1 Kings 4:33
And he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that springs out of the wall: he spoke also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.
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(33) He spake of trees.—Of this verse there have been many interpretations. Josephus (Ant. viii. c.2, § 5) supposes Solomon’s utterances on these natural products to have been allegorical and symbolic, although he declares that he described them and their properties “like a philosopher.” Rabbinical and Oriental legends, eagerly accepted in mediaeval times, ascribed to him mystic knowledge and magical use of their occult properties. Modern writers have seen in this utterance the first dawn of a scientific natural history and idyllic poetry. In all these suppositions there is some truth, though each in its literal meaning evidently interprets the work of Solomon by the ideas of its own time. An examination of the Song of Songs, and even of the Book of Proverbs—to say nothing of Ecclesiastes and several of the Psalms, and of the Book of Job, which has been thought to belong to the age of Solomon—shows in them repeated exemplifications of a deep sense of the wonder and the beauty of Nature, and also a keen observation of Natural history in detail But it also shows, as might have been expected, a constant contemplation of God in and over Nature (much as in Psalms 104), a desire to know the secret of His dispensation therein, a conception of a unity in His law over all being, and as a necessary consequence of this, a tendency to mystic interpretation and parable. If in the works here referred to, and now lost to us, there were (as Ewald supposes) “the rudiments of a complete natural history,” it would be an anachronism to doubt that they were marked by these leading characteristics.

4:29-34 Solomon's wisdom was more his glory than his wealth. He had what is here called largeness of heart, for the heart is often put for the powers of the mind. He had the gift of utterance, as well as wisdom. It is very desirable, that those who have large gifts of any kind, should have large hearts to use them for the good of others. What treasures of wisdom and knowledge are lost! But every sort of knowledge that is needful for salvation is to be found in the holy Scriptures. There came persons from all parts, who were more eager after knowledge than their neighbours, to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Solomon was herein a type of Christ, in whom are hid all treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and hid for us, for he is made of God to us, wisdom. Christ's fame shall spread through all the earth, and men of all nations shall come to him, learn of him, and take upon them his easy yoke, and find rest for their souls.Trees ... - A keen appreciation of the beauties of nature, and a habit of minute observation, are apparent in the writings of Solomon that remain to us. The writer here means to say that Solomon composed special works on these subjects. The Lebanon cedars were the most magnificent of all the trees known to the Hebrews, and hence, represent in the Old Testament the grandest of vegetable productions. (Psalm 104:16; Sol 5:15; Ezekiel 31:3, etc.) For the hyssop, see Exodus 12:22 note.

Of beasts, and of fowls, and of creeping things, and of fishes - This is the usual Biblical division of the animal kingdom Genesis 1:26; Genesis 9:2; Psalm 148:10.

33. he spake of trees, from the cedar … to the hyssop—all plants, from the greatest to the least. The Spirit of God has seen fit to preserve comparatively few memorials of the fruits of his gigantic mind. The greater part of those here ascribed to him have long since fallen a prey to the ravages of time, or perished in the Babylonish captivity, probably because they were not inspired. Of trees, i.e. of all plants, of their nature and qualities; all which discourses are lost, without any impeachment of the perfection of the Holy Scriptures; which were not inspired and written to teach men philosophy or physic, but only to make men wise to salvation. See John 20:31 2 Timothy 3:16,17.

From the cedar tree unto the hyssop, i.e. from the greatest to the least. And he spake of trees,.... Of all trees, herbs, and plants, of the nature, virtues, and use them:

from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon: a mountain on the northern border of Judea, famous for cedars, the tallest and largest of trees:

even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall; which grew about Jerusalem, and in the mountains of it, as an Arabic writes testifies (p), the lowest and least herb; so that what is between the cedar and hyssop include trees and plants of every kind and sort: whether the same herb we call hyssop is meant, is not certain; some take it to be mint; others marjoram; some houseleek; others the wallflower; Levinus Lemnius (q) supposes it to be Adiantum, or maiden hair: the Targum interprets it allegorically, that he prophesied of the kings of the house of David in this world, and in the world to come of the Messiah:

he spake also of beasts, and of fowls, and of creeping things, and of fishes; he understood the nature of all sorts of animals in the earth, air, and sea, and discoursed of their names, kinds, qualities, and use, with the greatest ease and perspicuity; the Jews fancy that Aristotle's History of Animals is his, which that philosopher came upon, and published it in his own name. Suidas (r) says it was reported that Solomon wrote a book of medicines for all diseases, which was fixed to the entrance of the temple, which Hezekiah took away, because sick people applied to that for cure of their disorders, and neglected to pray to God.

