1 Kings 4:2
And these were the princes which he had; Azariah the son of Zadok the priest,
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(2) And these were.—The officers described are of two classes—those attached to Solomon’s Court, and those invested with local authority.

The princes are evidently Solomon’s high counsellors and officers, “eating at the king’s table.” The word is derived from a root which means to “set in order.” It is significant that whereas in the lists of David’s officers in 2Samuel 8:16-18; 2Samuel 20:23-26, the captain of the host stands first, and is followed in one list by the captain of the body-guard, both are here preceded by the peaceful offices of the priests, scribes, and the recorder.

Azariah the son of Zadok the priest.—In 1Chronicles 6:9-10, we find Azariah described as the son of Ahimaaz, and so grandson of Zadok; and the note in 1Kings 4:10 (which is apparently out of its right place) seems to show that he was high priest at the time when the Temple was built. The title the “priest” in this place must be given by anticipation, for it is expressly said below that “Zadok and Abiathar were now the priests.” The use of the original word, Cohen (probably signifying “one who ministers”), appears sometimes to retain traces of the old times, when the priesthood and headship of the family were united, and to be applied accordingly to princes, to whom perhaps still attached something of the ancient privilege. Thus it is given to the sons of David in 2Samuel 8:18, where the parallel passage in 1Chronicles 18:17 has a paraphrase, “chief about the king,” evidently intended to explain the sense in which it is used in the older record. We may remember that David himself on occasions wore the priestly ephod (see 2Samuel 6:14). Possibly in this sense it is applied in 1Kings 4:5 to Zabud, the “king’s friend” (where the Authorised Version renders it by principal officer”). But in this verse there is every reason for taking it in the usual sense. Azariah was already a “prince” before he succeeded to the high priesthood. The mingling, of priestly and princely functions is characteristic of the time.

1 Kings 4:2. These were the princes which he had — The principal officers employed under him. Azariah the son — Or the grandson; of Zadok —

1 Chronicles 6:8-9. The priest — The second priest, or the priest that attended upon Solomon’s person, in holy offices and administrations. Or, as the Hebrew word here rendered priest may be, and is often, translated prince, in Scripture, this Azariah might be the highest officer of the state, next to the king; or the chief minister of state, by whom the great affairs of the kingdom were managed and prepared for the king’s consideration.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.Azariah, the son of Zadok, the priest - "The priest" here belongs to Azariah, not to Zadok. The term used כהן kôhên means sometimes a priest, sometimes a civil officer, with perhaps a semi-priestly character. (See 2 Samuel 8:18 note.) In this place it has the definite article prefixed, and can only mean "the high priest." Azariah, called here the "son," but really the "grandson," of Zadok, seems to have succeeded him in the priesthood 1 Chronicles 6:10. His position as high priest at the time when this list was made out gives Azariah the foremost place in it. 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.

The princes which he had, i.e. the chief rulers or officers belonging to him.

The son, or, the grandson, by comparing this with 1 Chronicles 6:8,9.

Of Zadok; either Zadok the priest, 1 Chronicles 6:8,9, or some other of that name.

The priest; So he was the second priest, or the priest that attended upon Solomon’s person in holy offices and administrations. But when this sacred writer professeth to give an account of Solomon’s princes, why should he put the second priest, or Solomon’s domestic priest, in the first place? or why should he be mentioned distinctly from his father, who was generally present with Solomon, and could easily, either by himself, or some other fit person or persons appointed by him, manage all the king’s sacred concerns? or why is he named before his father? Others therefore render this Hebrew word

prince, as it is used Genesis 41:45 47:22,26 Exo 2:16 2 Samuel 8:18. So he was either the chief in dignity, the first prince, and the highest officer in the state next to the king; or the chief minister of state, by whom the great affairs of state were managed and prepared for the king’s consideration, &c. 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.

And these were the {a} princes which he had; {b} Azariah the son of Zadok the priest,

(a) That is, his chief officers.

(b) He was the son of Achimais and Zadok's nephew.

2. Azariah the son of Zadok the priest] The two last words are to be referred to Azariah and not to Zadok. The Vat. LXX. omits the title, but the Alex. text has ὁ ἱερεύς. On the contrary the Vulgate renders ‘Sadoc Sacerdotis.’ The Zadok here named is the son of Ahitub (1 Chronicles 6:8), and Azariah was really his grandson, the order being Zadok-Ahimaaz-Azariah. The use of ‘son’ thus loosely for grandson is not uncommon in the Old Test. Thus (Genesis 29:5) Laban is called the son of Nahor. He was really the son of Bethuel. Similarly (Ezra 5:1) Zachariah the prophet is called the son of Iddo, though Barachiah was his father and Iddo his grandfather.

The words ‘the priest’ have caused much discussion, and on the margin of the A.V. ‘chief officer’ is given as an alternative meaning. That the word may have another sense seems plain from 2 Samuel 8:18. In that passage the same word is used of David’s sons, and is rendered ‘chief rulers’ or ‘princes’ in A.V. The R.V. translates ‘priests’ in the text, with ‘chief ministers’ in the margin. We can hardly however think that David’s sons were priests. But in the verse before us Azariah belongs to the priestly family, as much as Zadok and Abiathar who are called ‘priests’ (the same Hebrew word) in 1 Kings 4:4. Where there is no such connexion with the priestly line, Zabud the son of Nathan, in 1 Kings 4:5, is styled ‘principal officer’; the R.V. is consistent and renders ‘priest’ there too, but puts ‘chief minister’ as an alternative.

It is probably on account of the difficulty of so many persons being called by the title usually rendered ‘priest’ that the LXX. omits the title both after Azariah’s name, and after Zabud’s, calling the latter merely ἑταῖρος τοῦ βασιλέως. It seems clear however from the instance of David’s sons that the title had a sense in which it could be applied to others than those of the priestly line.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. Solomon's Judicial Wisdom. - As a proof that the Lord had bestowed upon Solomon unusual judicial wisdom, there is appended a decision of his in a very difficult case, in which Solomon had shown extraordinary intelligence. Two harlots living together in one house had each given birth to a child, and one of them had "overlaid" her child in the night while asleep (עליו שׁכבה אשׁר, because she had lain upon it), and had then placed her dead child in the other one's bosom and taken her living child away. When the other woman looked the next morning at the child lying in her bosom, she saw that it was not her own but the other woman's child, whereas the latter maintained the opposite. As they eventually referred the matter in dispute to the king, and each one declared that the living child was her own, the king ordered a sword to be brought, and the living child to be cut in two, and a half given to each. Then the mother of the living child, "because her bowels yearned upon her son," i.e., her maternal love was excited, cried out, "Give her (the other) the living child, but do not slay it;" whereas the latter said, "It shall be neither mine nor thine, cut it in pieces."
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