2 Chronicles 4
Expositor's Bible Commentary
Moreover he made an altar of brass, twenty cubits the length thereof, and twenty cubits the breadth thereof, and ten cubits the height thereof.

THE chronicler’s history of Solomon is constructed on the same principles as that of David, and for similar reasons. The builder of the first Temple commanded the grateful reverence of a community whose national and religious life centered in the second Temple. While the Davidic king became the symbol of the hope of Israel, the Jews could not forget that this symbol derived much of its significance from the widespread dominion and royal magnificence of Solomon. The chronicler, indeed, attributes great splendor to the court of David, and ascribes to him a lion’s share in the Temple itself. He provided his successor with treasure and materials and even the complete plans, so that on the principle, "Qui facit per alium, facit per se," David might have been credited with the actual building. Solomon was almost in the position of a modern engineer who puts together a steamer that has been built in sections. But, with all these limitations, the clear and obvious fact remained that Solomon actually built and dedicated the Temple. Moreover, the memory of his wealth and grandeur kept a firm hold on the popular imagination; and these conspicuous blessings were received as certain tokens of the favor of Jehovah.

Solomon’s fame, however, was threefold: he was not only the Divinely appointed builder of the Temple and, by the same Divine grace, the richest and most powerful king of Israel: he had also received from Jehovah the gift of "wisdom and knowledge." In his royal splendor and his sacred buildings he only differed in degree from other kings; but in his wisdom he stood alone, not only without equal, but almost without competitor. Herein he was under no obligation to his father, and the glory of Solomon could not be diminished by representing that he bad been anticipated by David. Hence the name of Solomon came to symbolize Hebrew learning and philosophy.

In religious significance, however, Solomon cannot rank with David. The dynasty of Judah could have only one representative, and the founder and eponym of the royal house was the most important figure for the subsequent theology. The interest that later generations felt in Solomon lay apart from the main line of Jewish orthodoxy, and he is never mentioned by the prophets.

Moreover, the darker aspects of Solomon’s reign made more impression upon succeeding generations than even David’s sins and misfortunes. Occasional lapses into vices and cruelty might be forgiven or even forgotten; but the systematic oppression of Solomon rankled for long generations in the hearts of the people, and the prophets always remembered his wanton idolatry. His memory was further discredited by the disasters which marked the close of his own reign and the beginning of Rehoboam’s. Centuries later these feelings still prevailed. The prophets who adopted the Mosaic law for the closing period of the monarchy exhort the king to take warning by Solomon, and to multiply neither horses, nor wives, nor gold and silver. {Deuteronomy 17:16-17; Cf. 2 Chronicles 1:14-17 and 1 Kings 11:3-8}

But as time went on Judah fell into growing poverty and distress, which came to a head in the Captivity and were renewed with the Restoration. The Jews were willing to forget Solomon’s faults in order that they might indulge in fond recollections of the material prosperity of his reign. Their experience of the culture of Babylon led them to feel greater interest and pride in his wisdom, and the figure of Solomon began to assume a mysterious grandeur, which has since become the nucleus for Jewish and Mohammedan legends. The chief monument of his fame in Jewish literature is the book of Proverbs, but his growing reputation is shown by the numerous Biblical and apocryphal works ascribed to him. His name was no doubt attached to Canticles because of a feature in his character which the chronicler ignores. His supposed authorship of Ecclesiastes and of the Wisdom of Solomon testifies to the fame of his wisdom, while the titles of the "Psalms of’ Solomon" and even of some canonical psalms credit him with spiritual feeling and poetic power.

When the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach proposes to "praise famous men," it dwells upon Solomon’s temple and his wealth, and especially upon his wisdom; but it does not forget his failings. {Sir 47:12-21} Josephus celebrates his glory at great length. The New Testament has comparatively few notices of Solomon; but these include references to his wisdom, {Matthew 12:42} his splendor, {Matthew 6:29} and his temple. {Acts 7:47} The Koran, however, far surpasses the New Testament in its interest in Solomon; and his name and his seal play a leading part in Jewish and Arabian magic. The bulk of this literature is later than the chronicler, but the renewed interest in the glory of Solomon must have begun before his time. Perhaps, by connecting the building of the Temple as far as possible with David, the chronicler marks his sense of

Solomon’s unworthiness. On the other hand, there were many reasons why he should welcome the aid of popular sentiment to enable him to include Solomon among the ideal Hebrew kings. After all, Solomon had built and dedicated the Temple; he was the "pious founder," and the beneficiaries of the foundation would wish to make the most of his piety. "Jehovah" had "magnified Solomon exceedingly in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed upon him such royal majesty as had not been on any king before him in Israel." {1 Chronicles 29:25} "King Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom; and all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart." {2 Chronicles 9:22-23} The chronicler would naturally wish to set forth the better side of Solomon’s character as an ideal of royal wisdom and splendor, devoted to the service of the sanctuary. Let us briefly compare Chronicles and Kings to see how he accomplished his purpose.

