1 Kings 4:25
And Judah and Israel dwelled safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba…
The text presents to us a perfect picture of a peaceful and prosperous commonwealth. It is painted with few touches, but they are all full of expression. We have before our eyes a fruitful land. Cities, of different but united tribes, shine at a distance. Quiet fields repose between. Families are grouped here and there under the shadow of the leaves and the wealth of the fruit. And over all spreads the rule of the prince, whose name has been but another name for wisdom over the eastern and western world. The text invites us to draw a parallel between the Hebrew commonwealth, at this highest point it ever reached of growth and refinement, and our own country.
1. First, then, it enjoyed the most perfect political independence. It was in itself an empire; compact at home, respected abroad. Its commerce spread its sail to all the winds, and extended its traffic as far as the Spanish coast and the pillars of Hercules. It was independent of the customs of others, as well as of their dictation; for it was a peculiar people. It was independent of the teaching of others; for it was Divinely instructed.
2. Though one, it was composed of several well-defined parts. It was a confederacy of states, owning a common chief.
3. The third particular that calls for our notice in this pleasant scene is the safety, the content, the enjoyment, of each individual citizen — protected in his rights, and surrounded with the bounties which his industry had gathered, or which fortune, without any effort of his own, had bequeathed to him. "Every man under his vine and fig-tree." Here, after all, is the test of a truly flourishing state: what is done for the private person, and what his opportunities are, in point of civilisation and enjoyment. For such persons is the state appointed, and not they for the state. The improvement and happiness of its members must be its leading aim. Such was the happy position of Jacob's united states during the reign of the third of their kings. Though hardly even the third who could be truly called so, he was the last that ruled over their associated people. Irreligion first made its inroads. The service of the Lord was neglected or defiled. The customs of the heathen were adopted. The nations that could not withstand their arms inflicted upon them their superstitions, and so were avenged for their overthrow. Then came the insolence of despotic sway. Oppression provoked resistance. Ten tribes revolted, and two adhered. The bond of political brotherhood was cut through by the sword, and Judah and Israel, so prosperous together, fell wretchedly apart, and became rivals and foes. Where was now their independence? They were intriguing at foreign courts, and seeking disastrous alliances — so unlike their own — with the North and the South. Where was their peace? It was sacrificed in civil strife — that most monstrous of iniquities, and mother of sorrows. Where was their glory? It was all extinguished, except that which burnt in the lamps of the sanctuary, and glowed upon the lips of prophets and holy men. Where was their abundance? It flowed away among their divisions and their sins. The fig ripened for the invader. The wine-press was dabbled with blood.
(N. L. Frothingham.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.