Roughly one thousand years before Solomon ascended the throne of Israel in about 970 BC, God called Abram, later Abraham, out of Ur, promising to make of him a great nation, to give him a good land, and to bless all the families of the earth through him (Gen. 12:1–3). It took centuries for Abraham’s descendants to grow into a great nation and to possess the promised land of Canaan, but God was working to fulfill His promises. Under Solomon, the fulfillment of God’s word to Abraham reached a high point.
We learn this in today’s passage, which summarizes the glory of Solomon’s reign. First, we read that “Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea” (1 Kings 4:20). The Lord made this very promise to Abraham, and it was accomplished in Solomon’s day (Gen. 22:17). Second, 1 Kings 4:21 reveals the vast expanse of land Solomon’s kingdom controlled. Noteworthy here is that the boundaries described in today’s passage essentially match the scope of land promised to Abraham in Genesis 15:18–21. In the days of Solomon, the people enjoyed the land inheritance promised to Abraham.
Finally, 1 Kings 4:34 explains that the people of all nations and the kings of all the earth came to Solomon to hear his wisdom. This is a fulfillment of the promise that Israel would bless the whole world (Gen. 12:1–3). In Solomon’s day, the world benefited from wisdom in Israel when it came to hear the wise teachings and sayings that the God of Israel gave to Israel’s king. Today’s passage tells us that Solomon spoke thousands of proverbs and had a keen interest in the natural world, both of which are evidenced in the fact that several of the proverbs of Solomon are based on observations of the created order (e.g., Prov. 6:6–8). Also, much (if not all) of the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon is attributed to Solomon (although the tradition that Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon as a young man, Proverbs as a middle-aged man, and Ecclesiastes as an old man may be nothing more than a pious legend).
Solomon’s reign was an era in which God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled in a spectacular fashion, but there are clues in today’s narrative that this was not the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises. First Kings 4:26–28 reports that Solomon had provisions for thousands of horses, a clear violation of Deuteronomy 17:16. Solomon was a good king, not a perfect one. Only One greater than Solomon could consummate the promise to Abraham (Luke 11:31).