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The twelve officers of Solomon then, mentioned 1 Kings iv. 17-19, are to be considered as his general-receivers. They furnished food for all that belonged to the king; and the having provisions for themselves and attendants, seems to have been, in those times of simplicity, all the ordinary gratification his ministers of state, as well as his meaner servants, received. Silver, gold, horses, armour, precious vestments, and other things of value, came to him from other quarters: partly a kind of tribute from the surrounding princes, 1 Kings x. 15, 25; partly from the merchants, whom he suffered to pass through his country to and from Egypt, or elsewhere, ver. 15; partly from his own commerce by the Red Sea. ver. 22.
The horses and armour he seems to have distributed among the most populous towns, who were to find horsemen and people to drive chariots to such a number when called for; and out of the silver, and other precious things that came to him, he made presents upon extraordinary occasions to those that distinguished themselves in his service, 1 Kings x.
And according to this plan of conducting the expenses of civil government, the history of Solomon is to be explained. Commentators have not always had this present to their minds when illustrating this part of Scripture.
Sir J. Chardin even supposes the telling the
flocks, Jer. xxxiii. 13, was for the purpose of paying tribute, it being the custom in the East to count the flocks, in order to take the third of the increase and young ones for the king."
Money counted and sealed up in Bags, or Purses of various Amount.
THE money that is collected together in the treasuries of Eastern princes is told up in certain equal sums, put into bags, and sealed ; it appears to have been so anciently.
The MS. C. in a note on Tobit ix. 5, tells us, "it is the custom of Persia always to seal up bags of money, and the money of the king's treasure is not told, but is received by bags sealed up.
These are what are called, in some other parts of the Levant, purses, I presume; where they reckon great expenses by so many purses. Each of these, Maillet informs us, in a note, contains money to the value of fifteen hundred livres, or five hundred
It was not so large a proportion in the time of Samuel, 1 Sam. viii. 17, but must have been thought a heavy burden, when this eagerness after their nation's having regal glory among them like others, was a little abated.
a Lett. x. p. 79. b Consequently a purse is equal to about sixty-five pounds of our money.
The money collected in the Temple the time of king Joash, for its reparation, seems, in like manner, to have been told up in bags of equal value to each other, and we may believe delivered to those that paid the workmen sealed, 2 Kings xii. 10. One can hardly imagine the putting it in bags would otherwise have been mentioned. What the value of a Jewish purse was no virtuoso, I doubt, will be able precisely to inform us.
Job seems to allude to this custom, ch. xiv. 17: and if so, he considered his offences as reckoned by GoD to be very numerous; as well as not suffered by him to be lost in inattention; for they are only considerable sums that are thus kept. If commentators have understood this image to point out the first of these two things, I have overlooked those passages; they seem to me to have confined themselves to the last, which is undoubtedly contained in the metaphor, but appears not to be the whole of it.
Each bag, mentioned 2 Kings v. 23, seems to have been of the value of a talent; but this might be something extraordinary: probably they were greatly superior to modern Eastern purses in value.
Of the hyperbolical Compliments used in the East.
WHEN We read over some of the compliments paid to Eastern Princes, particularly those of the wise woman of Tekoah to king David, As an angel of GoD, so is my Lord the king, to discern good and bad; and again, My Lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of GOD, to know all things that are in the earth, 2 Sam, xiv. 17, 20; we are ready to call to mind the hyperbolical genius of those Countries but perhaps there was more of real persuasion here than we are ready to apprehend.
Sir J. Chardin, in the sixth volume of his MS. in a note on Gen. xliv. 18, gives us a remarkable story of what once happened to him in Persia. "I happened one day, (says he) when I was in the king's wardrobe, whither I had been sent for by the grand master, to fix the price of a pretty rich trinket, which his majesty had a mind to have at a less price than I could afford. I happened, I say, to answer him, upon his telling me that the king had valued it at so much only, that he knew very well it was worth more, many of the principal courtiers being present; the grand master made me a severe reply, and told me, I was not a little.
bold to find fault with the king's valuation, and that if a Persian had dared to have done this, it would have been as much as his life was worth, &c. I answered him, My lord, shall this be reckoned a crime, the saying that a great king perpetually covered with the most beautiful precious stones in the world, has put but little value on a trinket, which, compared with them, is, in truth, a trifle?' The grand master replied, with the same air, Know that the kings of Persia have a general and full knowledge of matters, as sure as it is extensive; and that equally in the greatest and the smallest things, there is nothing more just and sure than what they pronounce," I had a mind to mention this incident, as it so well shows the prepossession of the Asiatics in favour of their kings, or rather of their own slavery. The knowledge of this prince, according to this ́great officer of his, was like that of an angel of GOD.
How far he believed this, cannot be known. Prejudice is a powerful thing; and as the Asiatics are bred up in the profoundest reverence for their princes, so the Persians imagine, I think, there is something sacred in this race of their kings. If the ancient Egyptians supposed their princes possessed the like sagacity, which is not improbable, the compliment of Judah to Joseph was a very high one, Thou art even as Pharaoh, knowing and equitable as he.
◄ Gen. xliv. 18.