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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

1 Kings 5

 

 

Verses 1-18

Solomon Arranges With Hiram King Of Tyre For His Country’s Assistance In The Building Of The Temple (1 Kings 5:1-18).

The next example of Solomon’s glory and splendour is found by the writer in the building of a Temple to YHWH. Such a step on ascending the throne was well known among foreign kings, as they sought to show their gratitude to their gods, and win their continuing favour by building them a splendid temple. Solomon was no different, and he sought to justify doing the same thing on the grounds of YHWH’s covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:13), although it is doubtful whether that was what YHWH originally intended (2 Samuel 7:5-7). Indeed, in spite of God’s initial lack of enthusiasm for the project, David himself had taken it at least partly in the that way (2 Samuel 8:11; 1 Chronicles 22; 1 Kings 8:51; 1 Chronicles 26:25). It was not really surprising. It was difficult for even spiritual men like David men to think solely in spiritual terms in those days (as indeed there are many in the same position today who are unable to get away from the idea of a physical temple and physical sacrifices). They felt very much bound to earth.

But while the writer was building up a picture of Solomon’s glory, he was at the same time doing it with reservations. Underneath all the splendour he could already see the cracks appearing.

For the house that YHWH had really wanted Solomon to build had been a spiritual house made up of his sons and descendants, not a house of wood and stone. Careful scrutiny of 2 Samuel 7 indicates that the concentration throughout is not on the building of a Temple, but on the building of a dynastic house which would result finally in the arrival of the Coming King. ‘YHWH tells you that he will make you a house (dynasty) -- your seed -- he will build a house (a dynasty) for My Name and I will establish the throne of his kingship for ever -- and your house (dynasty) and your kingship will be established for ever before you, your throne will be established for ever’ (2 Samuel 7:11; 2 Samuel 7:13; 2 Samuel 7:16, compare 1 Kings 7:26). YHWH’s emphasis was thus on the promise of the foundation of a dynasty which would finally result in the everlasting King. The truth is that in building the physical house, and being satisfied with it and putting too much emphasis on it, Solomon did in fact miss out on the need to build a spiritual house. It would only be as a result of God’s activity that that spiritual house would come to a reality in our Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, God did in His graciousness accept the physical house from their hands, simply because He knew that they were bringing it to Him from a right attitude of heart. He recognised and made allowance for man’s weakness. (We saw a similar situation with regard to the kingship in 1 Samuel - 1 Samuel 8-9).

The result of Solomon’s dreams was that when Hiram the King of Tyre, whose countrymen were skilled in fine building techniques, contacted Solomon in order to congratulate him on his safe accession to the throne, it must have seemed to Solomon like a gift from Heaven (which in one sense it was), and he took advantage of Hiram’s friendly approach in order to obtain the assistance of his experts in the building of his planned Temple, pointing out that he had to build it because it had been required by YHWH.

His major need was the right kind of timber, selected and dressed by experienced timber experts, and he called on Hiram to provide this for him in return for adequate compensation. On hearing this Hiram replied with the right noises (he stood to gain a good deal from the venture), and arranged for the timber to be cut, delivered and dressed, in response to which Solomon paid him the first instalment of the agreed payment. Meanwhile Solomon himself arranged for the cutting out of stones suitable for the Temple by using huge amounts of forced labour. Then Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites (expert carpenters from Gebal/Byblos) got together to prepare the timber and the stones, ready for building the Temple.

As we read the following narrative we should perhaps bear in mind the contrast between this Sanctuary, and the one that YHWH had requested, for the prophetic writer does appear to wish for us to make the comparison.

Note On The Contrast Between The Tabernacle And The Temple.

In 2 Samuel 7:5-7 YHWH asks David, “Shall you build Me a house for Me to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt even to this day, but have walked in a Tent and in a Dwellingplace (shaken - Tabernacle). In all the places in which I have walked with the children of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed My people, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ ” And He then went on to point out rather that He would build a house for David, a house of flesh and blood which would inherit the throne. The emphasis in 1 Kings 5:11-16 is on that house (1 Kings 5:11; 1 Kings 5:13; 1 Kings 5:16). While 1 Kings 5:13 may be slightly ambiguous out of context, in the context it is quite plain. There is not the slightest indication anywhere else in Samuel that a literal Temple was in mind. The ‘house’ that Solomon was to build was to result in the establishing of the kingdom and the permanent occupation of the throne (The Temple accomplished neither).

