1 Kings 4:25 (ESV)

25 And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon.

In this verse we are given a small glimpse of a difference that existed between Solomon’s rule and the exercise of power in Gentile nations. This difference is found in the fact that before the writer of 1 Kings mentions the benefit of Solomon’s rule for himself, he shows its result regarding the people of Judah and Israel.

The writer does so in a very brief statement that nonetheless carries a good deal of meaning. He gives us a word picture that presents the people sitting under their vines and fig trees. This picture is one of security, rest, and prosperity. Judah and Israel, we might say, had nothing to fear at this time. It is an idyllic image.

Some scholars, despite the present verse, characterize Solomon’s rule as fundamentally harsh. This is partially based upon the plea of the people of Israel to Rehoboam that he might lighten the burden that Solomon had placed upon them. The question, nevertheless, is whether the burdensome nature of the rule characterized only the end of his reign when he had turned from the Lord.

The picture of Solomon’s reign given in this chapter ought rather to be seen to characterize the reign when Solomon enjoyed the favour of God. That understanding is the context in which this verse should be viewed.