1 Kings 4 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of 1 Kings 4)


1. So King Solomon was king over all Israel--This chapter contains a general description of the state and glory of the Hebrew kingdom during the more flourishing or later years of his reign.

2. these were the princes--or chief officers, as is evident from two of them marrying Solomon's daughters.
Azariah the son of Zadok the priest--rather, "the prince," as the Hebrew word frequently signifies (Ge 41:45; Ex 2:16; 2Sa 8:18); so that from the precedency given to his person in the list, he seems to have been prime minister, the highest in office next the king.

3. scribes--that is, secretaries of state. Under David, there had been only one [2Sa 8:17; 20:25]. The employment of three functionaries in this department indicates either improved regulations by the division of labor, or a great increase of business, occasioned by the growing prosperity of the kingdom, or a more extensive correspondence with foreign countries.
recorder--that is, historiographer, or annalist--an office of great importance in Oriental courts, and the duties of which consisted in chronicling the occurrences of every day.

4. Benaiah . . . was over the host--formerly captain of the guard. He had succeeded Joab as commander of the forces.
Zadok and Abiathar were the priests--Only the first discharged the sacred functions; the latter had been banished to his country seat and retained nothing more than the name of high priest.

5. over the officers--that is, the provincial governors enumerated in 1Ki 4:17-19.
principal officer, and the king's friend--perhaps president of the privy council, and Solomon's confidential friend or favorite. This high functionary had probably been reared along with Solomon. That he should heap those honors on the sons of Nathan was most natural, considering the close intimacy of the father with the late king, and the deep obligations under which Solomon personally lay to the prophet.

6. Ahishar was over the household--steward or chamberlain of the palace.
Adoniram--or Adoram (2Sa 20:24; 1Ki 12:18), or Hadoram (2Ch 10:18),
was over the tribute--not the collection of money or goods, but the levy of compulsory laborers (compare 1Ki 5:13, 14).


7. Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel--The royal revenues were raised according to the ancient, and still, in many parts, existing usage of the East, not in money payments, but in the produce of the soil. There would be always a considerable difficulty in the collection and transmission of these tithes (1Sa 8:15). Therefore, to facilitate the work, Solomon appointed twelve officers, who had each the charge of a tribe or particular district of country, from which, in monthly rotation, the supplies for the maintenance of the king's household were drawn, having first been deposited in "the store cities" which were erected for their reception (1Ki 9:19; 2Ch 8:4, 6).

8. The son of Hur--or, as the Margin has it, Benhur, Bendekar. In the rural parts of Syria, and among the Arabs, it is still common to designate persons not by their own names, but as the sons of their fathers.

21. Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river--All the petty kingdoms between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean were tributary to him. Similar is the statement in 1Ki 4:24.

22, 23. Solomon's provision for one day--not for the king's table only, but for all connected with the court, including, besides the royal establishment, those of his royal consorts, his principal officers, his bodyguards, his foreign visitors, &c. The quantity of fine floor used is estimated at two hundred forty bushels; that of meal or common flour at four hundred eighty. The number of cattle required for consumption, besides poultry and several kinds of game (which were abundant on the mountains) did not exceed in proportion what is needed in other courts of the East.

24. from Tiphsah--that is, Thapsacus, a large and flourishing town on the west bank of the Euphrates, the name of which was derived from a celebrated ford near it, the lowest on that river.
even to Azzah--that is, Gaza, on the southwestern extremity, not far from the Mediterranean.

25. every man under his vine and . . . fig tree--This is a common and beautiful metaphor for peace and security (Mic 4:4; Zec 3:10), founded on the practice, still common in modern Syria, of training these fruit trees up the walls and stairs of houses, so as to make a shady arbor, beneath which the people sit and relax.

26. forty thousand stalls--for the royal mews (see on 2Ch 9:25).

28. Barley . . . and straw--Straw is not used for litter, but barley mixed with chopped straw is the usual fodder of horses.
dromedaries--one-humped camels, distinguished for their great fleetness.

1Ki 4:29-34. HIS WISDOM.

29. God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart--that is, high powers of mind, great capacity for receieving, as well as aptitude for communicating knowledge.

30. Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country--that is, the Arabians, Chaldeans, and Persians (Ge 25:6).
all the wisdom of Egypt--Egypt was renowned as the seat of learning and sciences, and the existing monuments, which so clearly describe the ancient state of society and the arts, show the high culture of the Egyptian people.

31. wiser than all men--that is, all his contemporaries, either at home or abroad.
than Ethan--or Jeduthun, of the family of Merari (1Ch 6:44).
Heman-- (1Ch 15:17-19) --the chief of the temple musicians and the king's seers (1Ch 25:5); the other two are not known.
the sons of Mahol--either another name for Zerah (1Ch 2:6); or taking it as a common noun, signifying a dance, a chorus, "the sons of Mahol" signify persons eminently skilled in poetry and music.

32. he spake three thousand proverbs--embodying his moral sentiments and sage observations on human life and character.
songs . . . a thousand and five-- Psalm 72, 127, 132, and the Song of Songs are his.

33. he spake of trees, from the cedar . . . to the hyssop--all plants, from the greatest to the least. The Spirit of God has seen fit to preserve comparatively few memorials of the fruits of his gigantic mind. The greater part of those here ascribed to him have long since fallen a prey to the ravages of time, or perished in the Babylonish captivity, probably because they were not inspired.