In view of this lack of positive reference to the building of the Temple we should perhaps compare the two in the light of what we find in Exodus and Kings.

1). The Tabernacle Was To Be Built Of Free-will Offerings From Those Whose Hearts Were Willing. The Temple Was Built Out Of Enforced Taxation.

A comparison between the Tabernacle and the Temple soon brings out the discrepancy between the two, and is in fact deliberately and patently brought out at one stage by the writer of Kings. Consider for example the Tabernacle. It was to be built of free-will offerings; ‘of every man whose heart makes him willing you will take my offering’ (Exodus 25:2). What a contrast with the building of the Temple where Hiram’s ‘gifts’ turned out to be very expensive indeed (1 Kings 5:10-12), helping to cripple the economy of Israel, and none of the people had any choice in the matter. And there was very little of free-will offering in the levies that Solomon raised out of Israel for the purpose (1 Kings 5:13-18). Indeed we learn very clearly about the ‘goodwill’ involved in 1 Kings 12:4; 1 Kings 12:14. As the author makes clear they lay at the root of the division that occurred between Israel and Judah.

2). The Tabernacle Was Built At YHWH’s Specific Request According To His Pattern. The Temple Was Specifically Never Requested.

Then YHWH adds, ‘And let them make me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, the pattern of the Dwellingplace (Tabernacle), and the pattern of all its furniture, even so shall you make it’ (Exodus 25:8-9). So it was to be made of freewill offerings, gladly given, and was to be made according to YHWH’s pattern, and we have already noted that it was said to be in total contrast to David’s idea for a Temple (see above). Here in Exodus YHWH had asked them to make Him a Sanctuary. In 2 Samuel 7:5-7 YHWH specifically says that He has NOT asked for a Temple, while in 1 Kings 5:5 it is Solomon who says, ‘I purpose to build a house for the Name of YHWH my God’, (with the emphasis on the ‘I’), relying on a misinterpretation of 2 Samuel 7:13.

Furthermore it will be noted that far from being built on a pattern determined by YHWH, the furniture of the new Temple was very much seen to be a combination of the ideas of Solomon (1 Kings 6:14-36; 1 Kings 7:47-51) and Hiram The Metal-worker (1 Kings 7:13-46) as the author specifically brings out.

3). The Tabernacle Was Built Under The Jurisdiction Of A Trueborn Israelite Who Was Filled With The Spirit Of God, And By Willing, Responsive, Workers, The Temple Was Built Under The Jurisdiction Of A Half-Pagan With No Mention Of The Spirit Of God, And By Enforced Levies.

Having commanded the building of His Sanctuary YHWH later then called to Moses again and said, ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship’ (Exodus 31:2; compare Exodus 35:31). And Moses then called men in order to give instructions as to how the work was to proceed, ‘and Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every wise-hearted man, in whose heart YHWH had put wisdom, even everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to the work to do it’ (Exodus 36:2). Note how voluntary it all was.

In contrast the account in 1 Kings 7:13-14 commences with Solomon sending for a man named Hiram (not the king) whom he fetches out of Tyre. And here there appears to be a deliberate attempt in the description of him to bring to mind Bezalel, the skilled worker who made the Tabernacle furnishings and embellishments (Exodus 35:30-33), for Hiram is described as being ‘filled with wisdom (chokmah), and understanding (tabuwn), and skill (da’ath) to work all works in bronze’. With this we can compare the description of Bezalel, ‘He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom (chokmah), and in understanding (tabuwn), and in knowledge (da’ath), and in all manner of workmanship --.’

But it is the differences that are significant:

o Bezalel was called by YHWH from among His people Israel, from the very heart of the camp, Hiram was sent for by Solomon out of pagan Tyre, being only half Israelite.

o Bezalel was ‘filled with the Spirit of God’ in wisdom, understanding and knowledge, Hiram was simply filled with wisdom, understanding and knowledge (mention of the Holy Spirit is consciously dropped).

