1 Kings 4: The Age of Solomon

1King Solomon was king over all Israel, 2and these were his high officials: Azariah the son of Zadok was(A) the priest; 3Elihoreph and Ahijah the sons of Shisha were secretaries;(B) Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; 4(C) Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of the army;(D) Zadok and Abiathar were priests; 5Azariah the son of Nathan was over(E) the officers; Zabud the son of Nathan was priest and(F) king’s friend; 6Ahishar was in charge of the palace; and(G) Adoniram the son of Abda was in charge of(H) the forced labor.

The chapter begins with a bold declaration – “King Solomon was king over all Israel” (v.1).  There has been no king who began his reign over all Israel; even David was king over Judah for seven and half years (2 Samuel 2:11) before he was made king over Israel as well.  Yet, the chapter does not stop there to awe us – it continues with a recounting of Solomon’s closest aides which are very different from David’s mighty three or the thirty (2 Samuel 23).  We have the one who hears the LORD, son of he who is just (Azariah, son of Zadok); we have the friend of Jehovah (Ahijah); the LORD is judge (Jehoshaphat); made by the LORD (Benaiah); brother of song (Ahishar), along with the LORD most high (Adoniram).  These are but a few of the names of the eleven high officials.

Their roles are not that of war or conflict – their roles are purely administrative and useful in building up a kingdom rather than destroying another’s.  Note also the number of priests / prophets or relation to priesthood and prophethood mentioned also in these opening six verses: Azariah, Zadok, Abiathar, Azariah son of Nathan the prophet, and Zabud the priest, son of Nathan as well.  Such a peaceful Christocracy this is, befitting of the name Solomon, in contrast with Rehoboam who does not heed the counsel of the old and wise (1 Kings 12):

“The great officers of his court, in the choice of whom, no doubt, his wisdom much appeared. It is observable, 1. That several of them are the same that were in his father’s time. Zadok and Abiathar were then priests (2 Sam. xx. 25), so they were now; only then Abiathar had the precedency, now Zadok. Jehoshaphat was then recorder, or keeper of the great seal, so he was now. Benaiah, in his father’s time, was a principal man in military affairs, and so he was now. Shisha was his father’s scribe, and his sons were his, v. 3. Solomon, though a wise man, would not affect to be wiser than his father in this matter. When sons come to inherit their father’s wealth, honour, and power, it is a piece of respect to their memory, cæteris paribus—where it can properly be done, to employ those whom they employed, and trust those whom they trusted. Many pride themselves in being the reverse of their good parents. 2. The rest were priests’ sons. His prime-minister of state was Azariah the son of Zadok the priest. Two others of the first rank were the sons of Nathan the prophet, v. 5. In preferring them he testified the grateful respect he had for their good father, whom he loved in the name of a prophet.” – Matthew Henry

7Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household. Each man had to make provision for one month in the year. 8These were their names: Ben-hur, in(I) the hill country of Ephraim; 9Ben-deker, in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth-shemesh, and Elonbeth-hanan; 10Ben-hesed, in Arubboth (to him belonged Socoh and all the land of Hepher); 11Ben-abinadab, in all(J) Naphath-dor (he had Taphath the daughter of Solomon as his wife); 12Baana the son of Ahilud, in(K) Taanach, Megiddo, and all Beth-shean that is beside Zarethan below Jezreel, and from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah, as far as the other side of Jokmeam; 13Ben-geber,(L) in Ramoth-gilead (he had(M) the villages of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead, and he had(N) the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, sixty great cities with walls and bronze bars); 14Ahinadab the son of Iddo, in Mahanaim; 15Ahimaaz, in Naphtali (he had taken Basemath the daughter of Solomon as his wife); 16Baana the son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth; 17Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar; 18(O) Shimei the son of Ela, in Benjamin; 19Geber the son of Uri, in the land of Gilead,(P) the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and of Og king of Bashan. And there was one governor who was over the land.

