1 Kings 8:37
If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatever plague, whatever sickness there be;
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(37-40) If there be pestilence.—He then passes on to the various plagues threatened in the Law—famine, pestilence, blasting of the corn, mildew on the fruit, locust and caterpillar (see Leviticus 26:25-26; Deuteronomy 28:22-24; Deuteronomy 28:38-42), the distress of siege, so terribly depicted (Deuteronomy 28:52-57), and so often terribly fulfilled (not least in the last great siege of Jerusalem), and adds, to sum up all, “whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be.” Through any, or all of these, he pictures each man as brought to “know the plague of his own heart”—that is, as startled into a consciousness of sin, and recognition of it as the true “plague,” the cause of all outward plagues, and so drawn to prayer of penitence and of godly fear.

Thou only, knowest the hearts . . . of men. The emphasis laid on this knowledge of the heart (as in Psalm 11:4; Psalm 139:2-4; Jeremiah 17:9-10) as the special attribute of Deity, though, of course, belonging to all vital religion, yet marks especially the leading thought of the Psalms and the Proverbs, which always realise the presence of God, not so much in the outer spheres of Nature and history, as in the soul of man itself. It carries with it, as here, the conviction that, under the general dealings of God’s righteousness with man, there lies an individuality of judgment, making them to each exactly what his spiritual condition needs. The plague, for example, which cuts off one man unrepentant in his sins, may be to another a merciful “deliverance out of the miseries of this sinful world.”

1 Kings 8:37. If there be in the land famine — Which arose sometimes from other causes besides want of rain. If their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities — In their gates, whereby they should be so straitened, that none could go in or out. Whatsoever plague — The word נגע, negang, here rendered plague, properly signifies some extraordinary stroke by the hand of God. Whatsoever sickness there be — For Solomon believed whatever calamity befel other people, might light on Israel.8:22-53 In this excellent prayer, Solomon does as we should do in every prayer; he gives glory to God. Fresh experiences of the truth of God's promises call for larger praises. He sues for grace and favour from God. The experiences we have of God's performing his promises, should encourage us to depend upon them, and to plead them with him; and those who expect further mercies, must be thankful for former mercies. God's promises must be the guide of our desires, and the ground of our hopes and expectations in prayer. The sacrifices, the incense, and the whole service of the temple, were all typical of the Redeemer's offices, oblation, and intercession. The temple, therefore, was continually to be remembered. Under one word, forgive, Solomon expressed all that he could ask in behalf of his people. For, as all misery springs from sin, forgiveness of sin prepares the way for the removal of every evil, and the receiving of every good. Without it, no deliverance can prove a blessing. In addition to the teaching of the word of God, Solomon entreated the Lord himself to teach the people to profit by all, even by their chastisements. They shall know every man the plague of his own heart, what it is that pains him; and shall spread their hands in prayer toward this house; whether the trouble be of body or mind, they shall represent it before God. Inward burdens seem especially meant. Sin is the plague of our own hearts; our in-dwelling corruptions are our spiritual diseases: every true Israelite endeavours to know these, that he may mortify them, and watch against the risings of them. These drive him to his knees; lamenting these, he spreads forth his hands in prayer. After many particulars, Solomon concludes with the general request, that God would hearken to his praying people. No place, now, under the gospel, can add to the prayers made in or towards it. The substance is Christ; whatever we ask in his name, it shall be given us. In this manner the Israel of God is established and sanctified, the backslider is recovered and healed. In this manner the stranger is brought nigh, the mourner is comforted, the name of God is glorified. Sin is the cause of all our troubles; repentance and forgiveness lead to all human happiness.In the land of their cities - literally, "in the land of their gates." Hence, the marginal translation "jurisdiction," because judgments were pronounced in the town gates Deuteronomy 16:18. Another reading gives "in one of their cities." 1Ki 8:22-61. His Prayer.

