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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
An account of Solomon's chief officers, 1 Kings 4:1-6. Names of the twelve officers that were over twelve districts, to provide victuals for the king's household monthly, 1 Kings 4:7-19. Judah and Israel are very populous; and Solomon reigns over many provinces, 1 Kings 4:20, 1 Kings 4:21. The daily provision for his family, 1 Kings 4:22, 1 Kings 4:23. The extent and peace of his dominions, 1 Kings 4:24, 1 Kings 4:25. His horses, chariots, and dromedaries; with the provision made for them, 1 Kings 4:26-28. His wisdom and understanding, 1 Kings 4:29-31. The number of his proverbs and songs; and his knowledge in natural history, 1 Kings 4:32, 1 Kings 4:33. People from all nations come to hear his wisdom, 1 Kings 4:34.
1So king Solomon was king over all Israel.
2And these were the princes which he had; Azariah the son of Zadok the priest,
These were the princes which he had; Azariah the son of Zadok the priest - These were his great, chief, or principal men. None of them were princes in the common acceptation of the word.
3Elihoreph and Ahiah, the sons of Shisha, scribes; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, the recorder.
Elihoreph and Ahiah - scribes - Secretaries to the king.
Jehoshaphat - recorder - Historiographer to the king, who chronicled the affairs of the kingdom. He was in this office under David see 2 Samuel 20:24.
4And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the host: and Zadok and Abiathar were the priests:
5And Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers: and Zabud the son of Nathan was principal officer, and the king's friend:
Azariah - was over the officers - He had the superintendence of the twelve officers mentioned below; see 1 Kings 4:7.
Zabud - was principal officer - Perhaps what we call premier, or prime minister.
The king's friend - His chief favourite - his confidant.
6And Ahishar was over the household: and Adoniram the son of Abda was over the tribute.
Ahishar was over the household - The king's chamberlain.
Adoniram - was over the tribute - What we call chancellor of the exchequer. He received and brought into the treasury all the proceeds of taxes and tributes. He was in this office under David; see 2 Samuel 20:24.
7And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, which provided victuals for the king and his household: each man his month in a year made provision.
Twelve officers - The business of these twelve officers was to provide daily, each for a month, those provisions which were consumed in the king's household; see 1 Kings 4:22, 1 Kings 4:23. And the task for such a daily provision was not an easy one.
8And these are their names: The son of Hur, in mount Ephraim:
9The son of Dekar, in Makaz, and in Shaalbim, and Bethshemesh, and Elonbethhanan:
10The son of Hesed, in Aruboth; to him pertained Sochoh, and all the land of Hepher:
11The son of Abinadab, in all the region of Dor; which had Taphath the daughter of Solomon to wife:
12Baana the son of Ahilud; to him pertained Taanach and Megiddo, and all Bethshean, which is by Zartanah beneath Jezreel, from Bethshean to Abelmeholah, even unto the place that is beyond Jokneam:
13The son of Geber, in Ramothgilead; to him pertained the towns of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead; to him also pertained the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, threescore great cities with walls and brasen bars:
Threescore great cities with walls and brazen bars - These were fortified cities: their gates and bars covered with plates of brass. Such were the gates in Priam's palace: -
Ipse inter primos correpta dura bipenni
Limina perrumpit, Postes que a cardine vellit
Aeratos. Virg. Aen., lib. ii. ver. 479.
Fierce Pyrrhus in the front, with forceful sway,
Plied the huge axe, and hew'd the beams away;
The solid timbers from the portal tore,
And rent from every hinge the Brazen door.
14Ahinadab the son of Iddo had Mahanaim:
15Ahimaaz was in Naphtali; he also took Basmath the daughter of Solomon to wife:
16Baanah the son of Hushai was in Asher and in Aloth:
17Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar:
18Shimei the son of Elah, in Benjamin:
19Geber the son of Uri was in the country of Gilead, in the country of Sihon king of the Amorites, and of Og king of Bashan; and he was the only officer which was in the land.
20Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry.
Eating and drinking, and making merry - They were very comfortable, very rich, very merry, and very corrupt. And this full feeding and dissipation led to a total corruption of manners.
21And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life.
Solomon reigned over all kingdoms - The meaning of this verse appears to be, that Solomon reigned over all the provinces from the river Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, even to the frontiers of Egypt. The Euphrates was on the east of Solomon's dominions; the Philistines were westward on the Mediterranean sea; and Egypt was on the south. Solomon had, therefore, as tributaries, the kingdoms of Syria, Damascus, Moab, and Ammon, which lay between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean. See Calmet. Thus he appears to have possessed all the land that God covenanted with Abraham to give to his posterity.
22And Solomon's provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal,
Solomon's provision for one day: -
Of fine flour 30 measures, or cors. Of meal 60 ditto. Stall-fed oxen 10 Ditto from the pasture 20 Sheep 100; with harts, roebucks, fallow deer, and fat fowls. The כר cor was the same as the homer, and contained nearly seventy-six gallons, wine measure, according to Bishop Cumberland.
Sheep - צאן tson, comprehending both sheep and goats.
Harts - מאיל meaiyal, the deer.
Roebucks - צבי tsebi, the gazal, antelope, or wild goat.
Fallow deer - יחמור yachmur, the buffalo. See the notes on Deuteronomy 12:15; Deuteronomy 14:5.
Fatted fowl - ברברים אבוסים barburim abusim, I suppose, means all the wild fowls in season during each month. Michaelis derives ברברים barburim from ברא bara, which in Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, signifies a field, a desert; all that is without the cities and habitations of men: hence חיות ברא cheyvath bara, wild beasts, Daniel 2:38, תור בר tor bar, wild bull; and therefore barburim may signify creatures living in the fields, woods, and deserts, which are taken by hunting, and opposed to those which are domesticated; and, consequently, may include beasts as well as fowls. Many have translated the word capons; but, query, was any such thing known among the ancient Jews? Solomon's table, therefore, was spread with all the necessaries and delicacies which the house or the field could afford.
