1 Kings 5
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants unto Solomon; for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the room of his father: for Hiram was ever a lover of David.
Ch. 1 Kings 5:1-12. Preparations of timber and stone for Solomon’s temple. League between Solomon and Hiram king of Tyre (2 Chronicles 2:3-16)

1. Hiram king of Tyre] The name of this king is spelt Hirom below in 1 Kings 5:10; 1 Kings 5:18, and in 2 Chronicles 2:3 Huram. From the words of the latter narrative we should conclude that it was the same king who had ruled in Tyre in the days of David, to whom he is said to have sent timber for the building of his own house. Cp. 2 Samuel 5:11. But the events alluded to in Samuel were as it seems in the early part of David’s reign in Jerusalem, that is, between 30 and 40 years before the preparations spoken of in the present verse. It may therefore be that two kings in succession bore the same name, and this view is confirmed by 2 Chronicles 2:13.

sent his servants unto Solomon] Seemingly with a message of congratulation on his accession. Josephus (Ant. viii. 2, 6) says so. ‘He saluted and congratulated him on his present prosperity.’ The Syriac has a clause to the same effect. The LXX. very strangely says ‘he sent his servants to anoint (χρῖσαι) Solomon in the room of David.’ Hiram was no doubt the greatest independent prince near the land of Israel, but there is no trace of any authority of the Tyrian kings over Israel.

Hiram was ever a lover of David] (Cf. 2 Samuel 5:11.) If this be not the same person as the Hiram in David’s reign, Hiram must be taken here merely as a synonym for the king of Tyre, just as Pharaoh is often for the king of Egypt.

And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying,
2. Solomon sent to Hiram] Josephus (l. c.) says that the message was by letter, as was also Hiram’s answer. That Hiram wrote his reply is mentioned 2 Chronicles 2:11. Josephus also states that copies of these two letters still remained not only preserved in the Jewish records, but also among the Tyrians so that anybody wishing to test his statements might, if he wished, refer to them.

Thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the LORD his God for the wars which were about him on every side, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet.
3. Thou knowest] David’s preparations must have been well known throughout the Phœnician kingdom, and so to Hiram even though he was not himself king. Cf. 1 Chronicles 22:4 where we are told that the Zidonians and they of Tyre brought much cedar wood to David. The reason why David himself did not begin to build the temple may also have been known to the northern king.

could not build a house] He was forbidden to do this by the word of the Lord (cf. 1 Chronicles 22:8; 1 Chronicles 28:3) because he had shed blood abundantly and made great wars.

unto the name of the Lord] See above on 1 Kings 3:2.

for the wars which were about him] The concord in this clause is not strictly grammatical, the noun rendered ‘wars’ being singular while the verb which follows is plural. It has therefore been proposed to render ‘because of the war wherewith they (i.e. his enemies) surrounded him.’ It seems better however to consider the singular noun as equivalent to a plural = enemies. And thus the rendering of the A. V. gives the correct sense. Another solution proposed has been to consider the words ‘men of’ as fallen out before ‘war,’ thus making the sense ‘because of the men of war who encompassed him.’ But such emendation of the text has no support in the versions.

put them under the soles of his feet] A phrase not uncommon to denote entire conquest. Cf. Psalm 8:6; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22.

But now the LORD my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent.
4. rest on every side] Cf. above 1 Kings 4:24.

evil occurrent] ‘Occurrent’ is the old English form of the noun for which we now use ‘occurrence.’ Cf. Bacon Henry 7. (Pitt Press Series) p. 68. ‘He paid the king large tribute of his gratitude in diligent advertisement of the occurrents of Italy.’ Probably the A.V. rendering is due to the Vulgate, which has occursus malus.

And, behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build an house unto my name.
5. I purpose] The verb in the original is that usually rendered ‘to say.’ It is similarly used 2 Samuel 21:16. ‘He thought to have slain David.’ It means ‘he said he would.’

to build a house]. It should be noticed that between the narrative in Kings and Chronicles there is a marked difference here. The former says nothing about the preparations which David had made for building the Temple, but makes the preparation commence under Solomon. In Chronicles David is represented as making great preparations before his death. Cf. 1 Chronicles 29:6-9; 2 Chronicles 2:3-7 and with 1 Kings 6:2 compare 2 Chronicles 3:3.

as the Lord spake] Cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-13. In that passage no mention is made of the reason why David was not permitted to build.