The structure of the narrative in Kings rendered the task comparatively easy: it could be accomplished by removing the opening and closing sections and making a few minor changes in the intermediate portion. The opening section is the sequel to the conclusion of David’s reign; the chronicler omitted this conclusion, and therefore also its sequel. But the contents of this section were objectionable in themselves. Solomon’s admirers willingly forgot that his reign was inaugurated by the execution of Shimei, of his brother Adonijah, and of his father’s faithful minister Joab, and by the deposition of the high-priest Abiathar. The chronicler narrates with evident approval the strong measures of Ezra and Nehemiah against foreign marriages, and he is therefore not anxious to remind his readers that Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter. He does not, however, carry out his plan consistently. Elsewhere he wishes to emphasize the sanctity of the Ark and tells us that "Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he had built for her, for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David, king of Israel, because the places are holy whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come." {2 Chronicles 8:11}

In Kings the history of Solomon closes with a long account of his numerous wives and concubines, his idolatry and consequent misfortunes. All this is omitted by the chronicler; but later on, with his usual inconsistency, he allows Nehemiah to point the moral of a tale he has left untold: "Did not Solomon, king of Israel, sin by these things? Even him did strange women cause to sin." {Nehemiah 13:26} In the intervening section he omits the famous judgment of Solomon, probably on account of the character of the women concerned, he introduces sundry changes which naturally follow from his belief that the Levitical law was then in force. His feeling for the dignity of the chosen people and their king comes out rather curiously in two minor alterations. Both authorities agree in telling us that Solomon had recourse to forced labor for his building operations; in fact, after the usual Eastern fashion from the Pyramids down to the Suez Canal, Solomon’s temple and palaces were built by the corvee. According to the oldest narrative, he "raised a levy out of all Israel." This suggests that forced labor was exacted from the Israelites themselves, and it would help to account for Jeroboam’s successful rebellion. The chronicler omits this statement as open to an interpretation derogatory to the dignity of the chosen people, and not only inserts a later explanation which he found in the book of Kings, but also another express statement that Solomon raised his levy of the "strangers that were in the land of Israel." {2 Chronicles 2:2; 2 Chronicles 2:17-18; 2 Chronicles 8:7-10} These statements may have been partly suggested by the existence of a class of Temple slaves called Solomon’s servants.

The other instance relates to Solomon’s alliance with Hiram, king of Tyre. In the book of Kings we are told that "Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee." {1 Kings 9:11-12} There were indeed redeeming features connected with the transaction; the cities were not a very valuable possession for Hiram: "they pleased him not"; yet he "sent to the king six score talents of gold." However, it seemed incredible to the chronicler that the most powerful and wealthy of the kings of Israel should either cede or sell any portion of Jehovah’s inheritance. He emends the text of his authority so as to convert it into a causal reference to certain cities which Hiram had given to Solomon. {2 Chronicles 8:1-2. R.V}

We will now reproduce the story of Solomon as given by the chronicler. Solomon was the youngest of four sons born to David at Jerusalem by Bathshua, the daughter of Ammiel. Besides these three brothers, he had at least six other eider brothers. As in the cases of Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David himself, the birthright fell to a younger son. In the prophetic utterance which foretold his birth, he was designated to succeed to his father’s throne and to build the Temple. At the great assembly which closed his father’s reign he received instructions as to the plans and services of the Temple, {1 Chronicles 28:9} and was exhorted to discharge his duties faithfully. He was declared king according to the Divine choice, freely accepted by David and ratified by popular acclamation. At David’s death no one disputed his succession to the throne: "All Israel obeyed him; and all the princes and the mighty men and all the sons likewise of King David submitted themselves unto Solomon the king." {1 Chronicles 29:23-24}

His first act after his accession was to sacrifice before the brazen altar of the ancient Tabernacle at Gideon. That night God appeared unto him "and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee." Solomon chose wisdom and knowledge to qualify-him for the arduous task of government. Having thus "sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," all other things -" riches, wealth, and honor"-were added unto him. {2 Chronicles 1:7-13}

