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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

1 Kings 9

 

 

Verse 1

1. All Solomon’s desire — All that he desired in the way of buildings, not only at Jerusalem, but throughout his whole realm. Compare 1 Kings 9:19 and 2 Chronicles 8:6.


Verses 1-9

THE LORD’S SECOND APPEARANCE TO SOLOMON, 1 Kings 9:1-9.

Whether this appearance of the Lord to Solomon followed immediately after the dedication of the temple, or not until after the completion of his palace and all his great works, is a matter of dispute. Some hold that it took place the night after the day of dedication, but the text seems clearly to place it after he had finished all his works. The revelation seems, indeed, like an answer to the prayer of dedication which Solomon had just offered; and we would naturally suppose it to have been given immediately after the dedication. But is this sufficient reason to reject the obvious meaning of the text? Jehovah did immediately answer the prayer and bless the worship by sending down fire to consume the sacrifices; and often may he have come to Solomon by the Word of the Lord, (1 Kings 6:11,) both while the temple was building and after it was finished. But this second and peculiarly significant appearance, bearing particular resemblance to the first appearance at Gibeon, (1 Kings 3:4-15,) may well have occurred at a later period of his reign, after the completion of all his great works, and the attainment of all his proudest fame, for the purpose of confirming him in the truth, and warning and guarding him against apostasy, to which he was now, by reason of his extended power and glory, more than ever exposed. We need not wonder that the Lord’s words in the revelation refer directly to a prayer uttered years before, for the prayers of the saints are ever fresh to his mind; and Solomon never uttered another prayer more impressive, or more important and memorable to himself, than that uttered at the feast of dedication. The sacred writer records this Divine communication here, not because it followed immediately after the prayer of Solomon, but because, though given long after, it had so much reference to that prayer.


Verse 2

2. As he had appeared unto him at Gibeon — Namely, in a dream by night, (1 Kings 3:5; 2 Chronicles 7:12,) reminding him of the covenant with David, and conditioning his future happiness on his obedience. These two appearances to Solomon marked two memorable turning points in his career. The one given him in the simplicity of his youth (1 Kings 3:7) lifted him into an element of wisdom and favour with both God and man; the other, given in the blaze of his worldly glory, was, alas! soon followed by shameful idolatries. Like Saul, when he was little in his own eyes the Lord made him great, (1 Samuel 15:17;) but when exalted among men, he lightly observed the Divine counsels.


Verse 7

7. A proverb and a byword — The very name Israel will become a proverbial expression significant of disastrous failure; nay, more — a byword, a pointed, sarcastic term, ever suggestive of scorn and mockery. Compare Deuteronomy 28:37.


Verse 8

8. This house, which is high — This rendering is an attempt to emend the text by the aid of 2 Chronicles 7:21, but is altogether unnecessary and erroneous. The Hebrew reads: This house shall be high; that is, shall be a conspicuous example of Divine judgment on a chosen people for their sins. “It will be exposed aloft, on its high hill, as a laughingstock to the scorn of passers-by, who will be astonished at it.” — Wordsworth.


Verse 10

10. Twenty years — Seven in building the temple, (1 Kings 6:38,) and thirteen on the palace. 1 Kings 7:1.


Verses 10-28

SUNDRY NOTICES OF SOLOMON’S ACTS, 1 Kings 9:10-28.

This section furnishes one of the most noticeable instances of the fragmentary manner in which some portions of the Old Testament history have been compiled. The writer evidently gathered excerpts from more complete historical and statistical documents, and arranged them in their present form of a rapidly sketched abridgment, the meaning of which is in some places hard to determine.


Verse 11

11. Twenty cities — One city for every year of building. This gift of Solomon was evidently a token of his good-will to Hiram, and for a memorial of the aid given by the king of Tyre in the building of the temple and palace, but not a payment for service received. But what right, it has been asked, had Solomon to give away any part of the inheritance of the Lord’s people into the hands of a heathen king? According to the law (Leviticus 25:23) the land could not be sold forever; much less given away. We might answer, This was not the first nor the last instance in which this great king stepped aside from the law of Moses. Already, contrary to the express commands of the law, he had multiplied horses and chariots. But in this case the appearance of transgression largely disappears in the fact that these cities, when given to Hiram, were peopled not by Israelites but by heathens. Solomon may have regarded it as a prudent policy to hand over the government of these heathen cities, which were evidently of no great worth, to his friendly neighbour, who had rendered him so much service in building the Lord’s house.

