I Kings 9: At Home

I did my quiet time on I Kings 9 at home.  And, because I dillie-dallied in between my readings, my quiet time took a while, which is why I’m doing my write-up later than I do when I’m at the library.  But maybe I’ll still have time after I write this to lift weights, get a bite to eat, and watch a movie, while I read My Date with Jesus, an autobiography about fundamentalism.  And hopefully I’ll feel better after writing this.  Ordinarily, I feel good after my weekly quiet times.  Right now, I feel burnt-out and tired, not to mention hungry!

In my weekly quiet times, after I study a chapter of Scripture, I write a page in my notebook.  I decided way back to write only a page, no more, and no less.  If I write more, I can easily get to the point where I’m composing a paper and trying to cover every base I can think of, and that leads me to burn-out.  If I write less, I feel as if I’m not doing a serious treatment of the chapter. 

For my notebook write-up this Sabbath, I focused mostly on geography.  I Kings 9:26 says that Solomon built a fleet of ships in Ezion-geber, which is at the top tip of the Red Sea.  Why’d he build it there?  The chapter also states that Solomon fortified certain cities, such as Gezer, Megiddo, and Hazor.  Why were those cities so important?

On Ezion-geber, that was a good spot for Solomon’s fleet because the Red Sea went by Arabia and the northeastern part of Africa, out into the Indian Ocean.  V 28 says that Hiram sent out experienced sailors with Solomon’s fleet, and they brought back gold from a mysterious region called “Ophir.”  There are various ideas about where Ophir is.  Some say Africa, some say Arabia, and some say India.  There are even people who go so far as Peru, but I tend to localize it to the area close to the Red Sea.  Africa, Arabia, and India had their share of riches, so they’re all good candidates for “Ophir.”

Regarding Solomon’s fortified cities, they’re on the trading route that connects Egypt, in the South, with Syria and Mesopotamia, in the North.  By having protected cities on this route, the Israelites were enabling themselves to make lots of money.  Caravans would seek protection on the route, and they paid Israelites from the cities for that.  They also went to the cities for water and food, for both the merchants and also the cattle.  And the Israelites, whose main activity was agriculture, had an opportunity to sell their crops to the caravans.

Again, the Israelites didn’t get this power by themselves, for they had outside help.  According to v 16, the Pharaoh of Egypt took Gezer from the Canaanites and gave it to his daughter, Solomon’s wife, as a present.  I guess Solomon’s intermarriages are starting to pay off!

Solomon’s making the right contacts, and they’re getting him wealth.  And, for whatever reason, he’s not botching things up too badly!  He gives Hiram cities that Hiram doesn’t particularly care for, yet that doesn’t lead to the dissolution of their relationship.  Maybe Solomon still has good stock with Hiram because Hiram loved David so much!

Solomon’s acting shrewdly and practically to help his nation, and yet, the chapter is clear that he’s not insulating Israel from trouble through that alone.  At the beginning of the chapter, God appears to Solomon in a dream and tells him that God will continue to honor the temple and allow Israel to stay in her land, as long as the king and the nation obey God.  At the end of the chapter, Solomon still recognizes his need for God, for he offered sacrifices as the temple three times a year, according to the Israelite calendar of festivals.  So he’s not just relying on himself, for he’s worshipping God.

Eventually, we’ll see that what Solomon accomplished was not sufficient to safeguard Israel.  In the eighth century B.C.E., the Assyrians take Hazor (II Kings 15:29), along with all of Northern Israel.  Now, another nation controls an important place on Israel’s lucrative trade route.  And II Kings attributes that to Israel’s idolatry.

Where should I go with this on a practical level?  One reason many turn to God is that they want certainty in this world.  Life can be pretty uncertain.  One minute, you’re wealthy and you have contacts.  The next minute, you’re poor and lonely.  Maybe not everybody has this kind of insecurity, for they’re able to hold onto friends for whatever reason, or they have the talent to pick themselves back up and make a success of themselves.  For me, however, life is like walking through a mine-field!

One thing that I get from this chapter is that, if I ever succeed, it won’t be by myself.  I’ve had support from my family and friends, so my success will be their success.  That’s the way it was with Solomon: he owed much of his success to Hiram and Pharaoh.

Yet, I also need God.  I’m not sure where I’m going with this—if I’m embracing a prosperity sort of doctrine that says I must obey and worship God to have security and success.  I’m not totally against the prosperity Gospel on doctrinal grounds, but I don’t entirely see things that way in this phase of my life.  I hope that God will bless me with academic success and a good job, but I seek God right now, when things don’t look all that fruitful.  Good day or bad day, good week or bad week, good year or bad year, I continue to read Scripture and to pray in my daily and weekly quiet times.

But I also don’t walk on egg-shells with God, assuming that I have to be perfect for God to bless me.  I don’t know how to be perfect.

I could do what Joel Osteen suggests: trust that God will bless me, even if I don’t have a lot of contacts!  But I’m not sure if I’m pleasing God at this stage of my life.  On what basis should I trust that God will bless me?  What have I done to deserve his favor?  And, if my performance makes no difference, does that mean God will bless me just for being me?  That’s a nice thought!  But I Kings 9 conditions things on obedience!

This post is probably appearing to be a downer to many of you, but, believe it or not, I feel better as I write it!

On that note, have a good day!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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