22. Solomon stood before the altar—This position was in the court of the people, on a brazen scaffold erected for the occasion (2Ch 6:13), fronting the altar of burnt offering, and surrounded by a mighty concourse of people. Assuming the attitude of a suppliant, kneeling (1Ki 8:54; compare 2Ch 6:24) and with uplifted hands, he performed the solemn act of consecration—an act remarkable, among other circumstances, for this, that it was done, not by the high priest or any member of the Aaronic family, but by the king in person, who might minister about, though not in, holy things. This sublime prayer [1Ki 8:22-35], which breathes sentiments of the loftiest piety blended with the deepest humility, naturally bore a reference to the national blessing and curse contained in the law—and the burden of it—after an ascription of praise to the Lord for the bestowment of the former, was an earnest supplication for deliverance from the latter. He specifies seven cases in which the merciful interposition of God would be required; and he earnestly bespeaks it on the condition of people praying towards that holy place. The blessing addressed to the people at the close is substantially a brief recapitulation of the preceding prayer [1Ki 8:56-61].

Caterpillar, i.e. the plague of locusts, or caterpillars, infesting a land by their great numbers, and venomous or noxious qualities; of which see Exodus 10:4,5 Deu 28:42 Psalm 105:34,35.

Whatsoever plague; that chiefly signifies an extraordinary judgment sent from God. Through want of rain, or any other cause, as there had been a three years' famine in the time of David, and it is supposed it might be again, though Canaan was a land flowing with milk and honey:

if there be pestilence; as there had been, for David's numbering the people:

blasting; or blights, occasioned by the east wind:

mildew; a kind of clammy dew, which falling on plants, corn, &c. corrupts and destroys them, see Amos 4:9,

locust, or

if there be caterpillar; creatures very pernicious to the fruits of the earth, and cause a scarcity of them, see Joel 1:4,

if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; so that they cannot go out to gather the increase of the earth, or till their land:

whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be; whatever stroke from the hand of God, or what judgment or calamity soever befalls.

If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be;
37. If there be in the land famine] In this verse the king gathers together various judgements which God had threatened on His people if they sinned. For famine cf. Leviticus 26:20; Deuteronomy 11:17 : for blasting and mildew, Deuteronomy 28:22; for locust, Deuteronomy 28:38. The particular insect rendered ‘caterpillar’ in this verse is not mentioned in the Pentateuch, but we know from Joel 2:25, that some other kind, or stage of development, of locust is meant by it. In Deuteronomy 28:42 we have mention of an insect, also rendered ‘locust,’ which has a different name in the original from that spoken of in 1 Kings 8:38 of the same chapter. The siege by an enemy is threatened in Deuteronomy 28:52.

in the land of their cities] The Hebrew word translated ‘cities’ usually signifies ‘gates,’ and it is so rendered Deuteronomy 28:52 ‘He shall besiege thee in all thy gates.’ But in ‘gates’ the ‘cities,’ which alone possessed them, are implied. The LXX. and other versions have ‘in one of their cities.’ The Vulg. has ‘gates.’Verse 37. - If there be in the land famine [Heb. Famine should there be, etc. The word is emphatic by position. Famine is denounced, Leviticus 26:20, 26; Deuteronomy 28:33], if there be pestilence [Leviticus 26:25; Jeremiah 14:12; Jeremiah 24:10; Amos 4:10; Ezekiel 6:12, etc.], blasting [same word Genesis 41:6; Amos 4:9; Deuteronomy 28:22], mildew [lit. paleness, χλωρότης, Deuteronomy l.c.], locust, or if there be caterpillar [It is uncertain whether חָסִיל, lit., devourer, here rendered "caterpillar," is not an adjective and an appellation of the locust = devouring locust. Deuteronomy 28:38 (יַאֲסְלֶנוּ חָאַרְבֶּה "the locust shall consume it") certainly favours this view. But the Chronicles and the Verss. distinguish it here (by the introduction of "and" between the two words) as a separate plague. It is also similarly distinguished, Joel 1:4; Psalm 78:46. Gesen. considers it to be a species of locust]; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities [Heb. his gates, but "the land of his gates" hardly yields sense. It is noteworthy that the LXX. (with most of the Verss.) reads ἐν μιᾷ τῶν πόλεων αὐτοῦ. Thenius, consequently, to bring the Hebrew text into harmony, would substitute באחת עיריו for בארץ שעריו. Another suggested emendation is בארץ בשעריו, "in the land, even in their gates." But it is doubtful whether any alteration is really required. "The land of their gates" (cf. "land of their captivity," 2 Chronicles 6:37; Jeremiah 30:10, etc.) may perhaps be interpreted the land where their gates (i.e., fortified cities) are. The marg. "Jurisdiction" - the gate being the place of judgment (Ruth 4:11; Proverbs 22:22; 2 Samuel 15:2) - is altogether out of the question]; whatsoever plague, whatsoever [Heb. every plague, etc.] sickness there be. "That Thine eyes may be open upon this house night and day." אל־הבּית, speciali quadam providentia in hanc domum directi (Mich.). The following clause, "upon the place of which Thou hast said, My name shall be there" (namely, 2 Samuel 7:13, implicite), contains within itself the ground upon which the prayer rests. Because the name of God will be in the temple, i.e., because God will manifest His gracious presence there, He will also keep His eyes open upon it, so as to hear the prayer of Solomon directed towards it. הזּה המּקום אל (toward this place): because Solomon also was prayer in the court towards the temple. - In 1 Kings 8:30, "and hear the supplication of Thy servant and of Thy people Israel," he begins by asking that those prayers may be heard which the king and people shall henceforth bring before God in the temple. ושׁמעתּ corresponds to וּפנית in 1 Kings 8:28, and is more precisely defined by the following תּשׁמע ואתּה (as for these prayers), Thou wilt hear them up to the place of Thine abode, to heaven. אל שׁמע is a pregnant expression: to hear the prayer, which ascends to heaven. In the Chronicles we find throughout the explanatory מן. The last words, "hear and forgive," must be left in their general form, and not limited by anything to be supplied. Nothing but forgiveness of sin can remove the curse by which transgression is followed.

