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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

1 Kings 5



Verse 5


‘An house unto the name of the Lord my God.’

1 Kings 5:5

It is a matter of great interest that ere Solomon could proceed in his vast design, he had to call in the aid of Gentile hands. The opportunity for this was given to him when Hiram, the Phœnician king, who had ever been so friendly with king David, sent a message of congratulation to Solomon on his accession to the throne. Solomon immediately replied to this embassy of good-will, and took occasion to unfold his purpose and secure the co-operation of Hiram.

I. We are told that the building of the Temple occupied seven years.—When we read the dimensions of this building, and are told that it consisted of two main chambers, that the whole length was ninety feet, from side to side thirty feet, and from floor to roof forty-five feet, it does not seem to us a remarkable thing to raise a building of such commonplace dimensions in seven years. But we must remember that it was built on the narrow top of Mount Moriah, and that it needed to rest upon vast substructures built up from the valley to make the hill-top not less than five hundred yards square. The walls necessary for this had to be built of stone, cut from a quarry on the crown of the hill. These stones had to be moved down an inclined plane and built so strongly that they should support the whole structure at the top. No one can adequately estimate the extraordinary patience and labour involved in this task. When we are told that one of these stones, still visible in its original place, weighs something like two hundred tons, and that such a stone had to be moved and lifted without our modern appliances, we may dimly see glimpses of the agony and torture of the men whose strength had to be expended upon such labour.

II. This opens our eyes to the real cost of a building like the Temple.—Not only was Solomon dependent upon the labour of the servants of Hiram, he made a levy from amongst the people of Israel to the extent of thirty thousand men, of whom ten thousand only were at work at any one time. These ten thousand laboured for a month and then retired to their homes for two months; and so on they worked, travelling to Lebanon and back in three monthly rotations.

But there was a still greater army of labourers, composed of men who were called the burden-bearers and those who were called the hewers or stone-cutters; of the former there were seventy thousand, and of the latter eighty thousand. These men were drawn from two sources: first, the peoples whom David had conquered; and, second, the original inhabitants of the land who were yet unexterminated. These worked literally as slaves, and no one can imagine the horror involved in slave labour in those ancient times upon royal undertakings like this. One writer says that these facts show us how in the day of Solomon ‘an abyss of misery heaved and moaned under the glittering surface of his splendour.’

III. That in Solomon’s heart there was a truly religious intent there can be no doubt.—Out of loyalty to the memory of David and out of adoration for Jehovah, he desired to make this structure as glorious as was possible. And truly when, upon that enormous platform, that Temple stood glittering outwardly with brass and inwardly with lavish ornamentation of gold, he might look upon it with sincerely pious emotions.

Nevertheless, we are thankful that the Spirit of God has led His people so far beyond the knowledge and the attainments of Solomon that we see now what he could not see in his day, that a Temple built at such cost of human agony and humiliation cannot truly bring glory unto God. There may be those who, to-day, make large fortunes out of the shame, the impoverishment, and the suffering of their fellow-men, and who give a slice of these fortunes to the building of cathedrals or the endowment of churches; but the general sense of Protestant Christendom is surely coming to see that no pious gift can, in the sight of God, blot out the guilt of a man who gained the power to give by injustice and cruelty to his fellow-men.


(1) ‘There is one thing here that is not beautiful or good. Solomon had begun to oppress his people for his pleasure, and he built the house for the Name of God, not by appeals to the free will of his people, but by raising a “levy out of all Israel” (v. 13), i.e., by forced labour. And the blotches of smoke are still visible, says Farrar, on the walls of the underground quarries where they laboured. This is one of the blots in Solomon’s reign, and when he died the whole people cried to his son Rehoboam, “Thy father made our yoke grievous … make thou … his heavy yoke … lighter.”’

(2) ‘The men of Tyre and Sidon became helpers in building the Temple. It is interesting to notice that not only were materials brought from heathen lands, but much of the work was done by heathen builders and artists. This suggests to us that in the great temple of God that is rising in heaven men of all nations work. God loved the world and gave His Son to die for the world. To-day the missionaries are carrying the Gospel to all parts of the earth, to every nation under heaven.’

(3) ‘Souls are built as temples are—

Sunken deep, unseen, unknown,

Lies the sure foundation stone,

Then the courses framed to bear,

Lift the cloisters, pillared fair.

Last of all the airy spire,

Soaring heavenward, higher and higher,

Nearest sun and nearest star.

Souls are built as temples are—

Based on truth’s eternal law,

Sure and steadfast without flaw,

Through the sunshine, through the snows,

Up and on the building goes;

Every fair thing finds its place,

Every hard thing lends a grace,

Every hand may make or mar.’

(4) ‘The treaty between Solomon and Hiram was eminently wise, since their peoples were so different—the one pastoral, the other commercial. So we receive from one another, and it is wise for Peter and John to make common friendship, and to go together up the steps to the Gate Beautiful!’


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Kings 5:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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