A couple of weeks ago we studied 1 Kings 3 together where the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream and offered to give him whatever he wanted. And Solomon asked for a wise and discerning heart so that he would be able to govern God’s people well. And God was pleased that he asked for wisdom and not for selfish things like wealth or long-life or the death of his enemies. And God promised to give him, not only wisdom, but also riches and honour so that he would become king of kings in his lifetime. And he would enjoy long life so long as he walked in God’s ways.
And chapter 3 ended with the story of the two women who came to Solomon with a dispute. The two woman lived together and both of them had children at the same time. However, one of their babies had died in the night. So, who was the mother of the surviving child? One said ‘It’s mine’ and the other said, ‘No it’s mine.’ And they wanted Solomon to settle the dispute. And the way Solomon settled the dispute displayed the wisdom God had given him; and when all Israel heard Solomon’s verdict, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice and to do what is right.
After I preached on that passage, someone must have been reading ahead to the next chapter, because this person asked me what I was going to say about today’s chapter, chapter 4, which contains two lists of names. What can you say about that?
And, of course, we’ve come across lists of names before in the Bible. And while we may be tempted to skip over these lists of names, especially when it’s a long list of names, we need to remember and believe what Paul wrote to Timothy. All Scripture, Paul wrote, is God-breathed. That is, it’s breathed out by God and therefore it’s his word to us. And all Scripture is useful. It’s useful for teaching us and for rebuking us and for correcting us and for training us in righteousness. So, all Scripture — even these lists of names — is God’s word to us and it’s useful for us. We need to remember and believe that.
And the thing is: everything in this chapter, including the two lists of names, helps us to see how God had blessed his people. The Lord had fulfilled his promises to them and he was enabling them to live in peace and rest in a well-ordered and prosperous kingdom, where they were ruled over by a wise and discerning king. And so, Israel was a happy place to be. Look at verse 20, for instance, where it says that the people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. Israel was a happy land, because of God’s kindness to his people. And God’s kindness to his people included giving them a wise and discerning king to rule over them.
Verses 1 to 21
And so, we read in verse 1 that Solomon ruled over all Israel. After Solomon’s death, the kingdom was divided into the kingdom of Israel in the north and the kingdom of Judah in the south. But that time had not yet come. For now, Israel was a united kingdom and Solomon ruled over all of it.
And in verses 2 to 6 we have a list of Solomon’s chief officials. These are the men he relied on to help him to govern the kingdom. Instead of doing it all himself, he relied on others to help him. In this he was following the example of his father, David, who also relied on officials to help him. And the officials who helped David are listed in 2 Samuel 8 and 2 Samuel 20.
It might be significant, however, that whereas the list of David’s officials began with the commander of his army, Solomon’s list of officials begins with the priest. David was a warrior, whereas Solomon was not. David had to fight many battles to bring peace to the land, whereas Solomon’s reign was a peaceful one. And so, the commander of the army was perhaps not as important to Solomon as he was to David.
In any case, the list of Solomon’s officials begins with the priest. This is the high priest. Back in chapter 2 we read that Zadok was made priest. Presumably he died and now his son, Azariah, has been appointed in his place. Then we have two secretaries, who presumably dealt with Solomon’s private and public correspondence. Then there was a recorder who presumably oversaw the public records and recorded the events of Solomon’s reign. Next we have the commander-in-chief of Solomon’s army. And then we have Zadok and Abiathar who are listed as priests. Both of them were mentioned in chapter 2, where we read that Abiathar was banished from Jerusalem and Zadok replaced him as priest. Since Abiathar was no longer a priest and Zadok had presumably been succeeded by his son, it’s not entirely clear why their names appear in this list. But it’s perhaps because they both served as high priest at one time in Solomon’s reign.
Next is another man named Azariah who was in charge of the twelve district officers who are listed in verses 7 to 19. After him we have Zabud who was both a priest and personal advisor to the king. Then there’s Ahishar who was in charge of the palace and Adoniram who was in charge of forced labour. We’ll hear more that the forced labour later in the book.
This list of officials, all with their own responsibilities and duties, suggests to us that Solomon’s kingdom was well-ordered and peaceful. Things were not chaotic, but everything was done in a decent and orderly fashion.
And in verses 7 to 19 we read about the twelve district governors who were appointed over all Israel. They were responsible for supplying provisions for the king and his royal household. And since there were twelve districts, then each district was responsible for supplying provisions for only one month each year. So, it was not a burden on the people.
If you glance down over the names of the districts, you may wonder why the list of districts does not match the list of tribes. After all, Israel was already divided into twelve tribes. Why didn’t Solomon simply say that the tribe of Dan was responsible for one month and the tribe of Reuben was responsible for another month and so on? The commentators believe it’s because the land belonging to some tribes was more fertile and productive than the land belonging to other tribes. And so, Solomon wisely divided up the kingdom in such a way that each district was equally fertile and could supply provisions for the king without difficulty.
