|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-19 In the choice of the great officers of Solomon's court, no doubt, his wisdom appeared. Several are the same that were in his father's time. A plan was settled by which no part of the country was exhausted to supply his court, though each sent its portion.
Verse 2. - And these were the princes [i.e. ministers, officers. Cf. 2 Samuel 8:15-18, and 2 Sam 20:23-26] which he had, Azariah the son [i.e., descendant, probably grandson. See on 1 Chronicles 6:10] of Zadok the priest. [We are here confronted by two questions of considerable difficulty. First, to whom does the title "priest" here belong, to Azariah or to Zadok? Second, what are we to understand by the term, a spiritual, or a more or less secular person - ἱερεύς or βουλευτής? As to
1. the Vulgate (sacerdotis) and apparently the Authorized Version, with the Rabbins, Luther, and many later expounders, connect the title with Zadok (who is mentioned as priest in ver. 4), and understand that Azariah, the son of the high priest Zadok, was, together with the sons of Shisha, one of the scribes (ver. 3). It is true that this view obviates some difficulties, but against it are these considerations.
(1) The accents.
(2) The Chaldee and LXX. (ὁ ἱερεύς Cod. Alex.; Cod. Vat. omits the words) Versions.
(3) Hebrew usage, according to which the patronymic is regarded as almost parenthetical.
(4) The fact that in every other case in this list the title is predicate nominative (vers. 3-6).
(5) The position of Azariah's name, first in the list - a position which would hardly be assigned to a scribe.
(6) The absence of any copula (ו), which, it is submitted, would be required if Azariah and the sons of Shisha alike were scribes. The question is one of some nicety, but the balance of evidence is distinctly in favour of connecting the title with Azariah, i.e., "Azariah son of Zadok was the priest." This brings us to
2. What are we to understand by "the priest " - הַכֹּהֵן? It is urged by Keil, Bahr, al. that this cannot mean "priest" in the ordinary sense of the word, still less "high priest," for the following reasons:
(1) Because the high priests of Solomon are mentioned presently, viz., Abiathar and Zadok, and the Jews never had three high priests.
(2) Because the Azariah who was high priest under Solomon for the words of 1 Chronicles 6:10, "He it is that executed the priest's office," etc, must belong to the Azariah of ver. 9, and have got accidentally misplaced - was the son of Ahimaaz, not of Zadok.
(3) Because no grandson of Zadok could then be old enough to sustain the office of high priest.
(4) Because in one passage (2 Samuel 8:18, compared with 1 Chronicles 18:17) כֹּהֲנִים is used of privy councillors and of the sons of David, who cannot have been sacrificing priests. Keil consequently would understand that Azariah was "administrator of the kingdom, or prime minister." Similarly Bahr. But in favour of the ordinary meaning of the word are these powerful considerations:
(1) All the versions translate the word by "priest," i.e., they understand by the term a spiritual person.
(2) Whatever may be the case with כֹּהֵן, הַכֹּהֵן, "the priest" (par excellence) can only be understood of the high priest (ch. 1:8, 38; Exodus 29:30; Leviticus 21:21; 2 Kings 11:9, 15; 2 Kings 22:4, 8, 10, 12, 14. Comp. 2 Chronicles 26:17).
(3) It is extremely doubtful whether כֹּהֵן is ever used except in the sense of ἱερεύς, Rawlinson, who says it sometimes indicates "a civil officer, with perhaps a semi-priestly character," refers to Gesenius sub hac voce, who, however, distinctly affirms that the word only means priest, and accounts for the application of the term to the sons of David (2 Samuel 8:18) on the supposition that the Jews had priests who were not of the tribe of Levi. The question is discussed with great learning by Professor Plumptre (Dict. Bib., art. "Priest"), who suggests that "David and his sons may have been admitted, not to distinctively priestly functions, such as burning incense (Numbers 16:40; 2 Chronicles 26:18), but to an honorary, titular priesthood. To wear the ephod in processions (2 Samuel 6:14) at the time when this was the special badge of the order (1 Samuel 22:18), to join the priests and Levites in their songs and dances, might have been conceded, with no deviation from the Law, to the members of the royal house." There is one difficulty however in the way of accepting this ingenious and otherwise sufficient explanation, namely, that it seems hardly likely that the title of priest would be freely accorded by Hebrew writers to men who were expressly excluded from all "distinctively priestly functions," especially after the use of the same word in the preceding verse (17) to designate the high priest. And I venture to suggest that the discharge by David's sons of the semi-priestly functions just referred to occasioned so much remark as to head to the application of the term "priest" to them in a special conventional sense; in fact, that it became a sort of soubriquet, which rather implied that they were not priests than that they were. (Notice the order of 2 Samuel 8:18, Hebrews) And observe
(4) if we are to understand by "the priest" in ver. 2, "prime minister;" by "priests" in ver. 4, "high priests," and by "priest" in ver 5, "principal officer," language has no certain meaning.
(5) The mention of Azariah as "the priest" in the same list with Zadok and Abiathar is easily accounted for. We know that Abiathar was deposed at the beginning of Solomon's reign (1 Kings 2:27), and Zadok must then have been an old man. Their names consequently are recorded (ver. 4) because they were high priests for a brief period of the reign, but Azariah is mentioned first as "the priest" because he was high priest during most of the time.
(6) "Azariah the son of Zadok" is quite compatible with the fact that Azariah was really the son of Ahimaaz. בֵּן is constantly used in the sense of "descendant," and especially "grandson." (Genesis 29:5: 31:28, 55: and see on ch. 2:8,"the son of Gera.") Zadok is no doubt mentioned as better known than Ahimaaz, and probably because Azariah succeeded him directly in the office.
(7) The age of Azariah must be uncertain, and Solomon's reign was a long one.
(8) The position of his name - first - accords well with the idea that he was high priest, which I conclude that he was. It is worthy of remark that in the lists of David the military officers of the kingdom occupy the first place; in those of Solomon, the civil and religious dignitaries. "The princes of Solomon are, with one exception (ver. 4) ministers of peace." - Wordsworth.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And these were the princes which he had,.... That were in office about him, in the highest posts of honour and trust:
Azariah the son of Zadok the priest: or rather his grandson, since Ahimaaz was the son of Zadok, and Azariah the son of Ahimaaz, 1 Chronicles 6:8; though another Zadok may be meant, and his son not a priest but a prince, as the word may be rendered, and was Solomon's prime minister of state, and the rather, since he is mentioned first.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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.
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