He returned to Jerusalem, gathered a great array of chariots and horses by means of traffic with Egypt, and accumulated great wealth, so that silver, and gold, and cedars became abundant at Jerusalem. {2 Chronicles 1:14-17}

He next proceeded with the building of the Temple, collected workmen, obtained timber from Lebanon and an artificer from Tyre. The Temple was duly erected and dedicated, the king taking the chief and most conspicuous part in all the proceedings. Special reference, however, is made to the presence of the priests and Levites at the dedication. On this occasion the ministry of the sanctuary was not confined to the course whose turn it was to officiate, but "all the priests that were present had sanctified themselves and did not keep their courses; also the Levites, which were the singers, all of them, even Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun, and their sons and their brethren, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, and psalteries, and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them a hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets."

Solomon’s dedication prayer concludes with special petitions for the priests, the saints, and the king: "Now therefore arise, O Jehovah Elohim, into Thy resting-place, Thou and the ark of Thy strength; let Thy priests, O Jehovah Elohim, be clothed with salvation, and let Thy saints rejoice in goodness. O Jehovah Elohim, turn not away the face of Thine anointed; remember the mercies of David Thy servant."

When David sacrificed at the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, the place had been indicated as the site of the future Temple by the descent of fire from heaven; and now, in token that the mercy shown to David should be continued to Solomon, the fire again fell from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of Jehovah "filled the house of Jehovah," as it had done earlier in the day, when the Ark was brought into the Temple. Solomon concluded the opening ceremonies by a great festival: for eight days the Feast of Tabernacles was observed according to the Levitical law, and seven days more were specially devoted to a dedication feast.

Afterwards Jehovah appeared again to Solomon, as He had before at Gibeon, and told him that this prayer was accepted. Taking up the several petitions that the king had offered, He promised, "If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I send pestilence among My people; if My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now Mine eyes shall be open, and Mine ears attent, unto the prayer that is made in this place." Thus Jehovah, in His gracious condescension, adopts Solomon’s own words to express His answer to the prayer. He allows Solomon to dictate the terms of the agreement, and merely appends His signature and seal.

Besides the Temple, Solomon built palaces for himself and his wife, and fortified many cities, among the rest Hamath-zobah, formerly allied to David. He also organized the people for civil and military purposes.

As far as the account of his reign is concerned, the Solomon of Chronicles appears as "the husband of one wife"; and that wife is the daughter of Pharaoh. A second, however, is mentioned later on as the mother of Rehoboam; she too was a "strange woman," an Ammonitess, Naamah by name.

Meanwhile Solomon was careful to maintain all the sacrifices and festivals ordained in the Levitical law, and all the musical and other arrangements for the sanctuary commanded by David, the man of God.

We read next of his commerce by sea and land, his great wealth and wisdom, and the romantic visit of the queen of Sheba.

And so the story of Solomon closes with this picture of royal state, -

"The wealth of Ormus and of Ind, Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold."

Wealth was combined with imperial power and Divine wisdom. Here, as in the case of Plato’s own pupils Dionysius and Dion of Syracuse, Plato’s dream came true; the prince was a philosopher, and the philosopher a prince.

At first sight it seems as if this marriage of authority and wisdom had happier issue at Jerusalem than at Syracuse. Solomon’s history closes as brilliantly as David’s, and Solomon was subject to no Satanic possession and brought no pestilence upon Israel. But testimonials are chiefly significant in what they omit; and when we compare the conclusions of the histories of David and Solomon, we note suggestive differences.

Solomon’s life does not close with any scene in which his people and his heir assemble to do him honor and to receive his last injunctions. There are no "last words" of the wise king; and it is not said of him that "he died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honor." "Solomon slept with his fathers, and he was buried in the city of David his father; and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead" that is all. When the chronicler, the professed panegyrist of the house of David, brings his narrative of this great reign to so lame and impotent a conclusion, he really implies as severe a condemnation upon Solomon as the book of Kings does by its narrative of his sins.

