2 Chronicles 2 – Supplies and Workers for the Temple
A. An overview of the work of building the temple.
1. (1) Solomon’s determination to build the temple.
Then Solomon determined to build a temple for the name of the LORD, and a royal house for himself.
a. Then Solomon determined to build a temple: His determination was fitting because of all that his father David did to prepare for the building and because of the charge David gave him to do the work.
i. We might think that the greatest thing about Solomon was his wisdom, his riches, his proverbs or his writings. Clearly, for the Chronicler the most important thing about Solomon was the temple he built. This was most important because it was most relevant to a community of returning exiles who struggled to build a new temple and to make a place for Israel among the nations again.
ii. “Chronicles’ record of Solomon’s achievements moves straight away to the construction of the temple. Several important items in the account of his reign in Kings are left out as a result, such as his wisdom in action, administration, educational reforms, and some building activities (e.g. 1 Kings 3:16-4:34; 7:1-12). These were not unimportant, but, for Chronicles, they were all subsidiary to the temple.” (Selman)
b. And a royal house for himself: Solomon’s great building works did not end with the temple. He also built a spectacular palace (1 Kings 7:1-12) and more.
2. (2) The magnitude of the work
Solomon selected seventy thousand men to bear burdens, eighty thousand to quarry stone in the mountains, and three thousand six hundred to oversee them.
a. Seventy thousand men to bear burdens, eighty thousand to quarry stone: This seems to describe the number of Canaanite slave laborers that Solomon used.
i. Ginzberg relates some of the legends surrounding the building of the temple. “During the seven years it took to build the Temple, not a single workman died who was employed about it, nor even did a single one fall sick. And as the workmen were sound and robust from first to last, so the perfection of their tools remained unimpaired until the building stood complete. Thus the work suffered no sort of interruption.” (Ginzberg)
b. And three thousand six hundred to oversee them: This was the middle management team administrating the work of building the temple.
i. “The number of thirty-six hundred foremen differs from 1 Kings 5:16 (3,300), but the LXX of Kings is quite insecure here, and Chronicles may preserve the better reading.” (Selman)
B. Solomon’s correspondence with Hiram king of Tyre.
1. (3-6) Solomon describes the work to Hiram.
Then Solomon sent to Hiram king of Tyre, saying: As you have dealt with David my father, and sent him cedars to build himself a house to dwell in, so deal with me. Behold, I am building a temple for the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate it to Him, to burn before Him sweet incense, for the continual showbread, for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, on the New Moons, and on the set feasts of the LORD our God. This is an ordinance forever to Israel. And the temple which I build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. But who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? Who am I then, that I should build Him a temple, except to burn sacrifice before Him?
a. Solomon sent to Hiram king of Tyre, saying: As you have dealt with David my father: Solomon appealed to Hiram based on his prior good relationship with his father David. This shows us that David did not regard every neighboring nation as an enemy. David wisely built alliances and friendships with neighboring nations, and the benefit of this also came to Solomon.
i. “Hiram is an abbreviation of Ahiram which means ‘Brother of Ram,’ or ‘My brother is exalted,’ or ‘Brother of the lofty one’…. Archaeologists have discovered a royal sarcophagus in Byblos of Tyre dated about 1200 B.C. inscribed with the king’s name, ‘Ahiram.’ Apparently it belonged to the man in this passage.” (Dilday, commentary on 1 Kings)
b. Then Solomon sent to Hiram: “According to Josephus, copies of such a letter along with Hiram’s reply were preserved in both Hebrew and Tyrian archives and were extant in his day (Antiquities, 8.2.8).” (Dilday)
c. I am building a temple for the name of the LORD my God: Of course, Solomon did not build a temple for a name but for a living God. This is a good example of avoiding the direct mention of the name of God in Hebrew writing and speaking. They did this out of reverence to God.
i. Solomon also used this phrase because he wanted to explain that he didn’t think the temple would be the house of God in the way pagans thought. This is especially shown in his words, who is able to build Him a temple, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? By the standards of the paganism of his day, Solomon’s conception of God was both Biblical and high.
ii. “He never conceived it as a place to which God would be confined. He did expect, and he received, manifestations of the Presence of God in that house. Its chief value was that it afforded man a place in which he should offer incense; that is, the symbol of adoration, praise, worship, to God.” (Morgan)
iii. God is, “good without quality, great without quantity, everlasting without time, present everywhere without place, containing all without extent…he is within all things, and contained of nothing: without all things, and sustained of nothing.” (Trapp)
2. (7-10) Solomon’s request to Hiram.
