THE BOOK OF 1 KINGS
Lesson 2: Chapters 3-6
The Successes of the Reign of King Solomon
You promised King Solomon success in his life so long as he remained obedient to Your divine commands. This is the success You have planned for all Your sons and daughters. It is our free will choices to obey or to rebel against Your divine will for our lives that determines the degree of success by which our lives can be measured. But we understand that success is not measured in terms of material wealth or status; instead success is measured in terms of how each of us submits to the destiny You have planned for us. Sometimes that destiny calls for suffering for the sake of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, but we can have confidence that those sacrifices of personal suffering will be rewarded when we face Your divine judgment. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us as we study the wisdom of Solomon when he submitted in obedience to Your law, setting a good example as he governed Your covenant people. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Solomon son of
David then made himself secure over his kingdom. Yahweh his God was with him,
making him more and more powerful. Solomon then spoke to all Israel, to the
commanders of thousands and of hundreds, to the judges and to every leader in
all Israel, the heads of families. Solomon, and the whole assembly with him,
then went to the high place at Gibeon, where God's Tent of Meeting was, which
Moses, servant of God, had made in the desert. The Ark of the Covenant,
however, David had brought from Kiriath-Jearim to the place which he had
prepared for it, having pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem. The bronze altar
which Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, had made was there, in front of Yahweh's
Dwelling, here Solomon and the assembly consulted him. There Solomon presented
a burnt offering before Yahweh on the bronze altar of the Tent of Meeting,
making on it one thousand burnt offerings.
2 Chronicles 1:1-6
Chapter 3: Solomon the Sage
1 Kings 3:1-3 ~ Introduction to Solomon's reign
1 Solomon became the son-in-law of Pharaoh king of Egypt; he married Pharaoh's daughter, and took her to the City of David until he could complete the building of his palace, the Temple of Yahweh and the ramparts of Jerusalem. 2 The people, however, were still sacrificing on the high places, because at that time a dwelling-place for the name of Yahweh had not yet been built. 3 Solomon loved Yahweh: he followed the precepts of his father David, except that he offered sacrifice and incense on the high places.
Solomon made political marriages with many foreign women including a highly prestigious marriage to the daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh (1 Kng 11:1). Egyptian pharaohs traditionally did not give their daughters in marriage to foreign kings. This long standing tradition was broken in Egypt's Third Intermediate Period during a time when foreigners ruled Lower Egypt (since the Nile flows from south to north, Lower Egypt is in the north). One such marriage was recorded in an Egyptian document that Pharaoh Psusennis II gave his daughter in marriage to a Libyan noble named Osarkon son of Shosenq who became the first Pharaoh of the 22nd Dynasty.
The Book of Song of Songs is a love poem from a bridegroom to his bride that is attributed to Solomon. In writing from the bride's point of view, the poem reads: I am black but lovely, daughters of Jerusalem, (Songs 1:5a). It is because the bride describes herself as "black" that some have suggested she is the daughter of one of the Nubian Pharaohs whole ruled Egypt in the 7th century BC, but the years of the rule of the Nubian Pharaohs (690-664 BC) do not match up with the years of Solomon's reign (970 -930 BC). However, the Libyans conquered Lower Egypt and ruled as Egypt's 22nd Dynasty Pharaohs. This is the only known time period when the Pharaoh's daughters were given in marriage in alliances formed with neighboring countries. The theory that Pharaoh's daughter is of Libyan descent is supported by the next line of the poem where she says she is dark: like the tents of Kedar, like the pavilions of Salmah. Take no notice of my dark coloring; it is the sun that has burnt me (Songs 1:5b-6a). Salmah and Kedar are two nomadic Arab tribes. Her skin is dark because it is tanned by the sun. It is likely that she was the daughter of Pharaoh Siamun who ruled from 979/8-960/59 BC during the 22nd Dynasty of Egypt's Third Intermediate Period (1069-747 BC). The Pharaoh's wedding present to the couple was the city of Gezer that had previously been held by the Philistines (1 Kng 11:16).
2 The people,
however, were still sacrificing on the high places, because at that time a
dwelling-place for the name of Yahweh had not yet been built. 3 Solomon loved Yahweh: he followed the precepts
of his father David, except that he offered sacrifice and incense on the high
The inspired writer subtly points out a problem in that instead of sacrificing at the altar Yahweh commanded David to build on Mount Moriah (2 Sam 24:18, 25; 1 Chr 21:26), they were sacrificing at former pagan "high places" that were still acknowledged as sacred sites.
Question: What is this a problem with offering sacrifices at other sites? See Lev 9:22-24 (God accepted the sacrifice on His altar with heavenly fire); Dt 2-13; 12:11-14; 2 Sam 24:18, 25; 1 Chr 21:18, 26; 22:1.
Answer: Once the altar of Yahweh was built for the desert Sanctuary, offering sacrifices on other altars was forbidden. The people are committing a forbidden practice by worshipping at formerly pagan "high places." God commanded David to build His holy altar on Mount Moriah and when God accepted the sacrifices with fire from heaven in the same way He did when the desert Sanctuary was dedicated, it should have been understood that this was to be the only place where sacrifices were to be offered to Yahweh.
The problem was that the tent of the desert Sanctuary and its altar of burnt offerings were still at Gibeon (see 1 Chr 21:29; 2 Chr 1:1-6). It was a Sanctuary that did not contain Israel's most sacred shrine, the Ark of the Covenant, which David had placed in a tent with a new altar dedicated to Yahweh on Mount Moriah. There appears to be confusion over whether sacrifices could be offered at both sites, but David did not sacrifice at Gibeon (1 Chr 21:29-30). Gibeon was a Benjaminite town and a Levitical city (Jos 18:25; 21:17).