Land of Galilee — Not the entire province of this name as it existed under the Romans, but only the northern part of the land allotted to the tribe of Naphtali. Compare Joshua 20:7. According to Josephus, these twenty cities lay not far from Tyre.


Verse 12

12. They pleased him not — “These twenty cities were mere villages, of course, and it is a genuine Eastern trick to dignify a small present with a pompous name.” — Thomson. The Phenicians being a maritime and commercial people, Hiram might naturally have coveted some of Solomon’s coast-towns, and was therefore displeased with the gift of a comparatively useless inland region, and so restored the cities to Solomon. 2 Chronicles 8:2.


Verse 13

13. My brother — Used here and in 1 Kings 20:33, as often at the present day in the East, as a term of friendly intercourse. Compare 1 Macc.

1 Kings 10:18; 1 Kings 11:30; 2 Maccabees 11:22.

Cabul — “Which name,” says Josephus, “if it be interpreted according to the language of the Phenicians, denotes what does not please.” The Cabul of Joshua 19:27 may have been one of the twenty cities, and to show his dissatisfaction he may have applied the name of that little insignificant town to the whole district. After Hiram restored the cities, Solomon built them more nobly and peopled them with Israelites. 2 Chronicles 8:2. But notwithstanding this displeasure on the part of Hiram, the friendly relations of these two monarchs seem to have lasted as long as they lived.

Unto this day — The day when this document was written.


Verse 14

14. Hiram sent… gold — Probably not as a present, but as a loan; and the verse may be regarded as a fuller statement of his furnishing Solomon with gold, which is more briefly noticed in 1 Kings 9:11. In view of the vast profusion of gold with which Solomon adorned the temple and the palace, and other works throughout his whole kingdom, we need not wonder that he gathered gold from all possible quarters.


Verse 15

15. The reason of the levy — The levy of men mentioned 1 Kings 5:13 was used, as we here learn, for building other works than the temple.

Millo — The fortress on Zion, which had, perhaps, become somewhat dilapidated. See note on 2 Samuel 5:9.

Wall of Jerusalem — He repaired the breaches in the wall which David built, and also extended the walls, and probably in some places built entirely new and nobler ones. Compare 1 Kings 11:27.

Hazor — The ancient capital of Jabin, in the north of Palestine. See on Joshua 11:1.

Megiddo — In the great plain of Esdraelon. See on Joshua 12:21.

Gezer — A city west or northwest of Jerusalem, and between it and the Mediterranean Sea. See on Joshua 10:33.


Verse 16

16. Pharaoh… had… taken Gezer — The date and circumstances of this conquest are wrapped in perfect mystery.

Canaanites that dwelt in the city — These had not been expelled in Joshua’s time. Joshua 16:10.

A present unto his daughter — “Though in the East husbands generally pay for their wives, yet dower is given in some cases. Sargon gave Cilicia as a dowry with his daughter when he married her to Ambris, king of Tubal. Antiochus Soter gave his claims on Macedonia as a dowry to his step-daughter Phila when she married Antigonus Gonatas. Coele-Syria and Palestine were promised as dowry to Ptolemy Epiphanes when he married Cleopatra, sister of Antiochus the Great.” — Rawlinson.


Verse 17

17. Solomon built Gezer — That is, rebuilt and fortified the city on the ruined site of the former town. So doubtless of all the other cities mentioned in this chapter, which had existence before. The work of Solomon was that of rebuilding, repairing or enlarging, and fortifying.

Beth-horon the nether — See on Joshua 10:10.


Verse 18

18. Baalath — Probably identical with the town of this name in the tribe of Dan. Joshua 19:44. Some have supposed it to be the same as Baalbek in Coele-Syria, whose splendid ruins are still the wonder of the modern traveller.

