1 Kings 4
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
This chapter presents a general view of the prosperity of Solomon's reign, much of which was owing to the extraordinary, glory of the reign of David. Such a rule as David's sowed seeds of blessing m the land which it was Solomon's privilege to reap. David united the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and Solomon came into quiet possession of the completed commonwealth. David laid the foundation, Solomon developed the fabric and adorned it. Each succeeding generation inherits the good stored up for it by those that went before. Happy they who are the descendants of a noble ancestry. If it is true that "the sins of the fathers are visited on the children," etc., equally true is it that "the good men do lives after them." We all reap the fruits of the care and toll and suffering of our fathers. "Other men labour and we enter into their labours." The text suggests -

I. THE GRANDEUR OF A MULTITUDINOUS PEOPLE. "Judah and Israel were many, etc. What is the secret of the feeling of solemnity akin to awe with which we gaze upon a vast concourse of human beings? It is the fulness of life - not mere physical force, but thinking, emotional life, with all its latent capacities that impresses us. But think of a great nation - what a world of busy, many-sided life is here! What complex relations; what slumbering energies; what rich resources; what mines of undeveloped thought; what tides of feeling; what boundless possibilities of good or evil, of glory or of shame! Consider the mutual action and reaction of the individual and corporate life in such a nation; the conditions of its well being; the tremendous responsibility of those who are set to guide its forces, to guard its interests, to control its destinies. We can understand the trembling of spirit Moses felt when he looked on the thronging host of Israel in the wilderness. "Wherefore layest thou the burden of all this people upon me?" etc. (Numbers 11:11). So with Solomon - "Who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" (1 Kings 3:9). Rulers who show that they are alive to the dread significance of their position claim our deepest sympathy. Well may we pray for them (1 Timothy 2:2) that they may be inspired by the right spirit, prompted by purest motives, never allowed to fall into the sin

"Of making their high place the lawless perch
Of winged ambitions."

II. THE FAR REACHING INFLUENCE OF A WISE AND RIGHTEOUS RULE. "And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms," etc. (ver. 21). These were tributary kingdoms. It was not the division of one great empire into many provinces, but the recognition by outlying principalities of the superior sovereignty of the Hebrew monarch. What was the cause of this widespread influence? Won by force of arms in David's reign, it was retained, probably, by force of good government and beneficent policy. Israel presented an example of a well-ordered state - entered, under Solomon, On a remarkable career as a commercial people - Solomon himself a royal merchant. Note his sagacity in "making affinity" with the king of Egypt (1 Kings 3:1), and in his treaty with Hiram, king of Tyre (ch. 5.) This was the secret of Solomon's influence. As far as we can judge, it was not so much the result of overmastering force, but of a policy by which the bonds of mutual confidence and helpfulness were strengthened. We are reminded that this is the real stability of any nation - the spirit of justice, integrity, beneficence that inspires it, coupled with the disposition to form friendly and helpful relations. The influence that arises from the display of military strength not worthy to be compared with this. "Righteousness exalteth a nation" (Proverbs 14:84). "The throne is established by righteousness" (Proverbs 16:12). Every nation is strong and influential just in proportion as its internal order and external relations are conformed to the law of righteousness.

III. THE PEACE THAT IS THE RESULT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. "He had peace on all sides round about him" (ver. 24). This was the fulfilment of a prophecy that attended his very birth. David, the "man of war," yearned for a time of peace, and the yearning expressed itself in the names he gave his sons - Absalom, "the father of peace;" Shelomoh, Solomon, "the peaceful one." The peacefulness of Solomon's reign was the natural outcome of his own personal characteristics, and of the policy he adopted. "When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7). False maxim of international life, "If you want peace prepare for war" - multiply the means and provocations of strife! Maintain an attitude of distrust, defiance, menace! Men have strange confidence in the pacifying effect of desolating force. They "make a solitude and call it peace," forgetting that tranquillity thus gained does but cover with a deceptive veil the latent seeds of hostility and revenge. How much better the Scripture idea, "The work of righteousness shall be peace," etc. (Isaiah 32:17); "The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace" (James 3:18).