Therefore send me at once a man skillful to work in gold and silver, in bronze and iron, in purple and crimson and blue, who has skill to engrave with the skillful men who are with me in Judah and Jerusalem, whom David my father provided. Also send me cedar and cypress and algum logs from Lebanon, for I know that your servants have skill to cut timber in Lebanon; and indeed my servants will be with your servants, to prepare timber for me in abundance, for the temple which I am about to build shall be great and wonderful. And indeed I will give to your servants, the woodsmen who cut timber, twenty thousand kors of ground wheat, twenty thousand kors of barley, twenty thousand baths of wine, and twenty thousand baths of oil.
a. Therefore send me at once a man skillful to work in gold and silver: Solomon wanted the temple to be the best it could be, so he used Gentile labor when it was better. This means that Solomon was willing to build this great temple to God with “Gentile” wood and using “Gentile” labor. This was a temple to the God of Israel, but it was not only for Israel.
i. “The leading craftsmen for the Tent, Bezalel and his assistant Oholiab, were both similarly skilled in a range of abilities (cf. Exodus 31:1-6; 35:30-36:2).” (Selman)
ii. “Despite a growing number of ‘skilled craftsmen’ in Israel, their techniques remained inferior to those of their northern neighbors, as is demonstrated archaeologically by less finely cut building stones and by the lower level of Israelite culture in general.” (Payne)
b. To prepare timber for me in abundance: The cedar trees of Lebanon were legendary for their excellent timber. This means Solomon wanted to build the temple out of the best materials possible.
i. “The Sidonians were noted as timber craftsmen in the ancient world, a fact substantiated on the famous Palmero Stone. Its inscription from 2200 B.C. tells us about timber-carrying ships that sailed from Byblos to Egypt about four hundred years previously. The skill of the Sidonians was expressed in their ability to pick the most suitable trees, know the right time to cut them, fell them with care, and then properly treat the logs.” (Dilday)
3. (11-16) Hiram’s response to Solomon.
Then Hiram king of Tyre answered in writing, which he sent to Solomon: Because the LORD loves His people, He has made you king over them. Hiram also said: Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, for He has given King David a wise son, endowed with prudence and understanding, who will build a temple for the LORD and a royal house for himself! And now I have sent a skillful man, endowed with understanding, Huram my master craftsman (the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father was a man of Tyre), skilled to work in gold and silver, bronze and iron, stone and wood, purple and blue, fine linen and crimson, and to make any engraving and to accomplish any plan which may be given to him, with your skillful men and with the skillful men of my lord David your father. Now therefore, the wheat, the barley, the oil, and the wine which my lord has spoken of, let him send to his servants. And we will cut wood from Lebanon, as much as you need; we will bring it to you in rafts by sea to Joppa, and you will carry it up to Jerusalem.
a. Then Hiram king of Tyre answered in writing: “We find…that kings could write and read in what were called by the proud and insolent Greeks and Romans barbarous nations. Nearly two thousand years after this we find a king on the British throne who could not sign his own name.” (Clarke)
b. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel: We can’t say if Hiram was a saved man, but he certainly respected the God of Israel. This was no doubt due to David’s godly influence on Hiram.
c. I have sent a skillful man, endowed with understanding, Huram my master craftsman: King Hiram answered Solomon’s request for a skillful man (2 Chronicles 2:7). Huram had a Jewish mother and a Gentile father.
d. The wheat, the barley, the oil, and the wine which my lord has spoken of, let him send to his servants: Hiram agreed to work for the arrangement suggested by Solomon, though he could have asked for more (1 Kings 5:6).
i. This shows us that Hiram did expect to be paid. His service and the service of his people were not a gift or a sacrifice. “There are a good many people who get mixed up with religious work, and talk as if it were very near their hearts, who have as sharp an eye to their own advantage as he had. The man who serves God because he gets paid for it, does not serve Him.” (Maclaren)
4. (17-18) The laborers who built the temple.
Then Solomon numbered all the aliens who were in the land of Israel, after the census in which David his father had numbered them; and there were found to be one hundred and fifty-three thousand six hundred. And he made seventy thousand of them bearers of burdens, eighty thousand stonecutters in the mountain, and three thousand six hundred overseers to make the people work.
a. All the aliens who were in the land of Israel: This specifically tells us where the seventy thousand man labor force described here and in 2 Chronicles 2:2 came from.
i. “The temple, then, did not become a house of prayer for all nations by accident. The nations even played a part in its construction!” (Selman)