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Deeper Commentary

2Ch 8:1 It happened at the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the house of Yahweh and his own house-
The way the record of Solomon's house follows straight on from that of God's house (1 Kings 6,7) seems to highlight the similarity between them. The house of Yahweh and Solomon's house are often spoke of together (e.g. 2 Chron. 7:11; 8:1;  9:11).The Temple was smaller than Solomon's house' he took nearly twice as long to build it. Clearly he spent more effort at housing his own glory than he did housing God's. The comparisons are intended to show this. They are listed on 2 Chron. 9:11.

Psalm 127 is prefaced with the information that it is a Psalm for Solomon- perhaps given by some nameless prophet (Gad? Nathan?) to warn him of where he was going. Verse 1 reminds him that God must be the builder of any house, or else the builders labour in vain. There is good reason to think that Solomon utterly failed to appreciate this. The records stress time and again that Solomon  built the temple (1 Kings 6:2,14; 9:10,25; 10:4; 1 Chron.6:10,32; 2 Chron. 8:1,12; 9:3; Acts 7:47); yet the house referred to in the Davidic promises was to be built by God, through David's Messianic Son, the Lord Jesus. Zechariah prophesied at the time of the rebuilding of the physical temple. It is significant, in this context, that Zech. 6:12 reminds Israel that the true temple of God will be built by the Branch, the Lord Jesus.

2Ch 8:2 that the cities which Huram had given to Solomon, Solomon built them, and caused the children of Israel to dwell there-
The record of this is explained in 1 Kings 9:14 as being in the context of how "Hiram sent to the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold". It seems Solomon became so obsessed with his building projects that he borrowed this money to finance them, and then tried to pay off the debt by giving Hiram the worthless cities of Cabul which were not at all any recompense. We see therefore that all was not quite as opulent and prosperous in Solomon's kingdom as may appear. Solomon had given Hiram these 20 cities in Galilee (1 Kings 9:11), but Hiram had returned them to Solomon. The gift of Israelite cities to a Gentile was not what a true king of Israel should have done, who valued the promises of Israel's eternal inheritance of the promised land. Solomon had come to see all God's promises as fulfilled in him and his amazing city and temple in Jerusalem. And so he devalued the rest of the promises, especially their future, eternal dimension. These cities were inhabited by Canaanites whom Israel hadn't subdued at the time of this 'gift' (2 Sam. 24:7; 2 Chron. 8:2), and so Solomon was giving to Hiram a bunch of problems. These cities were not really under Solomon's authority anyway, he had not subdued the Canaanites there, so passing them to Hiram was giving him a noose around his neck rather than a true present. He called them "Cabul" (1 Kings 9:13). "Cabul" can mean 'pawned', and the idea may be that although in some sense they did belong to Solomon, effectively they didn't because they were inhabited by Canaanites. Hence Hiram returned them to Solomon, with all the damage in relationship that goes with returning a rejected gift. Hence we read here that after this Solomon colonized the cities and sent Israelites to live there. But this was not particularly in obedience to the Divine commands to subjugate the Canaanites, but rather than Solomon was desperate for huge amounts of slave labour with which to fulfil his building projects (see on 1 Kings 9:21). .

2Ch 8:3 Solomon went to Hamath Zobah, and prevailed against it-
1 Kings 11:4,6 clearly states God's opinion that Solomon was not like David: "his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart  of David his father... (he) went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father". This double stress, bearing in  mind inspiration's economic use of words, is really making a point. Yet the records of Solomon seem to be framed to show that externally,  Solomon  was indeed following David; he was obsessed with living out parental expectation, and perhaps the expectation of his society, rather than forging his own relationship with God. 2 Chron. 8 is a passage  which especially makes this point, in that it describes the actions of Solomon in the very language which is used earlier about David.

2 Chron. 8:3 “Solomon went to Hamath Zobah” = 2 Sam. 8:3 “David smote also Hadadezer the son of Rehob king of Zobah”; 2 Chron. 8:3  "and prevailed" = Same  word 1 Sam. 17:30; 2 Chron. 8:8 Those “whom the children of Israel consumed not, did Solomon make to pay tribute” = 2 Sam. 8:6  “David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David, and brought gifts”; 2 Chron. 8:14 “He appointed according to the ordinance of David his father, the courses of the priests to their service, and the Levites to their charges… for so had David commanded” = 1 Chron. 24:1; 2 Chron. 9:15,16 = 2 Sam.8:7 “David took the shields of gold that were on the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem”.

