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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

1 Kings 5

 

 

Verses 1-18

The Co-operation of Hiram

1 Kings 5

HIRAM is first mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:11, and a parallel passage will be found in 1 Chronicles 14:1, from which we learn that he sent workmen and materials to David for the building of his own palace. According to tradition, Hiram was a tributary or dependent monarch. The embassy which Hiram sent on this occasion was evidently meant to express the congratulations of the king of Tyre,—in 2 Chronicles 2:14-15 we find the words, "My lord," "My lord David thy father." There is a notable mixture of affection and reverence in the spirit which Hiram showed to Solomon; Hiram was "ever a lover of David," and yet he speaks of David in terms which an inferior would use to a superior. Hiram preserved the continuity of friendship, and herein showed himself an example, not only to monarchs but to other men. "Thine own friend, and thy father"s friend, forsake not." Solomon in returning an answer to the congratulations of Hiram was faithful to history as embodied in the person of his own father, and therefore was by so much qualified to continue what he believed to be the purpose and covenant of God. Solomon looked facts steadily in the face. In the book of Chronicles the condemnation which the Lord pronounced upon David is still more emphatically set forth: "But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight" ( 1 Chronicles 22:8, 1 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 2:3).

Although Solomon was blessed with "rest on every side," and was enabled to look upon a future without so much as the shadow of an adversary upon it, yet he was determined not to be indolent. "And, behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God "—this is the language of a strong man; this is the strength which increases by its own exercise. Suppose a man to come into the circumstances which we have described as constituting the royal position of Song of Solomon , and suppose that man destitute of an adequate and all-controlling purpose, it is easy to see how he would become the victim of luxury, and how what little strength he had would gradually be withdrawn from him. But at all events in the opening of Solomon"s career we see that the purpose was always uppermost, the soul was in a regnant condition, all outward pomp and circumstance was ordered back into its right perspective, and the king pursued a course of noble constancy as he endeavoured to realise the idea and intent of heaven. The same law applies to all prosperous men. To increase in riches is to increase in temptation, to indolence and self-idolatry: to external trust and vain confidence, to misanthropy, monopoly, and oppression; the only preventive or cure is the cultivation of a noble "purpose," so noble indeed as to throw almost into contempt everything that is merely temporal and earthly Solomon not only had inward and spiritual wisdom which comforted his mind, but he had an intention which required him always to travel out of himself, and to work for the glory of his kingdom and the benefit of his people. Every master, every great Prayer of Manasseh , every leader should build a house for God, a school for the ignorant, an asylum for the destitute, or in some other way realise a sublime purpose in life. Then let riches come tenfold, and they will not be too much to carry out a benevolence which knows no bound.

Even the noblest purpose needs the co-operation of sympathetic and competent men:

"Now therefore command thou that they hew me cedar trees out of Lebanon; and my servants shall be with thy servants: and unto thee will I give hire for thy servants according to all that thou shalt appoint: for thou knowest that there is not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians" ( 1 Kings 5:6).

Thus the Jew seeks assistance from the Gentile in building the house of the Lord. How wonderful are the co-operations which are continually taking place in life! so subtly do they interblend, and make up that which is lacking in each other, that it is simply impossible to effect an exhaustive analysis. Nor would it be desirable that such an analysis should be completed. We cannot live upon analysis. We should fix our minds upon the great fact that no man liveth unto himself, that no man is complete in himself, that every man needs the help of every other Prayer of Manasseh , and thus we shall see how mysteriously is built the great temple of life, and is realised before the eyes of the universe the great purpose of God. Co-operation is only another word for the distributions which God has made of talent and opportunity. It might be supposed that co-operation was simply a human act; whereas in its outworking, it shows the marvellous distribution which God has made of capacity, resource, opportunity; how he has related one man to another, and one event to another; when we study co-operation in this light we see that it is but the under or visible side of divine providence, the bringing together of parts apparently sundered, yet which need only to approach one another to show that they were meant to act in harmony. Not only must there be co-operation between foreign powers, there must also be co-operation at home. This is made clear by the thirteenth verse:

"And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men." ( 1 Kings 5:13)

In vain had Hiram responded in the language of generous sympathy if Israel itself had been a divided people. This must be the condition of the Church as a great working body in the world. It will be in vain that poetry, history, literature, music, and things which apparently lie outside the line of spiritual activity, send in their offers, tributes, and contributions, each according to its own kind, if the Church to which the offer is made is a divided and self-destroying body. When all Israel is one, the contributions of Tyre will be received with thankfulness and be turned to their highest uses. When the Church meets in one place with one accord, then there will come a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind; but that sound of blessing and inspiration will never come to a Church that is torn by intestinal strife.

