), in a measure that is unequaled for any other king. Nothing is said about the second set of two items for which Solomon did not ask. In Chronicles no mention is made of the enemies named in Kings (1 Kings 11:14, 23), neither those whom Solomon dispatched nor those who later threatened his kingdom. Here the emphasis is limited to
– the mission of the temple,
– the wealth that supported it, and
– the honor that it brought.
“So Solomon went from the high place which was at Gibeon,
from the tent of meeting, to Jerusalem, and he reigned over Israel.”
Andrew Hill: Clearly the Chronicler wants his audience to understand a cause-and-effect relationship between Solomon’s worship of God and his “firm rule” of Israel.
III. (:14-17) SOLOMON’S WEALTH IN ABUNDANCE
A. (:14) Impressive Horses, Chariots and Chariot Cities
“And Solomon amassed chariots and horsemen. He had 1,400 chariots, and 12,000 horsemen, and he stationed them in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem.”
Frederick Mabie: Solomon’s development of a chariot force required a considerable amount of infrastructure, as reflected in the construction of chariot cities, the organization of workers (cf. 1Sa 8:11), and the organization of Solomon’s taxation structure (which included provisions for chariot horses; cf. 1Ki 4:28). Solomon even arranged to have tribute paid in the form of horses (see 2Ch 9:24; 1Ki 10:25).
The text also notes that Solomon stationed chariots and horsemen in “chariot cities” as well as with him in Jerusalem. Solomon’s chariot cities have long been identified as Hazor (in the far north), Megiddo (in the Jezreel Valley), and Gezer (in the Shephelah). Each of these cities has similar fortification plans that suggest a certain amount of state planning, including casemate walls (a double wall connected with crosswalls that can be used for storage or filled in during a siege) and gateways with three chambers on each side having nearly the same dimension.
August Konkel: Archaeological excavations at Megiddo indicate that Solomon was deeply involved in chariotry, approximating the numbers indicated by the Chronicler. Excavations of the tenth century have uncovered five units of stabling built in a row in the southern complex of buildings (Ussishkin 1992: 677). Each unit contained about 30 horses, and the entire complex about 150 horses. The stables opened into a large courtyard, leveled on a large artificial fill. This indicates that a unit of chariot horses was maintained and trained there. There is also evidence of stables for riding horses in several units that would have housed over 300 horses. Megiddo is on the route that Solomon would have used in trade between Cilicia and Egypt, as well as for his own military units at Jerusalem.
B. (:15) Impressive Silver, Gold and Cedars
“And the king made silver and gold as plentiful in Jerusalem as stones,
and he made cedars as plentiful as sycamores in the lowland.”
Frederick Mabie: Israel’s terrain is rocky throughout much of the country, especially in the Judean hill country where Jerusalem is located, and this provides a vivid image of the abundance of silver and gold enjoyed during Solomon’s reign. Beyond gold and silver, Israel’s prosperity during the reign of Solomon included the purchase of an abundance of the highly-valued cedar trees. The durability and pleasant scent of the cedar tree made it an especially popular wood for important building projects in the biblical world. However, cedar was rare in Israel and needed to be imported (usually from the Phoenician coast—cf. the OT expression “the cedars of Lebanon”), whereas the less-valued (see Isa 9:10) sycamore tree was widely distributed throughout Israel—enough to justify the appointment of an individual during David’s reign who was in charge of olive and sycamore trees (1Ch 27:28). These raw materials (gold, silver, cedar) will occupy a central role in the construction of the temple.
C. (:16-17) Import/Export Business of Horses and Chariots
“And Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from Kue; the king’s traders procured them from Kue for a price. 17 And they imported chariots from Egypt for 600 shekels of silver apiece, and horses for 150 apiece, and by the same means they exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Aram.”
Andrew Hill: The threefold measure of Solomon’s wealth includes “military hardware” (1:14), precious metals (1:15), and profits from international trade (1:16, of which horses and chariots are but one example). Solomon’s merchants broker a lucrative import-export trade in chariots and chariot horses between the Egyptians, Hittites, and Arameans (1:16–17). It seems likely that Kue (1:16) denotes a region of Asia Minor, suggesting Solomon as the “middle man” for the trading of horses from Asia Minor for chariots from Egypt.
Iain Duguid: Solomon’s gathering of chariots and horsemen marked a new development. These were the advanced military equipment of the day, although not useful in hilly terrain. David had hamstrung captured horses (1 Chron. 18:4; cf. Deut. 17:16; Ps. 20:7), but it appears that the expansion of territory led to changes. With David’s reign bringing peace and wide hegemony, Israel’s location on the land bridge between Africa, Asia, and Europe was ideal for prosperity through trade involving Egypt to the south and Kue (in Cilicia, southern Turkey) and Syria to the north. The image of Solomon becoming prosperous through trade in military equipment is noted without comment!
J.A. Thompson: Solomon’s kingdom lay across the only land bridge between Asia and Africa so that he was able to control the trade routes over a wide area, particularly between Syria and Egypt.