It will be noted indeed that the author of Kings makes no attempt to pretend that Hiram was filled with the Spirit of God.

4). The Tabernacle Was Built Of Freely-given Cloth And Jewels Which Displayed All Their Pristine Glory, The Temple Was Built Of Blood-stained And Sweat-stained Stones, Which Were Then Covered Over With Timber And Gold, Bought With Taxation or Resulting From Tribute And Trade.

Especially in view of the facts in 3). we find it very difficult to avoid in all this the suggestion that these contrasts were all in the mind of the author of Kings. He wanted us to see the distinction. They would appear to reveal that as a prophet he was not so entranced by the Temple as many of his compatriots appear to have been, seeing rather within it the seeds of its own destruction. Nowhere does he suggest that it was their attitude towards the Temple itself which lay at the root of the failure of the kings of Israel and Judah. His theme with regard to both was rather their attitude towards the setting up of false high places in contrast with the true. In view of the fact that Elijah set up genuine high places which the author clearly saw as acceptable, we cannot argue that his generally expressed attitude towards ‘high places’ necessarily reflected on their attitude towards the Temple. It reflected on their deviation from the truth. And in so far as it did reflect on the Temple it was not because of the Temple per se, but because of its position as the Central Sanctuary.

By the author’s day, of course, an open attack on the Temple would not have been wise (as Jeremiah discovered), but what he was certainly doing was laying seeds of doubt as to how much its building had really been of God. The only Temple which YHWH is in fact specifically said to have required was the Second Temple, outwardly a far inferior version to Solomon’s, but built with willing hands and hearts (Haggai 1:2; Haggai 1:14; compare how the author of Kings would appear to approve of this approach - 2 Kings 22:4).

End of Note.

Analysis.

a And Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the room of his father, for Hiram was ever a lover of David (1 Kings 5:1).

b And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying, “You know how it was that David my father could not build a house for the name of YHWH his God because of the wars which were about him on every side, until YHWH put them under the soles of his feet. But now YHWH my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary, nor evil occurrence” (1 Kings 5:2-4).

c “And, behold, I purpose to build a house for the name of YHWH my God, as YHWH spoke to David my father, saying, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your room, he will build the house for my name’.” (1 Kings 5:5).

d “Now therefore do you command that they cut me cedar-trees out of Lebanon, and my servants will be with your servants, and I will give you hire for your servants in accordance with all that you shall say, for you know that there is not among us any who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians” (1 Kings 5:6).

e “And it came about that, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly, and said, “Blessed be YHWH this day, who has given to David a wise son over this great people” (1 Kings 5:7).

f And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, “I have heard the message which you have sent to me. I will do all your desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of fir” (1 Kings 5:8).

g “My servants will bring them down from Lebanon to the sea, and I will make them into rafts to go by sea to the place that you shall appoint me, and will cause them to be broken up there, and you will receive them, and you will accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household” (1 Kings 5:9).

f So Hiram gave Solomon timber of cedar and timber of fir according to all his desire. And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food for his household, and twenty measures of pure oil. Thus did Solomon give to Hiram year by year (1 Kings 5:10-11).

e And YHWH gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him, and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and they two made a league together (1 Kings 5:12).

d And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel, and the levy was thirty thousand men, and he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month by courses; a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home; and Adoniram was over the men subject to task-work (1 Kings 5:13-14).

c And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand who bore burdens, and fourscore thousand who were hewers in the mountains, besides Solomon’s chief officers who were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, who bore rule over the people who wrought in the work (1 Kings 5:15-16).

b And the king commanded, and they hewed out great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house with wrought stone (1 Kings 5:17).

a And Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites fashioned them, and prepared the timber and the stones to build the house (1 Kings 5:18).

