Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
determined to build a house, etc. And whence came this purpose of the king's heart? From the depths of his own soul; or were there not other elements besides that of his own volition? This determination which is here chronicled as a simple act of one mind was, as most of our resolutions are, more complex in its character than it seemed.
I. THE OUTSIDE HUMAN ELEMENTS - the human element which is outside ourselves. In this case David's influence had much, very much to do with it. It was he who initiated the work (2 Samuel 7:2). Moreover, he urged Solomon to proceed with it after his own death, and even laid by stores in partial preparation for it (1 Chronicles 22:11, 14). Solomon, in "determining" to build a house, was really resolving to go on with an undertaking which he had already promised his father to carry out. Who shall tell how much the thought and the desire of other people influence the choices we are making, and consequently the course we are pursuing? Perhaps it is very seldom indeed that we "determine" to enter a new path without owing much to the influence of others; it may be, as in Solomon's case, to the action of a past generation, or it may be to that of our contemporaries and companions. Only he who searches the most secret chambers of the soul can tell how much of our best resolves is due to the influence of our best friends.
II. THE DIVINE ELEMENT. God had already given his distinct sanction and encouragement to the proceeding (2 Samuel 7:13). And this Divine decision, communicated by the Prophet Nathan, must have had a very powerful weight in Solomon's determination. It would seem to be enough, of itself, to decide the matter. How much God has to do with our decisions we do not know, but probably more than we ordinarily imagine. We often and earnestly ask him to affect our mind and will by the enlightenment and influence of his own Spirit; we believe that he has access to us and power over us, and can touch and quicken us at his will. Why should we not believe that he is frequently, continually with us, acting upon us, controlling and directing us, powerfully and graciously affecting our determinations and our character?
III. THE INDIVIDUAL ELEMENT. However much in Solomon's decision was due to the sources, Divine and human, outside himself, there was room left for his own individuality. He determined to proceed with the work. It was not under compulsion, but with the full consent of his own mind, that he began and continued and completed the noble task. He gave himself to it, he threw his strength into it; so much had he to do with it that it could be said with truth that "Solomon built him a house." When all other influences are taken into the account, it still remains true that our actions are our own; that ultimately we determine upon the course which honours or dishonours our life, which makes or mars our character, which ensures or spoils our prospects. In view of these three elements in human purpose, there is ground for:
1. Gratitude; for we owe much of our most fruitful actions to the suggestion and counsel of our friends.
2. Humility; for we owe more than we know or think to the inspiration of God.
3. A deep sense of responsibility; for it is in the depths of our own nature we are determining the complexion of our life and the destiny of our soul. - C.
I. THE PROJECT CONCEIVED. (Ver. 1.) A project:
1. Not new, but old. Not taken up by Solomon for the first time, but one his father David had years before meditated, though not permitted to execute it, because he had been "a man of war, and had shed blood '(1 Chronicles 28:3).
2. Not self-devised, but delegated, Not assumed out of vanity or from purely political motives, but handed down to him in circumstances of great solemnity by his royal sire (1 Chronicles 28:1-10).
3. Not sinful, but approved. Not "proceeding from the sight of the temple service of the Phoenicians and Philistines and of their ostentatious cultus" (Duncker), but commanded by Jehovah, who indicated his wish that it should be carried forward to completion by David's son (2 Samuel 7:13)
4. Not subordinate, but principal. Not after he had built a palace for himself, a house for his kingdom," but before, so giving God and religion the chief and foremost place in the thoughts of his mind and the activities of his reign. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," etc. (Matthew 6:33).
