New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

1Ki 5:1 Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon; for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the place of his father: for Hiram had always admired David-
So very often does Solomon speak of "David my father",  and  that  God had made him king "instead of David my father" (e.g. 1 Kings  3:7). Thus he asks Hiram to deal with him just as he had done with David his father (1 Kings 5:2-7; and cp. 1 Kings 5:1 with 2 Sam. 5:11). The number of times these phrases occur  in  the  records  is so  large  that  we  simply have to recognize  that  God is pointing something out to us about the relationship  between Solomon and David (1 Kings 2:24,26,32,44; 3:6,7,14; 5:3,5; 6:12; 8:15,17,18,20,24,25,26; 9:4; 11:33; 2 Chron. 1:8,9; 2:3,7,14; 6:4,7,8,10,15,16; 7:17). Solomon was raised a believer, and he lived out parental expectation; but in later life, he himself was revealed as having no real faith at all, and he turned away from Yahweh to idolatry. So often in his prayers to God does Solomon make reference to David; for example: "Thou hast showed unto thy servant  David  my  father great mercy, according as he walked before  thee  in  truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit upon his throne" (1 Kings 3:6).  

1Ki 5:2 Solomon sent to Hiram saying-
As noted on :1, Solomon was obsessed with living out the image of his father. As Hiram had sent messengers to David (2 Sam. 5:11), so Solomon sends to Hiram.

1Ki 5:3 You know how that David my father could not build a house for the name of Yahweh his God for the wars which were about him on every side, until Yahweh put his enemies under the soles of his feet-
Solomon had a way of spinning things, even God’s word, in his own selfish way. David had insisted that God had told him that he couldn’t build the temple because he had shed so much blood in war (1 Chron. 22:8). But Solomon just slightly spins this when he asks Hiram to come and help him build the temple, because, he says, his father David hadn’t had the time to get around to the job because of being busy fighting wars (1 Kings 5:3). He says nothing about David shedding blood; the moral aspect of it all is nicely ignored by Solomon.  

1Ki 5:4 But now Yahweh my God has given me rest on every side. There is no adversary nor any evil occurrence-
Solomon imagines that his kingdom is the promised "rest" of the Messianic kingdom promised to David. But his degree of "rest" was only in his imagination. For he had various adversaries on the borders, Hadad, Rezon and others (1 Kings 11:14,23,25). So again, Solomon is spinning things to fit his narrative.

The Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament uses the Greek word diabolos to translate the Hebrew 'Satan'. Hence Devil and Satan are effectively parallel in meaning. Thus we read in the Septuagint of David being an adversary [Heb. Satan, Gk. diabolos] in 1 Sam. 29:4 ["turns against us"]; the sons of Zeruiah (2 Sam. 19:22), Hadad, Rezon and other opponents to Solomon (1 Kings 5:4; 11:14,23,25). We face a simple choice- if we believe that every reference to 'Satan' or 'Devil' refers to an evil cosmic being, then we have to assume that these people weren't people at all, and that even good men like David were evil. The far more natural reading of these passages is surely that 'Satan' is simply a word meaning 'adversary', and can be applied to people [good and bad], and even God Himself- it carries no pejorative, sinister meaning as a word. See on :18.

1Ki 5:5 Behold, I purpose to build a house for the name of Yahweh my God, as Yahweh spoke to David my father saying, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, he shall build the house for My name’-
Again this is a spin; because it was David who had purposed to build the temple, and had prepared for it. And again we see Solomon assuming that the promises of 2 Sam. 7 were totally fulfilled in him; whereas being the Messianic son of David was conditional. And the house to be built was more essentially the house of God's family which God was to build for David rather than any physical temple. But Solomon totally missed all this. 

1Ki 5:6 Now therefore command that they cut me cedar trees out of Lebanon. My servants shall be with your servants; and I will give you wages for your servants according to all that you shall say. For you know that there is not among us any who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians-
Perhaps this was connected with the Divine wisdom about cedar trees which God had given Solomon (1 Kings 4:33).