Note that in ‘a’ Hiram sent his servants to Solomon on hearing of his anointing as king, and in the parallel their builders got together to prepare to build the Temple for YHWH. In ‘b’ Solomon declared that all hindrance to the building of the Temple had been removed, and in the parallel the stonework for the task was prepared. In ‘c’ Solomon declared that his purpose was to build a house for YHWH’s Name, and in the parallel those who would do the work were described. In ‘d’ Solomon calls on Hiram to set his carpenters to the work, and in the parallel sent over his own levies to give assistance. In ‘e’ Hiram blessed YHWH for the wisdom that He had given to Solomon so that he could rule his people, and in the parallel the giving and consequences of that wisdom were described. In ‘f’ Hiram confirmed that his workmen would prepare the timber as requested, and in the parallel Hiram gave the timber to Solomon. Centrally in ‘g’ the means of getting the timber to Solomon was described, along with the request for payment.

1 Kings 5:1

And Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the room of his father, for Hiram was ever a lover of David.’

On hearing that Solomon had been anointed king of all Israel, and of the empire beyond, Hiram, king of Tyre, hastened to send his servants to Solomon in order to offer him his congratulations, a normal courtesy extended by friendly kings on the accession of another. And the writer tells us that it was because of his love and respect for David. But it was unquestionably also very expedient. Solomon was now the king of the strongest country around, with the possible, but marginal, exception of Egypt, and had control of the main trade routes which fed Tyre’s maritime trade. Israel was also an important source of grain and olive oil. There was therefore within his gesture a determined attempt to maintain the treaty between the two countries to the advantage of both.

The name Hiram is possibly a shortening of Ahiram (‘my brother is exalted’ or ‘my brother is Ram’), which was a good Phoenician name and is attested for a king of Byblos in about 1200 BC. It was also the name of the royal architect who will appear later.

Tyre was at this time mainly an island city, built on an island a short distance off shore, but with some of its environs established on the mainland. The island city itself was almost impregnable (until Alexander the Great came along later).

1 Kings 5:2-3

And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying, “You know how it was that David my father could not build a house for the name of YHWH his God because of the wars which were about him on every side, until YHWH put them under the soles of his feet.”

Solomon was delighted to receive Hiram’s messengers and accept his good wishes, for his plans for building the Temple included the need to obtain help from Hiram. So he explained to Hiram what he was about, and what follows in 1 Kings 5:2-6 is typical of diplomatic correspondence in those days. He names the addressee, refers to previous contacts, and makes the opening moves towards an economic treaty. Hiram, who had previously helped David to build his palace (2 Samuel 5:11) no doubt already knew about the plans for the Temple because it had originally been David’s intention to build it (2 Samuel 7:2), and even had we not read about it in 1 Chronicles 22, we would have suspected that David had begun making preparations for it (see 1 Kings 8:51; 1 Chronicles 26:25). For while YHWH had not been enthusiastic about his suggestion, and had firmly countered it, it is clear that David had failed to allow YHWH’s words (2 Samuel 7:5-7) to sink deeply enough into his mind for them to replace his own fixed idea. His view was that every nation around had built a splendid temple or more to their gods. Why then should Israel be the exception? And because his heart was filled with love for YHWH he wanted it to be the very best. Yet even he, the Psalmist of Israel, was not spiritual enough to recognise that no earthly Temple could be remotely acceptable to, or suitable for, the God of Sinai. As we have seen, a careful exegesis of the covenant in 2 Samuel 7:8-16 makes clear that the ‘house’ mentioned in 1 Kings 5:13 was not a physical house (the passage as a whole only has in mind a ‘house’ that signifies descendants - 1 Kings 5:11; 1 Kings 5:16) but was paralleled with the idea of the everlasting throne. 1 Kings 5:16 can thus be seen as explaining the fulfilment of 1 Kings 5:13. God would give David a house (1 Kings 5:11), and his seed would build it to the glory of YHWH (1 Kings 5:13), and it would be everlasting (1 Kings 5:16).

However, both David and Solomon wrongly interpreted YHWH’s words in a physical fashion, and in His graciousness YHWH went along with them because He could see that they desired it and that it was from the right attitude of heart (just as God often goes along with us in our plans, even though they must sometimes make Him cringe). It is not difficult to understand why they failed in their understanding. The full concept that God had given them was beyond the grasp of their spiritual comprehension, even though David certainly partially grasped it (1 Kings 5:18-18), and Solomon was himself aware of the inadequacy of the Temple as a dwelling-place for YHWH (1 Kings 8:27). Such understanding would await the illumination of the great prophets.