And it was clearly without difficulty, because look what we read in verse 20, where it tells us that the people of Israel and Judah were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; and they ate and they drank and they were happy. So, no one was complaining about the king and his officials and his district governors. No one complained when it was their district’s turn to supply provisions to the king and his household. No one was destitute or poor; and everyone ate and drank. So, they had what they needed. And they were happy. People weren’t going on strike. They weren’t protesting on the streets. They weren’t complaining on Twitter. They weren’t anxious about the future and no one was worried about how to make ends meet. They were happy.
And they were as numerous as the sand of the seashore. That expression might ring a bell in your mind, because it was God’s promise to Abraham, wasn’t it? Back in Genesis 22 God promised to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. He would make them into a great nation. And God has fulfilled his promise in the days of Solomon’s reign, because God’s people have become a great nation. They have become as numerous as the sand on the seashore.
And do you remember God’s other promise to Abraham? The Lord not only promised to make his descendants numerous, but he also promised to give them a place of their own where they could live in peace. And God has kept that promise too, because look what we read in verse 21 about how Solomon ruled over all the kingdom from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. That corresponds with God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 that he would give Abraham’s descendants the land from Egypt to the Euphrates River.
And so, do you see what the writer is telling us? The writer is telling us that God has blessed his people. He has fulfilled his promises to them and he was enabling them to live in peace and rest in a well-ordered and prosperous kingdom, where they were ruled over by a wise and discerning king.
And the nations they had conquered, who had been living in the Promised Land, now brought tribute to Solomon and they were subject to him. So, they bowed their knee to Solomon and confessed him as their king.
And, I wonder, are you beginning to see how Solomon foreshadows the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our King? God created Solomon and made him king over Israel to make clear to his people what eternal life in the new heavens and earth will be like. In that new and better world to come, which Christ the King is preparing for us, there will be no more sorrow or sadness or danger or distress, but only perfect peace and rest forever and fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. And people from every nation will come to Christ the King and worship him forever and forever. God made Solomon king over Israel so that whoever reads about him would long for that kind of king. And Christ is that kind of king. But, of course, he’s an even greater king that Solomon, because Solomon’s kingdom did not last, whereas Christ’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
Verses 22 to 28
But let’s move on to consider the rest of the passage. From verse 22 to 28 we read about the daily provisions which were supplied to Solomon and his royal household. And so, all this flour and meal and cattle and sheep and goats and deer and so on was given to the king and his household every day. And the point of this is not to suggest that Solomon was greedy and demanding. The point of this is to highlight the prosperity of the kingdom. We’re to be in awe that all of this food could be brought to the king each and every day. The kingdom was so prosperous and the land was so productive that an endless supply of good things could be gathered every day and sent to the king for him and his household to enjoy.
And if you look down to verse 27 you’ll see that it refers to ‘all who came to the king’s table’. So, the king received these provisions and shared them with the people around him. And the district governors saw to it that nothing was lacking. Everyone who sat at the king’s table had all that they needed. Even the horses were well-fed. Do you see that? Verse 26 tells us about all the horses Solomon kept in his stables. And verse 28 makes clear that the horses were well cared for. Horses and people alike had all that they needed.
And look at verse 25 where it tells us that during Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig-tree. This is a picture of contentment and peace. We’re to imagine each man, sitting down in his favourite chair after working on his land that day. And he’s able to rest and relax, with his family around him, and he’s not worried or anxious about anything. One of the members of the church in Naas grew grapes in his conservatory. And when I visited him, he’d sit in his chair with the vines above his head; and from time to time, he’d reach up and pick a grape and pop it into his mouth. That’s the life, isn’t it? Sitting in a comfy chair, eating freshly-picked grapes. And that’s what it was like for the people of Israel when Solomon was their king and God’s blessing was upon them.
Verses 29 to 34
And then from verse 29 to 34 the writer focusses on Solomon’s wisdom. God gave him wisdom and very great insight and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Nowadays our scholars focus on one small area of research and they go deep down into it. So, this one scholar will know lots about one thing. And that’s great. But that one scholar may know very little about anything else. But Solomon was a polymath: he knew lots of things about lots of things.
And we’re told in verse 30 that his wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East; and it was greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. And so, he was wiser than any other person. And the writer mentions some people who were presumably famous for their wisdom and insight in those days. But Solomon was wiser than them all. One of the commentators (Woodhouse) makes the point that we now know nothing about the men mentioned in verse 31, but we’re still talking about Solomon. In fact, people who don’t know much about the Bible will still talk about how we need ‘the wisdom of Solomon’. Solomon’s wisdom was so remarkable that we’re still talking about it today. And Solomon’s fame spread to all the surrounding nations. Wherever people went, they spoke about Solomon’s wisdom.