1Ki 5:7 It happened, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he was very pleased and said, Blessed is Yahweh this day, who has given to David a wise son over this great people-
Hiram's usage of the Yahweh Name could suggest he had become a proselyte and was therefore eager to assist with building the temple.

1Ki 5:8 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-
"Fir" is LXX pine wood. This would have created a distinctive and pleasant smell in the temple.

1Ki 5:9 My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon to the sea. 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 shall receive them. You shall accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household-
The appointed place was Joppa (2 Chron. 2:16). Tyre was built on a small island, and so as a maritime trading nation, regular provision of fresh food was greatly sought after by them. 

1Ki 5:10 So Hiram gave Solomon timber of cedar and timber of fir according to all his desire-
There is the hint that Solomon's work for the temple was really not so much for God, as a fulfilment of his own desires. He served God only insofar as it was attractive to him. We note from Ecclesiastes that he was obsessed with building work; and his work for the temple was just part of that. We need to learn the lesson; that service of God is not according to what we want to do, but according to what people need and what will glorify God.

1Ki 5:11 Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food for his household, and twenty measures of pure oil. Solomon gave this to Hiram year by year-
The different figures in 1 Kings 5:11 cp. 2 Chron. 2:10 could be because part of the amount was for Tyre generally, and part for Hiram's personal household. Twenty measure of pure oil appears relatively small; but it is the same word used for the oil of the tabernacle rituals (Ex. 27:20), and as a proselyte Hiram may well have built his own kind of tabernacle system. I suggest on Ez. 28:14 that he indeed did so, but it turned into apostacy.

1Ki 5:12 Yahweh had given Solomon wisdom, as He promised him; and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and they two made a treaty together-
The implication is that the way of peace is the way of wisdom.

1Ki 5:13 King Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men-
Solomon's lack of sensitivity to God's word led him to be tragically insensitive to people; in short, he showed no love. The way Solomon raised a "levy" or tribute from Israel, whereby the men of Israel had to serve him one month out of three and 'bear burdens', with 3,300 taskmasters over them (1 Kings 5:13-15), who 'bore rule' over (Heb. 'trampled down') the people (1 Kings 5:16)... is all reminiscent of Samuel's warning about the kind of King which Israel would have. And the language also recalls their bondage in Egypt; note that the levy was also in order to build treasure cities for Solomon, just as Pharaoh did (1 Kings 9:19). The Hebrew word for "levy" in 1 Kings 5:13 strictly means 'a burden causing to faint', and is rendered "taskmaster" in the record of Israel's suffering in Egypt (Ex. 1:11). One even wonders if Solomon's father-in-law- who also happened to be a Pharaoh of Egypt- influenced him (consciously or unconsciously) to act like the Exodus Pharaoh.

1Ki 5:14 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 forced labour-
The emphasis upon the forced labour brigades is significant (1 Kings 4:6; 5:13,14; 12:18), and it was Solomon's brutal treatment of his people which led to the complaint after his death that he had whipped the people and abused them. This was exactly as Samuel had warned the people would happen if they chose a human king rather than God as their king; for God is kinder than men. We see therefore that Solomon was no better than Saul. All his wisdom failed to make him value the meaning f the human person. It was therefore only held by him in theory not in practice.

1Ki 5:15 Solomon had seventy thousand who bore burdens, and eighty thousand who were stone cutters in the mountains-
1 Kings 5:13-16 reveals that Solomon had 153,000  full  time  and  90,000  part  time male servants. Israel's  complaint  that  Solomon  had  whipped them implies  that  he  treated them like slaves, with himself as the slave-driver. 600,000  adults came out of Egypt (Ex. 12:37), and assuming  the  population only  rose  slightly over the next 550 years, we  have  the picture of an Israel where almost half the males  (i.e. probably the majority of the working population) were pressganged into slavery to a despotic King Solomon.