Thus the Solomon of Chronicles shows the same piety and devotion to the Temple and its ritual which were shown by his father. His prayer at the dedication of the Temple is parallel to similar utterances of David. Instead of being a general and a soldier, he is a scholar and a philosopher. He succeeded to the administrative abilities of his father; and his prayer displays a deep interest in the welfare of his subjects. His record-in Chronicles-is even more faultless than that of David. And yet the careful student with nothing but Chronicles, even without Ezra and Nehemiah, might somehow get the impression that the story of Solomon, like that of Cambuscan, had been "left half told." In addition to the points suggested by a comparison with the history of David, there is a certain abruptness about its conclusion. The last fact noted of Solomon, before the formal statistics about "the rest of his acts" and the years of his reign, is that horses were brought for him "out of Egypt and out of all lands." Elsewhere the chronicler’s use of his materials shows a feeling for dramatic effect. We should not have expected him to close the history of a great reign by a reference to the king’s trade in horses. {1 Chronicles 9:28}

Perhaps we are apt to read into Chronicles what we know from the book of Kings; yet surely this abrupt conclusion would have raised a suspicion that there were omissions, that facts had been suppressed because they could not bear the light. Upon the splendid figure of the great king, with his wealth and wisdom, his piety and devotion, rests the vague shadow of unnamed sins and unrecorded misfortunes. A suggestion of unhallowed mystery attaches itself to the name of the builder of the Temple, and Solomon is already on the way to become the Master of the Genii and the chief of magicians.

When we turn to consider the spiritual significance of this ideal picture of the history and character of Solomon, we are confronted by a difficulty that attends the exposition of any ideal history. An author’s ideal of kingship in the early stages of literature is usually as much one and indivisible as his ideal of priesthood, of the office of the prophet, and of the wicked king. His authorities may record different incidents in connection with each individual; but he emphasizes those which correspond with his ideal, or even anticipates the higher criticism by constructing incidents which seem required by the character and circumstances of his heroes. On the other hand, where the priest, or the prophet, or the king departs from the ideal, the incidents are minimized or passed over in silence. There will still be a certain variety because different individuals may present different elements of the ideal, and the chronicler does not insist on each of his good kings possessing all the characteristics of royal perfection. Still the tendency of the process is to make all the good kings alike. It would be monotonous to take each of them separately and deduce the lessons taught by their virtues, because the chronicler’s intention is that they shall all teach the same lessons by the same kind of behavior described from the same point of view. David has a unique position, and has to be taken by himself; but in considering the features that must be added to the picture of David in order to complete the picture of the good king, it is convenient to group Solomon with the reforming kings of Judah. We shall therefore defer for more consecutive treatment the chronicler’s account of their general characters and careers. Here we shall merely gather up the suggestions of the different narratives as to the chronicler’s ideal Hebrew king. The leading points have already been indicated from the chronicler’s history of David. The first and most indispensable feature is devotion to the temple at Jerusalem and the ritual of the Pentateuch. This has been abundantly illustrated from the account of Solomon. Taking the reforming kings in their order:-

Asa removed the high places which were rivals of the Temple, renewed the altar of Jehovah, gathered the people together for a great sacrifice, and made munificent donations to the Temple treasury. {2 Chronicles 15:18-19}

Similarly Jehoshaphat took away the high places, and sent out a commission to teach the Law.

Joash repaired the Temple; {2 Chronicles 24:1-14} but, curiously enough, though Jehoram had restored the high places and Joash was acting under the direction of the high-priest Jehoiada, it is not stated that the high places were done away with. This is one of the chronicler’s rather numerous oversights. Perhaps, however, he expected that so obvious a reform would be taken for granted. Amaziah was careful to observe "the law in the book of Moses" that "the children should not die for the fathers," {2 Chronicles 25:4} but Amaziah soon turned away from following Jehovah. This is perhaps the reason why in his case also nothing is said about doing away with the high places. Hezekiah had a special opportunity of showing his devotion to the Temple and the Law. The Temple had been polluted and closed by Ahaz, and its services discontinued. Hezekiah purified the Temple, reinstated the priests and Levites, and renewed the services; he made arrangements for the payment of the Temple revenues according to the provisions of the Levitical law, and took away the high places. He also held a reopening festival and a passover with numerous sacrifices. Manasseh’s repentance is indicated by the restoration of the Temple ritual. {2 Chronicles 33:16} Josiah took away the high places, repaired the Temple, made the people enter into a covenant to observe the rediscovered Law, and, like Hezekiah, held a great Passover {2 Chronicles 34:1-33; 2 Chronicles 35:1-27} The reforming kings, like David and Solomon, are specially interested in the music of the Temple and in all the arrangements that have to do with the porters and doorkeepers and other classes of Levites. Their enthusiasm for the exclusive rights of the one Temple symbolizes their loyalty to the one God, Jehovah, and their hatred of idolatry. Zeal for Jehovah and His temple is still combined with uncompromising assertion of the royal supremacy in matters of religion. The king, and not the priest, is the highest spiritual authority in the nation. Solomon, Hezekiah, and Josiah control the arrangements for public worship as completely as Moses or David. Solomon receives Divine communications without the intervention of either priest or prophet; he himself offers the great dedication prayer, and when he makes an end of praying, fire comes down from heaven. Under Hezekiah the civil authorities decide when the passover shall be observed: "For the king had taken counsel, and his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the passover in the second month." {2 Chronicles 30:2} The great reforms of Josiah are throughout initiated and controlled by the king. He himself goes up to the Temple and reads in the ears of the people all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of Jehovah. The chronicler still adheres to the primitive idea of the theocracy, according to which the chief, or judge, or king is the representative of Jehovah. The title to the crown rests throughout on the grace of God and the will of the people. In Judah, however, the principle of hereditary succession prevails throughout. Athaliah is not really an exception: she reigned as the widow of a Davidic king. The double election of David by Jehovah and by Israel carried with it the election of his dynasty. The permanent rule of the house of David was secured by the Divine promise to its founder. Yet the title is not allowed to rest on mere hereditary right. Divine choice and popular recognition are recorded in the case of Solomon and other kings. "All Israel came to Shechem to make Rehoboam king," and yet revolted from him when he refused to accept their conditions; but the obstinacy which caused the disruption "was brought about of God, that Jehovah might establish His word which He spake by the hand of Ahijah the Shilonite."