Now therefore command thou that they hew me cedar trees out of Lebanon; and my servants shall be with thy servants: and unto thee will I give hire for thy servants according to all that thou shalt appoint: for thou knowest that there is not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians.
6. Now therefore command thou] Solomon’s request is much expanded in 2 Chronicles 2:3-10, where he asks for a cunning workman in gold and other metals, and in purple, crimson and blue, and skilled in carving or engraving. He desires also much other wood beside cedar. Of the Sidonian purple we have frequent notices in Classical authors, it is ‘the grain of Sarra worn by Kings and heroes old,’ as Milton sings of it. Par. Lost XI. 242. Cf. Verg. Æn. iv. 137 ‘Sidoniam picto chlamydem circumdata limbo.’ Homer tells us of the great skill of Sidonian workmen: the embroidered robes of Andromache and the bowl given by Achilles as a prize at the games in honour of Patroclus were of Sidonian workmanship. (Hom. Il. vi. 290; xxiii. 743, 744.)

cedar-trees out of Lebanon] We see from Hiram’s answer in 1 Kings 5:8 where ‘timber of fir’ is added to the ‘timber of cedar’ that we have here only an abstract of Solomon’s request, and the fuller form in Chronicles has probably been drawn from an original authority.

hire for thy servants] The hire takes the form of a supply of corn and oil of which the kingdom of Solomon was very productive.

can skill] This somewhat antiquated word is found also 2 Chronicles 2:7-8; 2 Chronicles 34:12. It means ‘to know the best way of doing anything.’ Cf. Holland Pliny XVIII. 10. ‘Without beans they cannot skill how to dress anything for their daily food.’

And it came to pass, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly, and said, Blessed be the LORD this day, which hath given unto David a wise son over this great people.
7. he rejoiced greatly] For the alliance thus offered to him was that of the mightiest prince of all those round about.

Blessed be the Lord] Hiram here uses the name of Jehovah in such wise as to shew that he acknowledged him as a true god, but probably only in the sense of being the national god of Israel, as Melcarth was of the Zidonians. Cf. the queen of Sheba’s words of the same kind in 1 Kings 10:9. In the words of Hiram as given in 2 Chronicles 1:12, Jehovah is said to be the Maker of heaven and earth. If this were really Hiram’s language he must have identified Jehovah with his own supreme divinity. Of course it was no difficulty for a heathen to add the name of another divinity to his list of gods. Melchizedek (Genesis 14:19) speaks of ‘God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth’; and though not a heathen, he was outside the chosen race.

And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, I have considered the things which thou sentest to me for: and I will do all thy desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of fir.
8. and Hiram sent to Solomon] The Chronicler says he answered in writing.

I have considered the things which thou sentest to me for] More literally (see R.V.): ‘I have heard the message which thou sentest to me.’ We need not with this literal rendering suppose Solomon’s to have been a verbal request.

There is also no need to insert the conjunction before the next clause (as in A.V.), Render, as in R.V., ‘I will do.’

concerning timber of fir] Josephus says ‘cypress’ and from the uses to which the wood is put, that seems the more probable rendering. Beside being employed in the Temple building, the tree בְּרוֹשׁ (b’rósh) is used in shipbuilding (Ezekiel 27:5), for spear shafts (Nahum 2:4), and for musical instruments (2 Samuel 6:5). It was a tall tree on which storks built their nests.

The LXX. has πεύκινος = pine wood, the Vulgate ligna abiegna, to which, no doubt, the ‘firwood’ of A.V. is due.