IV. THE SECURITY THAT SPRINGS FROM PEACE (ver. 25). "And Judah and Israel dwelt safely," etc. - this became almost a proverbial expression (2 Kings 18:81; Micah 4:4; Zechariah 3:10). Suggests the quiet enjoyment of the good of life, the fruit of honest labour, under the protection of impartial law. This is the result of peace. Often urged that war is an education in some of the nobler elements of national character; safeguard against luxury and indolent self indulgence, etc. But may not these good results be bought at too terrible a price? Are there no other fields for the healthy development of a nation's energies? - no foes of ignorance, and vice, and social wrong, to say nothing of forms of beneficent world wide enterprise, that call them forth in manly exercise? It is the reign of peace that fosters the industries that enrich the life of a people, and the beneficent activities that beautify it. 'Tis this that "makes the country flourish and the city smile." The happy condition of things here described is said to have lasted through "all the days of Solomon;" chiefly true of the earlier part of his reign. Sins and disasters involved the latter part in gloom. So far, however, we have in it a prophecy of the reign of David's "greater Son." Psalm 72. has its partial fulfilment in the days of Solomon; but the grandeur of its prophetic meaning is realized only in the surpassing glory of His kingdom who is the true "Prince of righteousness and peace." - W.

This is given as an example of the wisdom for which Solomon was justly famed. His information was at once accurate and far reaching. Nothing escaped the notice of his observant eye, nothing was too insignificant to deserve his attention. The" hyssop" which was remarkable neither for size nor beauty, neither for fragrance nor utility, as well as the noble "cedar," was the subject of his research and discourse.

I. THE GERM OF HIS KNOWLEDGE WAS FROM GOD. He was enriched with natural capacities above the average, as the preceding chapter shows. Men do differ widely in keenness of perception, in retentiveness of memory, in power of imagination, in love or dislike for the studies of natural science. A remembrance of this is of peculiar value to us in the training of children. The dullard in mathematics may prove the scholar in classics, etc. The wisdom of the Divine arrangement which makes differences between us in our natural tastes and capacities is seen in this, that it is on the one hand a blessing to society, enabling all spheres of life to be filled, and on the other a means of culture to character, by calling forth our sympathy, our forbearance, and our generosity in rejoicing over the triumphs of others.

II. THE GROWTH OF HIS KNOWLEDGE WAS FROM STUDY. Solomon did not have all the mysteries of nature unveiled to him by revelation. No "royal road to learning" existed then, or ever. His studiousness as a youth may be fairly inferred from his strenuous exhortations to diligence and his frequent rebukes of sloth. Out of the depths of personal experience he declared that the "hand of the diligent maketh rich" - in thought, as well as in purse. See also Proverbs 10:5; Proverbs 19:24; Proverbs 26:13, etc. Press home on the young the value of habits of diligence. Illustrate by examples from biography. It would be interesting to know with certainty the substance of Solomon's discourses. Probably he knew more than any other of his own day of horticulture, physiology, and kindred topics. But the reference is not so much to scientific treatises and orderly classifications as to the ethical use he made of the phenomena of nature. This may be inferred, partly from the fact that in those days, and in Eastern lands, this rather than that would be accounted "wisdom;" and partly from such writings of his as are still extant - certain of the Psalms, the Song of Solomon, and the Proverbs. Study the text in the light thrown by these books, and it will be seen that through Solomon's wisdom the voice of Nature spoke to his people for God, in the same fashion as in far nobler tones it spoke afterwards through Him who made the lilies whisper of God's care, and the fallow fields speak of Christian duty. Inanimate things and dumb creatures spoke to Solomon's people through him, and should speak to us.

