1 Kings 4 – Solomon’s Administration
A. Solomon’s cabinet and governors.
1. (1-6) Solomon’s officials.
So King Solomon was king over all Israel. And these were his officials: Azariah the son of Zadok, the priest; Elihoreph and Ahijah, the sons of Shisha, scribes; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, the recorder; Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, over the army; Zadok and Abiathar, the priests; Azariah the son of Nathan, over the officers; Zabud the son of Nathan, a priest and the king’s friend; Ahishar, over the household; and Adoniram the son of Abda, over the labor force.
a. And these were his officials: Just as the story of the mothers contending over one baby was an example of Solomon’s great wisdom, this chapter also shows Solomon’s wisdom. The wise way he selected, trained, empowered, and supervised leaders is clearly seen.
i. Solomon was a leader of leaders. No wise leader does it all themselves. They know how to delegate responsibility and authority and get the job done. Solomon’s great wisdom enabled him to see the needs to get, train, and employ the right people to meet those needs.
b. The priest . . . scribes . . . the recorder: Solomon’s government was structured much like that in modern nations. He had officials who served as ministers or department secretaries over their specific areas of responsibility.
i. Solomon’s leadership was organized. He knew that God is a God of design and organization, and that things simply operate better and more efficiently when organized.
ii. “Jehoshaphat, who had served under David (2 Samuel 8:16; 20:24), continued as recorder. As such he was more a chief of protocol than a ‘remembrancer’ or recorder of the past. His status was almost that of a Secretary of State.” (Wiseman)
iii. “Since Abiathar had been exiled by Solomon (1 Kings 2:26ff), his inclusion here as a priest seems to be a problem. It must be remembered, however, that while Solomon could only reassign Abiathar’s responsibility, he could not take away his title nor his dignity as a priest.” (Dilday)
2. (7-19) Solomon’s governors.
And Solomon had twelve governors over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household; each one made provision for one month of the year. These are their names: Ben-Hur, in the mountains of Ephraim; Ben-Deker, in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth Shemesh, and Elon Beth Hanan; Ben-Hesed, in Arubboth; to him belonged Sochoh and all the land of Hepher; Ben-Abinadab, in all the regions of Dor; he had Taphath the daughter of Solomon as wife; Baana the son of Ahilud, in Taanach, Megiddo, and all Beth Shean, which is beside Zaretan below Jezreel, from Beth Shean to Abel Meholah, as far as the other side of Jokneam; Ben-Geber, in Ramoth Gilead; to him belonged the towns of Jair the son of Manasseh, in Gilead; to him also belonged the region of Argob in Bashan; sixty large cities with walls and bronze gate-bars; Ahinadab the son of Iddo, in Mahanaim; Ahimaaz, in Naphtali; he also took Basemath the daughter of Solomon as wife; Baanah the son of Hushai, in Asher and Aloth; Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar; Shimei the son of Elah, in Benjamin; Geber the son of Uri, in the land of Gilead, in the country of Sihon king of the Amorites, and of Og king of Bashan. He was the only governor who was in the land.
a. Twelve governors over all Israel: These men were responsible for taxation in their individual districts. The districts were not strictly separated by tribal borders but often according to mountains, land, and region.
i. Solomon’s leadership was creative. We can imagine that in the past, twelve governors would be apportioned strictly along tribal lines. Solomon knew that the way you did it before wasn’t necessarily the best way to do it at the present time. He was willing to try new things.
ii. “The absence of reference to Judah in this list could be explained by ‘there was only one official in the home-land’ (i.e. Judah, RSV) – that is, these twelve districts were additional to Judah, which remained unchanged, some say untaxted.” (Wiseman)
b. Each one made provision for one month of the year: 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.
i. Solomon’s leadership was not oppressive. It doesn’t seem too much to do one-twelfth of the work, so each of these governors didn’t feel overwhelmed by the burden of raising so much in taxes.
B. The prosperity of Solomon and Israel.
1. (20-21) Peace and prosperity.
Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing. So Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.
a. Numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing: The reign of Solomon was a golden age for Israel as a kingdom. The population grew robustly and it was a season of great prosperity, allowing plenty of leisure time and pursuit of good pleasures.
b. So Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt: Solomon was not a warrior or a general. This peace was achieved by King David and was enjoyed by King Solomon. It was also assisted – under God’s providence – by a season of decline and weakness among Israel’s neighbor states.
2. (22-23) Solomon’s daily provision.
Now Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty kors of fine flour, sixty kors of meal, ten fatted oxen, twenty oxen from the pastures, and one hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fatted fowl.
a. Ten fatted oxen: This was an exceptionally large daily meal for one man and shows Solomon clearly had a problem with gluttony (a small Bible commentator joke – we normally avoided). This provision was for Solomon’s entire household and his royal court.
i. Some estimate that this much food every day could feed 15,000 to 36,000 people. It supplied considerably more than Solomon’s household, large as it was.
ii. Fatted oxen are pen-fed cattle in contrast to open grazing varieties.
b. Thirty kors of fine flour: The kor equaled 220 liters or about 55 gallons. We can accurately picture 30 55-gallon drums full of fine flower being delivered for every day.
c. One hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fatted fowl: This list is not meant to stress the idea of opulence and luxury; the stress is on the idea that this daily provision indicated the great prosperity of the kingdom.
i. “Whether Christianity helps a man to worldly success or not, it helps him to get all the good out of the world that the world can give. It may, or may not, give wealth, but it will make the ‘little that a righteous man hath better than the riches of many wicked.’ ” (Maclaren)
3. (24-28) The political stability of Solomon’s kingdom.
