1 Kings 5


Solomon’s Building Activities (5:1-8:66)

Preparations for Building the Temple

      • When Hiram, the king of Tyre, heard that Solomon had been anointed king to succeed his father David, he sent his servants to Solomon, because Hiram had always loved David.

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible includes this interesting information:

        • Hiram (Hiram I) was king of Tyre c. 969-936 BC (or 980-950 BC). During Hiram’s lengthy reign, the Phoenicians dominated international sea trade, bringing great wealth into this impressive cosmopolitan Phoenician city. Tyre’s wealth was displayed in the construction of elaborate new temples. Herodotus described the entrance of one, the great temple of Melqart, as being flanked by two columns of gold and emerald (History 2.44)…The ancient city of Tyre was a small island about 142 acres in size. It was located 1,950-2,450 feet off the southern Phoenician coast of what is Lebanon today.”

        • The name ‘Phoenician’ is a Greco-Roman designation for the Canaanites of the Iron Age who occupied the Levantine coast of what is today Lebanon and Syria. They were famous in antiquity for their skill as mariners and navigators. Their tight control of sea routes connecting their coast with Egypt, North Africa, Sicily, Spain, and even Great Britain provided them with a constant influx of wealth, raw materials, and finished goods. Their commercial ventures are described in detail in Ezek 27:12-25, which notes their trade in precious metals, horses, luxuriant textiles, gemstones, foodstuffs, wine, oil, spices, and slaves.”

        • An alabaster relief from Sargon II’s palace at Dur Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad) shows Phoenician ships, distinguished by their horse-headed-prows and fish tails, transporting cedar logs. The ships travelled from Tyre or Sidon north along the Phonician coast to the mouth of the Orontes River…where the timber was unloaded. From there the timber was transferred by boat to Assyria.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “King Hiram of Tyre had…been a loyal friend of David (2 Sam 5:11-12). This might mean that the two shared a covenantal relationship (a treaty)…”

Photo: Depiction of Tyre from Bronze Gates at Balawat, London British Museum

      • Then Solomon sent this message to Hiram, “You know that my father David couldn’t build a house for the name of Yahweh his God because of all the warfare his enemies surrounded him with, until Yahweh put them under his feet. But now Yahweh my God has given me rest on all sides and there is no adversary or crisis. Therefore, I intend to build a house for the name of Yahweh my God, just as Yahweh promised my father David: ‘Your son, whom I will put on your throne in your place, will build the house for My name.’ So order that cedars from Lebanon be cut for me, and my servants will work with your servants. I will pay your servants whatever wage you set because you know that we don’t have anyone among us who is as skilled at cutting timber as the Sidonians.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Unlike David, Solomon enjoyed peace [literally rest] on every side…The name of the Lord signifies God’s self-revealed character and reputation. The Hebrew term translated the name was sometimes used in oral reading of Scripture so the reader could avoid uttering the personal name of God (the tetragrammaton- YHWH). The NT applies the term ‘the name’ to Jesus (Acts 5:41; 3 Jn 1:7).”

        • Guzik points out, “The word adversary here is literally Satan. The Latin Vulgate translates this, ‘nor a Satan.’”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “Cedars grew only in select areas of the Lebanon mountain range. As tall, massive trees with strong, durable wood, there was a high demand for them, particularly for the construction of ships and crossbeams in large public buildings. A symbol of luxury in architecture, they were used for lining the walls of palaces and temples. This precious building material, together with the many cultural connections of the region, ensured Phoenicia’s wealth and influence.”

        • Guzik also cites Trapp in this observation, “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).”

      • Hiram was greatly pleased when he heard Solomon’s message. He said, “May Yahweh be blessed today! He has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible clarifies, “Hiram did not acknowledge Israel’s God as his own, but following ancient Near Eastern protocol, he politely recognized Solomon’s God…”

        • This would not be a big deal to one who believed in many gods who ruled over different people groups or geographical areas. As Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary notes, “This language is no decisive evidence that Hiram was a worshipper of the true God, as he might use it only on the polytheistic principle of acknowledging Jehovah as the God of the Hebrews.”

      • Then Hiram sent a reply to Solomon saying, “I received your message and I will do all that you have asked in providing the cedar and cypress timber. My servants will bring the timber from Lebanon down to the sea and float them as rafts over the sea to the location you designate. I’ll separate the logs there and you can haul them away. In exchange, you will supply food for my household.”

        • NET Bible’s text critical notes point out, “Heb ‘I will place them [on? as?] rafts in the sea to the place where you designate to me.’ This may mean he would send them by raft, or that he would tie them in raft-like bundles, and have ships tow them down to an Israelite port.”

