Near the beginning of his reign over Israel, Solomon traveled to Gibeon in order to worship God at the site of the old tabernacle. He offered 1,000 burnt offerings on the bronze altar - that’s a lot! While he was there, the LORD offered to give Solomon whatever he requested. The young king asked for understanding and wisdom to lead his people well. God granted this wish, but also rewarded Solomon with tremendous wealth and prosperity.
This morning we continue our extensive study on the history of united Israel with a message called “Solomon Prospers”. It is the 26th sermon of this series. We will consider the first few years of Solomon’s kingship in which he and all of Israel experienced remarkable success. This was the golden age of ancient Israel.
I. SOLOMON’S OFFICIALS (1 Kings 4:1-19)
When Solomon became king, he surrounded himself with various officials who served in the royal court. Many of their names are documented in the Bible. Several of them were the sons of men who had previously served during David’s administration. They functioned as priests, secretaries, recorders, military leaders, chief deputies, household managers, directors of forced labor, and personal friends/advisors.
Solomon also named 12 men who shared the responsibility of providing for the king’s household one month of each year. Their names and the regions they represented are listed in the Bible. One of these men was named Ben-Hur. He hailed from the hill country of Ephraim. This passage is the only instance in which the name Ben-Hur, which literally means the “son of Hur”, appears in the Bible. This man was a deputy of King Solomon, and therefore lived almost 1,000 years before Jesus’ incarnation as a babe in Bethlehem.
The famous movie “Ben-Hur” was based on a book written by American author Lew Wallace. It was originally published in 1880. It is a work of historical fiction that was set in Jerusalem during the time of Christ. While it is certainly an epic and adventurous story, those who read or watch it should know that it’s hero, Judah Ben-Hur, is a make-believe character who is not the same person mentioned in the Bible. Though it is fiction, “Ben-Hur” is one of the most rewarded and recognized pieces of Christian literature ever produced. Interestingly, when Lew Wallace began writing the book he was not a believer. He became a Christian as the direct result of researching and writing the story.
II. SOLOMON’S SUCCESS (1 Kings 4:20-28; 2 Chronicles 1:14-17)
During Solomon’s reign, Israel was the strongest and greatest kingdom in the Middle East. It’s boundaries extended to their farthest reaches. It encompassed and ruled over several lesser kingdoms from the Euphrates River (in modern-day Syria) southward through Philistia and all the way to the border of Egypt. These kingdoms all paid tribute to King Solomon.
During this time, Israel strengthened its military by purchasing and importing thousands of the world’s finest horses and chariots. Solomon enlisted 12,000 men to serve as horsemen in his army. The king and his household lived in luxury and enjoyed ample provisions every day. He became enormously wealthy. Solomon and all of Israel was at peace, and the nation was filled with rejoicing and celebration. Silver and gold were plentiful, and the economy was humming. Many consider these years to be the greatest period in the history of Israel… and they were, from a purely earthly perspective.
III. SOLOMON’S WISDOM (1 Kings 4:29-34)
Solomon’s prosperity was not limited to just material things. God have given him incredible understanding and discernment. Solomon’s wisdom became known far and wide. Solomon was far wiser than all of the other great minds of his day, including Ethan the Ezrahite and Heman. Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs and composed 1,005 songs. People came from great distances to hear him speak and to listen to his insight on various topics.
The book of Proverbs consists primarily of Solomon’s wise sayings, along with a few others that he presumably collected and edited. At least 2 of the psalms, specifically Psalm 72 and Psalm 127, were short songs written by Solomon. His most famous song, the Song of Solomon, stands alone as a distinct book of the Bible. It is an allegorical drama about the deep love shared between a bride and her groom.
It is interesting to note that 2 of Solomon’s wise contemporaries, namely Ethan the Ezrahite and Heman (both mentioned earlier), also made minor contributions to the book of Psalms. Heman assisted in writing Psalm 88 and Ethan is the author of Psalm 89.
The wisdom of Solomon is preserved today in his Biblical writings. As previously stated, he is the main author Proverbs, he contributed at least 2 of the Psalms, and he wrote the Song of Solomon. Later in his life King Solomon also penned the book of Ecclesiastes, which we will consider again later in this sermon series.
IV. SOLOMON’S ALLIANCE (1 Kings 5; 2 Chronicles 2)
A few years into his kingship, Solomon formed an alliance with Hiram king of Tyre. Hiram had been a dear friend of Solomon’s father David and was willing to assist in the building of the Jewish temple. Tyre and Sidon were 2 of the major cities in ancient Lebanon (Phoenicia). This nation was famous for its grand cedar and cypress trees. In keeping with their alliance, the Sidonians cut and exported great amounts of timber to Israel for the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. In return, Solomon provided large quantities of food to King Hiram and his people. Hiram also sent a skilled artisan named Hurim-abi to help with the design and fine details of the temple.
To do the work, King Solomon conscripted 30,000 men into forced labor. He sent them in shifts back and forth to Lebanon. He also identified and utilized the 153,600 foreigners who lived in Israel to cut, quarry, and transport large stones from the mountains into the city. These large and costly stones were used to lay the foundation of the temple (and perhaps of other building projects as well). Solomon’s laborers, Hiram’s laborers, and many others all worked together preparing the materials to build God’s house.
Before we conclude the message today, there are a few miscellaneous observations that I’d like to point out...
Solomon appointed several people to serve him and the nation in the royal court. Leaders should always surround themselves with advisors and counselors who will help them to do their jobs well. These people must be trustworthy and dependable. Subordinates might not always agree with their leader, but they should be willing to support and defend his or her decisions regardless of their personal views - unless of course these decisions are clearly sinful. In such cases, servants must have the courage to lovingly confront their leaders.
For a few decades Solomon and Israel achieved enormous success. Who could have guessed that less than 50 years later, this great nation would be divided and broken? Beloved, the prosperity of this world may be awesome for a while but it won’t last forever. For this reason, the greatest achievements are those that are pleasing to God and which pay eternal dividends. This is why Jesus teaches us to store up our treasures in heaven where they will never rust or be stolen.
Finally, we see that Solomon formed a partnership with Hiram in order to complete the temple. Working together in partnerships is important if we intend to achieve big things for God. Christians can accomplish so much more when they work together. That is why Southern Baptist churches promote voluntary membership in local associations, state and national conventions, and various other collaborative alliances. These groups are able to do more together than they could alone. That said, members should always be free to leave if they don’t agree with the theological positions of these organizations.
Next week we study the actual construction of Solomon’s Temple. This was the most magnificent building project in Israel’s history. It was also the greatest highlight of King Solomon’s reign. I hope you will join us next Sunday for this exciting message.