1 Kings 9 Study Notes
9:1-3 At this point, about 946 BC in Solomon’s twenty-fifth year, God again appeared to Solomon and reaffirmed the holy status of the Lord’s temple. Though the human consecrations had occurred, the most important consecration was when God declared the house fit for his residence. Three points were made. God’s name would dwell there. God’s eyes would be there, giving attention to the house and in seeing out from it as well. And it would be the center of God’s affections, or God’s heart.
9:4-5 Turning to Solomon, God again promised him a permanent dynasty, conditioned upon his obedience.
9:6-9 If Solomon’s royal descendants persistently worshiped false gods, the Lord would judge Israel. Since the kings were the spiritual representatives of the people, their disobedience was counted as the disobedience of the people. Then the greatest of the covenant punishments—loss of the land—could happen to the Israelites. Ironically, after this judgment the overthrow of Jerusalem and the ruins of the Lord’s temple would cause Israel to become an object of scorn and ridicule among all the peoples, just the opposite of God’s missionary purpose for Israel (see 8:60). In the OT there are two broad types of reaction to God’s great works on behalf of his people, one positive and one negative. Positively, the great works of God often prompted recognition of God’s holy character, which could cause a turning to him (e.g., Rahab, Jos 2:9-10,12-13). Negatively, people could be filled with despair at the threat God posed (Jos 2:11), react with blasphemous obstinacy (e.g., Pharaoh hardening his heart, Ex 7:19-23), or be appalled or dismayed by seeing God’s judgments against his own people.
9:10-25 The biblical writer then recorded, not in chronological order, several general social and economic policies loosely related to Solomon’s building operations. In terms of biblical theology, these describe Solomon’s God-given glory. Some of the details of Solomon’s administration involved a misuse, even grossly sinful misuse, of God’s good gifts. However misused, they still revealed the glory that God gave to Solomon.
9:10-14 The scenario here is of two equal rulers haggling over an international business deal. Solomon may have driven a hard bargain with Hiram—large amounts of building materials plus gold—for some unproductive border villages. Eugene Merrill’s analysis sees Hiram as paying Solomon despite Hiram’s dissatisfaction with the deal. Hiram’s words my brother probably indicated the treaty relationship between the two rulers. An international treaty could be called a treaty of brotherhood (Am 1:9).
9:15 Solomon’s building operations were widespread and significant for politics, for forced labor economics, and for displaying glory and magnificence. First there were the building operations in Jerusalem: the Lord’s temple, the royal palace, the supporting terraces, and the wall of Jerusalem. One theory about the supporting terraces, also called the Millo, is that they were needed to keep the walls from collapsing into the unsettled “fill” (Hb millo) of an earlier valley that had been filled or partially filled. The next three names—Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer—referred to cities that guarded vulnerable routes of attack in the highland heart of Judah and that were fortified by Solomon, using forced labor. All of these operations demonstrated Solomon’s power and glory and, on close examination, the potential abuses of that power and glory. Solomon and Amos gave principles to guide situations like this. Wealth, even luxury, gained by performing a service (Pr 10:4) is acceptable. But luxury that ruins a society (Am 6:6) is sinful.
9:16 This verse explains Solomon’s control over Gezer. The scholarly consensus is that David never completely subdued the Philistine cities, so Egypt felt free to invade Philistia, even while David ruled. Then moving to an issue where scholarly consensus breaks down, possibly the king of Egypt realized that he had overreached in the invasion and he therefore ceded Gezer to Solomon. Gezer was strategic for Israel, permitting them to control the coastal north-south trade route and one of the approaches from the coast to Jerusalem. In addition, Pharaoh was forced into an unusual, perhaps humiliating, marriage alliance in which he gave an Egyptian princess to a foreign king.
9:17-19 These verses describe more of Solomon’s military building operations together with some of the more important names involved. These operations were more extensive and expensive than this brief description indicates. They involved garrison and provision cities for a world-class chariot army. This demanded huge initial expenses, road maintenance, and facilities for feeding and caring for the chariot horses as well as living quarters for the charioteers and support personnel. Since the charioteers represented a high degree of skill, which could not be quickly developed, it is likely that Solomon’s charioteers were largely international mercenary warriors. Later, as early as Zimri (16:9), Israel had homegrown chariot warriors. Since this text is ambiguous concerning Tamar (in southern Judah) and Tadmor (ancient Palmyra in Aramean territories), we are not positive which location is referred to here. Second Ch 8:4 clearly refers to Tadmor. Solomon’s building in Tadmor probably referred to Solomon’s imperial fortifications there.
9:20-23 There were two categories of Canaanite survivors among the Israelites. (1) There were Canaanites like the house of Rahab, the Gibeonite league, and apparently some of the sons of Hamor (Jdg 9:28) who had survived since the time of Jacob. These had more or less converted to faith in the Lord and were assimilated into the Israelite population. The rights of these Canaanites were protected, even when they were not completely assimilated (e.g., the Gibeonites, who could demand vengeance because Saul violated their rights, 2Sm 21:1-6). (2) There were the unconquered and still openly pagan Canaanites who were yet to be either killed or assimilated into Israelite society. Solomon’s forced labor brigades were probably pressed into service from this second group.
9:24 Moving Pharaoh’s daughter out of Jerusalem and so away from the Lord’s house can be interpreted in two ways: as an act of piety that removed pagan pollution from the vicinity of the house of the Lord or as an act of respect for the most prestigious of Solomon’s political marriages by giving her quarters worthy of her stature.
9:25 The Lord’s temple was not truly finished until it was ready for worship.
9:26-10:29 We must recognize Solomon’s historical role in world trade as presented in these documents. North-south trade in luxury items was already producing wealth. Southern Arabia, Africa, and points further east were sources of expensive commodities such as gold, ivory, and jewels; esoteric luxury items such as apes and baboons; and spices. These goods could move from the region of southern Arabia north. Depending on the security of sea travel, they could come north by ships on the Red Sea, or they could come north by camel caravan on the Red Sea coast of the Arabian Peninsula. If they came by sea, they could move to the Mediterranean Sea either through Egypt, via the famed Wadi Hamamat, or they could move through the region of Palestine. In either case, once the goods reached the Mediterranean Sea, they went to points further west in Phoenician ships. At this time violent repercussions of Greek-speaking invaders still hampered sea trade to the north toward the Black Sea.
Solomon’s joint sea ventures with Hiram were a way of controlling this trade and channeling it through Hebrew territory so that Solomon, instead of Pharaoh, shared in the wealth of such trade. Solomon, like Herod the Great and the Athenians, built a famed temple with the profits from international trade.
9:26-28 These verses indicate that Solomon implemented regular mercantile, seafaring expeditions from Ezion-geber. Some believe it is more accurate to speak in terms of caravan trade from the south rather than seafaring commerce. The decisive argument for seafaring trade is the fact that, according to Egyptian wall inscriptions, Shishak (14:25-26) destroyed the forts in the Arabah that protected the routes from Eloth north. This effort was frivolous if it was not aimed at diverting the sea trade via the Red Sea to Egyptian territory.