Ahaziah, Joash, Uzziah, Josiah, Jehoahaz, were all set upon the throne by the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. {2 Chronicles 22:1, 2 Chronicles 23:1-15, 2 Chronicles 26:1, 2 Chronicles 33:25, 2 Chronicles 36:1} After Solomon the Divine appointment of kings is not expressly mentioned; Jehovah’s control over the tenure of the throne is chiefly shown by the removal of unworthy occupants.

It is interesting to note that the chronicler does not hesitate to record that of the last three sovereigns of Judah two were appointed by foreign kings: Jehoiakim was the nominee of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt; and the last king of all, Zedekiah, was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. In like manner, the Herods, the last rulers of the restored kingdom of Judah, were the nominees of the Roman emperors. Such nominations forcibly illustrate the degradations and ruin of the theocratic monarchy. But yet, according to the teaching of the prophets, Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar were tools in the hand of Jehovah: and their nomination was still an indirect Divine appointment. In the chronicler’s time, however, Judah was thoroughly accustomed to receive her governors from a Persian or Greek king; and Jewish readers would not be scandalized by a similar state of affairs in the closing years of the earlier kingdom.

Thus the reforming kings illustrate the ideal kingship set forth in the history of David and Solomon: the royal authority originates in, and is controlled by, the will of God and the consent of the people: the king’s highest duty is the maintenance of the worship of Jehovah; but the king and people are supreme both in Church and state.

The personal character of the good kings is also very similar to that of David and Solomon. Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah are men of spiritual feeling as well as careful observers of correct ritual. None of the good kings, with the exception of Joash and Josiah, are unsuccessful in war; and good reasons are given for the exceptions. They all display administrative ability by their buildings, the organization of the Temple services and the army, and the arrangements for the collection of the revenue, especially the dues of the priests and Levites.

There is nothing, however, to indicate that the personal charm of David’s character was inherited by his descendants; but when biography is made merely a means of edification, it often loses those touches of nature which make the whole world kin, and are capable of exciting either admiration or disgust.

The later narrative affords another illustration of the absence of any sentiment of humanity towards enemies. As in the case of David, the chronicler records the cruelty of a good king as if it were quite consistent with loyalty to Jehovah. Before he turned away from following Jehovah, Amaziah defeated the Edomites and smote ten thousand of them. Others were treated like some of the Malagasy martyrs: "And other ten thousand did the children of Judah carry away alive, and brought them unto the top of the rock, and cast them down from the top of the rock, that they all were broken in pieces." {1 Chronicles 25:11} In this case, however, the chronicler is not simply reproducing Kings: he has taken the trouble to supplement his main authority from some other source, probably local tradition. His insertion of this verse is another testimony to the undying hatred of Israel for Edom.