1 Kings 3:4-9 ~ Solomon's dream at Gibeon and his
petition to Yahweh
4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, since that was the principal high place; Solomon presented a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon Yahweh appeared to Solomon in a dream during the night. God said, "Ask what you would like me to give you." 6 Solomon replied, "You showed most faithful [hesed] love to your servant David, my father, when he lived his life before you in faithfulness and uprightness and integrity of heart; you have continued this most faithful love [hesed] to him by allowing a son of his to sit on his throne today. 7 Now, Yahweh my God, you have made your servant king in succession to David my father. But I am a very young man [child], unskilled in leadership. 8 And here is your servant, surrounded with your people whom you have chosen, a people so numerous that its number cannot be counted or reckoned. 9 So give your servant a heart to understand how to govern your people, how to discern between good and evil, for how could one otherwise govern such a great people as yours?" [...] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 890. Hesed means "faithful love" in the context of the covenant relationship. Solomon was not a "child" but is using an exaggeration to emphasize his youth and inexperience since wisdom was understood to come with age.
Presumably Solomon has gone to Gibeon to offer sacrifice
since the altar was the original altar of the desert Sanctuary and may have
been larger than the modest altar on Mount Moriah. That night God appeared to
Solomon in a dream with the offer to fulfill any petition Solomon might make. Before
the prophetic period that began with Moses, dreams were one of God's main channels
of communication with humanity (see Num 12:6-8).
Question: What other times in the Biblical narrative has divine revelation to someone in a dream?
Answer: Some examples of revelation through dreams:
Solomon expresses his gratitude to God for His blessings to David and for choosing him to succeed his father on the throne of Israel. He also humbly admits his lack of experience in governing. It is probably because of his youthfulness and lack of experience that God has been patient with his failure in offering sacrifices at Gibeon.
And here is your servant, surrounded with your people
whom you have chosen, a people so numerous that its number cannot be counted or
Israel was not a large country compared to other nations in the ancient Near East at this time. This statement is hyperbole that is probably based on Solomon's desire to remind Yahweh of the promise He made to Abraham in Genesis 22:17 that was repeated to Isaac and Jacob (Gen 26:4; 28:14). St. Paul writes that this prophecy and the other covenant promises made to Abraham was fulfilled in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ that counts among her citizens peoples of all nations and all generations (Gal 3:29).
9 "So give
your servant a heart to understand how to govern your people, how to discern
between good and evil, for how could one otherwise govern such a great people
Question: What form of wisdom does Solomon request?
Answer: Solomon requests practical wisdom in governing his people with justice.
1 Kings 3:10-15 ~ Yahweh grants Solomon's petition
10 It pleased Yahweh that Solomon should have asked for this. 11"Since you have asked for this," God said, "and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies but have asked for a discerning judgment for yourself, 12 here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as no one has had before and no one will have after you. 13 What you have not asked I shall give you too: such riches and glory as no other king can match. 14 And I shall give you a long life, if you follow my ways, keeping my laws and commandments, as your father David followed them." 15 Then Solomon woke up; it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh; he presented burnt offerings and communion sacrifices and held a banquet for all those in his service.
Question: God granted Solomon's request for
wisdom, giving what he asked, and as a reward for his unselfish request what
else did God grant him? Also see 1 Kng 5:13-14
Answer: God also gave Solomon riches, glory, long life, and a superior knowledge of the world in general.
... if you follow my ways, keeping my laws and
commandments, as your father David followed them."
But Solomon also received a warning to be obedient to God's commandments. Perhaps this is why, when he awoke from his dream, he did not make more sacrifices at the altar at Gibeon. The wisdom imparted to him made him realize that worship must be offered at Jerusalem where he returned to make offerings to Yahweh: He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh; he presented burnt offerings and communion sacrifices and held a banquet for all those in his service.
Question: How were Israel's kings supposed to be
unlike the kings of pagan nations? See Dt 17:14-20.
Answer: Unlike other kings of the ancient Near East, Israel's kings did not rule with absolute power. Israel's kings were agents/servants of God and it was the prophet who communicated God's instructions to the king. It was also the prophet's duty to confront the king with moral failures. The kings of Israel were to be subservient to the Torah of God (Divine Law was the stipulation of the Law in Ten Commandments and further instruction in the Law Codes found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, including the laws for a king (Dt 17:14-20).
1 Kings 3:16-28 ~ The wisdom of Solomon's judgments
16 Later two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 "If it please you, my lord," one of the women said, "this woman and I live in the same house, and while she was in the house I gave birth to a child. 18 Now it happened on the third day after my delivery that this woman also gave birth to a child. We were along together; there was no one else in the house with us; just the two of us in the house. 19 Now one night this woman's son died; she overlaid him. 20 And in the middle of the night she got up and took my son from beside me while your servant was asleep; she took him in her arms and put her own dead son in mine. 21 When I got up to suckle my child, there he was, dead. But in the morning I looked at him carefully, and he was not the child I had borne at all." 22 Then the other woman spoke. "That is not true! My son is the live one, yours is the dead one"; and the first retorted, "That is not true! Your son is the dead one, mine is the live one." And so they wrangled before the king. 23 "This one says," the king observed, "'My son is the one who is alive; your son is dead,' while the other says, 'That is not true! Your son is the dead one, mine is the live one.' 24 Bring me a sword," said the king; and a sword was brought into the king's presence. 25 "Cut the living child in two," the kings said, "and give half to one, half to the other." 26 At this time the woman who was the mother of the living child addressed the king, for she felt acutely for her son. "I beg you, my lord," she said, "let them give her the live child; on no account let them kill him!" But the other said, "He shall belong to neither of us. Cut him in half!" 27 Then the king gave his decision. "Give the live child to the first woman," he said, "and do not kill him. She is his mother." 28 All Israel came to hear of the judgment which the king had pronounced and held the king in awe, recognizing that he possessed divine wisdom for dispensing justice.