A beautiful picture is given in verse fourteen:

"And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month by courses: a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home." ( 1 Kings 5:14)

The picture represents the difference between cutting down and setting up; in other words, the difference between destruction and construction. It was easier to cut down than it was to build up. Enough could be cut down in one month to require two months for the putting of it together in architectural form. The two operations should always go on together. The business of the Church is to pull down, and to build up; even to use the materials of the enemy in building up the temple of the living God. The picture has an evident relation to the ease with which men can pull down faith and darken hope and unsettle confidence. What can be easier than to fell a tree which has required centuries in which to perfect its strength and beauty? Who could not in one hour, having made proper preparation, blow to pieces the finest fabric ever reared by the genius of man? Who could not by one blow destroy a picture painted by the hand of the greatest master? The picture also shows us the beautiful idea of foreign labour and home service being united in the same men. Thus the work of foreign missions should help the work of missions at home. Every idolatry that is thrown down abroad should be turned into a contribution for the upbuilding and strengthening of the Church at home. Sometimes there is greater difficulty at home than there is on the distant mountains or in the provinces of a foreign king. The Christian, turning all these historical instances to their highest spiritual uses, should know himself to be bound to destroy and to create, to tear up and to plant, and to conduct generally the double and contradictory work of uprooting error and planting the vine of heavenly truth.

"And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house. And Solomon"s builders and Hiram"s builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house" ( 1 Kings 5:17-18).

The care thus shown of the foundation is another instance of the wisdom of Solomon. The stones which were used in the foundation were in no sense considered insignificant or worthless. We cannot read the epithets which are applied to them without being reminded of the foundation which God himself has laid in Zion. There is no straining of the merely historical event connected with Solomon"s temple in seeing in it hints and suggestions regarding the greater temple of which it was but a faint emblem. The stones which Solomon used are described as "great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones;" the terms which are used to describe the foundation which was laid in Zion are these—"A stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation." We read also of the foundations of the wall of the city which John saw in vision—"The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb."

A curious illustration of the union between the permanent and the temporary is shown in all earthly arrangements. Solomon laid foundations which might have lasted as long as the earth itself endured. Judging by the foundations alone, one would have said concerning the work of Song of Solomon , This is meant for permanence; no thought of change or decay ever occurred to the mind of the man who laid these noble courses. It is the same with ourselves in nearly all the relations of life. We know that we may die today, yet we lay plans which will require years and generations to accomplish. We are perfectly aware that our breath is in our nostrils, yet we build houses which we intend to stand for centuries—knowing that we cannot occupy them ourselves, yet by some impulse or instinct which we cannot control, in building for ourselves we build for others, and it is to the future that we owe the strength of the present. Yet we often speak as having no obligation to the future, or as if the future would do nothing for us, not knowing that it is the future which makes the present what it Isaiah , and that but for the future all our inspiration would be lost because our hope would perish. Let us see that our foundations are strong. He who is more anxious for decoration than solidity knows not the climate in which he builds, and knows not the forces by which his work will be assailed. In all building consider strength first, and beauty next Especially let this be so in the building of character. Let even the foundations be of precious stones, as of jasper and sapphire, chalcedony and emerald, sardonyx and sardius, chrysolite and beryl, topaz and chrysoprasus, jacinth and amethyst. Having spent such great and costly care upon the foundations, surely we cannot but be just to ourselves in making the superstructure worthy of the base on which it stands.

A beautiful illustration of contrast and harmony is to be found in the distribution which Solomon made of his workers and the labour they were required to undertake:—"And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains; beside the chief of Solomon"s officers which were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, which ruled over the people that wrought in the work" ( 1 Kings 5:15-16). Here we find burden-bearers, hewers in the mountains, officers, and rulers. There was no standing upon one level or claiming of one dignity. Each man did what he could according to the measure of his capacity, and each man did precisely what he was told to do by his commanding officer. It is in vain to talk about any equality that does not recognise the principle of order and the principle of obedience. Our equality must be found in our devotion, in the pureness of our purpose, in the steadfastness of our loyalty, and not in merely official status or public prominence. The unity of the Church must be found, not in its forms, emoluments, dignities, and the like, but in the simplicity of its faith and the readiness of its eager and affectionate obedience. Looking for a moment at the seventeenth verse, we find the arrangement perfected by the words "and the king commanded." Now let us read the whole as if it were a catalogue—burden-bearers, hewers in the mountains, officers, rulers,—and the king commanded. There is the true picture of a working Church. There is no indignity in any department of Church service. It is honour enough for an angel to go upon any errand which God may appoint. Looking at ourselves and amongst ourselves, we may begin to speak about diversity of honours, but looking at God and taking our commands from him, we shall not fasten our attention upon the thing which has to be done as compared with something which another man may be called to do, but shall see in the glory of the King, honour enough to fill not only our ambition but our imagination.

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 5:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/1-kings-5.html. 1885-95.

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