And we’re told that he spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. And, of course, in the Bible we have the book of Proverbs, which is a collection of his proverbs. And the Song of Songs was composed by Solomon and Psalm 127 is ascribed to him. And he examined the world around him and described plant life and animal life. We’re to imagine him as being curious about the world and about the way it works. And he was able to draw lessons from the world around them and apply them to human life. And verse 34 tells us how the kings of other nations heard about Solomon’s wisdom; and they sent their men to listen to Solomon’s wisdom and to learn from him.
As I said at the beginning, everything in this chapter helps us to see how God had blessed his people. The Lord had fulfilled his promises to them by making them a numerous people and by giving them a land of their own in which to live, where they had all that they needed. And the Lord enabled them to live in peace and rest and in a well-ordered and prosperous kingdom, where they were ruled over by a wise and discerning king. And people from the other nations came to Solomon to pay tribute to him and to listen to his wisdom.
And the reason God blessed his people and gave them Solomon to rule over them was to make clear to his people what eternal life under Christ the King will be like. After giving up his life to pay for all that we have done wrong, the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and exalted to heaven to prepare a place for his people. And in that place he has prepared for us, there will be no more sorrow or sadness or danger or distress, but only perfect peace and rest and fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. And people from every nation of the world will gather there. And in that new creation to come, where Christ the King and his people will live forever, we will have all that we need and nothing will be lacking. And we will live in safety and we will be happy: perfectly happy forever and forever.
And since it’s hard for us to imagine that kind of life, God blessed the people of Israel and gave them a wise and discerning king and he made sure it was recorded for us in the book of 1 Kings in order to convey to us what it will be like in the new heavens and earth. It will be like Israel at the time of Solomon. But, of course, it will be so much better, won’t it? It will be perfect. And it will be glorious. And it will be forever. All of God’s people living in the place God has prepared for them, where they’ll enjoy the presence of God in their midst forever.
And the way to receive life in that perfect kingdom is by turning from our sin in repentance and by believing in Christ the King, who gave up his life on the cross to pay for all that we have done wrong; and who shed his blood to cleanse us of our guilt. Whoever believes in him receives forgiveness from God so that God promises to remember our sins no more. And whoever believes in him receives the hope of everlasting life in the new heavens and earth when Christ the King comes again to punish his enemies and to gather his people. And so, you should believe in the Saviour, because whoever believes will live with him in his everlasting kingdom in the new heavens and earth.
Of course, some of you might be thinking: That’s what we need in the United Kingdom! That’s what we need in Northern Ireland! If only our king was like Solomon or if only our politicians were like him, then wouldn’t it be wonderful?
We should, of course, pray for our leaders, asking the Lord to give them the wisdom they need to govern us well. But we also need to realise that there can never be another kingdom in this life like Solomon’s kingdom. Israel was a theocracy where the church and the state were one and the same, so that you couldn’t be an Israelite without being a Jew. And the king and his government were responsible for enforcing the worship of God. And sin was a crime and anyone who broke the law could be put to death.
But after the Lord’s death and resurrection, the Lord commanded his apostles to go into all the world and to make disciples of all nations. From that time on, the church would no longer be restricted to one nation only, as it was in Old Testament times. From that time on, the church would be in every nation of the world; and Christ’s kingdom now extends throughout the world; and his people are found in every nation. And the government of any nation is no longer responsible for enforcing the worship of God, because Christ’s kingdom does not grow by force, but by persuasion, which means it grows through the preaching of God’s word, which is now the task of the church.
So, we’re living in a very different time now and there can never be another kingdom like Israel. But wherever God’s people live, and in whichever nation they find themselves, we’re to live, not only as citizens of that earthly nation, but we’re to live as citizens of Christ’s heavenly kingdom. And so, wherever we live, we’re to obey Christ our King and we’re to serve him in our daily lives, honouring him in all we do and say. And we’re to look to him for the help we need to do his will here on earth; and he gives us his Spirit to enable us to live as his obedient people on the earth.
And he promises to take care of us so that we don’t need to be anxious about anything, but we can trust in Christ our King and in God our Heavenly Father to supply us with all that we need. He commands us to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. In other words, we’re to give our attention to serving Christ our King and doing what’s right in God’s sight. Seek first his kingdom and righteousness; and all those things which we need for our daily lives will be given to us as well.
And so, we’re to obey Christ our King in our daily lives, and we’re to trust in him, while we wait for our King to come again to bring all of God’s people into the place he has prepared for us in the new heavens and earth where we will enjoy the presence of God forever.