My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon unto the sea: and I will convey them by sea in floats unto the place that thou shalt appoint me, and will cause them to be discharged there, and thou shalt receive them: and thou shalt accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household.
9. from Lebanon unto the sea] Providing for the shortest land passage down the side of the mountain and to the coast of the Mediterranean. Probably Sidon itself would be as convenient a place as any to which to bring the timber down. We learn from Josephus (c. Apion i. 18) that Hiram was quite experienced in this work. On his accession he had done much for the adornment of Tyre, especially in its sacred buildings and it is said of him ὕλην ξύλων ἀπελθὼν ἔκοψεν ἀπὸ τοῦ λεγομένου ὄρους Λιβάνου, κέδρινα ξύλα εἰς τὰς τῶν ἱερῶν στέγας, καθελών τε τὰ ἀρξαῖα ἱερὰ καινοὺς (sic) ᾠκοδόμησε.

in flotes] There is no preposition in the original. The idea probably would be more nearly expressed by ‘as flotes.’ R.V. I will make them into rafts to go by sea. The flotes would be made of the trees fastened side by side, and formed into long raftlike structures, somewhat like those which may be seen often on the Rhine, sent down from Switzerland. Such flotes would keep close to the shore and be anchored at night. In this way they might easily be brought along the coasts of Phœnicia and the Holy Land.

unto the place] The Chronicler (2 Chronicles 2:16) makes mention of the name, Joppa. This would be the most convenient port for Jerusalem, and at that point the wood was to be delivered to Solomon’s officers. The compiler of the Kings of course knew where the timber had been delivered, but as it was not recorded in his authority he made no mention of it.

thou shalt appoint] The word is not the same as that so rendered in 1 Kings 5:6. The literal sense is ‘to send’ but it is often used of ‘sending a message’ without the addition of any object. Thus in 1 Kings 21:11, ‘They did as Jezebel had sent unto them.’ Cf. 2 Kings 16:11.

thou shalt accomplish my desire] Josephus explains why a supply of such provisions as Solomon proposed to give would be most acceptable to the Tyrian monarch, making him say in his letter, ὅπως δὲ καὶ σὺ παράσχῃς ἡμῖν ἀντὶ τούτων σῖτον, οὗ διὰ τὸ νῆσον οἰκεῖν δεόμεθα, φρόντισον. The Tyrians were a maritime people, living on an island near a mountainous shore, and so with no chance of getting food supplies from their own land.

So Hiram gave Solomon cedar trees and fir trees according to all his desire.
10. cedar trees and fir trees] The words are exactly the same as in 1 Kings 5:8, so we had better read here ‘timber of cedar &c.’ On ‘fir’ see above.

And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food to his household, and twenty measures of pure oil: thus gave Solomon to Hiram year by year.
11. And Solomon gave Hiram] The supply mentioned by the Chronicler (2 Chronicles 2:10) is more than what is here stated. There the payment is 20,000 measures of beaten wheat, 20,000 measures of barley, 20,000 baths of wine and 20,000 baths of oil. Josephus mentions wheat, wine and oil, but says nothing about barley. There appears to be some clerical error in respect of the oil in this verse. The twenty measures (here cor) would only be equal to 200 baths, which seems a small quantity compared with the amount of wheat.

pure oil] Literally ‘beaten.’ It is the word used for describing the specially pure oil provided for the ever burning lamp in the tabernacle (Exodus 27:20). It was made by pounding the olives in a mortar, and letting such oil as was thus extracted trickle out. The coarser oil was obtained by the use of the oilpress.

year by year] i.e. During the period in which the work was carried on.

And the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him: and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and they two made a league together.
12. they two made a league] The friendship was a close one, as may be seen from 1 Kings 9:13, where Hiram calls Solomon ‘my brother.’ It is probable that this alliance between Tyre and the successors of Solomon continued, even when the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were separated. Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, was a daughter of the Tyrian king Ethbaal.

And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men.
13–18. Solomon’s levy of forced labourers for the work on Lebanon (2 Chronicles 2:1-2; 2 Chronicles 2:17-18)

13. a levy] The men selected had to give their labour. Such compulsory service has been a not unusual demand of Oriental monarchs. If we take the census of the people as it is given in 2 Samuel 24:9 we find that the 30,000 labourers required for this work were rather more than 2 per cent. of the numbers given in by Joab to David. Of course this levy only lasted so long as the work on Lebanon was in hand. The levy of bondservice mentioned in 1 Kings 9:21 was of a different kind. The strangers there spoken of were made perpetually to do forced labour. Josephus considers the present levy to have been no hardship. He says that Solomon ἄπονον τὴν ἐργασίαν κατέστησε. And probably the object for which the work was done would lend some enthusiasm to the labourers. Samuel (1 Samuel 8:16) had given the people warning that their kings would make such demands upon their service.