For he had dominion over all the region on this side of the River from Tiphsah even to Gaza, namely over all the kings on this side of the River; and he had peace on every side all around him. And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan as far as Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. And these governors, each man in his month, provided food for King Solomon and for all who came to King Solomon’s table. There was no lack in their supply. They also brought barley and straw to the proper place, for the horses and steeds, each man according to his charge.
a. Each man under his vine and his fig tree: 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.
b. Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots: The famous stables of Solomon show what a vast cavalry he assembled for Israel. 2 Chronicles 9:25 is a parallel passage and has 4,000 chariots instead of 40,000 – the smaller number seems correct and the larger number is probably due to copyist error.
i. Unfortunately, it also shows that Solomon did not take God’s word as seriously as he should. In Deuteronomy 17:16, God spoke specifically to the future kings of Israel: But he shall not multiply horses for himself. One may argue if 20 or 100 horses violates the command to not multiply horses, but certainly forty thousand stalls of horses is multiplying horses.
c. Each man according to his charge: Spurgeon preached a sermon on this verse, focusing on the idea that we each have a charge to fulfill in the Kingdom of God, and we should be diligent to perform it and be expectant in being supplied for this duty.
i. “In Solomon’s court all his officers had a service to carry out, ‘every man according to his charge.’ It is exactly so in the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we are truly his, he has called us to some work and office, and he wills us to discharge that office diligently. We are not to be gentlemen-at-ease, but men-at-arms; not loiterers, but laborers; not glittering spangles, but burning and shining lights.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Many a servant girl gives her fourpenny-piece to the offering, and if the same proportion were carried out among those who are wealthy, gold would not be so rare a metal in the Lord’s treasury. A tithe may be too much for some, but a half might not be enough for another. Let it be, ‘Every man according to his charge,’ as to measure as well as to matter.” (Spurgeon)
iii. Spurgeon concluded the message on a high note: “Everything for Jesus, the glorious Solomon of our hearts, the Beloved of our souls! Life for Jesus! Death for Jesus! Time for Jesus! Eternity for Jesus! Hand and heart for Jesus! Brain and tongue for Jesus! Night and day for Jesus! Sickness or health for Jesus! Honour or dishonor for Jesus! Shame or glory for Jesus! Everything for Jesus, ‘Every man according to his charge.’ So may it be! Amen.”
C. Solomon’s wisdom.
1. (29-31) Solomon is famous for his God-given wisdom
And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations.
a. God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding: In the glory years of Solomon’s kingdom, he used the great wisdom God gave. Sadly, he did not always use this wisdom and later fell away from his devotion and worship of God (1 Kings 11:1-11).
b. His fame was in all the surrounding nations: Solomon became a prominent and famous man even among kings. In a strong sense, this is the fulfillment of the great promises to an obedient Israel described in Deuteronomy 28.
i. Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. (Deuteronomy 28:1)
ii. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. (Deuteronomy 28:10)
iii. In a sense, these blessings came upon Solomon more for David’s obedience than for his own. David was far more loyal and intimate with God than Solomon; yet God outwardly blessed Solomon more for David’s sake than He blessed David himself.
c. He was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman: Ethan is the author of Psalm 89 and Heman the author of Psalm 88. The other names are only mentioned in this passage.
2. (32-34) Solomon’s broad knowledge of science and nature
He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five. Also he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree of Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall; he spoke also of animals, of birds, of creeping things, and of fish. And men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
a. He spoke three thousand proverbs: Solomon’s great wisdom – divinely inspired wisdom, in fact – makes up a considerable portion of the Book of Proverbs.
b. His songs were one thousand and five: Solomon composed many songs but few psalms in the sense that David was the sweet psalmist of Israel (2 Samuel 23:1). This goes back to Solomon’s inferior relationship to God (compared to his father David).
c. He spoke of trees . . . also of animals . . . of creeping things, and of fish: Solomon’s wisdom was not only applied to understanding life and human problems, but also to understanding the world around him. He had a divinely gifted intellect and ability to understand.
i. “Ancient rankings put the cedar tree at the top of the list of plants and hyssop at the lowest level; thus Solomon’s botanical interests were all-inclusive.” (Dilday)
ii. “While this account reflects Solomon’s education as a wise man comparable with those of other contemporary states of his day in literary and scientific attainment, it was no mere rhetoric. The creation of zoological and botanical gardens in the capital city was an achievement boasted by many kings.” (Wiseman)
iii. The old rabbis said that even animals brought their disputes to Solomon. A man walked in a field on a hot day with a jug of cool milk when he came upon a serpent dying of thirst. The serpent asked the man for some milk but he refused. Finally the serpent promised to show the man some hidden treasure if he gave him some milk, and the man agreed. When they went to the place of hidden treasure, the man moved a rock and was about to take the treasure when the serpent pounced upon him and coiled around his neck. The man protested that this was unfair, but the serpent insisted the man would never take his treasure. The man said, “Let’s take our case to Solomon” and the serpent agreed. When they went to Solomon the serpent was still coiled around the man’s neck. Solomon asked the serpent what he wanted, and the serpent said, “I want to kill this man because the Scriptures command it when they say that I will ‘bruise the heel of man.’ ” Solomon told him to first let go of the man, because the two parties in a trial must have equal standing. When the serpent went to the floor Solomon asked him again what he wanted, and the serpent again said that he wanted to kill the man based on the verse “You shall bruise the heel of the man.” Then Solomon turned to the man and said, “To you God’s command was to crush the head of the serpent – do it!” And the man crushed the serpent’s head. (Cited in Ginzberg)
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