Solomon then explained to Hiram his view that David had been unable to build the house ‘for the Name of YHWH his God’ because of the wars that were about him on every side. But that again was something that Solomon was, at least to some extent, giving a misleading impression about (we must ever remember that Solomon’s words, while an accurate record of what he said, do not necessarily always themselves express Scriptural truth, any more than Satan’s words do elsewhere). For we have specifically been told that David himself had wanted to build the Temple himself precisely because the wars had ceased (2 Samuel 7:1; 2 Samuel 7:11). In other words his enemies had been put under his feet at that time, and thus that could not be the basic reason for his failing to build the Temple.

It was, however, politic of Solomon to suggest that as the reason, rather than saying that it was because his father was ‘a man of blood’. And 1 Chronicles 22:9 does reveal that there was enough truth in it for it not to be totally false. In fact, however, 1 Chronicles 22:8 tells us that the main reason that David did not build the Temple was because the word of YHWH came to him saying ‘You have shed blood abundantly and have made great wars. You shall not build a house to My Name because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight’. After which YHWH had then yielded to David’s desire for his son to build it and had gone on to permit a physical interpretation of the prophecy first given in 2 Samuel 7:13. What God was doing was making it clear that, even though shed necessarily, the wholesale shedding of human blood by human beings was contrary to all that God was.

YHWH’s allowing of the building of the Temple would have caused no problem if only Israel (and later the Jews) had recognised that the physical Temple was but a symbol of the ‘spiritual house’ that YHWH would establish in the Coming King. How different history would have been in that case. But while they did partly grasp it in the idea of the coming of the Messiah, they had totally wrong ideas about Him, and on the whole both failed to recognise Him when He came, or to recognise that His coming signalled the demise of the Temple which had lost its significance with His coming. They had become wedded to the Temple. To them the Temple had become more important than the Messiah. Similar blindness to some extent pervades much of the church today. They too are looking for the building of a physical Temple, where non-Scriptural sacrifices of their own invention will be offered, and have failed to recognise that the physical Temple has outlived its usefulness and is no longer a valid option, and that it has been more than fully replaced by:

1). Jesus Christ Himself (John 2:19).

2). The spiritual Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18; Ephesians 2:20-22), the Temple which is made up of the conjoined body in Christ of all true believers, the true Zion, the everlasting Sanctuary (Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 12:22), of which Revelation 11:1-12 is a part picture.

3). The heavenly Temple, first visualised by Ezekiel as being on earth for a time, invisibly but effectively (Ezekiel 40-42), and finally being transported into Heaven where its effectiveness is revealed in Revelation.

“For the Name of YHWH his God” probably has in mind the Ark of God for in 2 Samuel 6:2 we read of, ‘the Ark of God, whose Name is called by the Name of YHWH of Hosts Who dwells between the Cherubim’. As far as Israel were concerned where the Ark was the Name was. ‘The Name’ in essence indicates all that God is, and from a human viewpoint that was closely wrapped up with the Ark, with its revelation of the covenant God had made with them held within it and its seat of propitiation above it, indicating to them both God’s covenant requirements and His continual and everlasting mercy, while also emphasising His invisibility. Any reference here to Deuteronomy 12:5 is therefore secondary, if it existed at all.

The idea of ‘the Name of YHWH’ comes as early as Genesis 13:4 where we read that, ‘Abram called on the Name of YHWH’ (and even earlier in Genesis 4:26). In Exodus 20:24 YHWH speaks of ‘the places where I record My Name’, closely linking His Name with His temporary sanctuaries. In Exodus 23:21 YHWH could say of the Angel of YHWH, ‘My Name is in Him’. Thus in all cases ‘the Name’ represented YHWH’s own presence. Again in Exodus 33:19 YHWH ‘pronounced the Name of YHWH’ before Moses as an indication of His revealed presence, compare Exodus 34:5. We can see therefore why the Ark of God which symbolised His presence was ‘called by the Name of YHWH’ (2 Samuel 6:2), and why building the ‘Dwellingplace of YHWH’ was considered as being in order to house His Name, because it housed the Ark, and because He had revealed His ancient glory there. The origin of the idea had therefore little to do with Deuteronomy 12 ff. It was much older. Right from the beginning men had looked to, and worshipped, the Name of YHWH at their sanctuaries, a Name which, however, was not limited to their sanctuaries but went forth as YHWH went forth. Like 2 Samuel references in Deuteronomy 12 ff rather look back to the above references (see Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 12:11; Deuteronomy 14:23-24; Deuteronomy 16:2; Deuteronomy 16:6; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 26:2).