But how immense must the number of men have been who were fed daily at the palace of the Israelitish king! Vilalpandus computes the number to be not less than forty-eight thousand, six hundred; and Calvisius makes, by estimation from the consumption of food, fifty-four thousand! These must have included all his guards, each of whom received a ration from the king's store.
23Ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallowdeer, and fatted fowl.
24For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him.
25And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.
Every man under his vine - They were no longer obliged to dwell in fortified cities for fear of their enemies; they spread themselves over all the country, which they everywhere cultivated; and had always the privilege of eating the fruits of their own labors. This is the meaning of the phrase.
26And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.
Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses - and twelve thousand horsemen - In 2 Chronicles 9:25, instead of forty thousand stalls, we read four thousand; and even this number might be quite sufficient to hold horses for twelve thousand horsemen; for stalls and stables may be here synonymous. In 1 Kings 10:26 it is said he had one thousand four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; and this is the reading in 2 Chronicles 1:14. In 2 Chronicles 9:25, already quoted, instead of forty thousand stalls for horses, the Septuagint has τεσσαρες χιλιαδες θηλειαι ἱπποι, four thousand mares; and in this place the whole verse is omitted both by the Syriac and Arabic. In the Targum of Rabbi Joseph on this book we have ארבע מאה arba meah, four hundred, instead of the four thousand in Chronicles, and the forty thousand in the text. From this collation of parallel places we may rest satisfied that there is a corruption in the numbers somewhere; and as a sort of medium, we may take for the whole four thousand stalls, one thousand four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen.
27And those officers provided victual for king Solomon, and for all that came unto king Solomon's table, every man in his month: they lacked nothing.
28Barley also and straw for the horses and dromedaries brought they unto the place where the officers were, every man according to his charge.
And dromedaries - The word רכש rechesh, which we translate thus, is rendered beasts, or beasts of burden, by the Vulgate; mares by the Syriac and Arabic; chariots by the Septuagint; and race-horses by the Chaldee. The original word seems to signify a very swift kind of horse, and race-horse or post-horse is probably its true meaning. To communicate with so many distant provinces, Solomon had need of many animals of this kind.
29And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.
God gave Solomon wisdom, etc. - He gave him a capacious mind, and furnished him with extraordinary assistance to cultivate it.
Even as the sand that is on the sea-shore - Lord Bacon observes on this: "As the sand on the sea-shore encloses a great body of waters, so Solomon's mind contained an ocean of knowledge." This is a happy and correct illustration.
30And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.
The children of the east country - That is the Chaldeans, Persians, and Arabians, who, with the Egyptians, were famed for wisdom and knowledge through all the world.
31For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about.
He was wiser than all men - He was wiser than any of those who were most celebrated in his time, among whom were the four after mentioned, viz., Ethan, Heman, Chalcol, and Darda. Ethan was probably the same as is mentioned in some of the Psalms, particularly Psalm 89:1, title; and among the singers in 1 Chronicles 6:42. There is a Heman mentioned in the title to Psalm 88:1. In 1 Chronicles 2:6 we have all the four names, but they are probably not the same persons, for they are there said to be the sons of Zerah, and he flourished long before Solomon's time.
Some suppose that בני מחול beney machol should be rendered masters of dancing or music, as מחול machol signifies not only a dance or choir, but also an instrument of music of the pipe kind. Perhaps a reference is here made to Solomon's skill in music and poetry, as he is compared to persons who appear to have been eminent poets and musicians.
32And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five.
He spake three thousand proverbs - The book of Proverbs, attributed to Solomon, contain only about nine hundred or nine hundred and twenty-three distinct proverbs; and if we grant with some that the first nine chapters are not the work of Solomon, then all that can be attributed to him is only about six hundred and fifty.
Of all his one thousand and five songs or poems we have only one, the book of Song of Solomon, remaining, unless we include Psalm 127:1-5, Except the Lord build the house, etc., which in the title is said to be by or for him, though it appears more properly to be a psalm of direction, left him by his father David, relative to the building of the temple.
33And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.
He spake of trees - beasts - fowl - creeping things, and of fishes - This is a complete system of natural history, as far as relates to the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and the first intimation we have of any thing of the kind: Solomon was probably the first natural historian in the world.
O, how must the heart of Tournefort, Ray, Linne, Buffon, Cuvier, Swammerdam, Blosch, and other naturalists, be wrung, to know that these works of Solomon are all and for ever lost! What light should we have thrown on the animal and vegetable kingdoms, had these works been preserved! But the providence of God has not thought fit to preserve them, and succeeding naturalists are left to invent the system which he probably left perfect. If there be any remains of his wisdom, they must be sought among the orientals, among whom his character is well known, and rates as high as it does with either Jews or Christians. I shall give some extracts from their works relative to Solomon when I come to consider his character at the end of 1 Kings 11:43.
34And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.
There came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon - We learn from 1 Kings 10, that the queen of Sheba was one of those visitants, and perhaps the most remarkable, as we have the particulars of her visit, but not of the others.
It is astonishing that of a person so renowned for wisdom, so little should be left to prove the truth of a fact of which all the civilized nations of the world have heard, and of which scarcely any man has ever doubted. The people that came from all kings of the earth were probably ambassadors, who came to form and maintain friendship between their sovereigns and the Israelitish king. We cannot understand the place as speaking of people who, either through an idle or laudable curiosity, came to see and converse with Solomon; to give free access to such people would ill comport with the maintenance of his dignity.