1 Kings 4:25
And Judah and Israel dwelled safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1 Kings

THE GREAT GAIN OF GODLINESS

1 Kings 4:25 - 1 Kings 4:34
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The glories of Solomon’s reign kindle the writer of this Book of Kings to patriotic enthusiasm, all the more touching if, as is probable, he wrote during Israel’s exile. The fair vision of the past would make the sad present still sadder. But it is not patriotism only which guides his pen; he recognises that Solomon’s glory was the result of Solomon’s religion, and by portraying it he would teach the eternal truth that godliness hath ‘promise of the life that now is’ as well as ‘of that which is to come.’ The passage brings out three characteristics of Solomon’s reign and character: the peace enjoyed by Israel during his time, his wealth, and his wisdom.

I. That beautiful phrase for a time of secure enjoyment of modest, material good in a simple state of agricultural society, ‘dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree’ occurs frequently in the Old Testament, and breathes the very essence of a calm life of rural felicity and restful enjoyment of wholesome joys. How different from the feverish ideal predominant in our great cities to-day! Which is the nobler and the more likely to yield abiding content and to be the ally of high and serious thought-this antique picture of leisurely, unambitious lives, or the scramble for wealth which destroys repose, and is so busy getting that it has no time either rightly to enjoy, or nobly to expend, its wealth? Those who have their country’s truest prosperity at heart may well sigh for the return of the vanished ideal of Solomon’s days; and those who would make the most of themselves must in some measure seek to conform their own lives to it.

But another view may be taken of this picture of national prosperity. Remember the time at which it was painted,-a time when the prosperity of a nation was thought to consist in conquest, and when the arts of peace were despised. How far beyond his era was the king who set his highest glory in securing for his people tranquil lives on their fertile homesteads, and condemned the vulgar glory of the conqueror! How far beyond his era was the writer who felt that the fairest page in his book was not that which told of battles and triumphs, but that which portrayed a peaceful reign, when swords were turned into ploughshares! The world has not yet learned that the highest function of government is to promote individual prosperity. The vulgar, wicked notion of ‘glory’ bewitches the nations still. A Europe, armed to the teeth and staggering under the weight of its weapons, has need to go to school to this old Hebrew ideal. ‘They didn’t know everything down in Judee,’ but they knew that peace has nobler victories than war has. The people who see nothing in the world’s history but natural evolution have a hard nut to crack in accounting for the singular fact that the Jew somehow or other had got hold of a truth to which the most advanced nations to-day have scarcely grown up.

II. The wealth of Solomon is illustrated by his large equipment of chariots and horsemen. The older habits of the nation had not favoured the use of either, and their employment by Solomon was a sign of growing luxury, which had the seeds of evil in it. But the novelty was characteristic of the change coming over Israel in his day, and of its closer intercourse with other nations. The number of forty thousand for the stalls of the horses is an evident clerical error, which is corrected in the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 9:25 to the more probable number of four thousand. A well-organised staff looked after provisioning the cavalry and chariot horses wherever they were quartered. This one instance of Solomon’s resources should be connected with the other details of these. The intention of all is, not only to magnify his wealth, but to bring out the fulfilment of the promise made to him as part of the reward of his prayer for wisdom, that he should have the inferior good which he had not asked, ‘both riches and honour.’

The principle which the writer of this book would confirm and exemplify is, that to the man who seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness all these things shall be added. Now the whole order of supernatural providences in the Old Testament was directed to making material prosperity depend on obedience to God. And we cannot assert that the New Testament order has the same purpose in view. ‘Prosperity was the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New.’ But even in Old Testament times outward prosperity did not always follow godliness, and the problem which has tortured all generations had already been raised, as the Book of Job and Psalm lxxiii show.

Undoubtedly, religion does contribute to prosperity. The natural tendency of the course of life which Christianity enjoins is to lead to moderate, modest success in a worldly point of view. Not many millionaires owe their millions to the practice of Christian virtues, but many a man owes his elevation from poverty to modest competence to the character and habits which his religion has stamped on him. People who get converted in the slums soon get out of the slums.

But, whether Christianity helps a man to worldly success or not, it helps him to get all the good out of the world that the world can give. It may, or may not, give dainties, but it will make brown bread sweet. It may, or may not, give wealth, but it will make the ‘little that a righteous man hath better than the riches of many wicked.’ They who know no higher good than earth can yield know not the highest good of earth; they who put worldly prosperity and treasure second find them far more precious and sweet than when they ranked them as first.

III. But the crown of Solomon’s gifts was his wisdom. And his elevation of intellectual and moral endowments above material good is as remarkable as his similar elevation of peace above warlike fame, and suggests the same questions as to the source of ideas so far ahead of what was then the world’s point of view. Observe that Solomon’s ‘wisdom’ in all its departments is traced to God its giver. Observe, too, that expression ‘largeness of heart,’ by which is meant, not width of quick sympathy or generosity, but what we should call comprehensive intellect. The ‘heart’ is the centre of the personal being, from which thoughts as well as affections flow, and the phrase here points to thoughts rather than to affections.