Yet notice too how both David and Solomon dealt with the matter of chariots and horses. Solomon’s weakness for horses was perhaps traceable to David’s. Solomon unashamedly amassed horses and chariots, in direct disobedience to Divine command (Dt. 17:16). When David his father had captured 1000 chariots and horses, he hamstrung 900 of them and retained 100 of them (2 Sam. 8:4). He had a conscience about the matter, but thought that 90% obedience wasn’t bad. And the hamstrung horses were likely used for agricultural work and especially for breeding- breeding yet more chariot horses. David’s 90% obedience lead to his son’s 100% disobedience in this matter of chariot horses.

2Ch 8:4 He built Tadmor in the wilderness, and all the storage cities which he built in Hamath-
Israel was at its largest extent in Solomon's Kingdom; lost land was restored, and the borders re-established (2 Chron. 9:26; 8:4  cp. Josh. 16:3,5); it was also at its political strongest; nations submitted to Solomon (1 Kings 4:20); Israel was the chief of the nations (1 Kings 4:21). Baalath was in Dan near Gezer (Josh. 19:44), and was built and then populated by Israelites for defensive reasons. Tadmor (AV) is now an oasis in the Syrian desert, on the caravan route from Damascus to the Euphrates. There was no point in building it as a city unless it was to be inhabited by Israelites. But this would have been unpopular, as it meant uprooting Israelites out of their homes and tribal areas and sending them to live in remote outpost. This would have meant Solomon again despised the tribal allotments, which to God were significant. He did the same in his arrangement of the tax administration of the nation, as explained on 1 Kings 4.   

2Ch 8:5 Also he built Beth Horon the upper, and Beth Horon the lower, fortified cities, with walls, gates, and bars-
Solomon loved building and architecture (Ecc. 2:4-6; 2 Chron. 8:4-6), therefore his building of God's temple was something he revelled in. But when it came to obeying the clear commands concerning not multiplying horses or wives, Solomon simply disregarded them. Likewise Israel were so sad to lose the temple because “Our holy and our beautiful house... is burned... and all our pleasant things are laid waste” (Is. 64:11). It was God’s house, not theirs. They only mourned for the loss of it insofar as it was a reflection of what they revelled in anyway, as an expression of themselves, rather than a means of worshipping God. By contrast, Paul says that the proof that he had been given a command to preach the Gospel was in the fact that he preached against his own will; he says that if he did it willingly, i.e. because it coincided with his own will, then he had his reward in this life (this is a paraphrase of 1 Cor. 9:17 and context).

2Ch 8:6 and Baalath, and all the storage cities that Solomon had, and all the cities for his chariots, and the cities for his horsemen, and all that Solomon desired to build for his pleasure in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion-
The building of store cities by slave labour is exactly what Pharaoh did to the Israelites (Ex. 1:11). The impression is given that he followed Egypt in this way, as well as marrying Pharaoh's daughter and incorporating Egyptian stylism into the temple building, as noted on 1 Kings 8. His love of horses and chariots likewise reflects his love of Egypt, despite it being forbidden for Israel's king in Deuteronomy.

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. 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.

Solomon figuratively chastised the people with whips in the form of the excessive tax he raised in order to build store cities (1 Kings 9:15,19), in which to store all his accumulation. Surely this is behind the Lord's parable of the rich fool, devoid of wisdom in practice, who built ever bigger barns because of his lack of understanding about the future Kingdom. The Hebrew for "store cities" (2 Chron. 8:6) is also translated "to heap up", strengthening the connection with the rich fool (Lk. 12:15-28). That parable stresses the self-centeredness of the fool- just circle all the occurrences of the word "I". A similar over-use of personal pronouns in Ecc. 2:4-8 makes the same point. Ecc. 2:26 records how Solomon reflected that the sinner "heaped up" treasures- using the same word as for his "store cities". He saw his error, but wasn't bothered to do anything about it.

Solomon loved building (Ecc. 2:4-6)- he built cities and buildings because it was “the desire of Solomon which he desired” (1 Kings 9:19 AVmg.), i.e. one of his dominant desires. So when we read that it was the desire of Solomon to build the temple (1 Kings 9:1,11), he was merely serving God in a way that naturally appealed to him anyway. And when he had finished that desire when the temple was completed (1 Kings 9:1), he was in the same position as when in Ecclesiastes he describes how he indulged every desire up to the very end, and then was left with the emptiness of vanity.

The fortification of Lebanon was because of the threat from Rezin in Damascus (1 Kings 11:24).

2Ch 8:7 As for all the people who were left of the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of Israel-
Of the seven nations earlier listed as inhabiting Canaan, only these five had apparently survived. Two had been absorbed into the Israelite population or destroyed. They were clearly distinct from the "children of Israel". Instead of trying to absorb them into Israel or destroy them, Solomon was so desperate for workers that he capitalized on that situation and demanded they provide him with slaves for his building works, as opposed to the Israelite labour which was classified as 'servants' (:9).