“Put them under the soles of his feet.” The conqueror would expect the defeated enemy to prostrate themselves before him while he symbolically put the soles of his feet on their heads.

Note On The Temple.

The impression given in 2 Samuel 7 is that God did not want a Temple built to His Name, which is why He initially dissuaded David from doing so. It is very doubtful whether 2 Samuel 7:13 initially had in mind the building of a physical Temple for the emphasis in the whole passage is on the coming ‘house of David’ made up of his son and his descendants. But once the idea had become lodged in David’s mind he found it difficult to dismiss. To him it seemed logical that YHWH should have a Temple, and the best Temple possible. He would not see that it simply brought YHWH down to the same level as other (false) gods.

There are then clear hints in Samuel that David had not given up on the idea. See, for example, 2 Samuel 8:11. The Chronicler thus points out that after the incident of the pestilence and the threshing floor (2 Samuel 24) David again began to prepare for the building of such a Temple at which point he was dissuaded from it by being reminded of how much blood he had shed (1 Chronicles 22:8). But he was still insisting on interpreting what God had said in His covenant as referring to a physical Temple. God then seems to have made a concession in allowing his son to build such a Temple because he wanted it so much. There is a very similar parallel between this building of a Temple, which God did not really want, and the original establishment of kingship in 1 Samuel, which God did not really want. In both cases YHWH had not wanted it, but in the end allowed it as a concession.

The idea that then arose was that if such a Temple was to be built it should be as the foundation of the coming successful kingdom of peace, it not being seen as seemly that YHWH’s unique and holy Temple should be founded on the shedding of men’s blood. It was to be a harbinger of joy and peace not of success in war. And Solomon’s reign was being hailed as the beginning of that kingdom of peace. Sadly that kingdom of peace would only too quickly prove abortive because of Solomon’s own failings, but at least the right idea had been conveyed. If only Solomon had rather concentrated on building the right kind of house, a righteous house made up of his sons and descendants, and had given his own time and effort to training them wisely, much of what follows could have been avoided. Instead he thought that he had done enough by building a physical Temple and as a result went wildly wrong, leaving a bad example for his children.

End of note.


Verse 4

But now YHWH my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary, nor evil occurring.”

Solomon then basically cited the promise made to David as per 1 Chronicles 22:9. YHWH had given him rest on every side from the start, with the result that there was peace and quietness in his day. For he had at the time no known adversaries (they had all been dealt with, and others had not yet arisen) and nothing physically ‘evil’ was threatening. Thus the building of YHWH’s house would take place as a celebration of peace and prosperity, rather than as a memorial of blood and death.

Solomon could have cited in his support Deuteronomy 12:19, (although as far as we know he did not), but that had strictly already been seen as fulfilled in Joshua 23:1, where again the emphasis was on the establishment of a holy people.


Verse 5

And, behold, I purpose to build a house for the name of YHWH my God, as YHWH spoke to David my father, saying, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your room, he will build the house for my name’.”

So he explained to Hiram that as a result of the situation brought about by YHWH, he purposed to build a house for the name of YHWH his God as (in his view) YHWH had originally declared to David. Unable to grasp the whole glorious significance of 2 Samuel 7 he selected out from it the little that he thought that he did understand and which would bring the greatest glory to him. Had he put as much effort into building up his spiritual house as YHWH had wished, instead of into building up a physical house for YHWH, history would have been very different. And from the Temple would eventually grow up the iniquitous doctrine of the inviolability of the Temple, a doctrine that would finally contribute to Israel’s downfall, for by it they had made YHWH into a little God firmly tied to earth.. Solomon would prove to be the perfect exemplar of the fact that man loves to thrust his outward religious formalities into the limelight, and having then fulfilled them to his own satisfaction, considers that he can live the remainder of his life as he pleases. It is the story both of later Judaism, and of the physical monstrosity which was built up and called itself the church in the middle ages, and whose legacy still hangs on in many places today.