But in one respect the reforming kings are sharply distinguished from David and Solomon. The record of their lives is by no means blameless, and their sins are visited by condign chastisement. They all, with the single exception of Jotham, come to a bad end. Asa consulted physicians, and was punished by being allowed to die of a painful disease. {2 Chronicles 16:12} The last event of Jehoshaphat’s life was the ruin of the navy, which he had built in unholy alliance with Ahaziah, king of Israel, who did very wickedly. {2 Chronicles 20:37} Joash murdered the prophet Zechariah, the son of the high-priest Jehoiada; his great host was routed by a small company of Syrians, and Joash himself was assassinated by his servants. {2 Chronicles 24:20-27} Amaziah turned away from following Jehovah, and "brought the gods of the children of Self, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them." He was accordingly defeated by Joash, king of Israel, and assassinated by his own people. {2 Chronicles 25:14-27} Uzziah insisted on exercising the priestly function of burning incense to Jehovah, and so died a leper. {2 Chronicles 26:16-23} "Even Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him, for his heart was lifted up in the business of ambassadors of the princes of Babylon; therefore there was wrath upon him and upon Judah and Jerusalem. Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of Jehovah came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah." But yet the last days of Hezekiah were clouded by the thought that he was leaving the punishment of his sin as a legacy to Judah and the house of David. {2 Chronicles 32:25-33} Josiah refused to heed the warning sent to him by God through the king of Egypt: "He hearkened not unto the words of Neco from the mouth of God, and came to fight in the valley of Megiddo"; and so Josiah died like Ahab: he was wounded by the archers, carried out of the battle in his chariot, and died at Jerusalem. {2 Chronicles 35:20-27}

The melancholy record of the misfortunes of the good kings in their closing years is also found in the book of Kings. There too Asa in his old age was diseased in his feet, Jehoshaphat’s ships were wrecked, Joash and Amaziah were assassinated, Uzziah became a leper, Hezekiah was rebuked for his pride, and Josiah slain at Megiddo. But, except in the case of Hezekiah, the book of Kings says nothing about the sins which, according to Chronicles, occasioned these sufferings and catastrophes. The narrative in the book of Kings carries upon the face of it the lesson that piety is not usually rewarded with unbroken prosperity, and that a pious career does not necessarily ensure a happy deathbed. The significance of the chronicler’s additions will be considered elsewhere: what concerns us here is his departure from the principles he observed in dealing with the lives of David and Solomon. They also sinned and suffered; but the chronicler omits their sins and sufferings, especially in the case of Solomon. Why does he pursue an opposite course with other good kings and blacken their characters by perpetuating the memory of sins not mentioned in the book of Kings, instead of confining his record to the happier incidents of their career? Many considerations may have influenced him. The violent deaths of Joash, Amaziah, and Josiah could neither be ignored nor explained away. Hezekiah’s sin and repentance are closely parallel to David’s in the matter of the census. Although Asa’s disease, Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Israel, and Uzziah’s leprosy might easily have been omitted, yet, if some reformers must be allowed to remain imperfect, there was no imperative necessity to ignore the infirmities of the rest. The great advantage of the course pursued by the chronicler consisted in bringing out a clearly defined contrast between David and Solomon on the one hand and the reforming kings on the other. The piety of the latter is conformed to the chronicler’s ideal; but the glory and devotion of the former are enhanced by the crimes and humiliation of the best of their successors. Hezekiah, doubtless, is not more culpable than David, but David’s pride was the first of a series of events which terminated in the building of the Temple; while the uplifting of Hezekiah’s heart was a precursor of its destruction. Besides, Hezekiah ought to have profited by David’s experience.

By developing this contrast, the chronicler renders the position of David and Solomon even more unique, illustrious, and full of religious significance.

Thus as illustrations of ideal kingship the accounts of the good kings of Judah are altogether subordinate to the history of David and Solomon. While these kings of Judah remained loyal to Jehovah, they further illustrated the virtues of their great predecessors by showing how these virtues might have been exercised Under different circumstances: how David would have dealt with an Ethiopian invasion and what Solomon would have done if he had found the Temple desecrated and its services stopped. But no essential feature is added to the earlier pictures.

The lapses of kings who began to walk in the law of the Lord and then fell away serve as foils to the undimmed glory of David and Solomon. Abrupt transitions within the limits of the individual lives of Asa, Joash, and Amaziah bring out the contrast between piety and apostasy with startling, dramatic effect.

We return from this brief survey to consider the significance of the life of Solomon according to Chronicles. Its relation to the life of David is summed up in the name Solomon, the Prince of peace. David is the ideal king, winning by force of arms for Israel empire and victory, security at home and tribute from abroad. Utterly subdued by his prowess, the natural enemies of Israel no longer venture to disturb her tranquility. His successor inherits wide dominion, immense wealth, and assured peace. Solomon, the Prince of peace, is the ideal king, administering a great inheritance for the glory of Jehovah and His temple. His history in Chronicles is one of unbroken calm. He has a great army and many strong fortresses, but he never has occasion to use them. He implores Jehovah to be merciful to Israel when they suffer from the horrors of war; but he is interceding, not for his own subjects, but for future generations. In his time-

"No war or battle’s sound

Was heard the world around:

The idle spear and shield were high uphung;

The hooked chariot stood

Unstained with hostile blood;

The trumpet spake not to the armed throng."