And 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 levy.
14. by courses] The word is that which is used of ‘changes’ of raiment. These men came and went away by ‘turns.’

Adoniram] See 1 Kings 4:6. Josephus gives to this man the name Ἀδώραμος; he does not give a list to correspond with that in 1 Kings 4:2-6.

And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains;
15. threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens] The Chronicler (2 Chronicles 2:17) points out that these 70,000 were of the strangers that dwelt in the land of Israel. These the king compelled to do the harder and more menial work, and the whole number of these non-Israelites was called out for work. Their number is stated in Chronicles to have been 153,600; of these 70,000 were bearers of burdens, 80,000 hewers in the mountains and the other 3600 (see Chronicles l. c.) were overseers to set the people a-work.

Beside the chief of Solomon's officers which were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, which ruled over the people that wrought in the work.
16. three thousand and three hundred] This number differs by 300 from that given in the Chronicles. If the total of the census of the strangers there given be correct, then we ought to read 3600 as the number of the overseers. The LXX. has τρεῖς χιλιάδες καὶ ἑξακόσιοι, and adds that they were employed for 3 years in preparing the stones and the wood.

The stone work was most probably given to the levy of strangers and the work of cutting and dressing timber to the 10,000 Israelites who came month and month about. The word rendered ‘hewers’ in 1 Kings 5:15 is so regularly used of workers in stone, that the LXX. nearly always renders the verb by λατομέω and its participle by λατόμοι (stone cutters).

which ruled over the people] The root-sense of the verb, which is ‘to trample on,’ or ‘break down,’ gives the idea that the ruling was after the fashion of taskmasters.

And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house.
17. they brought] The verb is used most frequently of pulling up tent pegs when removing a tent. And it is hardly found with the mere sense of ‘bringing’ or ‘bearing.’ Therefore in this passage and in Ecclesiastes 10:9, the R.V. has given it (with the authority of the Targum) the meaning ‘to hew out.’ In the latter passage this rendering is certainly more appropriate and in harmony with the parallel clause, ‘Whoso heweth out stones shall be hurt therewith, and he that cleaveth wood is endangered thereby.’ Here too, the sense ‘they hewed out great stones’ fits the passage extremely well.

costly stones] The adjective is not unfrequently used of gems which are of great price; as, of the precious stones in the crown of the Ammonite king (2 Samuel 13:30). But in the present case the costly nature was due to the care and pains which had been taken in selecting and working these foundation stones. This seems to be the sense in such passages as Isaiah 28:16, where the worth consists in the stability and tried nature of the stone spoken of.

and hewed stones] As will be seen from the A. V. there is no conjunction expressed in the original. The rendering however which is given leads the reader to suppose that there stands another adjective in the Hebrew like those rendered ‘great’ and ‘costly.’ This is not so, and moreover the order of the words makes it clear that the words rendered ‘hewed stones’ should follow ‘to lay the foundation of the house.’ Hence the R.V. has to lay the foundation of the house with wrought stone.

And Solomon's builders and Hiram's builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house.
18. and the stonesquarers] The text of A.V. is due to the Targum, which translates by ‘masons’. But the margin of A. V. suggests that the word is not a common but a proper noun and gives ‘Giblites’ as in Ezekiel 27:9. This is certainly a much more natural combination, than to class along with the men of Solomon and the men of Hiram, the stone squarers as of a different order. In Ezekiel the men of Gebal are spoken of as skilled in caulking ships, and they were not improbably able handicraftsmen in other branches. Josephus gives us no help. He speaks merely of ‘workmen whom Hiram sent.’ But the Vulgate reads ‘Giblii’ as a proper name and in many MSS. Biblii or Byblii. In the Vatican LXX. the verse is left out, but the Alexandrine gives καὶ οἱ Βίβλιοι. Now Gebal was a Phœnician city not far from the sea coast, to the north of Berytus (Beyrout). The Greeks called it Byblos, but the name is found also spelt Βίβλος (Zosim. i. 58; Ezekiel 27:9. LXX.). Thus the LXX. supports the proper name, which, to keep clear that it means the people of Gebal, we ought to write ‘the Gebalites.’ This has been adopted by R.V.

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