The king served as Israel's supreme judge and any citizen, even a prostitute, could appeal to the king for justice. Under the Law a man was forbidden to place his daughter into prostitution with the warning that such a practice was morally damaging to the covenant people as a whole (Lev 19:29), but there were women who took up the practice of prostitution despite the fact that in Israel there were provisions made for the poor.
Two women came to Solomon seeking justice. They present a story without witnesses to testify which one is telling the truth. Without witnesses, Solomon devises a clever plan to reveal the true mother by threatening the life of the child. As he hoped, his plan reveals the true mother. Solomon's method for obtaining justice impressed his people and confirmed for him that God has granted him the gift of wisdom.
Chapter 4: King Solomon's Officials and Governors
1 Kings 4:1-6 ~ Solomon's royal officials
1 King Solomon was king of all Israel, 2 and these were his high officials:
Azariah son of Zadok, priest;
3 Elihaph and Ahijah sons of Shisha, secretaries [scribes];
Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud, herald.
4 Benaiah son of Jehoiada, commander of the army,
Zadok and Abiathar, priests;
5 Azariah son of Nathan, chief administrator;
Zabud son of Nathan, Friend of the King;
6 Ahishar, master of the palace;
Eliab son of Joab, commander of the army;
Adoram son of Abda, in charge of forced labor.
These men were Solomon's court officials, the members of Solomon's cabinet or Privy Council. They were the chief executive officers for the nation of Israel. Twelve men are named. All of their offices are listed except #1, Azariah, who may be understood to be a chief priest since he is the son (grandson) of Zadok. In the list of the priestly genealogy in 1 Chronicles 5:35 he is the son of Ahimaaz and the grandson of Zadok. While Zadok is the High Priest, his grandson may serve as the chief superintendent of the daily liturgy. . From the time of David, the Zadok line was considered to be the only legitimate line of high priests (Ez 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11).
#s 2 and 3: 3 Elihaph
and Ahijah sons of Shisha, secretaries [scribes]
The royal scribes like Elihaph and Ahijah performed a very important function in a royal court. They were responsible for any diplomatic correspondence to other nations, letters of the king to his royal governors and officials, and they were responsible for making a record the official history of the reign of the king. It is possible they wrote the "Annals of King Solomon" mentioned in 1 Kings 11:41 that may have provided information used by the inspired writer of 1 Kings.
#4: Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud, herald
Included among this man's duties was making the ceremonial and judicial reporting and announcing for the king. He was the official "spokesman" who served as an intermediary between the king and the people. He was also the head of the diplomatic service and had served King David (2 Sam 8:16; 20:24).
#5: Benaiah son
of Jehoiada, commander of the army,
Benaiah is another of David's officers who now serves his son. He was one of David's elite warriors and the commander of David's personal body guard (2 Sam 23:20-23). Solomon promoted him from commander of the royal body guard to commander of the armies of Israel after Joab's death (1 Kng 2:25).
#s 6 and 7: Zadok and Abiathar, priests;
There is a suggested problem with this part of the list: Zadok and Abiathar, priests in verse four may be a gloss that was incorrectly inserted since Abiathar was dismissed and Zadok is the sole high priest (see 2:35), but glosses are later additions that usually correct a change in history and so a change to what was formerly the case is unlikely. But perhaps this was the original record of officials prior to Abiathar's dismissal.
#8: Azariah son of Nathan, chief administrator;
This son or grandson of Nathan the prophet was Solomon's chief prefect who manager the regional prefects and the districts under their jurisdiction in verses 7-19.
#9: Zabud son of Nathan, Friend of the King;
Another son or grandson of Nathan holds the title "Friend of the King." He is the chief advisor of the king. David's chief advisor ("Friend of the king") was Hushai (2 Sam 15:32).
#10: Ahishar, master of the palace
This man is Solomon's chief steward or vicar who is in charge of the royal household. See a description of his important duties in Isaiah 22:20-25. Joseph son of Jacob held a similar position, first for his master Potiphar and then for the Egyptian Pharaoh (Gen 39:4-5; 41:40-45). His position is the highest in the land next to the king he serves. It is the same office that St. Peter and his successors serve in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ that is the Church.
#11: Eliab son of Joab, commander of the army in verse 6b is probably not an error since Benaiah, one of David's "mighty men" and formerly the commander of David's royal guard, was now quite elderly. He was named the commander of the army after carrying out Solomon's command to execute Joab (2:25 and 3:4), but it is possible the verse should read Eliab son of Joab was the acting commander of the army or second in command to Benaiah. Evidently Eliab son (or grandson) of Joab was not implicated in his father's treason; he is also Solomon's second cousin.
#12: Adoram son of Abda, in charge of forced labor
Adoram is Solomon's tribute officer. His name is also spelled Adoniram. This man may be the son of the Adoram who served David (2 Sam 20:24) since he will also serve Solomon's son King Rehoboam (1 Kng 12:18). Conscripted labor on behalf of the kings was another form of taxation. The office was created by Solomon and concerning the raising of a labor force for public projects and the application of taxes to support public works.
The New Jerusalem Bible follows the order of the Greek Septuagint translation which gives the list of administrators in a logical order. The order in the Hebrew Masoretic text has been compromised by glosses with some verses dating at the earliest from the time of the Babylonian exile while the remainder is even later and is missing from the Septuagint.
1 Kings 4:7-19 ~ Solomon's chief administrators/royal
7 Solomon had twelve administrators for all Israel who saw to the provisioning of the king and his household; each had to provide for one month in the year. 8 These are their names:
Son of Hur, in the mountain country of Ephraim.
9 Son of Deker, in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth-Shemesh, Aijalon, Beth-Hanah.
10 Son of Hesed, in Arub both; his districk was Socoh and the whole territory of Hepher.
11 Son of Abinadab, all the Slopes of Dor. Tabaath Solomon's daughter was his wife.
12 Baana son of Ahilud, in Taanach and Megiddo as far as the other side of Jekmeam, and all Beth-Shean below Jezreel, from Beth-Shean as far as Abel-Meholah by Zarethan.