This huge number of men involved in quarrying and transportation of the stones was because of the obsession with building projects which Solomon admits he had in Ecclesiastes. Just as Solomon's abundance of wives led to having a few thousand mouths to feed, and Israel needed to provide for that; so his obsession with thousands of horses meant that there was a need for a huge amount of fodder for them (1 Kings 4:28). And all Israel had to provide this- all for the sake of Solomon's obsessive desires. That he reigned for as long as he did was truly a sign of God's grace to him for the sake of his father David, and is a tacit reflection of how much God loved David despite all his failures.  

The huge amount of labour required- 80,000 men hewing stone alone- was nothing more than Solomon acting like Pharaoh, using taskmasters to trample down / rule over the people to achieve his quotas and enable his building fantasies to become reality. The Hebrew word translated "bear rule over' (Heb. 'to trample down') in 1 Kings 5:16 is that which we find in the Law's prohibition of this in Lev. 25:46: "But over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule over one another with rigour". Solomon knew the Law, and he rambles on in Proverbs about the need to read, love and obey that law. And yet he thought that he could give that one a miss, 'because I am doing God's work and building His house'. And how many a believer has ended up missing the entire point of God's law, the very essence of Christianity, because of their obsession with serving God in a form which is effectively merely serving themselves, excusing their fantasies in the name of doing God service. It's the process of Solomon's apostacy which is so instructive; for he justified himself by saying that he was doing God's work. He didn't simply quit on God.

1Ki 5:16 besides Solomon’s chief officers who were over the work, three thousand three hundred, who bore rule over the people who laboured in the work-
See on :13. This levy was evidently one of the reasons which led the next generation to complain that Solomon had chastised the people with whips (1 Kings 12:11; the happiness of the people which the Queen of Sheba observed in 1 Kings 10:8 was therefore just an impression Solomon arranged for her to receive). Yet "this is the reason of the levy which king Solomon raised: in order to build the house of the Lord, and his own house..." (1 Kings 9:15). Solomon justified his zest for power and control by saying it was in order to do the Lord's work, to build His house... and yet had he listened to God's word more carefully, he would have realized that the true house of Yahweh was in fact people... yet Solomon abused people in order to build a visible house for God. And so very often religious people have gone down the same path- devaluing the meaning and value of persons, because they want to be seen as achieving something visible for God, no matter how many people they abuse on the way. The ends simply don't justify the means; Solomon told himself that they did, and he ended up as bad as Saul and Pharaoh, who are alluded to in the records of his levy of slaves from Israel. And yet the 1 Kings record gives the impression of all happily working together to create a great temple for God. When we probe deeper, we find this was far from the case.

David had prophesied that his great son would "have dominion from sea to sea" (Ps. 72:8). 'Have dominion' is again the Hebrew word translated 'rule over' in 1 Kings 5:15. David's vision of his Messianic son having a world-wide Kingdom, in which all people blessed him for his grace and beneficence, was abused by Solomon into justifying 'having dominion' over people as his personal slaves; and they certainly didn't bless him for it but rather complained (1 Kings 12:11). It's as if Solomon grabbed the word 'rule over / have dominion', wrenched it out of context, and used it to justify his actions, giving a quasi-Biblical justification to his pure selfishness. This is where knowledge of God's word can be a dangerous thing; leading people into a stronger self-justification than they would otherwise have had if they were guided by self-recognized greed alone.

1Ki 5:17 The king commanded, and they cut out great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house with worked stone-
But 1 Kings 9:15 says that all this labour regarding quarrying was not simply for the temple; but also for his own house, which was far larger than God's house, and took nearly twice as long to build. He justified his own serving of his own desires under the guise of serving God.

1Ki 5:18 Solomon’s builders along with Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites cut them, and prepared the timber and the stones to build the house
The idea of Israelites and Gentiles working together to build God's house looks ahead to the greater fulfilment in the things of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus. The kingdom of Solomon can indeed be viewed as a type of the future kingdom of the Lord Jesus (see on 1 Kings 4:2). But in reality it was rather that Solomon had been potentially empowered to be the Messianic seed with a Messianic kingdom as promised to David, but he failed. And the Lord Jesus fulfilled the potentials of the seed perfectly, leaving Solomon and his kingdom as a failed, marred reflection of Him.