This general prayer is then particularized from 1 Kings 8:31 onwards by the introduction of seven special petitions for an answer in the different cases in which, in future, prayers may be offered to God in the temple. The first prayer (1 Kings 8:31, 1 Kings 8:32) has reference to the oaths sworn in the temple, the sanctity of which God is asked to protect. "If a man sin against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him, to cause him to swear, and he come (and) swear before the altar in this house, then wilt Thou hear," etc. אשׁר את does not mean either "granted that" (Thenius) or "just when" (Ewald, 533, a.), although אם is used in the Chronicles, and we might render it freely "when;" but את is simply an accusative particle, serving to introduce the following clause, in the sense of "as for," or "with regard to (such a case as) that a man sins" (vid., Ewald, 277, a.). אלה וּבא cannot be taken as anything but an asyndeton. For if אלה were a substantive, it would have the article (האלה) provided it were the subject, and the verb would be written בּאה; and if it were the object, we should have בּאלה, as in Nehemiah 10:30 (cf. Ezekiel 17:13). The prayer refers to the cases mentioned in Exodus 22:6-12 and Leviticus 26:17, when property entrusted to any one had been lost or injured, or when a thing had been found and the finding was denied, or when an act of fraud had been committed; in which cases the law required not only compensation with the addition of a fifth of its value, but also a trespass-offering as an expiation of the sin committed by taking a false oath. But as this punishment could only be inflicted when the guilty person afterwards confessed his guilt, many false oaths might have been sworn in the cases in question and have remained unpunished, so far as men were concerned. Solomon therefore prays that the Lord will hear every such oath that shall have been sworn before the altar, and work (עשׂית), i.e., actively interpose, and judge His servants, to punish the guilty and justify the innocent. The construction השּׁמים תּשׁמע (1 Kings 8:32, 1 Kings 8:34, 1 Kings 8:36, etc.) can be explained more simply from the adverbial use of the accusative (Ewald, 300, b.), than from השּׁמים אל in 1 Kings 8:30. בּראשׁו דּרכּו תּת, to give (bring) his way upon his head, i.e., to cause the merited punishment to fall upon him (cf. Ezekiel 9:10; Ezekiel 11:21, etc.). רשׁע הרשׁרע and צדּיק הצדּיק recall Deuteronomy 25:2. For כּצדקתו לו תּת compare 2 Samuel 22:21, 2 Samuel 22:25. - The following cases are all taken from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.

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