2Ch 8:8 of their children who were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel didn’t consume, of them Solomon conscripted forced labour to this day-
This suggests that Solomon made the same mistake as Israel in earlier days- he was a satisficer, he himself married into those tribes, and he wasn’t obedient to the clear covenant of the land which was binding upon him. Solomon's motivation for now bringing the Canaanites into servitude was not spiritual. Rather, as with his borrowing of money from Hiram (see on :2), his obsession with his building plans was such that he needed huge amounts of money and resources to carry them through. And so he colonized the Canaanite areas and made them send him slaves to work on his quarrying and building projects; and this was why, as noted on :2, he was keen to colonize the area of 'Cabul', in order to also provide more dogs body workers for his architectural obsessions.

2Ch 8:9 But of the children of Israel, Solomon made no servants for his work; but they were men of war, and chief of his captains, and rulers of his chariots and of his horsemen-
This sounds very much like the fulfilment of Samuel's warning as to how a human king would abuse the Israelites. He made the Canaanites slaves (:2,8), but he made the Israelites his servants, to the point of whipping them with whips, as they later complained after his death. The difference between being his slaves and his servants was therefore not that significant.

Solomon had obsessive tendencies. We know that he became addicted to finding pleasure in women, and Ecc. 2 shows him racing down the road of obsession with architecture, alcohol, food, gold etc. The historical narratives so often mention his gold and silver (e.g. 2 Chron. 9:13-21,24,27). This repetition reflects Solomon's obsession. The same fact explains the record's repetition of Solomon's enthusiasm for horses (1 Kings 10:25-29; 4:26,28; 9:19,22; 2 Chron. 1:14,16,17; 8:6,9; 9:24,25,28). Yet amassing of gold, silver and horses was explicitly forbidden for the King of Israel (Dt. 17:17). There is a powerful point to be made here: we can deceive ourselves that God is blessing us, when actually we are breaching explicit commands. Would Solomon had understood the concept of self-examination.

2Ch 8:10 These were the chief officers of king Solomon, even two-hundred and fifty, who ruled over the people-
The difference with 1 Kings 9:23 may be because the word for "three" in Hebrew, 'sls', can easily be confused with that for "six" ['ss']. The same confusion is found in 2 Chron. 2:18 cp. 1 Kings 5:16. This would appear to be one of the copying errors in these Divinely inspired records. 

But another approach is possible. The number of these overseers varies from 3,300 when the temple was being built (1 Kings 5:16) to 550 in 1 Kings 9:23 and then 250 in the Chronicles record. I suggested on 1 Kings 9:14,21 that all was not well in Solomon's apparently opulent kingdom. His building obsessions had led him to borrow money from Hiram to find it, and to excessively tax both Israel and the Canaanites amongst them to provide workers. And so the decreasing numbers of overseers may reflect his declining human resources, despite making every effort to try to pressgang more labourers he got fewer and fewer on the jobs in practice.

2Ch 8:11 Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David to the house that he had built for her; for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places where the ark of Yahweh has come are holy-
If this is the woman of the Song of Solomon, then we can deduce they had a stormy relationship. It apparently ends at the end of Song 8 (see notes there), and yet with the hints of resumption. So perhaps it was not a blessed marriage, and Solomon ended up building her a separate house to live in outside his immediate citadel.

Solomon's lack of self examination and confidence that he could not spiritually fail is reflected in 1 Kings 11:2,3, where we are reminded that God had said that foreign wives would "surely... turn away your heart after their gods". How "surely" this would happen was not believed by Solomon. "He had seven hundred wives... and his wives turned away his heart". He started marrying these foreign wives when he was young; presumably he reasoned that they could never turn away his heart because he was the Son of David, the Messianic King. In Prov. 6:27 he soberly warns against the strange (i.e. Gentile) woman, observing that a man cannot take this kind of fire into his bosom and not be burned by it. Yet this is exactly what he was doing at the time he wrote that. His public removal of his Egyptian wife from the house of David "because the places are holy" (2 Chron. 8:11) is therefore to be seen as spiritual pride, appearing to do the right thing, when his heart was far from it.