(p) Isaac Ben Omram apud Bochart. Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 2. c. 50. col. 590. (q) Herb. Bibl. Explicat. c. 26. (r) In voce

And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the {n} hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.

(n) From the highest to the lowest.

33. And he spake] i.e. He gave descriptions of the whole vegetable world, and discussed the virtues of the various plants. For it has been always of their medicinal properties that the earliest works on plants have treated. They were the remedies for all diseases, and a knowledge of ‘simples,’ as they were called in England in old times, was counted for the highest wisdom.

the cedar] The tree of greatest glory in Palestine is named as one extreme of the vegetable world, and the hyssop on the wall as the other.

of beasts] Similarly, under the names of beasts, fowls, creeping things and fishes, the whole animal world is specified after the division of those times. The same classes are mentioned in the account of the creation. Josephus (Ant. viii. 2, 5) enlarges on the simple narrative of the text, telling how the king’s knowledge of the peculiarities of these various creatures was of the most thorough character. He then goes on to tell that he was endowed with power against demons, and could cure men who were possessed with evil spirits. He is also said to have left forms of incantation and exorcism, of which, Josephus says, some knowledge had come down to his own time, and he gives a story of a Jew who wrought such a cure as he describes in the presence of the emperor Vespasian.Verse 33. - And he spare of [i.e., discoursed, treated, not necessarily wrote] trees [In his proverbs and songs he exceeded the children of the East. But his knowledge was not only speculative, but scientific. In his acquaintance with natural history he outshone the Egyptians, ver. 20], from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon [A favourite illustration. The Jews had a profound admiration for all trees, and of these they justly regarded the cedar as king. Cf. Judges 9:15; Psalm 80:10; Psalm 104:16; Song of Solomon 5:15; Ezekiel 31:3] unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall [His knowledge, i.e., embraced the least productions of nature as well as the greatest. The common hyssop (Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4) can hardly be intended here, as that often attains a considerable height (two feet), but a miniature variety or moss like hyssop in appearance, probably Orthotrichura saxatile]: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. ["The usual Biblical division of the animal kingdom" (Rawlinson). The arrangment is hardly according to manner of motion (Bahr). If anything, it is according to elements - earth, sky, sea. Both Jewish and Mohammedan writers abound in exaggerated or purely fabulous accounts of Solomon's attainments and gifts. We may see the beginning of these in Jos., Ant. 8:02.5. "And" equals a still further proof of the blessings of peace - "those prefects (1 Kings 4:7.) provided for king Solomon, and all who came to the king's table, i.e., who were fed from the royal table, every one his month (see at 1 Kings 4:7), so that nothing was wanting (1 Kings 4:28), and conveyed the barley (the ordinary food of cattle in Palestine and the southern lands, where oats are not cultivated) and the straw for the horses and coursers to the place where it ought to be. To שׁם יהיה אשׁר the lxx, Vulg., and others supply המּלך as the subject: wherever the king might stay. This is certainly more in harmony with the imperfect יהיה than it would be to supply הרכשׁ, as Bochart and others propose; still it is hardly correct. For in that case ולרכשׁ לסּוּסים could only be understood as referring to the chariot horses and riding horses, which Solomon kept for the necessities of his court, and not to the whole of the cavalry; since we cannot possibly assume that even if Solomon changed his residence according to the season and to suit his pleasure, or on political grounds, as Thenius supposes, though this cannot by any means be inferred from 1 Kings 9:18 and 1 Kings 9:19, he took 16,000 horses about with him. But this limitation of the clause is evidently at variance with the context, since ולרכב לסּוּסים too plainly refer back to 1 Kings 4:6. Moreover, "if the king were intended, he would certainly have been mentioned by name, as so many other subjects and objects have come between." For these reasons we agree with Bttcher in taking יהיה indefinitely: "where it (barley and straw) was wanted, according to the distribution of the horses." רכשׁ probably denotes a very superior kind of horse, like the German Renner (a courser or race-horse). כּמשׁפּטו אישׁ, every one according to his right, i.e., whatever was appointed for him as right.
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