I. THE CREATURES OF GOD SPEAK TO US OF DIVINE CARE. Solomon, like his father, could say, "The heavens declare the glory of God;" or like One greater than himself, "Consider the lilies of the field," etc. See how he speaks (Proverbs 16:15) of the cloud of the latter rain that rifled out the ears of corn; of the dew upon the grass (Proverbs 19:12); of the gladness of nature, when the winter is past and the rain is over and gone (Song of Solomon 2:11-13). To see God's hand in all this is true wisdom. The phenomena are visible to pure intellect, but He who is behind them can only he "spiritually discerned." Many now are losing sight of God because the mental perception only is employed, and believed to be necessary. Once the world appeared to men as the expression of God's thought, the outcome of His will. Now some look on it as you may look on a friend who is not dead so far as natural life is concerned, but is worse than dead, because intelligence and will are gone, and he is an idiot! May we be aroused by the Divine Spirit to yearn for the lost Father, for the vanished heaven.

II. THE CREATURES OF GOD SPEAK TO US OF HUMAN DEPENDENCE. Neither "hyssop" nor "cedar" can grow without Heaven's benediction, and of every "beast," and "fowl," and "creeping thing," and "fish," it may be said, "these all wait upon Thee." Man, with all his attainments and powers, cannot create a single element required by his life. He can use God's gifts, but they are God's gifts still; and because He is good, our Lord bids us learn the lessons of content and trust (Matthew 6:25-34). We depend on these creatures in the natural world for food, clothing, shelter, etc., and they only live because God cares for them.

III. THE CREATURES OF GOD SPEAK TO US OF DAILY DUTIES. How often in Proverbs we are reminded of that. Agur, who had wisdom similar to that of Solomon, speaks of the diligence of the ant, of the perseverance of the spider, of the strength in union of the locusts, of the conscious weakness and provided shelter of the conies. Solomon speaks of the blessing that came to the keeper of the fig tree (Proverbs 27:18) as an encourament to servants to be faithful and diligent. Adduce similar examples.


1. In Song of Solomon 2:15 Solomon alludes to "the little foxes who so stealthily approach and spoil the vines and their tender grapes" as illustrations of the small evils which desolate men's hearts and homes. Apply this.

2. Then in Proverbs 24:30-34 he draws a picture of a neglected garden, grown over with thorns and nettles, and shows how looking on it he "received instruction," and warning against sloth.

3. Again turn to Proverbs 23:32, where, speaking of intoxicating drink, he says, "at last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." It was in this way he referred to the animals and plants around him.

V. THE CREATURES OF GOD SPEAK TO US OF SOCIAL EVILS. In those days, as in other days, foolish favourites, and unworthy.men, were exalted to places of trust and honour. Seeing it Solomon draws again on his observance of nature; and having noted the disorder and injury caused by untimely storms, says, "As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honor is not seemly in a fool" (Proverbs 26:1). Another example of this teaching occurs in Proverbs 28:3. A heavy rain after long drought, raising the streamlets to floods, would sweep away the mud-built dwellings of the poor and the harvest already reaped; and to those who had seen that the wise king said, "A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food."

VI. THE CREATURES OF GOD SPEAK TO US OF NOBLE POSSIBILITIES. Solomon saw growth around him on every side. The seed dropped in the crevice of a wall was not forgotten, but appeared in the "hyssop;" and the sapling, which a child could break, at last became the great "cedar of Lebanon." God's benediction and man's toil developed life; and the feeblest was not forgotten, the smallest not despised. We can imagine how from such facts Solomon would draw lessons of trust and hope.

IN CONCLUSION let us learn from the subject the following lessons -

1. Never be afraid of the teachings of natural science. Show how geology, botany, astronomy, etc., are regarded by some Christians with terror, as if their influence would affect the spiritual truths revealed of God. Demonstrate the folly of this. Let theology recognize the sisterhood of science.

2. Never become absorbed in pursuits which are merely intellectual. The soul of man needs more than his intellect can win. The "hunger and thirst after righteousness" only a living God can satisfy. Use the suggestions of nature as the witnesses of God.

3. Never neglect the wonderful works of God. Many a frivolous life would be redeemed from vacuity and ennui if young people were trained to observe and take interest in the habits of animal life and the marvels of inanimate existence. Show the wholesomeness of such studies, as those of Charles Kingsley and others. But let us walk through this fair world as those who follow Christ, and then from the fragrant lilies and golden harvest fields He will speak to us of our Father in heaven. - A.R.

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