13 Son of Geber, in Ramoth-Gilead: his district was the Encampments of Jair son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead; he had the region of Argob, which is in Bashan: sixty fortified towns, walled and with bolts of bronze.
14 Ahinadab son of Iddo, in Manhamaim.
15 Ahimaaz in Naphtali; he too married a daughter of Solomon, Basemath.
16 Baana son of Hushai, in Asher and in the highlands.
17 Jehoshaphat son of Paruah, in Issachar.
18 Shimei son of Ela, in Benjamin.
19 Geber son of Uri, in the territory of Gad, in the territory of Sihon king of the Amorites and of Og king of Bashan.
In addition, there was one administrator in the country.
[The translation is following the order of verses in the Greek text]. David's royal court was rather modest. His focus was on securing Israel's borders, subduing Israel's enemies, and reducing the neighboring states to vassals of Israel. Solomon's ambitions are more international and he wanted an elaborate royal court that supported those ambitions. Therefore, he needed the revenues to supply the opulence he desires. The means to securing the funding was by increasing the taxes paid by the tribes of Israel to the central government in the form of provisions for the royal court. In order to accomplish this, Solomon divided his kingdom into twelve administrative districts ruled by his royal governors. These men do not owe their allegiance to any one tribe but are completely loyal to Solomon and the central government. Notice that two of the governors are married to Solomon's daughters (verses 11 and 15).
It is unusual that five of the men in the first part of the list are only identified by the patronymic instead of a full personal name. Perhaps, some scholars have suggested, it is because the upper part of the original list was damaged when the editor of Kings to incorporate it into his work. The "one administrator in the country" at the end of verse 19 either refers to the man who was the supervisor of the twelve royal governors, Azariah son of Nathan, chief administrator (3:5) or "the land" refers to the territory of Judah that had a separate arrangement since the territory of Judah is not included in the list; in other words, they may have had a "tax break" that the other tribes did not receive.
Solomon's twelve districts fall into three groups:
There was a special arrangement for Solomon's tribe of Judah.
1 Kings 5:7-8, 20, 1-6 (order in the Septuagint)
~ Provisions for Solomon's court
5:7 These administrators provided the food for Solomon and for all those who were admitted by him to the royal table, each for the period of a month; they ensured that nothing was wanting. 8 They also provided the barley and straw for the horses and draught animals, where required, each according to the quota demanded of him.
5:20 Judah and Israel were numerous, as numerous as the sand on the sea-shore; they ate and drank and were happy.
5: 1 Solomon was overlord of all the kingdoms from the River to the territory of the Philistines and the Egyptian border. They brought tribute and served him all his life long. 2 The daily provisions for Solomon were: thirty measures [kor] of fine flour and sixty measures [kor] of meal, 3 ten fattened oxen, twenty free-grazing oxen, one hundred sheep, besides deer and gazelles, roebucks and fattened poultry. 4 For he was master of all Transeuphrates [Beyond-the-River], of all the kings of Transeuphrates [Beyond-the-River] from Tiphsah to Gaza, and he enjoyed peace on all his frontiers. 5 Judah and Israel lived in security, everyone under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan to Beersheba, throughout the lifetime of Solomon. 6 And Solomon had four thousand stalls of horses for his chariots and twelve thousand cavalrymen. [...] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 894.
The royal governors had to supply the king and his royal household with a month's provisions of food each year from their districts. The Trans-Euphrates refers to kingdoms that bordered the Euphrates River and acknowledged Solomon as their over-lord or great king by paying an annual tribute. There is evidence that a similar administrative structure may have been used in Egypt.(1)
5:4 For he was
master of all Transeuphrates [Beyond-the-River], of all the kings of
Transeuphrates [Beyond-the-River] from Tiphsah to Gaza, and he enjoyed peace on
all his frontiers. 5:5 Judah and
Israel lived in security, everyone under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan to
Beersheba, throughout the lifetime of Solomon.
"Beyond the River" is the Hebrew equivalent of a cuneiform administrative term first used in the Neo-Assyrian period for the territory west of the Euphrates River. It was later adopted by the Persians (see Ezra 4:17; Neh 2:7) to identify the same region in Mesopotamia. King Solomon's kingdom extended from the Mediterranean coast to the Transjordan (east side of the Jordan River), and from the border with Egypt to the Euphrates River (see 5:1). To live "under his vine and his fig tree" is the euphuism for an ideal, secure life (see Zech 3:10 and Mic 4:4), and "Dan to Beersheba" refers to the borders from north to south with the northern border of Israel at the city of Dan (of the tribe of Dan) to the southern border of the tribe of Judah at Beersheba (Judg 20:1; 1 Sam 3:20; 2 Sam 24:2, 15). This does not contradict the full extent of Solomon's kingdom in verse 1 since only the nation of the twelve tribes is referred to here.
5:20 Judah and Israel were numerous, as numerous as the sand on the sea-shore; they ate and drank and were happy. This expression of hyperbole in verse 20 affirms the fertility of the population and prosperity of the people. Judah is named in addition to the other tribes that formed the one nation of Israel because Judah was Solomon's tribe and probably received special considerations.
Question: To whom did God promise that his
descendants would one day control of this expansive territory? See Gen 15:18-21.
Answer: It was a promise made to Abraham.
