A Hidden Danger

20 Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. 21 Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.

22 Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, 23 ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, a hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl. 24 For he had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates. And he had peace on all sides around him. 25 And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon. 26 Solomon also had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen. 27 And those officers supplied provisions for King Solomon, and for all who came to King Solomon’s table, each one in his month. They let nothing be lacking. 28 Barley also and straw for the horses and swift steeds they brought to the place where it was required, each according to his duty.

29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. 32 He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. 33 He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. 34 And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom. 1 Kings 4:20-34 ESV

Solomon inherited a vast and sprawling kingdom from his father, David. But in time, Solomon would expand it borders until it reached from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Euphrates River in the far northeast. And its southern border reached all the way to land occupied by the once-powerful Egyptians. As the author makes clear, many of the regions under Solomon’s rule were vassal states which were required to pay an annual tax to the royal treasury. Some of the land under Solomon’s rule was located outside the original geographic boundaries as designated by God and allotted to the 12 tribes of Israel. Through alliances and treaties, Solomon had managed to expand the influence and scope of his kingdom without waging a single war. His reign was marked by a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity. And it was in direct fulfillment of the promise God had made to Abraham hundreds of years earlier.

“I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies.” – Genesis 22:17 NLT

David had been the conqueror, completing much of the work the 12 tribes had failed to do when they first took possession of the land. David had successfully defeated and subjugated many of the remaining remnants of those nations that the Israelites had been charged to eliminate from the land. But Solomon’s expansion of the kingdom would take place through peaceful negotiations and economic alliances.

There are some who believe that the author’s reference to Judah and Israel is proof that he wrote his book after God had divided the nation into the southern and northern kingdoms (1 Kings 11:43). But even when David had announced his decision to make Solomon the heir to his throne, he used these two designations when referring to his kingdom.

“he shall be king in my place. And I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.” – 1 Kings 1:35 ESV

It seems likely that, over the years, the Israelites had already aligned themselves into these two factions that were nothing more than loose confederations of the tribes structured around geographic boundaries. Regardless, Solomon ruled over all of Israel and Judah, from the north to the south. And it was a period of unparalleled peace and abundance.

During the lifetime of Solomon, all of Judah and Israel lived in peace and safety. And from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south, each family had its own home and garden. – 1 Kings 4:25 NLT

Everyone benefited from Solomon’s reign, including Solomon. In this passage, the author outlines the extent of Solomon’s great wealth, providing tangible proof that God had kept the promise He had made to Solomon.

“I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!” – 1 Kings 3:13 NLT

The detailed lists provided by the author are intended to stagger the imagination and illustrate the vast nature of Solomon’s wealth.

The daily food requirements for Solomon’s palace were 150 bushels of choice flour and 300 bushels of meal; also 10 oxen from the fattening pens, 20 pasture-fed cattle, 100 sheep or goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roe deer, and choice poultry. – 1 Kings 4:22-23 NLT

The budget required just to operate his royal residence was astronomical. And yet, Solomon had cleverly created a system that helped to underwrite this ongoing expense.

The district governors faithfully provided food for King Solomon and his court; each made sure nothing was lacking during the month assigned to him. They also brought the necessary barley and straw for the royal horses in the stables. – 1 Kings 4:27-28 NLT

A rotating schedule was put in place that equally distributed the responsibility for providing food for Solomon’s court, as well as for his growing collection of horses. And this note should catch the reader’s attention because God had clearly prohibited the kings of Israel from amassing for themselves large stables of horses.

“The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself.” – Deuteronomy 17:16 NLT

Yet, the author reveals that “Solomon had 4,000 stalls for his chariot horses, and he had 12,000 horses” (1 Kings 4:26 NLT). While the text reads “40,000,” it is thought to be a copiest’s error.  In 2 Chronicles 29:5, a companion passage, it reads: “Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots, and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem.

But the important point is that Solomon had managed to collect a stable of 12,000 horses that were specifically used to pull chariots. Later on, the author will provide further details concerning Solomon’s extensive collection of horses and chariots.

Solomon built up a huge force of chariots and horses. He had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses. He stationed some of them in the chariot cities and some near him in Jerusalem. The king made silver as plentiful in Jerusalem as stone. And valuable cedar timber was as common as the sycamore-fig trees that grow in the foothills of Judah. Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt and from Cilicia. – 1 Kings 10: 26-28 NLT

It is interesting to note that Solomon’s own father had described the vanity of putting one’s hope in horses and chariots.

Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the LORD our God. – Psalm 20:7 NLT

Yet, Solomon seemed to have bought into the concept that a strong offense was the best defense. But in building up his formidable collection of chariots and horses, he had violated the command of God. And even though this passage paints a glowing picture of Solomon’s wealth, fame, and influence, a feint, but dark cloud can be seen on the horizon.

Solomon was wise, wealthy, and highly successful. His kingdom was marked by tremendous prosperity and unprecedented peace. And God had blessed him with a degree of wisdom that was unmatched by any other living human being.

God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else… – 1 Kings 4:29-31 NLT

And the wisdom that God bestowed on Solomon was extensive, providing him with an encyclopedic knowledge and vast interests in a wide range of disciplines.

He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. – 1 Kings 4:32-33 NLT

And along with his vast wealth and wisdom, Solomon found fame. The author states that “kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon” (1 Kings 4:34 NLT). He was a celebrity. He had a retinue of admirers who came from all over the world to witness his fabled wisdom and fabulous wealth. But you can almost sense the foreboding nature of this passage. In the midst of all the splendor and opulence, there is a shadow looming. There is a cancer lurking, unseen and undetected, that threatens the health of Solomon’s glorious kingdom. And, in time, it will reveal itself. But for now, the state of Solomon’s kingdom appears to be healthy and whole.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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