Tadmor — Such is the name in the margin of the Hebrew Bible, (keri,) and in 2 Chronicles 8:4; but in the Hebrew text of this verse it is Tamar, which seems to have been the original name, and means a palm tree. The place probably received this name from the many palm trees which were planted within and around it, and hence the later Greek and Roman name Palmyra, city of palms. The site of this celebrated city was a fertile oasis in the great Syrian desert, midway between the Euphrates and Palestine, and served as a most important watering-station for the caravans which carried on commerce between the Western nations and those of the far East. Its importance to commerce was, perhaps, suggested to Solomon by Phenician merchants, and his ready practical wisdom would not be slow to secure to his own dominion the advantage of such a control over the traffic between the East and the West as this central emporium would naturally give him. It was probably at first strongly built, and so garrisoned as to give protection and security to the caravans against the tribes of lawless Arabs which then, as now, infested those deserts, and exposed all travel and commerce in great danger and inconvenience. But the city soon rose to magnificence and luxury, and became a city of merchants, who monopolized the trade between the East and the West, buying up the products of Arabia and India and selling them again to the Western traders. Tadmor, probably soon after the death of Solomon, passed from the possession of the Hebrews to that of the Assyrians. It is not mentioned again in Scripture; but from other sources we learn that it passed through various fortunes under the Eastern kings, the Roman emperors, the Mohammedan khalifs, and was at last plundered and laid waste by the Mongol conqueror, Tamerlane. Its ruins were long unknown to Europeans, but were discovered towards the close of the seventeenth century. They occupy a sandy plain, slightly elevated above the surrounding desert, and consist of “scattered groups of columns and single monumental pillars, while everywhere the ground is thickly strewn with broken shafts, and great shapeless piles of ruins, all white and glistering in the bright sunlight. Like bleached bones on a long-neglected battle-field those ruins lie, lonely and forsaken.” — PORTER, Giant Cities of Bashan.

In the wilderness — In the great Syrian desert between Palestine and the Euphrates.

In the land — The land of Solomon’s dominion. The phrase is to be construed with built in 1 Kings 9:17. Solomon built in his land the cities here named.


Verse 19

19. Cities of store — In which were deposited corn, wine, and oil, (2 Chronicles 32:28,) and probably wares for purposes of trade, and provisions for the army.

Cities for his chariots, and cities for his horsemen — Rather, for his cavalry. See note on 1 Kings 4:26. These cities for his chariots and his horses were probably “identical in part with the magazine-cities, and several of them situated on the northern boundary of his kingdom in the region of Hamath and on Lebanon, as must be inferred partly from the importance of the northern border to the security of the whole kingdom, partly from the consideration that Solomon had an adversary in Rezon of Damascus, (1 Kings 11:23,) who might easily excite to rebellion the northern provinces which were first incorporated into the kingdom by David, and partly from the express statement of 2 Chronicles 16:4, according to which there were magazine-cities in the land of Naphtali.” — Keil.

That which Solomon desired to build — That is, whatever in the way of buildings, gardens, or parks he desired. Compare Ecclesiastes 2:1-9.


Verse 21

21. Levy a tribute of bondservice — A considerable portion of the levies of men employed by Solomon in his public works was doubtless drawn from the ranks of the subjugated nations.


Verse 22

22. His servants — Holding positions of honourable trust in the court or in the royal service, and so distinguished from bondslaves.

Captains — Shalishim. See note on 2 Samuel 23:8.

Rulers of his chariots, and his horsemen — The word horsemen here, as in 1 Kings 9:19, should be rendered steeds, or cavalry, and the rulers of the chariots and cavalry were the chief officers in these departments of the army.


Verse 23

23. Five hundred and fifty — See note on 1 Kings 5:16.


Verse 24

24. Pharaoh’s daughter… out of the city of David — Hence it is clear that Solomon’s palace was not in the city of David, or on Zion, but (as we have argued in note introductory to chap. vii) on the same mountain as the temple, but at a lower elevation. Her transfer to her new abode is spoken of, like that of the ark and the tabernacle, as a going up. See note on 1 Kings 8:4.

Unto her house — A department of his own new palace. See on 1 Kings 7:8.

Then did he build Millo — That is, after he had removed his Egyptian wife to her new home, he repaired this fortress. This passage merely specifies the time of the work referred to in 1 Kings 9:15.


