The style of this and the succeeding chapter changes from the vividness and fulness of the preceding chapters to a drier and barer record, evidently drawn from the national archives.
The princes are evidently Solomon’s high counsellors and officers, “eating at the king’s table.” The word is derived from a root which means to “set in order.” It is significant that whereas in the lists of David’s officers in 2 Samuel 8:16-18; 2 Samuel 20:23-26, the captain of the host stands first, and is followed in one list by the captain of the body-guard, both are here preceded by the peaceful offices of the priests, scribes, and the recorder.
Azariah the son of Zadok the priest.—In 1 Chronicles 6:9-10, we find Azariah described as the son of Ahimaaz, and so grandson of Zadok; and the note in 1 Kings 4:10 (which is apparently out of its right place) seems to show that he was high priest at the time when the Temple was built. The title the “priest” in this place must be given by anticipation, for it is expressly said below that “Zadok and Abiathar were now the priests.” The use of the original word, Cohen (probably signifying “one who ministers”), appears sometimes to retain traces of the old times, when the priesthood and headship of the family were united, and to be applied accordingly to princes, to whom perhaps still attached something of the ancient privilege. Thus it is given to the sons of David in 2 Samuel 8:18, where the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 18:17 has a paraphrase, “chief about the king,” evidently intended to explain the sense in which it is used in the older record. We may remember that David himself on occasions wore the priestly ephod (see 2 Samuel 6:14). Possibly in this sense it is applied in 1 Kings 4:5 to Zabud, the “king’s friend” (where the Authorised Version renders it by “principal officer”). But in this verse there is every reason for taking it in the usual sense. Azariah was already a “prince” before he succeeded to the high priesthood. The mingling, of priestly and princely functions is characteristic of the time.
Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud is named in 2 Samuel 8:16; 2 Samuel 20:24, and 1 Chronicles 18:15 as having been under David also the “recorder” or “remembrancer”—probably the annalist who drew up and preserved the archives of the kingdom.
Azariah is the “chief of the officers”—that is, chief over the twelve officers mentioned below (1 Kings 4:7-19)—living, however, at Court.
Zabud, besides the title of Cohen, has that of “the king’s friend,” previously given to Hushai (2 Samuel 15:37; 2 Samuel 16:16), and apparently indicating special intimacy and wisdom as a “privy counsellor.”
Adoniram . . . over the tribute (or “levy”),—evidently the head of Solomon’s great public works. (See 1 Kings 5:14.) The name is elsewhere given as Adoram. It is to be noticed that in the enumeration of David’s officers in the early part of the reign (2 Samuel 8:16-18) no such officer is found; but that in the latter part of his reign the list contains the name of Adoram (2 Samuel 20:24). It has been thought that the numbering of the people recorded in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21, was in preparation for such forced work, and hence was odious to Joab and others. In 1 Kings 12:18 we read how the holder of this office, being naturally most unpopular with those who had felt the burden of Solomon’s splendour, was stoned to death in the insurrection against Rehoboam.
To this list the Greek Version adds: “Eliab the son of Shaphat was over the body-guard.” As the office of captain of the body-guard is found in the other lists, and is too important to be omitted, it is possible that this addition corrects some defect in the Hebrew text. Yet it is also possible that no successor to Benaiah was appointed, as experience had shown, in the crushing of the rebellion of Adonijah, how easily the captaincy of the body-guard might become a quasi-independent power.
In place of the reading of the text, “and he was the only officer in the land”—which yields very little meaning, for in each of the divisions there was but one governor—the LXX. here reads, “and Naseph (or an officer), one only in the land of Judah.” The reading seems probable; for it will be noticed that in the enumeration the territory of Judah is otherwise altogether omitted. It supplies accordingly here the mention of a special governor, over and above the twelve, for the royal tribe. It has been thought that as Judah was the home province, it was under no other government than that of the king’s officers at Jerusalem; but for purposes of revenue it seems hardly likely that it should have been excepted from the general system. Possibly Azariah, who was over the officers residing at the Court, may have been its territorial governor.
In some MSS. of the Greek Version, 1 Kings 4:27-28 immediately follow 1 Kings 4:19, and (as 1 Kings 4:20-21 are omitted) they form a link between 1 Kings 4:7-19 and 1 Kings 4:22-23, in a very natural order.
(30) The wisdom of all the children of the east.—The phrase “children of the east” is apparently used (see Genesis 29:1; Judges 6:3; Judges 6:33; Judges 7:12; Judges 8:10) for the tribes of the country lying between the country of Israel and Mesopotamia. Of these “men of the east,” Job is expressly said to be one, and among the chief (Job 1:3), What their wisdom was, the utterances of Job and his friends may testify, showing as they do large knowledge of nature and of man, speculating on the deepest moral questions, and throughout resting, though with an awe greater than was felt within the circle of the Abrahamic covenant, upon the consciousness of the one God. The Book of Job also shows that this wisdom was not unconnected with the proverbial “wisdom of Egypt,” with which it is here joined. The Egyptian wisdom (as the monuments show) was a part of a more advanced and elaborate civilisation, enriched by learning and culture, and manifesting itself in art and science, but perhaps less free and vigorous than the simpler patriarchal wisdom of the children of the east.
His songs.—We have still ascribed to Solomon the “Song of Songs” and two Psalms (72 and 127); but nothing else is, even by tradition, preserved to us. This passage is singularly interesting as showing that the Old Testament Canon is not a collection of chance fragments of a scanty literature, but that out of a literature, which at this time, at any rate, was large and copious, deliberate selections by prophetic authority were made. (The “men of Hezekiah,” named in Proverbs 25:1, are by Jewish tradition Isaiah and his companions.) In the case of Solomon some special caution would be natural, and much of his poetry may have been purely secular. The “Psalter of Solomon” (including eighteen psalms) is a Greek apocryphal book, of the time of the Maccabees or later.