      • So Hiram supplied the cedars and cypress timber that Solomon wanted, and Solomon provided Hiram with 100,000 bushels of wheat as food for his household and 110,000 gallons of pressed olive oil on an annual basis. Yahweh gave Solomon wisdom, just as He had promised; and Hiram and Solomon were at peace and made a treaty.

        • ESV Study Bible notes, “Hiram responds with proposals of his own- that his own men alone should deal with cutting the wood and transporting it down the coast to Israel, and that Solomon’s men should be involved only after this has been done. The wages, moreover, are to paid not to his laborers, but in the form of supplies of food for his royal household. Solomon thus gets what he desires (Hb khepets, vv. 8, 10), in the materials for the temple, but Hiram, too, has his wishes (Hb khepets, v. 9) for provisions fulfilled. It is apparently a happy arrangement, sealed by a treaty- an arrangement that is testimony to the wisdom that God has given to Solomon.”

      • King Solomon conscripted a total of 30,000 forced laborers from throughout Israel. He sent them to Lebanon in shifts of 10,000 a month so that they were in Lebanon 1 month, then home for 2 months. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. Solomon had 70,000 carriers, 80,000 stone-cutters in the hills, as well as 3,300 foremen who supervised the project and the workers. At the king’s command they quarried large, valuable stones in order to build the temple’s foundation with chiseled stones. Solomon’s and Hiram’s men, along with men from Gebal, cut and prepared the timber and stone to build the house.

        • We again have a situation where difficulty arises in reconciling numbers with subsequent parallel accounts, and there is even debate over whether or not Israelites were used as slave labor- which was forbidden by Mosaic law.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Aliens with permanent residency in Israel comprised the bulk of Solomon’s labor force. Native Israelites were apparently temporary supervisors for Solomon’s building projects (9:22-23; 11:28)…In 2 Chronicles (2 Chr 2:2, 17-18; 8:10) the foremen total 3,600 non-Israelite and 250 Israelite chief supervisors. It is possible that 250 of the chief supervisors were Israelites, with 300 non-Israelites holding the same rank.”

        • Pulpit Commentary notes that these numerical discrepancies could be due to differences in classifying levels of workers and counting Israelite versus non-Israelite workers, “These differences result, no doubt, from difference of classification and arrangement (J.H. Michaelis). In Chronicles the arrangement is one of race, i.e., 3,600 aliens…cf. 2 Chronicles 2:18) and 250 Israelites, whilst in Kings it is one of status, i.e., 3,300 inferior and 550 superior officers. It follows consequently that all the inferior and 300 of the superior overseers were Canaanites] which ruled over the people that wrought in the work.”

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says, “Solomon’s building projects required additional labor, which he extracted from the Canaanites, who apparently were subdued and hence subject to governance of the Israelites…It is unclear whether Solomon raised a corvee labor force from the Israelite population, and, if so, whether it differed from the labor imposed on foreigners. On the one hand, texts such as 2 Chr 2:17-18; 8:9 indicate that Solomon did not impose slavery on Israelites; on the other hand, texts such as this verse imply that Israelites were also conscripted for royal work projects. The difference may lie in the distinction between slavery-style labor placed upon the foreign population and the required national service expected of Israelites. It is possible that the drama of Rehoboam’s confrontation with the elders of the northern kingdom (ch 12) must be understood in light of the distinction between Jeroboam as an officer of the corvee and Adoniram as the overseer of the forced labor gangs…”

          • Expounding upon the theory that Solomon did conscript Israelite forced labor, HCSB writes, “…there is strong evidence that Solomon, while not starting out enslaving Israelites, ended up doing so. The northern tribes begged Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor, to lighten their heavy burdens (1 Kgs 12:4). Further, why would Rehoboam send the officer in charge of forced labor to negotiate with the Israelites (Canaanite forced laborers would not be in a position to negotiate)? And why would the Israelites stone Adoram to death (1 Kgs 12:18) if they did not view him as the source of their suffering?”

        • On the chiseled (or “dressed”) stones used for the foundation ESV Archaeology Study Bible remarks, “This refers to ashlar masonry, a characteristic feature of royal Israelite architecture inherited from the Canaanites and Phoenicians. These stones, typically cuboid or rectangular in shape, were cut and dressed on all six sides. Fine examples of ashlar masonry have been discovered at Megiddo…Gezer…Tel Dan, Ramat Rahel, and elsewhere. Quarries for ashlar block used in Israelite royal construction were found on the eastern slope of Tel Megiddo and near Samaria.”

Photo: example of ashlar masonry via Biblical Archaeology Truth article “Evidence for King Solomon’s Tower in Jerusalem”

        • Who were the men from Gebal? ESV Study Bible notes, “The men of Gebal are workers from Byblos, a coastal city north of Tyre.”

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