6 And Solomon had
four thousand stalls of horses for his chariots and twelve thousand
The Hebrew text reads 40 thousand but the number of 4,000 stalls of horses from the Greek text is more reasonable and it agrees with 2 Chronicles 9:26. Solomon had 1,400 chariots (1 Kng 10:26 and 2 Chr 1:14); Chariot horses have to be specially trained as opposed to cavalry horses and there were usually two teams of horses per chariot.(2)
|1 Kings 5:6||2 Chronicles|
|12,000 chariot drivers with 2-3 men per chariot and some in reserve (5:6 and 10:26)||12,000 chariot drivers with 2-3 men per chariot and some in reserve (1:14; 9:25)|
|4,000 stalls for horses and chariots (5:6)||4,000 stalls for horses and chariots (9:25)|
|1,400 chariots (10:26)||1,400 chariots (1:14)|
This is the first discordant note in Solomon's accomplishments.
Question: What is the command concerning horses in the "Laws of as King" in Deuteronomy 17:14-20? What is the purpose of the law concerning horses?
Answer: In the "Laws of a King," Deuteronomy 17:16, it is commanded that a king of Israel must not "acquire more and more horses." The king is to rely on God to protect his people instead of relying on his own resources.
In the conquest of Canaan, the Israelites did not acquire horses and chariots even though their Canaanite enemies had them (Josh chapter 11), nor did David acquire horses and chariots even though his Philistine enemies had them (2 Sam 8:4). When he captured chariots and horses he did not keep all of them but only kept some of the horses.
Chapter 5: The Continued Successes of King Solomon
The verses continue to follow the Septuagint translation:
1 Kings 5:9-14 ~ Solomon's fame and accomplishments
9 God gave Solomon immense wisdom and understanding, and a heart as vast as the sand on the sea-shore. 10 The wisdom of Solomon surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. 11 He was wiser than anyone else, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, than the sons of Mahol, Herman, Calcol and Darda; his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. 12 He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 13 He could discourse on plants from the cedar in Lebanon to the hyssop growing on the wall; and he could discourse on animals and birds and reptiles and fish. 14 Men from all nations came to hear Solomon's wisdom, and he received gifts from all the kings in the world.
The extent of Solomon's empire is defined as extending from "the River" of the Euphrates to the Gulf of Aqaba and from Tyre and the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, which included Philistine territory, to the border with Egypt. Solomon maintained his kingdom for a forty year period through international diplomacy and an effective internal government
10 The wisdom of
Solomon surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the East
The literal translation refers to the "sons of Kedem and all the wisdom of Egypt." This is a reference to the sages of the east including the great Mesopotamian kingdoms (Gen 29:1) and the Egyptians (the longest reigning empire in the region). Many examples of Mesopotamian wisdom literature have been discovered by archaeologists.
The wise men named in verse 11 are famous sages from the tribe of Judah in the past. See Psalm 89 that is attributed to Ethan. Ethan is identified as an Ezrahite, meaning "native born," referring to having been born in Canaan. Ethan and the others are named as the sons of Judah's half-Canaanite son Zerah whose mother was Tamar in the genealogy of Judah in 1 Chronicles 2:6. Solomon inherited his father's gift of music and poetry. The Book of Proverbs is attributed to him as well as Song of Songs (Prov 1:1; 10:1; Songs 1:1).
14 Men from all
nations came to hear Solomon's wisdom, and he received gifts from all the kings
in the world.
This is hyperbole to emphasize the extent of Solomon's influence in his part of the world.
Preparations for Building the Temple
1 Kings 5:15-20 ~ Solomon's request to King Hiram of
15 Hiram king of Tyre sent an embassy to Solomon, having learnt that he had been anointed king in succession to his father and because Hiram had always been a friend of David. 16 And Solomon sent this message to Hiram, 17 "You are aware that my father David was unable to build a temple for the name of Yahweh his God, on account of the wars waged on him from every side, until Yahweh put his enemies under the soles of his feet. 18 But now Yahweh my God has given me peace on every side: not one enemy, no calamities. 19 I propose, then, to build a temple for the name of Yahweh my God, in accordance with what Yahweh told my father David, 'Your son whom I shall place on your throne to succeed you will be the man to build a temple for my name.' 20 So now have cedars of Lebanon cut down for me; my servants will work with your servants, and I shall pay for the hire of your servants at whatever rate you fix. As you know, we have no one as skilled in felling trees as the Sidonians."
Hiram was the Phoenician king of the great trading centers of Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast. "Friendship" meant that he had a covenant treaty relationship with David, and he sent an embassy expressing his wish to continue that relationship with David's successor. Solomon intends to continue the relationship between the two countries and proposes an extension to the treaty concerning aid in building Yahweh's temple.
19 I propose,
then, to build a temple for the name of Yahweh my God, in accordance with what
Yahweh told my father David, 'Your son whom I shall place on your throne to
succeed you will be the man to build a temple for my name.'
Question: What does Solomon's statement expressing his desire to build a "temple for the name of Yahweh" and not simply a "temple for Yahweh" suggest? See Dt 12:11 and what God told the prophet Nathan to say to David when he requested permission to build a temple for Yahweh in 2 Sam 7:5-7.
Answer: It was understood that Yahweh was not like the false idols of pagan peoples who "lived" within the inner sanctums of their temples. Yahweh is the God of all Creation and cannot be contained within a building. A building, however, can be a gathering point where the faithful come "in the name of Yahweh" to offer worship through sacrifice and praise.
20 So now have
cedars of Lebanon cut down for me
The magnificent cedars of Lebanon, cedrus libani, are an evergreen coniferous species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region of the Levant. Cedrus libani grows up to 130 feet tall, with a trunk up to 8 feet 2 inches in diameter. Wood from these trees was highly valued in antiquity. The wood's durability, resistance to rot, its fragrance (Song 4:11; Hos 14:7) and tremendous size provided building materials for palaces, temples, ships and furnishings in the ancient Near East. Ezekiel 31:3-7 offers a hymn of praise to this tree that is "the envy of every tree in Eden, in the garden of God."
To appreciate the size of these trees, notice the person standing at the bottom center of the picture.