Perhaps, to use a paradox, the greatest proof of Solomon’s wisdom was that he asked for wisdom. He realized at the outset of his career that a wide dominion is more easily won than governed, that to use great wealth honorably requires more skill and character than are needed to amass it. Today the world can boast half a dozen empires surpassing not merely Israel, but even Rome, in extent of dominion; the aggregate wealth of the world is far beyond the wildest dreams of the chronicler: but still the people perish for lack of knowledge. The physical and moral foulness of modern cities taints all the culture and tarnishes all the splendor of our civilization; classes and trades, employers and employed, maim and crush one another in blind struggles to work out a selfish salvation; newly devised organizations move their unwieldy masses-

"like dragons of the prime That tare each other."

They have a giant’s strength, and use it like a giant. Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers; and the world waits for the reign of the Prince of peace who is not only the wise king, but the incarnate wisdom of God.

Thus one striking suggestion of the chronicler’s history of Solomon is the special need of wisdom and Divine guidance for the administration of a great and prosperous empire.

Too much stress, however, must not be laid on the twofold personality of the ideal king. This feature is adopted from the history, and does not express any opinion of the chronicler that the characteristic gifts of David and Solomon could not be combined in a single individual. Many great generals have also been successful administrators. Before Julius Caesar was assassinated he had already shown his capacity to restore order and tranquility to the Roman world; Alexander’s plans for the civil government of his conquests were as far-reaching as his warlike ambition; Diocletian reorganized the empire which his sword had re-established; Cromwell’s schemes of reform showed an almost prophetic insight into the future needs of the English people; the glory of Napoleon’s victories is a doubtful legacy to France compared with the solid benefits of his internal reforms.

But even these instances, which illustrate the union of military genius and administrative ability, remind us that the assignment of success in war to one king and a reign of peace to the next is, after all, typical. The limits of human life narrow its possibilities. Caesar’s work had to be completed by Augustus; the great schemes of Alexander and Cromwell fell to the ground because no one arose to play Solomon to their David.

The chronicler has specially emphasized the indebtedness of Solomon to David. According to his narrative, the great achievement of Solomon’s reign, the building of the Temple, has been rendered possible by David’s preparations. Quite apart from plans and materials, the chronicler’s view of the credit due to David in this matter is only reasonable recognition of service rendered to the religion of Israel. Whoever provided the timber and stone, the silver and gold, for the Temple, David won for Jehovah the land and the city that were the outer courts of the sanctuary, and roused the national spirit that gave to Zion its most solemn consecration. Solomon’s temple was alike the symbol of David’s achievements and the coping-stone of his work.

By compelling our attention to the dependence of the Prince of Peace upon the man who "had shed much blood," the chronicler admonishes us against forgetting the price that has been paid for liberty and culture. The splendid courtiers whose "apparel" specially pleased the feminine tastes of the queen of Sheba might feel all the contempt of the superior person for David’s war-worn veterans. The latter probably were more at home in the "store cities" than at Jerusalem. But without the blood and toil of these rough soldiers Solomon would have had no opportunity to exchange riddles with his fair visitor and to dazzle her admiring eyes with the glories of his temple and palaces.

The blessings of peace are not likely to be preserved unless men still appreciate and cherish the stern virtues that flourish in troubled times. If our own times become troubled, and their serenity be invaded by fierce conflict, it will be ours to remember that the rugged life of "the hold in the wilderness" and the struggles with the Philistines may enable a later generation to build its temple to the Lord and to learn the answers to "hard questions." {2 Chronicles 9:1} Moses and Joshua, David and Solomon, remind us again how the Divine work is handed on from generation to generation: Moses leads Israel through the wilderness, but Joshua brings them into the Land of Promise: David collects the materials, but Solomon builds the Temple. The settlement in Palestine and the building of the Temple were only episodes in the working out of the "one increasing purpose," but one leader and one lifetime did not suffice for either episode. We grow impatient of the scale upon which God works: we want it reduced to the limits of our human faculties and of our earthly lives; yet all history preaches patience. In our demand for Divine interventions whereby-

"sudden in a minute All is accomplished, and the work is done,"

we are very Esaus, eager to sell the birthright of the future for a mess of pottage today.

