Each Under His Fig Tree
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Each Under His Fig Tree . . .
Kings I, 4:1 “So King Solomon was king over all Israel”
The next several verses name Solomon’s advisors, cabinet, military leaders, and priests. This seems to be a new stage of development of the Jewish people, as they consolidate into a unified, national government rather than as the confederation of independent tribes or relatively loose structures characterized under the rule of Saul and David. The people were taxed to support the centralized government which required a lot of wealth to run the affairs of state (detailed in Chap 5:2). The country was divided into 12 federations, not aligned or affiliated with the previous divisions of 12 tribes, each of which provided crops and funds to fund the national government for one of the 12 months of the year. This represented an economically-based social structure of sharing, crop rotation, and division of labor for the sake of the whole.
Kings I, 4:20. “Judah and Israel were numerous . . . eating, drinking, and rejoicing.”
Kings I, 5:5: Judah and Israel dwelt in tranquility, each man under his grapevine and under his fig tree, from Dan to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon.”
Freed of other demands by the sharing of responsibility, with a sense of security provided by Solomon’s truces with neighboring peoples, the people had time to party. These were the “good old days” of the Hebrew empire, the golden years, with visions of fulfillment, a beautiful visual, after all the previous wars and battles and strife of David’s period of rule.
Kings I, 5:1: “Solomon was ruler over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines”
The Hebrew used for “ruler” is the word “Moshel” rather than “Melech” (king). We sense this has to do with ruling an empire, from a distance, like a chairman of the board. This was how Solomon ruled his vast empire. This contrasts with the Melech, the king, who takes the knowledge from above (Mem), teaching through himself (Lamed), to ground it in Earth for the sake of his subjects (final Chaf). There is a sense of a bit more intimacy and familiarity, or at least proximity, of the Melech to his subjects, versus the distant administrator represented by the Moshel.
Kings I, 5:9 “God gave wisdom and great understanding, and an expanded heart . . . ”
This is the manifestation of the “listening heart”, Lev shomeah, that Solomon had asked from HaShem in his prior dream. So Solomon is gifted with a heart that perfectly balances wisdom, Chochmah, the formless influx of wisdom from Spirit, and understanding, the structure of Binah, that gives that formless wisdom the structure it needs to move further into the world. Solomon is thus the model of a leader with a brilliant mind, one that balances both left and right brain. This was the wisdom that “spoke 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs” (verse 5:12), giving us the wisdom teaching books of Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Kohelet (Ecclesiastes).
Kings I, 5:15: “for Hiram was beloved by David . . . ”
Solomon begins the building of the Temple, asking King Hiram of Lebanon to provide the cedar trees that would be needed for building material. Hiram was on great terms with David, and extends the alliance to David’s son. Although he had wanted to build the temple, David was not able to. He was a man always at war, probably had few preserved resources, and was spiritually not the one to build the temple. Solomon on the other hand had consolidated the kingdom, brought peace and plenty, and had the spiritual wisdom needed to transfer the nation’s place of worship from the desert-built Tabernacle to the more permanent structure that would be the Beit HaMikdash.