The Sand of the Sea

One of the chief promises God made to Abraham was that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand of the sea. The point is not that we try to calculate how much sand there is and then draw a numerical parallel. Obviously there is too much sand on the shore to number. Throughout the period of revelation, from the time of Abraham to Christ, we find hints that the LORD is fulfilling this promise. One such place is 1 Kings 4:20 where we read, “Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing.” God had been faithful to His promises. He had multiplied Abraham’s descendants and given them a king after His own heart (i.e. David) and then a prince of peace (i.e. Solomon). Judah and Israel were prospering by the hand of the LORD. These words come right after the account of Solomon’s rise to the throne and right after God gave Solomon whatever he asked for–wisdom and understanding. The verse is crucial in this context. It is no small detail that Judah and Israel are said to have been “as the sand by the Sea in multitude.” There is a relationship between what is said in 1 Kings 4:20 and 1 Kings 4:29. Back in chapter 3 we learn that Solomon’s request for wisdom is based on the fact that he was called to rule and to govern God’s people. Solomon said, “Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours (1 Kings 3:8-9)?” God did just what Solomon asked and gave him the wisdom and understanding he needed to shepherd His people. In 1 Kings 4:29 we are told, “God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore.” God gave Solomon wisdom commensurate for the task. The people were as numerous as the sand on the sea so God gave Solomon a heart so full of wisdom it could not be measured. There is of course a typological relationship, between Solomon and Christ, at work here.

When we come to the New Testament we see that God’s people need the greater than Solomon, who is Himself the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1). We need one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” We need Him to rule us with His saving grace and wisdom. He is the one who fulfills the promise to Abraham and who rules the true descendants of Abraham (Gal. 3:9; 29) with His wisdom. In Him a people from every tongue, tribe, nation and language are redeemed (Rev. 5:9). We need the seed of Abraham and the greater Solomon to redeem us and rule us with His wisdom. But we also need the wisdom that Christ provides. This is why James writes: “If anyone lacks wisdom let him ask of God who gives to all men liberally and without reproach. But let him ask in faith with no doubting…” We are to come to the greater than Solomon so that we also may receive wisdom and understanding. Our God will give us largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore if we ask for it as Solomon did. Ministers especially need to ask for wisdom since they have been called to watch over, and care for, the people of God. Oh that the Lord would grow his flock and give his shepherds wise and understanding hearts.

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2 Responses

  1. Benjamin Shaw

    Nick, you might be interested to see the following numbers re the population of ancient Israel according to modern archaeologists. About 1200 BC, the population of Palestine was 60-70,000; about 150,000 in the time of David; about 400,000 in the 8th century. Note that this is the total population of Palestine, not limited to the Israelites. The figures are taken from Paula M. McNutt’s, Reconstructing the Society of Ancient Israel (Westminster/John Knox, 1999), 244 n. 13.

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