Verse 25

25. Three times in a year — At the three great feasts required by the law of Moses. Exodus 23:14-16. The feast of unleavened bread, or the passover; the feast of harvest, or of weeks, (Exodus 34:22;) and the feast of ingathering, or of tabernacles. Deuteronomy 16:13. Compare 2 Chronicles 8:13.

So he finished the house — This statement seems to have no necessary connexion with the immediate context, and appears out of place. But such is often the manner with the Hebrew writers; and yet in all such cases there was in the mind of the writer a connecting line of thought. Thus these last two verses (24 and 25) have reference to 1 Kings 3:1-4, and show, as Keil observes, “how Solomon, after the completion of his buildings, remedied the defects which existed in the beginning of his reign. These verses thus form the full and suitable close to the section treating of Solomon’s buildings.”


Verse 26

26. A navy of ships — A fleet, of course, of less size, and ships of smaller dimensions than those with which we are familiar. The success and great importance of Phenician navigation probably suggested this enterprise to Solomon. The Hebrews were never a seafaring people, and Solomon’s sailors had to be taught by Hiram’s shipmen. See next verse.

Ezion-geber — An ancient city on the eastern arm of the Red Sea, at which the Israelites once or twice encamped during their wanderings in the desert. Numbers 33:35; Deuteronomy 2:8. In modern times no trace of it seems to be found.

Eloth — Written, also, Elath. This city seems to have been more ancient and more important than Ezion-geber, since it is mentioned for the purpose of showing the locality of other places. It, also, was one of the places where Israel halted in the desert journey. Deuteronomy 2:8. All that now remains of it are extensive mounds of rubbish which “present nothing of interest, except as indicating that a very ancient city has here utterly perished.” — Robinson.

On the shore of the Red Sea — That is, on the eastern arm of the Red Sea, which bounds the Peninsula of Sinai on the southeast. It is now commonly called the Elanitic Gulf, or Bahr Akabah.

Land of Edom — The mountainous tract of country lying to the south of Palestine, and, as here appears, extending to the Red Sea; the possession of the children of Esau. See at Genesis 36:8.


Verse 27

27. Shipmen that had knowledge of the sea — Skilled in navigation. The Phenicians were the earliest and boldest navigators of antiquity. See the tribute to Tyrian wisdom and success in Ezekiel 28:1-5.


Verse 28

28. Ophir — Endless have been the conjectures as to the locality of Ophir; but there are no sufficient data to bring the question to a positive decision. India, Africa, and Arabia have each been urged with much plausibility. But the assumption made by many critics, that this navy fitted out by Solomon from Ezion-geber to bring gold from Ophir is identical with the “navy of Tarshish,” (1 Kings 10:22,) that returned only once in three years, and that Jehoshaphat’s “ships of Tarshish,” built and broken at Ezion-geber, which were designed to go to Ophir for gold, (1 Kings 22:48,) and also to go to Tarshish, (2 Chronicles 20:36-37,) necessarily involve the conclusion that Ophir and Tarshish were contiguous, or on the same route, is at best only a supposition. To us it seems most probable that Ophir was a region somewhere in Arabia. For, 1.) It must have been easily accessible from Ezion-geber. 2.) Several ancient authorities affirm that gold was formerly abundant in Arabia. 3.) The region probably took its name from Ophir, the son of Joktan, (Genesis 10:29,) and it is quite generally agreed that the Joktanites peopled Southern Arabia. Sheba, the region in Southern Arabia ruled by the celebrated queen who visited Solomon, (1 Kings 10:1,) probably received its name from Sheba, another son of Joktan, who is mentioned Genesis 10:28, in immediate connexion with Ophir, and probably settled in a district adjoining him. So a navy that carried on a regular traffic with Ophir would be likely to spread the fame of Solomon to the neighbouring province, and at this time the queen of Sheba might have ruled the districts both of Sheba and Ophir.

Four hundred and twenty — In 2 Chronicles 8:18 the reading is four hundred and fifty, which is probably the error of some early transcriber, who mistook כ, twenty, for נ, fifty.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 9:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-kings-9.html. 1874-1909.

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