The government was not only led by the finest people from the line of priests and prophets, symbolizing the rest from Saul and David’s days of war (1 Samuel 14:52; 1 Chronicles 22:8) but it is also led by twelve officers who each provided for one month in the year (v.7) to Solomon’s household.  Note however the difference between these twelve officers compared to the eleven high officials.  We have the son of a viper (Ben-hur); a lancer (Ben-deker); a son of kindness (Ben-hesed); a son of nobleness (Ben-abinadab); a son of affliction (Baana); a brother of anger (Ahimaaz); not to mention the strong man Geber.  This is but a palette swap of such twelve officers in comparison with the eleven officials.  Note how they are of such stark contrast; the highest officials are not these mighty men (which could have been Solomon’s closest aides).  Instead, these mighty men, these twelve officers, are allocated the privilege to give life and food for the king and his household, each man responsible for one month in the year.  Note that each come from a variety of locations in Israel: from the house of the sun (Beth-shemesh) to the place of crowns (Megiddo); from the house of rest (Beth-shean) to the meadow of dance (Abel-meholah); from the fruitful land (Bashan) to Mahanaim, God’s camp (Genesis 32:2) – these are but a taste of the redeemed corners of Israel contributing to the greater differentiated but united imagery of Israel under one king.  Note how each of these locations had previously had their respective Canaanite ruler (c.f. v.19 – in the land of Gilead, the country of Sihon king of Amorites and Og king of Bashan) – and yet there was one governor who was over the land, instead of a variety of kings and rulers fighting against each other, in lieu of Moses defeating the king of Bashan at Edrei in Deuteronomy 1:4, who is one of the last representatives of the giant race of Rephaim, his rule extending over 60 cities (Joshua 13:12).  Yet, now, we have Geber as governor over the land which Bashan had once ruled in, no longer terrorizing the Israelites but his resources being subsumed into one of the twelve months of provisions for the family of the chosen king.  I note with interest that such life-giving responsibilities allocated to the twelve warrior-officers are themselves several “ben”’s:  the Hebrew word for “son”, indicative of heritage, the most sensitive word in the Hebrew culture denoting offspring and their forward looking faith to the firstborn son of the Father coming in the name of the Lamb (Genesis 22:2; John 1:29, 36).  Through the combined focus of the high priesthood in fulfillment of Exodus 19:6; and the sonship spoken of in Genesis 22, we have a combined picture of the Ben-adonai; of Ben-Yahweh; of Yahweh Himself, the Son of the Father, coming in the lineage of the high priesthood of Melchizedek – the combination of the picture of holiness (of the eleven high officials), and sustenance (of the twelve warrior-officers).

20Judah and Israel were as many(Q) as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. 21[a](R) Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the(S) Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt.(T) They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.

So finally, we see not only a fulfillment of the promise to Solomon’s request in v.22-34, but also a fulfillment of the centuries long promise made to Abraham in Genesis chapters 12, 15, 17 and 22 – v.20-21 is both historical and prophetic.  For we find that in Genesis chapter 22:18, the progressive revelation of Christ brings us to realize that it is through and in Abraham’s offspring that the prophecy is fulfilled – this offspring and the lamb that is to be slain on Moriah to be one and the same.  What magnificence and timing that Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea under the reign of the peaceful one?  What has the grain offering and the Hebrew festivals (Leviticus 2 for grain offering; Feast of booths – Leviticus 23, a reminder of Israel being directed to dwell in booths when brought out of Egypt by Yahweh) served except for us to finally see that Israel no longer has to dwell in booths; no longer has to feed on manna; no longer has to live in foreign land or in the wilderness – but can now each have their own vine and fig tree.  They can now dwell in the land, which resembles that New Creation which He is preparing for us.  Is this not finally a fulfillment of this festival of the feast of booths in Deuteronomy 31:7-13, that they finally live in the land that the Israelites have gone over the Jordan to possess?   Such a grand Jubilee (Leviticus 25) points us towards this everlasting grain fellowship and meal with the true king (v.20; Exodus 24; Matthew 22; John 21) – and such is the genuine glory experienced by the church of Christ, provided by the true Melchizedek, king of Salem (peace) typified by Solomon (peaceful).

Not only did Solomon rule over all of Israel – but also over “all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt” – his reign overflowing from Israel outwards to non-Israelite land.  Is this not a physical image of the fulfillment also of the promise to Noah’s children (Genesis 9:27)?  A precursor to the greater fulfillment of the breaking down of the Israel-Gentile divide by enlarging the tent of David (Isaiah 54:2)?  What a beautiful picture of the centrality of renewed Israel, of the renewed kingdom, the service of Solomon pointing us to the service of Christ.  Though Solomon may have a limit to the days of his life (v.21) until corruption ensues under the headship of his son Rehoboam (1 Kings 12; reversal of peace with harshness of labour), the Christ’s kingdom shall be everlasting.

22Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors[b] of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, 23ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, a hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl. 24For he had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to(U) Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates.(V) And he had peace on all sides around him. 25And Judah and Israel(W) lived in safety,(X) from Dan even to Beersheba,(Y) every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon. 26(Z) Solomon also had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen. 27And those officers supplied provisions for King Solomon, and for all who came to King Solomon’s table, each one in his month. They let nothing be lacking. 28Barley also and straw for the horses and(AA) swift steeds they brought to the place where it was required, each according to his duty.