1 Kings 5:21-26 ~ The treaty between Hiram and Solomon
21 When Hiram heard what Solomon had said, he was delighted. "Now blessed be Yahweh," he said, "who has given David a wise son to rule over this great people!" 22 And Hiram sent word to Solomon, "I have received your message. For my part, I shall supply you with all you require in the way of cedar wood and juniper. 23 Your servants will bring these down from Lebanon to the sea, and I shall have them towed by sea to any place you name; I shall discharge them there, and you will take them over. For your part, you will see to the provisioning of my household as I desire." 24 So Hiram provided Solomon with the cedar wood and juniper he wanted 25 while Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand kor of wheat to feed his household, and twenty thousand kor of pure oil. Solomon gave Hiram this every year. 26 Yahweh gave Solomon wisdom as he had promised him; good relations persisted between Solomon and Hiram, and the two of them concluded a treaty.
That Hiram blessed Yahweh does not mean he worshipped Israel's God. Pagan peoples were very ecumenical and their common complaint was that Israelites (later Jews and Christians) were intolerant in failing to show the same respect for their gods. It was their belief that different regional gods favored certain regional peoples (see 10:9). Hiram also offers to provide juniper wood. The juniper is a small tree or large shrub with fragrant wood from which an essential oil can be extracted. Essential oils were used for medicine, incense, and perfumes.
A kor dry measure had the capacity of 12.50 bushels or 450.0 liters; the liquid measure was 120 gallons or 450 liters per core. The amount to be paid to Hiram was about 125,000 bushels of wheat and 115,000 gallons of olive oil. Compare the twenty thousand kor of wheat and twenty thousand kor of pure oil Solomon gave Hiram every year with the daily provisions for Solomon's household in 5:2 which was thirty measures [kor] of fine flour and sixty measures [kor] of meal. The quantity of grain given to Hiram's court is almost twice Solomon's yearly allotment and was evidently hard even for fruitful Israel to provide. It appears Hiram struck a very advantageous treaty. A large debt was accumulated over the years, and in 9:11-14 a transfer of land to Hiram had to be made to settle the debt.
26 Yahweh gave
Solomon wisdom as he had promised him; good relations persisted between Solomon
and Hiram, and the two of them concluded a treaty.
Solomon's wisdom extended to his diplomatic relations with his neighbor countries.
1 Kings 5:27-32 ~ Work to collect the materials for
the Temple begins
27 King Solomon raised a levy throughout Israel for forced labor: the levy numbered thirty thousand men. 28 He sent these to Lebanon in relays, ten thousand a month; they spent one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoram was in charge of the forced labor. 29 Solomon also had seventy thousand porters and eighty thousand quarrymen in the mountains, 30 as well as the administrators, 31 officials who supervised the work, three thousand three hundred of them in charge of the men employed in the work. 31 At the king's orders they quarried huge stones. 32 Solomon's workmen and Hiram's workmen and the Giblites cut and assembled the wood and stone for the building of the Temple.
27 King Solomon
raised a levy throughout Israel for forced labor
Solomon imposed the collection of thirty thousand men throughout Israel to gather the materials that were being assembled in Lebanon. These men spent a month working in Lebanon and then two months in their home villages before being rotated back to work in Lebanon. Solomon's royal official, Adoram (mentioned in 4:6), was in charge of collecting the workers and arranging their schedule. They were all Canaanite laborers (see 2 Chr 2:16-17).
Solomon's workmen and Hiram's workmen and the Giblites
cut and assembled the wood and stone for the building of the Temple.
The Giblites were workmen skilled in shaping wood and stone who were from the city of Gebal (Byblos in the Greek), located to the north of Beirut. Gebal/Byblos was an independent city and Solomon must have negotiated a separate treaty with them.
Chapter 6: Construction of the Temple
David then gave
his son Solomon the plans for the portico, the plans for the buildings, its
storehouses, its upper rooms, it inner rooms and the room for the throne of
mercy as well as the plans for everything that he had in mind: for the courts
of the house of Yahweh, for all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of
the hours of God and for the sacred treasuries... and for the refined gold bullion
for the altar of incense; also for the gold for the model of the chariot and of
the great winged creatures which cover the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh with
wings outspread; all this was in the document conveying Yahweh's instructions,
by which he revealed the pattern of what was to be done.
1 Chronicles 28:11-19
began building the house of Yahweh in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah where David his
father had had a vision, on the site which David had prepared, on the
threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
2 Chronicles 3:1
1 Kings 6:1-14 ~ The Temple Building
1 In the four hundred and eightieth year (Greek text reads 440th year) after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began building the Temple of Yahweh. 2 The temple which King Solomon built for Yahweh was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide and twenty-five high. 3 The portico in front of the Hekal of the Temple was twenty cubits long across the width of the Temple and ten cubits wide along the length of the Temple. 4 He made windows for the Temple with frames and latticework. 5 He also built an annex against the Temple wall, right round the Hekal and Debir. 6 He built lateral stories all round; the lowest lateral story was five cubits wide, the middle one six cubits, and the third seven cubits, for he had made the outside of the Temple wall correspondingly stepped back all round, so that the annex was not attached to the Temple walls. 7 The building of the Temple was done with quarry-dressed stone; no sound of hammer or pick or any iron tool was to be heard in the Temple while it was being built. 8 The entrance to the lowest story was at the right-hand corner of the Temple; access to the middle story was by a spiral staircase, and so from the middle story to the third. 9 Having finished building the Temple, he roofed the Temple with a coffered ceiling of cedar wood. 10 Round the outside of the Temple he then built the annex which was five cubits high and was joined to the Temple by cedar-wood beams. 11 And the word of Yahweh came to Solomon, 12 "With regard to this temple which you are now building, if you follow my statutes and obey my ordinances and faithfully follow my commandments, I shall fulfil the promise which I made about you to your father David. 13 And I shall make my home among the Israelites and never forsake Israel my people." 14 Solomon finished building the Temple.