And the continuity of the Divine purpose is only realized through the continuity of human effort. We must indeed serve our own generation; but part of that service consists in providing that the next generation shall be trained to carry on the work, and that after David shall come Solomon-the Solomon of Chronicles, and not the Solomon of Kings-and that, if possible, Solomon shall not be succeeded by Rehoboam. As we attain this larger outlook, we shall be less tempted to employ doubtful means, which are supposed to be justified by their end; we shall be less enthusiastic for processes that bring "quick returns," but give very "small profits" in the long run. Christian workers are a little too fond of spiritual jerry-building, as if sites in the kingdom of Heaven were let out on ninety-nine-year leases; but God builds for eternity, and we are fellow-workers together with Him.

To complete the chronicler’s picture of the ideal king, we have to add David’s warlike prowess and Solomon’s wisdom and splendor to the piety and graces common to both. The result is unique among the many pictures that have been drawn by historians, philosophers, and poets. It has a value of its own, because the chronicler’s gifts in the way of history, philosophy, and poetry were entirely subordinated to his interest in theology; and most theologians have only been interested in the doctrine of the king when they could use it to gratify the vanity of a royal patron.

The full-length portrait in Chronicles contrasts curiously with the little vignette preserved in the book which bears the name of Solomon. There, in the oracle which King Lemuel’s mother taught him, the king is simply admonished to avoid strange women and strong drink, to "judge righteously, and minister judgment to the poor and needy." {Proverbs 31:1-9}

To pass to more modern theology, the theory of the king that is implied in Chronicles has much in common with Wyclif’s doctrine of dominion: they both recognize the sanctity of the royal power and its temporal supremacy, and they both hold that obedience to God is the condition of the continued exercise of legitimate rule. But the priest of Lutterworth was less ecclesiastical and more democratic than our Levite.

A more orthodox authority on the Protestant doctrine of the king would be the Thirty-nine Articles. These, however, deal with the subject somewhat slightly. As far as they go, they are in harmony with the chronicler. They assert the unqualified supremacy of the king, both ecclesiastical and civil. Even "general councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes." On the other hand, princes are not to imitate Uzziah in presuming to exercise the priestly function of offering incense: they are not to minister God’s word or sacraments.

Outside theology the ideal of the king has been stated with greater fullness and freedom, but not many of the pictures drawn have much in common with the chronicler’s David and Solomon. Machiavelli’s Prince and Bolingbroke’s Patriot King belong to a different world; moreover, their method is philosophical, and not historical: they state a theory rather than draw a picture. Tennyson’s Arthur is what he himself calls him, an "ideal knight" rather than an ideal king. Perhaps the best parallels to David are to be found in the Cyrus of the Greek historians and philosophers and the Alfred of English story. Alfred indeed combines many of the features both of David and Solomon: he secured English unity, and was the founder of English culture and literature; he had a keen interest in ecclesiastical affairs; great gifts of administration, and much personal attractiveness. Cyrus, again, specially illustrates what we may call the posthumous fortunes of David: his name stood for the ideal of kingship with both Greeks and Persians, and in the "Cyropaedia" his life and character are made the basis of a picture of the ideal king.

Many points are of course common to almost all such pictures; they portray the king as a capable and benevolent ruler and a man of high personal character. The distinctive characteristic of Chronicles is the stress laid on the piety of the king, his care for the honor of God and the spiritual welfare of his subjects. If the practical influence of this teaching has not been altogether beneficent, it is because men have too invariably connected spiritual profit with organization, and ceremonies, and forms of words, sound or otherwise.

But today the doctrine of the state takes the place of the doctrine of the king. Instead of Cyropaedias we have Utopias. We are asked sometimes to look back, not to an ideal king, but to an ideal commonwealth, to the age of the Antonines or to some happy century of English history when we are told that the human race or the English people were "most happy and prosperous"; oftener we are invited to contemplate an imaginary future. We may add to those already made one or two further applications of the chronicler’s principles to the modern state. His method suggests that the perfect society will have the virtues of our actual life without its vices, and that the possibilities of the future are best divined from a careful study of the past. The devotion of his kings to the Temple symbolizes the truth that the ideal state is impossible without recognition of a Divine presence and obedience to a Divine will.

{e-Sword Note: 1 and 2 Chronicles were largely in topical format in the printed edition. When possible, this content has been divided by verse/chapter. Content that could not fit elsewhere was placed in the 1 and 2 Chronicles Book Comments for e-Sword.}

The Expositor's Bible

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