Look further at how magnificent this fulfillment is – thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture fed cattle, a hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl (v.22-23).  What an incredible comparison between Israel now and the Israel even in its pre-Egypt days let alone Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 16) – and only one day is spoken of here! If this is but a shadow of the church in the wilderness today, is not the Day of Resurrection, the Day of Judgment, yet also the Day of the LORD for those who stand under the true king (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:12; 1 John 4:17)?

Yet, once again, peace and safety (v.24-25) are the constant refrain here.  Solomon’s dominion stretching from the west of the Euphrates, dominating even the fortified (Gaza) over all the kings west of the Euphrates (the northeast boundary of the promised land – Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4), such safety defined by every man under his vine and fig tree; such displacement akin to the displacement of new creation (Psalm 37; 82:8; Galatians 4:30).  This is symbolic of the prophesy made in (Deuteronomy 8:8), an imagery often used throughout Scripture to denote blessing (2 Kings 18:31; Isaiah 36:16; Jeremiah 8:13; Zechariah 3:10).  However, such peace and safety only existed – “all the days of Solomon” (v.25), just like the LORD’s day (2 Peter 3:18; the eternal nature of the LORD’s day being repeated at least 12 times by the description “forever” in the book of Revelation).  Though “nothing be lacking”, and the Israelites did everything “according to his duty” (v.28), such a beautiful government of peace, safety, Solomon-centric dominion is constantly surrounding the fact that this is but a shadow and not everlasting.  For these things will only last in “all the days of Solomon”, which are sweet but short compared to the days of Adam to Abraham (Genesis 6:3; 11).

29(AB) And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind(AC) like the sand on the seashore, 30so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all(AD) the people of the east(AE) and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31For he was(AF) wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. 32(AG) He also spoke 3,000 proverbs,(AH) and his songs were 1,005. 33He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. 34And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from(AI) all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.

It is thus important to remember that this is God’s provision of wisdom to Solomon; it is God who revealed such things to Solomon – and it is simply because Solomon asked (1 Kings 3:9), not for his own glory but for the glory of the church.  Not for his own selfish personal and private spiritual growth, but for ruling God’s people, understanding that Solomon is but a steward of creation and the men of Israel, and not the people’s true King of kings.  The peculiar and odd notion that God withholds revelation from us is shattered in this very chapter.  It is by and through His Word, by His Logos, that this world was made (Colossians 1), that we can by His Wisdom and His Spirit speak of trees, beasts, birds, reptiles, fish (v.32-34).  To resign ourselves to simply proclaiming God’s wonder without specifying His wonder in the discernment that Solomon has is to be incapable of seeing the light from the darkness masquerading as light.  To resign ourselves to simply acknowledge God’s sovereignty without being able to see how the gospel is proclaimed in His handiwork through Christ (Psalm 8; 19) is to preach a religious theism, one of many theories of the world.  But Solomon’s wisdom brought people to his feet; this Wisdom brought kingship over the peoples of Canaan and even outside of Canaan; His Spirit brought spiritual and physical blessing, peace and safety, and knowledge (2 Peter 1).  This is far from the cling and clatter of tongues, healing, prophecy, teaching, preaching, evangelism; apostleship, prophethood, pasturing and teaching; (1 Corinthians 13; Ephesians 4:11) for through this shadow of Christ, only Jesus is the one who is filled with the Spirit without measure (Isaiah 11:2; John 3:34):

So, because Jesus of Nazareth was none other than the Son of God, the divine Son, who had assumed an unfallen human nature, he was able to, and had a right to, receive the Holy Spirit without measure.  The Baptism of the Holy Spirit was the official ceremony of anointing that made Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, as well as being the public recognition of who He was” – The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 6 The Work of the Holy Ghost in our Salvation quoted in Paul Blackham’s thesis on “The Pneumatology of Thomas Goodwin”.

Do we therefore, as Christians who are given the same Third Person of the Trinity who dwells in our hearts and who fills us with wisdom if we so ask, preach such Godly truths so that people of all four corners of the earth may come to hear (v.34), whatever adamic tradition or culture or education or wisdom they may provide in their own regions?  Do we dwell under the banner of Solomon, “a type of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and hidden for use; for he is made of God to us wisdom” (Matthew Henry)?

1 Kings 4: The Age of Solomon