Yahweh gave the entire plan for the Jerusalem Temple to His servant David (1 Chr 28:11-19) just as He gave His servant Moses the plans for the desert Tabernacle in Exodus (25:8-31:18). Notice that the building of Yahweh's Temple is placed in parallel to the importance of the founding of the nation of Israel after the departure from Egypt. In both events, it is Yahweh who takes center stage in Israel's history. In verse 1, the 480 years is a probably a rounded number which corresponds to 12 generations. The fourth year of Solomon's reign is c. 967 BC. The month (literally "moon") of Ziv is one of several month names from the old Phoenician calendar. In the postbiblical and current Jewish calendar, it is the month of 'Iyyar (= April/May). See the chart on Israel's liturgical and civil calendar.
2 The temple
which King Solomon built for Yahweh was sixty cubits long, twenty cubits wide
and twenty-five high.
The Temple was patterned after the desert Sanctuary and its Tabernacle, but its dimensions in most cases were doubled. All the dimensions are interior measurements and do not take into consideration the thickness of the stone walls or the thickness of the walls separating the Holy Place (Hekel) and the Holy of Holies (Debir). The length of the common cubit was about 17.5 inches. Toward the end of the monarchial period a larger cubit called a "royal cubit" measure was adopted and was defined as "a cubit plus one handbreadth," or about 20 inches (see Ez 40:5; 43:13). 2 Chronicles 3:3 provides the information that the dimensions for Solomon's Temple were given according to the "former measure." According to the common cubit, the dimensions of the Temple in verse 2 were about 90 feet long, by 30 feet wide and 45 feet high.
3 The portico in
front of the Hekal of the Temple was twenty cubits long across the width of the
Temple and ten cubits wide along the length of the Temple.
The Sanctuary was divided into three parts: a porch, a long main room (Hekal = Holy Place) and the inner sanctum (Debir = Holy of Holies). The dimensions in verse 3 are about 30 feet by 15 feet and ran along the front length (entry) of the main Sanctuary.
5 He also built
an annex against the Temple wall, right round the Hekal and Debir. 6 He built lateral stories all round; the lowest
lateral story was five cubits wide, the middle one six cubits, and the third
seven cubits, for he had made the outside of the Temple wall correspondingly
stepped back all round, so that the annex was not attached to the Temple walls.
The lowest floor of the annex located outside the main Sanctuary was about 7 and a half feet wide (also see verses 10 and 24), the middle annex was about 9 feet wide, and the third was about 10 and a half feet.
7 The building of
the Temple was done with quarry-dressed stone; no sound of hammer or pick or
any iron tool was to be heard in the Temple while it was being built.
To maintain the sanctity of the space, all work was carried on off-site; only the finished stones and paneling were brought to the site and were installed as quietly as possible.
1 Kings 6:15-22 ~ The Holy of Holies (Debir)
15 He lined the inside of the Temple walls with panels of cedar wood, paneling them on the inside from the floor of the Temple to the beams of the ceiling, and laid the floor of the Temple with juniper planks. 16 The twenty cubits measured from the end of the Temple he built of cedar planks from the floor to the beams, and this part was reserved as the Debir, the Holy of Holies. 17 The Temple measured forty cubits, the Hekel, in front of the Debir. 18 There was cedar wood round the inside of the Temple, ornamentally carved with gourds and rosettes; all was cedar wood, with no stone showing. 19 In the inner part of the Temple he designed a Debir, to contain the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh. 20 The Debir was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty high, and he overlaid it on the inside with pure gold. He made an altar of cedar wood 21 in front of the Debir and overlaid it with gold. 22 He overlaid the whole Temple with gold, the whole Temple entirely.
The 20 cubits from the floor of the far wall of the Holy of Holies (west end of the building) to the beams of the ceiling is c. 30 feet. The 40 cubits that was the length of the Holy Place from the entrance to the entrance to the Holy of Holies is c. 60 feet. The Holy of Holies (Debir) was 30 feet long by 30 feet wide by 30 feet high from the floor to the ceiling.
20b He made an altar of cedar wood 21 [and caused to pass over gold chains] in front of the Debir and overlaid it with gold. [...] literal translation IBHE, vol. I, page 900. This is a reference to the Altar of Incense that stood between the Holy Place (Hekal) and the Holy of Holies (Debir); see the description given to Moses in Exodus 30:1-10. It was to be a wooden column about 1 and a half feet long and wide and about three feet high; it was to have four protrusions on the top (horns), and it was to be completely overlaid with gold with a golden fence around the top to hold the coals on which the sacred incense was burned. Evidently the original incense altar had been lost when the Philistines destroyed the Sanctuary at Shiloh. Shiloh had been the home of the Sanctuary for more than 200 years before it was destroyed by the Philistines (Josh 18:1; 1 Sam 1:3; 4:17; Ps 78:60; Jer 7:12-14; 26:6). According to 2 Chronicles 3:14, a "curtain" also hung between the two sacred spaces as in the desert Sanctuary in Exodus 26:31-33; this would account for the mention of the gold chains or rings from which a curtain could be hung in the literal translation of verse 21.
1 Kings 6:23-30 ~ The Winged Cherubim
23 In the Debir he made two great winged creatures [cherubim] of wild-olive wood. It was ten cubits high. 24 One winged creature's [cherub] wing was five cubits long and the other wing five cubits: ten cubits from wing tip to wing tip. 25 The other winged creature [cherub] also measured ten cubits; both had the same measurements and the same shape. 26 The height of one was the same as the other's. 27 He placed them in the middle of the inner chamber; their wings were spread out so that the wing of one touched one of the walls and the wing of the other touched the other wall, while their wings met in the middle of the chamber wing to wing. 28 And he overlaid them with gold. 29 All round the Temple walls he carved figures of winged creatures [cherubim], palm trees and rosettes, both inside and outside. 30 He overlaid the floor of the Temple with gold, both inside and outside. [...] = literal translation, IBHE, vol. II, page 900.