2Ch 8:12 Then Solomon offered burnt offerings to Yahweh on the altar of Yahweh, which he had built before the porch-
"Three times a year" in :13 surely refers to the three main feasts, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. No longer were the "high places" like Gibeon used, but worship was centralized in Jerusalem. This was indeed as the law of Moses intended, but Solomon appears to have used this as part of his policy of centralization of power in Jerusalem which we discussed on 1 Kings 4. We note that Solomon seems to have officiated as a priest as David did. David had done this kind of thing, but from careful reflection upon the spirit of the law, whose letter he says in Ps. 119 he studied constantly. And David came to this sense through careful reflection upon God's grace to him, and through the experience of Uzzah's death as a result of taking 'living the spirit of the law' too far. But Solomon does it from a wrong assumption that he is the Messianic king-priest.

2Ch 8:13 even as the duty of every day required, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the Sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the set feasts, three times in the year, in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tents-
The idea is "sacrificing at the daily rate, according to the direction of Moses". And yet the scale of the arrangements for the priests, the altar, multiples tables, lavers etc. all implied that the whole structure was built to facilitate sacrifice on a far larger scale than in the tabernacle. If indeed they offered the number of sacrifices stipulated in the law of Moses, then all the grand scale was mere opulence and religious show.

2Ch 8:14 He appointed, according to the ordinance of David his father, the divisions of the priests to their service, and the Levites to their offices, to praise, and to minister before the priests, as the duty of every day required; the doorkeepers also by their divisions at every gate; for so had David the man of God commanded-
The language here reflects how Solomon had effectively replaced God's word through Moses with the obsessive fantasy of his father David. Things were appointed not according to ordinance of Moses, but of David.

Solomon's  zealous  organization  of  the  temple worship was an exact  fulfillment  of the order laid down by his father David (1 Kings 7:51; 2 Chron. 7:6; 8:14). Solomon wanted God to bless the temple as a sign of His pleasure with David his father (e.g. 2 Chron. 6:42). Solomon's  personal  enthusiasm for service to God became subsumed by the huge psychological spiritual dominance of his  parents. His zeal for the temple was almost purely a result of living out his father's expectation; he almost admits as much in  1 Kings  8:20: "I  am risen up in  the room of David my father... and have (therefore, in the context) built an house for the  name  of  the  Lord".

2Ch 8:15 They didn’t depart from the commandment of the king to the priests and Levites concerning any matter, or concerning the treasures-
As noted on :14, the obedience was to David and his vision, rather than to the word of God through Moses.

2Ch 8:16 Now all the work of Solomon was prepared to the day of the foundation of the house of Yahweh, and until it was finished. So the house of Yahweh was completed-
God said that He accepted the temple not so much as a place to dwell in (as Solomon assumed it was) but as a place facilitating sacrifice, prayer etc., for the glorification of His Name through these things; He emphasized that He dwelt amongst His people (1 Kings 6:13; 2 Chron. 7:12-16). There are several other places where God’s response to Solomon’s words seems to be corrective rather than affirmatory. Thus Solomon says that God will hear the prayers of His people because the temple is called by God’s Name; but God’s response is that “my people, which are called by my name” would pray to Him themselves and be heard, quite apart from the temple (2 Chron. 6:33 cp. 7:14). He sees them as bearing His Name rather than the temple building, as Solomon perceived it. God goes on to parallel the temple and His people in 2 Chron. 7:21,22, saying that if He punishes the temple He will punish the people. Solomon seems to have thought that the temple would still stand favourably in God’s eyes even if the people were punished. The record records that the temple was “perfected” whereas Solomon’s heart wasn’t perfect [s.w.] (1 Kings 11:4 cp. 2 Chron. 8:16).

2Ch 8:17 Then went Solomon to Ezion Geber, and to Eloth, on the seashore in the land of Edom-
Transporting ships overland was relatively common; there are several accounts of Alexander the Great doing so. Perhaps Hiram had transported his ships there overland through Israel, and Solomon decided to have them build ships for him at their port of departure, so that his traders could accompany the men of Tyre. The ships were perhaps "sent" (:18) in the form of wooden structures which were then assembled at the port.

2Ch 8:18 Huram sent him ships and servants who had knowledge of the sea by the hands of his servants; and they came with the servants of Solomon to Ophir, and fetched from there four hundred and fifty talents of gold, and brought them to king Solomon
1 Kings 9:28 says 420, but perhaps the 30 talents difference were paid to Hiram for his transport services, as the navy  appears to have either been owned by Hiram or at least included his ships. "Ophir" may have been a generic name for areas to the east, including southern Arabia (famed for gold in Ps. 72:15; Ez. 27:22) and India; Ophir was in Arabia according to Gen. 10:29. Sheba was nearby and was famed for gold, so it was through this trading that the Queen of Sheba heard of the wisdom of Solomon. The next verse (2 Chron. 9:1) goes on to speak of her, connecting her with this gold trade with Ophir.