What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
1 Kings 4:20-34
Some people have erroneously interpreted I Kings 4:20-34—a description of Israel's prosperity under Solomon—along with related scriptures, as a fulfillment of God's promises to the patriarchs. They argue that, since God fulfilled them, they have no further meaning today or in prophecy. Is that so?
Now, it is true that the children of Israel experienced God's blessing during Solomon's reign. Specifically, they enjoyed
» Population growth: "Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing" (I Kings 4:20).
» Peace: Solomon "had peace on every side all around him" (I Kings 4:24).
» Vast territories: "Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the [Euphrates] River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt" (I Kings 4:21).
» Wealth: Solomon "made silver and gold as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedars as abundant as the sycamores" (II Chronicles 1:15).
There can be no doubt about it: Israel's stature under Solomon certainly represents a typical fulfillment of God's promises to the patriarchs. However, these blessing were not the final fulfillment. Notice specifically what promises were not fulfilled during Solomon's time:
» Unfulfilled remained God's promise to Abraham that his descendants would possess the land between the Euphrates and Nile Rivers (Genesis 15:18-21). God specifically listed the inhabitants who would ultimately be dispossessed of their territory: the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites. Shortly before they entered Canaan, God instructed Israel, through Moses, concerning the conquering of these territories, as related in Deuteronomy 20:16-18:
. . . Of the cities of these peoples which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite . . . lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the LORD your God.
Following these instructions, Joshua totally destroyed certain peoples: "Joshua took and struck [the cities] with the edge of the sword. He utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded" (Joshua 11:12). These cities, as enumerated in Joshua chapters 11 and 12, do not include those of at least two peoples listed in Genesis 15:18-21 and Deuteronomy 20:16-18: the Canaanites and the Amorites.
Israel under Joshua and his immediate successors did not totally possess the land God had promised the patriarchs. Some peoples eluded destruction. Indeed, much outlying territory remained to be conquered after his death (Joshua 13:1-6). The unconquered territories, as listed in Judges 1:27-36, include those of the Amorites and the Canaanites. Joshua's conquests were as limited as they were thorough.
Early on, Israel had "put [the cities between the Euphrates and Nile Rivers] under tribute" (Judges 1:35). Solomon, after the military exploits of David, extended Israel's hegemony—its sphere of influence—to the point where he could exact tribute from all the nations situated between these rivers (I Kings 4:21). However, Israel never fully dispossessed the inhabitants of their land, never dislodged them from it. The indigenous folk still occupied the land in Solomon's time. God had not yet fulfilled His promise to Abraham that his descendants would possess the land between the rivers.
» Unfulfilled, as well, was the promise that Israel would be a "company of nations" (Genesis 35:11). Solomon's Israel was a great nation, but not a "company of nations." The individual twelve tribes that Solomon ruled were not sovereign nations in their own right, constituting a company of twelve nations. Not at all. The tribes were just that—tribes, not distinct nations—for at least two reasons:
a) Each tribe, separately, did not have its own king. Solomon appointed "twelve governors over all Israel" (I Kings 4:7). The tribes had little political autonomy.
b) Each tribe did not have its own unique body of law. Instead, the tribes shared a common heritage of law, that given by God through Moses at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19:20ff).
Solomon did not have political or military hegemony over a company of nations. His "empire" was based more on its economic strength than on any military adventurism to which his "forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen" (I Kings 4:26) might have tempted him. In fact, his international liaisons found their roots in his romantic liaisons, of which he had not a few (I Kings 11:3). He dealt with surrounding nations on a give-and-take basis. For instance, he traded twenty Galilean cities for the gold and lumber provided by Tyre (I Kings 9:11). He was not in a position to take the gold and lumber.
Even though Israel certainly flourished during Solomon's reign, the promises to the patriarchs remained unfulfilled until a later time.
Searching for Israel (Part Five): Solomon and the Divided Kingdom
Despite our humble, modest circumstances, are we living abundant lives? Despite our lack of toys, a mansion on the lake, or a Rolls-Royce on our driveway, are our lives better than we ever expected? Or do we feel that life has passed us by, serving us the dregs instead of the wine? If so, could it be that we need a change of perspective?
J. Paul Getty, at the time perhaps the richest man in the world, said, "I hate and regret the failure of my marriages. I would gladly give all my millions for just one lasting marital success." He possessed the money to live whatever lifestyle gave him the most satisfaction, but at the end of his life, he came to realize that a good, enduring marriage meant more to him than riches. He died feeling like a failure at what life is really all about.
King Solomon lived a similar life of wealth, power, and privilege. The book of Ecclesiastes chronicles his lifelong experimentation with various lifestyles, projects, possessions, hobbies, and creature comforts. What does he ultimately conclude about how humanity should live?
Solomon's conclusion is totally compatible with Jesus' statement in John 10:10. Jesus did not come promising us wealth, prestige, and authority on earth (although He does promise us these things in the world to come), but He came with good news from His Father about how to attain eternal life (John 6:40). Like Solomon's, His message is very clear, ". . . if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).
The big "secret" is that the abundant life is contained in the keeping of God's commandments, in tandem with the grace supplied through Jesus Christ. John writes, "And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:16-17, ESV). Jesus came to give man the means by which he could properly keep God's commandments; His grace puts commandment-keeping in its proper place. Once a person is living this way—what Paul calls "walk[ing] in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16-25)—his life is naturally going to be abundant because he is no longer under the penalties and curses that breaking the law exacts (see verse 18). His life will be pleasing to God, and He will bless him, now and in the life to come (Psalm 19:11; Proverbs 11:18; Matthew 6:33; Revelation 11:18; 22:12)!
Are our lives abundant? Are we reaping the rewards of following God's way of life? Have we begun to enjoy the benefits of keeping God's commandments?
Every Sabbath, we enjoy the benefits of keeping it holy (Exodus 20:8-11), including physical rest, time with our families, fellowship with our brethren, and communion with and instruction from God. It may not be "exciting," but it is living as He wants us to live.
The same is true of keeping the other commandments. If we have happy families and marriages, we are reaping the benefits of keeping the fifth and seventh commandments (verses 12, 14). If people find us trustworthy and honest, we are being rewarded for keeping the eighth and ninth commandments (verses 15-16). If we are content in our circumstances, our peace of mind derives from practicing the tenth commandment (verse 17).
Moreover, if we see spiritual growth taking place, and if we are producing good fruit in our lives, we are experiencing the results of a strengthening relationship with God, encapsulated in the first four commandments (verses 2-11; Matthew 22:37-38). Such a relationship with our Creator is the key to abundant living, for there is no greater, more satisfying accomplishment than that among men!
When we reach this point, we will have learned the godly perspective, and we will know that the life of God we live is definitely abundant living—no matter what our circumstance (Philippians 4:11)!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are You Living the Abundant Life?
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