1 Kings 5 – Preparations to Build the Temple
A. Solomon’s arrangements with Hiram of Tyre.
1. (1-6) Solomon’s message to Hiram of Tyre.
Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, because he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram had always loved David. Then Solomon sent to Hiram, saying: You know how my father David could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the wars which were fought against him on every side, until the Lord put his foes under the soles of his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor evil occurrence. And behold, I propose to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord spoke to my father David, saying, “Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, he shall build the house for My name.” Now therefore, command that they cut down cedars for me from Lebanon; and my servants will be with your servants, and I will pay you wages for your servants according to whatever you say. For you know there is none among us who has skill to cut timber like the Sidonians.
a. For Hiram had always loved David: David was a mighty warrior against the enemies of Israel. But he did not regard every neighbor nation as an enemy. David wisely built alliances and friendships with neighbor 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)
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. You know how my father David could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God: This means that David told Hiram spiritual things, things that one might think Hiram could not understand or had interest in. In some ways, David spoke to Hiram as if Hiram were already an Israelite.
i. This chapter deals with Solomon’s work in obtaining the materials to build the temple. Yet David was so interested in this work that he had already gathered many of the supplies needed to build the temple (1 Chronicles 22:4).
d. Until the Lord put his foes under the soles of his feet: “To put enemies under the feet was the symbolic act marking conquest. In contemporary art enemies were often depicted as a footstool (as Psalm 110:1).” (Wiseman)
e. There is neither adversary nor evil occurrence: The word adversary here is literally Satan. The Latin Vulgate translates this, “nor a Satan.”
f. I propose to build a house 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 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. “It is to be ‘an house for the name of the Lord.’ That is not the same as ‘for the Lord.’ Pagan temples might be intended by their builders for the actual residence of the god, but Solomon knew that the heaven of heavens could not contain Him, much less this house which he was about to build.” (Maclaren)
g. Cut down cedars for me from Lebanon: 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)
ii. It also 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. Only Jews built the tabernacle, “But the temple is not built without the aid of the Gentile Tyrians. They, together with us, make up the Church of God.” (Trapp)
2. (7-12) Hiram’s reply to Solomon.
So it was, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly and said, “Blessed be the Lord this day, for He has given David a wise son over this great people!” Then Hiram sent to Solomon, saying: I have considered the message which you sent me, and I will do all you desire concerning the cedar and cypress logs. My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon to the sea; I will float them in rafts by sea to the place you indicate to me, and will have them broken apart there; then you can take them away. And you shall fulfill my desire by giving food for my household. Then Hiram gave Solomon cedar and cypress logs according to all his desire. And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand kors of wheat as food for his household, and twenty kors of pressed oil. Thus Solomon gave to Hiram year by year. So the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, as He had promised him; and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty together.
a. Blessed be the Lord: 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.
b. And you shall fulfill my desire by giving food for my household: Solomon offered Hiram whatever he wanted as payment for the timber to build the temple (1 Kings 5:6). Hiram did not take unfair advantage, asking only for food for his household.
i. At the same time, 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)
c. There was peace between Hiram and Solomon: Solomon – in his God-given wisdom – continued the friendly relationship between Israel and Lebanon.
B. Solomon’s labor force.
1. (13-14) The labor force of freemen.
Then King Solomon raised up a labor force out of all Israel; and the labor force was thirty thousand men. And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month in shifts: they were one month in Lebanon and two months at home; Adoniram was in charge of the labor force.
a. The labor force was thirty thousand men: This huge labor force shows the temple could only be built when Israel could afford the manpower and the materials. It could only be built under the peace and prosperity won by David and enjoyed by Solomon.
b. Adoniram was in charge of the labor force: Solomon’s wisdom was evident in the way he employed this great workforce. First, he wisely delegated responsibility to men like Adoniram. Second, instead of making the Israelites work constantly away from Israel and home, he worked them in shifts.
2. (15-18) The labor force of slaves.
Solomon had seventy thousand who carried burdens, and eighty thousand who quarried stone in the mountains, besides three thousand three hundred from the chiefs of Solomon’s deputies, who supervised the people who labored in the work. And the king commanded them to quarry large stones, costly stones, and hewn stones, to lay the foundation of the temple. So Solomon’s builders, Hiram’s builders, and the Gebalites quarried them; and they prepared timber and stones to build the temple.
a. Seventy thousand who carried burdens, and eighty thousand who quarried 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. Besides three thousand three hundred from the chiefs of Solomon’s deputies: This was the middle management team administrating the work of building the temple.
c. Costly stones: This is literally quality stones, showing that Solomon used high quality materials even in the foundation where the stones could not be seen.
i. This speaks to the way we should work for God. We don’t work for appearance only, but also to excel in the deep and hidden things. “I want, dear friends, to urge that all our work for God should be done thoroughly, and especially that part of it which lies lowest, and is least observed of men.” (Spurgeon)
ii. This speaks to the way God works in us. He works in the deep and hidden things when others are concerned with mere appearances. “We have been the subjects of a great deal of secret, unseen, underground work. The Lord has spent upon us a world of care. My brother, you would not like to unveil those great searchings of heart of which you have been the subject. You have been honored in public; and, if so, you have had many a whipping behind the door lest you should glory in your flesh . . . All those chastenings, humblings, and searchings of heart have been a private laying of foundations for higher things.” (Spurgeon)
iii. This speaks to the way God builds the church. He wants to do a work of deep, strong foundations instead of a work a mile wide but an inch deep. “To maintain solid truth you need solid people. Vital godliness is therefore to be aimed at. Twenty thousand people, all merely professing faith, but having no energetic life, may not have grace enough among them to make twenty solid believers. Poor, sickly believers turn the church into an hospital, rather than a camp.” (Spurgeon)
d. The Gebalites quarried them: “Some suppose that these Giblites were the inhabitants of Biblos, at the foot of Mount Libanus, northward of Sidon, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.” (Clarke)
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