Solomon, then, was a many-sided student, and his ‘genius’ showed itself in very various forms. He lived before the days of specialists. The region of knowledge was so limited that a man could be master in many departments. Nowadays the mass has become so unmanageable that, to know one subject thoroughly, we have to be ignorant of many, like the scholar who had given his life to the study of the Greek noun, and, dying, lamented that he had not confined himself to the dative case! Practical wisdom, which had its field In doing justice between his subjects; shrewd observation of life, with wit to discern resemblances and to put wisdom into homely, short sayings; poetic sensibility and the gift of melodious speech; and, added to these manifold endowments, interest in, and rudimentary knowledge of, natural history and botany, make the points specified as Solomon’s wisdom.

‘A man so various that he seemed to be

Not one, but all mankind’s epitome,’-

the first and greatest of the few students or philosophers who have sat on thrones.

But the main thing to notice is that in Solomon we see exemplified the normal relation between religion and intellectual power and learning. Judge, artist, scientist, and all other thinkers and students, draw their power from God, and should use it for Him. And, on the other hand, Solomon’s example is a rebuke to those narrow-minded Christians who look askance at men of learning, letters, or science, as well as to those still more narrow-minded men of intellectual ability who think that science and religion must be sworn foes. If our religion is what it should be, it will widen our understanding all round.

‘Let knowledge grow from more to more, But more of reverence in us dwell.’1 Kings 4:25. Under his vine — Enjoying the fruit of his own labour with safety and comfort. Under these two trees, which were most used and cultivated by the Israelites, he understands all other fruit-bearing trees, and all other comforts. And they are brought in as sitting or dwelling under these trees, partly for recreation or delight in the shade, and partly for the comfort or advantage of the fruit; and withal, to signify their great security, not only in their strong cities, but even in the country, where the vines and fig-trees grew, which was most open to the incursions of their enemies.4:20-28 Never did the crown of Israel shine so bright, as when Solomon wore it. He had peace on all sides. Herein, his kingdom was a type of the Messiah's; for to Him it is promised that he shall have the heathen for his inheritance, and that princes shall worship him. The spiritual peace, and joy, and holy security, of all the faithful subjects of the Lord Jesus, were typified by that of Israel. The kingdom of God is not, as Solomon's was, meat and drink, but, what is infinitely better, righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. The vast number of his attendants, and the great resort to him, are shown by the provision daily made. Herein Christ far outdoes Solomon, that he feeds all his subjects, not with the bread that perishes, but with that which endures to eternal life.Under his vine ... - This phrase seems to have been common among the Jews, and even among neighboring nations 2 Kings 18:31, to express a time of quiet and security. It is used by the prophets in descriptions of the Messianic kingdom (marginal references). 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. Under his vine and under his fig tree; enjoying the fruit of his own labours with safety and comfort. Under these two trees, which were most used and cultivated by the Israelites, he understands all other fruit-bearing trees, and all other comforts, by a synecdoche. And they are brought in as sitting or dwelling under these trees, partly, for recreation or delight in the shade; and partly, for the comfort or advantage of the fruit; and withal, to note their great security, not only in their strong cities, but even in the country, where the vines and fig trees grew, which were most open to the incursions of their enemies. And Judah and Israel dwelt safely,.... Without fear of any injury done to their persons or properties by any enemy; which is, and will be, more abundantly fulfilled in Christ, the antitype of Solomon, Jeremiah 23:5;

every man under his vine, and under his fig tree; which were principal trees in the land of Judea, put for all the rest; and the phrase denotes the happy, safe, quiet, full, and peaceable enjoyment of all outward blessings, and is used of the times of the Messiah, Micah 4:4;

from Dan even to Beersheba; which were the two extremities of the land of Israel, north and south:

all the days of Solomon; so long this peace and safety continued, there being no wars in his time.

And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from {i} Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.

(i) Throughout all Israel.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
25. Judah and Israel] Clearly marked off from one another, though no separation had yet taken place.

under his vine and under his fig tree] A sort of proverbial description of a state of peace and prosperity. Cp. Micah 4:4. On the contrary, for a scene of desolation we have (Joel 1:12) ‘the vine is dried, and the fig tree languisheth.’ Cp. also Habakkuk 3:17.Verse 25. - And Judah and Israel [here we have the copula, the absence of which in ver. 20 suggests a corruption or confusion of the text] dwelt safely [Heb. confidently. Cf. Judges 8:11; 1 Samuel 12:11], every man under his vine and under his fig tree. [A proverbial expression (see 2 Kings 18:31, where it is used by Rabshakeh; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10) to denote rest and the undisturbed enjoyment of the fruits of the earth, not necessarily, as Keil, "the most costly products of the land." In invasions, raids, etc., it is still the custom of the East to cut and carry off all the crops, and fruits. Wordsworth notices that the vine often" clustered on the walls of houses (Psalm 128:3), or around and over the courtyards", from Dan even to Beersheba [i.e., from the extreme northern to the extreme southern (not eastern, as the American translator of Bahr) boundary, Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20; 2 Samuel 3:10]. Geber the son of Uri, in the land of Gilead, i.e., as the apposition "the land of Sihon ... and of Og..." clearly shows, the whole of the Israelitish land on the east of the Jordan, as in Deuteronomy 34:1; Judges 20:1, etc., with the simple exception of the districts placed under Bengeber and Ahinadab (1 Kings 4:13 and 1 Kings 4:14). אחד נציב, "one president was it who (was) in the land (of Gilead)." נציב cannot signify a military post or a garrison here, as in 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Samuel 13:3, etc., but is equivalent to נצּב, the president (1 Kings 4:7). The meaning is, that notwithstanding the great extent of this district, it had only one prefect.
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