Each winged cherub was 15 feet high. Cherubim (plural
for cherub) are angelic creatures who are God's spiritual servants.
Question: What do we know about these creatures from Scripture? See Gen 3:24; Ex 25:10-22; 37:7-9; Num 7:89; 1 Sam 4:4; 2 Sam 6:2; 2 Kng 19:15; 1 Chr 13:6; Ps 80:2; 99:1; Is 37:16; Ez chapter 1.
The statues of the winged cherubim do not violate the first command from the Ten Commandments that You shall have no other gods to rival me. You shall not make yourself a carved image or nay likeness of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the creatures under the earth (Ex 20:3-4); which is clarified in Deuteronomy by the addition of the command: you must not bow down to these gods or serve them (Dt 5:7-9). The command was a prohibition against images that were to be worshipped (like the Golden Calf), but not statues or depictions of images that were to assist in the worship of the One True God or to recall the history of the covenant people. It was God who gave the plan for the Temple to David just as He gave the plan of the desert Sanctuary to Moses. It was God who commanded the statues of the cherubim be placed on the lid of the Mercy-seat that covered the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:10-22), it was God who commanded Moses to make an image of the serpent on the staff to heal the people of snake bites during the wilderness journey (Num 21:6-9), and it was God who gave the plan for the huge winged cherubim to spread their wings of protection over the Ark of the Covenant in Solomon's Temple (1 Kng 8:6-7).
Concerning the question of icons and other images in Christian worship, the Church has ruled that veneration (holding in honor) of images is not contrary to the first commandment which prohibits idols. The Church has decreed that the honor rendered to an image (like the Christ crucified or a statue of Mary of other saints) passes to its prototype; therefore "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it" (CCC 2132; also see CCC 2129-2131). St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is" (Suma Theologiae II-II, 81, 3 ad 3). If a total prohibition was the case, then all images would have been prohibited and God would not have commanded the use of images in liturgical worship. If that was the case, we would all have to rid our homes of all paintings or photographs of people of aspects of the created order.
25 The other
winged creature [cherub] also measured ten cubits; both had the same
measurements and the same shape. 26 The
height of one was the same as the other's. 27
He placed them in the middle of the inner chamber; their wings were
spread out so that the wing of one touched one of the walls and the wing of the
other touched the other wall, while their wings met in the middle of the
chamber wing to wing. 28 And he
overlaid them with gold.
The wings of each winged cherubim spanned 15 feet so the combine wings spanned the space of 30 feet. Like its dimensions in the desert Sanctuary that was a cube measuring c. 15 feet by 15 feet by 15 feet, the Holy of Holies of Solomon's Temple was a cube that measured c. 30 feet by 30 feet by 30 feet. The sacred space's 3 times dimensions prefigured the concept of the Triune God that will be revealed by Jesus in the New Covenant. He is the One God in Three Persons who spans the universe in height, width, and depth. Israel's most sacred shrine, the Ark of the Covenant, was placed between the outstretched wings of these two gold covered statues of cherubim (1 Kng 8:6-7).
The plan of the Holy Place (Hekal) and Holy of Holies (Debir). The two bronze pillars that supported the porch were named Jachin and Boaz (1 Kng 7:21).
1 Kings 6:31-38 ~ The doors and the inner court
outside the Sanctuary
31 He made the door of the Debir with uprights of wild-olive wood, and door jambs with five indented sections, 32 and the two leaves of wild-olive wood. He carved figures of great winged creatures, palm trees and rosettes which he overlaid with gold, and he gilded winged creatures and palm trees. 33 Similarly, he made uprights of wild-olive wood for the door of the Hekal, and door jambs with four indented sections, 34 and the two leaves of juniper: one leaf had two ribs binding it, and the other had two ribs binding it. 35 He carved winged creatures, palm trees and rosettes, which he overlaid with gold laid evenly over the carvings. 36 He built the wall of the inner court in three courses of dressed stone and one course of cedar beams. 37 In the fourth year, in the month of Ziv, the foundations of the Temple were laid; 38 in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, that is, the eighth month, the Temple was completed exactly as it had been planned and designed. Solomon took seven years to build it.
The doors for both the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies were paneled folding doors made of wild olive wood and carved with cherubim, palm trees and rosettes, all overlaid with gold. The inner court was the Court of the Priests that was immediately outside the Sanctuary where the Altar of Sacrifice was located.
Solomon came to the throne in c. 970 BC. Counting as the ancients counted without the concept of a zero place value and with 970 counting as year 1 of Solomon's reign, the building of the Temple began in the spring of the fourth year of Solomon's reign in c. 967 BC and the Temple was completed in Solomon's eleventh year in c. 960 BC. It took seven years to build the Temple, and it was finished in the month of Bul = October/November.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
How do you define wisdom? Are you more concerned with worldly wisdom or Godly wisdom and what is the difference? What do the books of Psalms and Proverbs teach about wisdom (see Ps 111:10; Prov 1:7; 2:6; 9:10; 15:33).
1. Archaeological excavations of ancient Israelite sites dating to this period show that the Israelites had adopted an Egyptian script, hieratic, for recording numbers and measures. In addition, according to a discovered stele, Solomon's contemporary, Pharaoh Shehonk I of Egypt, instituted a policy similar to Solomon's twelve district plan for providing for the temple of Arsaphes in Herakleopolis. He divided the administrative district of Herakleopolis into 12 sections with each district responsible for supporting the temple of one month of the year.
2. The numbers of stalls for Solomon's stables are reasonable. Compare the numbers of Solomon's chariots and horses with an Assyrian account of the battle of Qarqar in 853 BC, about a century after Solomon. In that battle, there were 1,200 chariots from Damascus, 700 chariots from Hamath, and 2,000 chariots from Israel (the Northern Kingdom).
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