Read 1 Kings 4
Solomon’s Officials and Governors
4 So King Solomon ruled over all Israel. 2 And these were his chief officials:
Azariah son of Zadok—the priest;
3 Elihoreph and Ahijah, sons of Shisha—secretaries;
Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud—recorder;
4 Benaiah son of Jehoiada—commander in chief;
Zadok and Abiathar—priests;
5 Azariah son of Nathan—in charge of the district governors;
Zabud son of Nathan—a priest and adviser to the king;
6 Ahishar—palace administrator;
Adoniram son of Abda—in charge of forced labor.
7 Solomon had twelve district governors over all Israel, who supplied provisions for the king and the royal household. Each one had to provide supplies for one month in the year. 8 These are their names:
Ben-Hur—in the hill country of Ephraim;
9 Ben-Deker—in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth Shemesh and Elon Bethhanan;
10 Ben-Hesed—in Arubboth (Sokoh and all the land of Hepher were his);
11 Ben-Abinadab—in Naphoth Dor (he was married to Taphath daughter of Solomon);
12 Baana son of Ahilud—in Taanach and Megiddo, and in all of Beth Shan next to Zarethan below Jezreel, from Beth Shan to Abel Meholah across to Jokmeam;
13 Ben-Geber—in Ramoth Gilead (the settlements of Jair son of Manasseh in Gilead were his, as well as the region of Argob in Bashan and its sixty large walled cities with bronze gate bars);
14 Ahinadab son of Iddo—in Mahanaim;
15 Ahimaaz—in Naphtali (he had married Basemath daughter of Solomon);
16 Baana son of Hushai—in Asher and in Aloth;
17 Jehoshaphat son of Paruah—in Issachar;
18 Shimei son of Ela—in Benjamin;
19 Geber son of Uri—in Gilead (the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and the country of Og king of Bashan). He was the only governor over the district.
Solomon’s Daily Provisions
20 The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. 21 And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life.
22 Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors of the finest flour and sixty cors of meal, 23 ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl. 24 For he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides. 25 During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree.
26 Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses.
27 The district governors, each in his month, supplied provisions for King Solomon and all who came to the king’s table. They saw to it that nothing was lacking. 28 They also brought to the proper place their quotas of barley and straw for the chariot horses and the other horses.
29 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Kalkol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. 32 He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34 From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.
In 1 Kings 4, we get a glimpse of King Solomon at the beginning of his reign; many Christians are familiar with it. But the contributors to 1 Kings were crafty storytellers who subtly critique this reign in the details. Let’s begin in verses 6b-7:
“…Adoniram son of Abda—in charge of forced labor. Solomon had twelve district governors over all Israel, who supplied provisions for the king and the royal household.”
This is an easy detail to pass over, but it is the first of two brilliant literary moves found here. We see in this one description the impending split of the kingdom looming large in having twelve district governors who would be mostly in charge of this forced labor and taxation. The split among them is coming, and Solomon isn’t helping.
Let’s look now to verse 26: “Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses.” Why do we care about Solomon’s horses? In Deuteronomy 17, we’re given the description of what a truly biblical king should be. Here is just the section to be concerned with:
“The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are not to go back that way again.” (Deut. 17:16)
Israel’s kings were supposed to follow the Deuteronomic Law to the letter. Solomon, however, did the exact opposite. It can even be argued that he caused Israel to “return to Egypt,” in a way. Enslavement and heavy taxation were the way in Egypt, and here he is bringing them back.
The point here is not to simply critique Solomon, but to talk about biblical kingship. We can see in 1 Kings that kingship is not necessarily accumulating wealth, status, and power. The authors clarify that this is one place Solomon got it wrong. Instead, Deuteronomy 17 calls for another way, where a biblical king is better understood as the “Chief Servant.” What does this mean for Christians today? Well, we serve King Jesus, the only biblical king to ever truly be a biblical king, “by taking the very nature of a servant” (Phil 2:7). This is the way we should follow: The Way of King Jesus.
- Where have you acted like Solomon in your life, accumulating wealth, power, etc. Where have you looked more like a “Chief Servant”?
- What would it look like to be a “Chief Servant” in your life? At school, home, work…?
- What is one way in which you can serve someone today?
By the Way
Jesus spoke to this in Mark 10:42-45, saying:
42“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
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