Verse 6

Now therefore do you command that they cut me cedar-trees out of Lebanon, and my servants will be with your servants, and I will give you hire for your servants in accordance with all that you shall say, for you know that there is not among us any who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”

Then Solomon explained what he really wanted of Hiram. He wanted him to provide the finest of timber from his forests in Lebanon, and to provide experts who would cut it and dress it, because no one knew how to do that like the Sidonians. Sidon, as opposed to Tyre, clearly had a reputation for forest carpentry. The forests would be in their area. He would meanwhile provide men from among ‘his servants’ who would work alongside them, possibly with a view to them learning some of the skills, and he would pay the hire of the Sidonians employed on the work.


Verse 7

And it came about that, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly, and said, “Blessed be YHWH this day, who has given to David a wise son over this great people.”

When Hiram heard this he was delighted. It would not only put him in well with one of the most powerful kings of the day, who also had control of the major trade routes (a major consideration for a trading power), but it would also prove very profitable. So he replied to Solomon’s request with pleasing words. He would not have been a worshipper of YHWH himself, but he was quite prepared to acknowledge that Israel’s God YHWH had given to David a wise son over God’s great and numerous people.

Note again the emphasis on Solomon’s wisdom which comes out throughout this section. His wisdom was not only seen as great, but also as many-varied. He was seen as wise in all that he did. (His subsequent fall must therefore come as a warning to us all. Let him who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall).

1 Kings 5:8

And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, “I have heard the message which you have sent to me. I will do all your desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of pine.”

Then he got down to the practicalities of the matter. The contract, like all oriental contracts, was made in the most euphemistic of terms, terms which hid, with a layer of generosity and bonhomie, the hard bargaining that ensued (compare Genesis 23). ‘I have heard the message that you have sent me and I will fulfil all your timber requirements of both cedar and pine (as long, of course, as the price is right, although we gentlemen do not discuss such things as price)’.


Verse 9

My servants will bring them down from Lebanon to the sea, and I will make them into rafts to go by sea to the place that you shall appoint me, and will cause them to be broken up there, and you will receive them, and you will accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household.”

Hiram’s ‘servants’ (in this case his timber experts, in combination with bearers, and with his seamen) would bring the timber from the mountains of Lebanon to the sea, and would then make them into rafts and tow them along the coast to the place that Solomon appointed, and would break up the rafts of timber and deliver the timber to Solomon and his workmen so that they could do what they liked with them. And in return Solomon would provide payment in the form of large amounts of food for Hiram’s whole court, his ‘household’. This did not simply mean that he would expect food for his workers. It was a requirement for large quantities of grain and pure beaten olive oil (a staple Israelite luxury export) which would be paid to Hiram in exchange for what he had provided (possibly along with an agreement allowing Hiram to purchase a number of Israelite cities and their environs as we shall see later - 1 Kings 9:11-12).

1 Kings 5:10

So Hiram gave Solomon timber of cedar and timber of pine according to all his desire.’

The contract having been agreed Hiram then supplied Solomon with all his timber requirements, providing him with as much cedar and pine as he desired.

1 Kings 5:11

And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food for his household, and twenty measures of pure oil. Thus did Solomon give to Hiram year by year.’

And in return Solomon gave Hiram ‘twenty thousand measures (cors) of wheat for food for his household, and twenty measures (cors) of pure oil’ each year over a number of years. The number of years was possibly determined by the number of years in which Solomon required assistance, that is, for the length of time that it took to build the Temple, and possibly the palace. A ‘cor’ is 220 litres.

We should not confuse these figures with the figures in 2 Chronicles 2:10 which were given once for all and were specifically for the workforce, ‘the hewers who cut timber’.

1 Kings 5:12

And YHWH gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him, and there was peace (or ‘concord’) between Hiram and Solomon, and they two made a league together.’

