Initial we are told that King Solomon used the descendants of the conquered tribes as his servants to build his cities and other works

1 Kings 9:22 NKJV

22 But of the children of Israel Solomon made no forced laborers, because they were men of war and his servants: his officers, his captains, commanders of his chariots, and his cavalry.

But later in the same book we learn how the servitude that Solomon had imposed on the Israelis eventually led to the division of Israeli into two kingdoms.

1 Kings 12:4 NKJV

4 “Your father made our yoke [a]heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.”

How can we reconcile the above texts?


2 Answers 2


I do not see any contradiction between 1 Kings 9:22 and 1 Kings 12:4. While native Israelites where never enslaved or conscripted, Solomon had imposed a very heavy burden/yoke of taxation to finance his staggeringly expensive and extravagant building program (1 Kings 6:14, 22; 1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 7; 1 Kings 9:26, 17, 18).

Despite using non-Israelites as forced labour, the cost of Solomon's ambitious building and construction program would have still required huge revenues of money which was raised by a combination of taxation and tribute from traders and foreign nations/territories.

Further, even if Israelites had been used only as servants, "his servants: his officers, his captains, commanders of his chariots, and his cavalry" this would still impose a rising burden on a largely subsistence agrarian economy as each able-bodied man or woman taken into the service of Solomon (and there were huge numbers) imposes a burden on the family farm income by depriving it of labour.

It was these two "yokes" from which the people asked relief: taxation and labour deprivation.


Another way of reconciling the references is by noting that "exemption of the Israelites" is specified in relation to the building work on the temple. It's possible that the exemption disappeared later in the reign, or when other works in the kingdom were needed.

We should note that the future rebel Jeroboam was appointed by Solomon to have "charge over the forced labour of the house of Joseph", which was the most substantial portion of the north (1 Kings ch11 v28). It's plausible that God sent him that message through Ahijah, soon afterwards, because Jerobaom's mind and conscience was already disturbed by the work he was supervising, knowing what the people felt about it. The same population lynched Adoram, "taskmaster over the forced labour" in the next chapter (ch12 v18), which they would not have done if they were exempt.

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