But the greatest gift was seen by the writer as coming from YHWH. He it was who gave Solomon wisdom as He had promised him, and part of that wisdom consisted in his political and negotiating ability which resulted in peace and concord between the two great countries and a firm treaty between them. By this time Tyre and Sidon were becoming even more important because they were beginning to rule the waves and trade far and wide by sea (see for example Isaiah 23:8). ‘Peace’ might be better translated as ‘concord’.

1 Kings 5:13

And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel, and the levy was thirty thousand men.’

For the purpose of building the Temple Solomon raised a compulsory levy from Israel itself. This levy on Israel was probably seen as necessary in order that the work might not be done by ‘profane’ Canaanite hands, the Sidonian contribution being seen as not quite in the same category because it could be looked at as part of the purchase of the timber and they would not be seen as ‘Canaanites’. Canaanites were seen as off limits (Deuteronomy 23:1-2; Exodus 23:23 and often). The levy consisted of thirty large work units.

Alternately it may have been due to the fear that Canaanite bondsmen sent to Tyre and Sidon may not have chosen to return to Israel, and may have found it easy to escape from there.

1 Kings 5:14

And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month by courses; a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home; and Adoniram was over the men subject to taskwork.’

Each group of ten work units would spend one month working in the Lebanon, and two months back at their homes. They were thus very much not seen as slave labour, which would have been required to work permanently, and Solomon (like any politician who did not have to get his hands dirty) probably thought that they should feel privileged to be doing such work. They were, however, under Adoniram’s control and, as we know from what happened later, he was not very much admired as a result of the way in which he treated them. In those days under such circumstances being whipped was normal (1 Kings 12:4; 1 Kings 12:11; 1 Kings 12:18), even though it is very possible that they were working as paid labourers.

1 Kings 5:15-16

And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand who bore burdens, and fourscore thousand who were hewers in the mountains, besides Solomon’s chief officers who were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, who bore rule over the people who wrought in the work.’

As well as these thirty work units working in Lebanon there were seventy work units who ‘bore burdens’ (were shifters and carriers), and eighty work units of quarrymen. These were Canaanite bond-slaves (compare 2 Chronicles 2:17-18). Over all these were the general Canaanite overseers who were directly supervising the work, who numbered three thousand three hundred, a figure which seemingly excluded three hundred senior Canaanite overseers who were included in the figure of three thousand six hundred in 2 Chronicles 2:2. In Kings these were rather included in the figure of five hundred and fifty chief overseers mentioned in 1 Kings 9:23, which was made up of three hundred chief Canaanite overseers plus two hundred and fifty chief Israelite overseers (2 Chronicles 8:10). The numbers all tie in once we recognise that each writer was selecting different statistics and referring to different levels.

Alternately we may see three levels of ‘chief officers’, the three thousand three hundred who directly supervised the workers, the three hundred who supervised the supervisors, and the two hundred and fifty who were the overall supervisors.

Note that all the ‘numbers’ are round numbers, and are significant numbers, ‘three’ indicating completeness, ‘seven’ indicating divine perfection, and ‘eight’ signifying the new springing out of the old (compare the eight people in the Ark and the circumcision on the eighth day). They were intended to give the impression of the completely satisfactory nature of the work force at work on the Temple rather than as indicating the exact actual size of the workforce.

1 Kings 5:17

And the king commanded, and they hewed out great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house with wrought stone.’

At the king’s command the Canaanite levies hewed out, from the quarries in the hills, stones which were especially valued, being of a type which could be easily dressed and shaped, and then became hardened, in order for them to be delivered to the Israelite workers at the quarry (1 Kings 6:7). Presumably as this was simply seen as the extraction of rough unshaped stones the use of Canaanites was not seen as profaning them. But they would not be allowed to dress or shape them.

1 Kings 5:18

And Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites fashioned them, and prepared the timber and the stones to build the house.’

Solomon’s builders then worked alongside Hiram’s builders, and with specialists brought in from Gebal (Greek - Byblos) further up the coast, in order to fashion and shape the stones, and prepare the stones and timber for building the Temple.

All this is a reminder to us that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. As Paul reminds us, whatever we do, we should do it heartily to the Lord and not to men (Colossians 3:21). Nevertheless it was unnecessary effort which could have been better put into building up the spiritual life of Israel, and preventing their worship at syncretistic high places.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 5:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-kings-5.html. 2013.

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