II. THE PROJECT ANNOUNCED. (Ver. 4.)
1. The person informed. Huram, Hiram (1 Kings 5:1), Hirom (1 Kings 7:40) - probably the original (Schrader), Αἵρωμος (Josephus, Contra Apion, 1:17), Hirummu (Assyrian), Chirom (Phoenician). The name, probably equivalent to Achirom, signifies "Brother or Friend of the highness" (s.c. of Baal). Whether this was David's friend (1 Chronicles 14:1), who had negotiations with him prior to the building of his palace (2 Samuel 5:11), and therefore before the birth of Solomon (2 Samuel 11:2), is disputed, chiefly on the ground that he must then have reigned considerably over forty years, whereas Menander (Josephus, 'Contra Apion,' 1:18) assigns to Solomon's friend a reign of thirty-four years. But a reign of fifty years was not impossible either then (Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:3; Manasseh, 2 Chronicles 33:1) or now (George III., Queen Victoria). The proposal to regard Solomon's friend as the son of David's (Thenius, Bertheau) is exposed to the difficulty that the father of Solomon's friend was Abibaal (Josephus) - a difficulty which may be removed by supposing that Abibaal was a surname of the first Hiram, or that the first Hiram was the father of Abibaal. There is, however, no sufficient ground for challenging the identity of the two Hirams; and upon the whole it is as likely that Menander and Josephus have erred as to the length of Hiram's reign, as it is that the Hebrew writers have confounded father and son.
2. The communication made. "I build an house," etc. Ancient kings were wont to erect temples to their tutelar divinities. Urukh of Chaldea founded temples - of the moon at Ur, of the sun at Larsa, of Venus at Erech ('Records,' 3:9); while the magnificent shrines of Memphis, Thebes (Karnack), and Edfou were constructed by Egyptian Pharaohs "for the houses of the gods whose existence is for endless years" (Brugsch, 'Egypt under the Pharaohs,' 1:322). These may be used to illustrate the nature of Solomon's project.
III. THE PROJECT EXPLAINED. (Vers. 5, 6.) Solomon's temple was to be "great," "exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries" (1 Chronicles 22:5). A resplendent edifice, designed:
1. For a lofty purpose. For the honour of a great God.
(1) An absolutely supreme God: "Great is our God above all gods" (Deuteronomy 4:39; 1 Kings 8:23).
(2) An infinitely exalted God: "The heaven of heavens cannot contain him" (1 Kings 8:27; Jeremiah 23:24).
(3) A personally accepted God. Solomon called him "the Lord my God" (Exodus 20:3). Theoretical theism is valueless; theism like David's (Psalm 63:1) alone profitable.
(4) A profoundly revered God: "Who is able to build him a house?" "Who am I, that I should build him a house?" God should be feared by all who approach him (Deuteronomy 28:58; Joshua 24:14; 2 Kings 17:36; Psalm 33:8; Matthew 10:28; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:28). Man never knows his own littleness till he examines himself in the light of God's greatness.
(5) A truly national God: "The Lord our God." Solomon conjoined his people with himself. Christ taught his disciples to pray, "Our Father" (Matthew 6:9).
2. For a noble use. Not to contain this immeasurably great and glorious Divinity (2 Chronicles 6:18), seeing that Jehovah dwelleth not in temples made with hands (Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:47), but inhabiteth eternity (Isaiah 57:15), and filleth heaven and earth with his presence (Jeremiah 23:24); but to be a visible centre for his worship, to be dedicated to him for the burning before him of sweet incense, etc. Hitherto the people had sacrificed in local sanctuaries (1 Kings 3:2), Solomon himself being no exception (2 Chronicles 1:3; 1 Kings 3:4); henceforth the nation's sacrificial worship was to be concentrated in the capital and to circulate round the temple. The different parts of that worship here mentioned are those specified by Moses in connection with the tabernacle.
(1) The burning of sweet incense (Exodus 25:6), which Aaron was directed to do every morning and evening in the holy place (Exodus 30:7);
(2) the presentation of the shewbread (Exodus 25:30); and
(3) the offering day by day continually of the burnt offering (Exodus 29:39). The first symbolized the adorations presented to Jehovah by his worshippers (Revelation 5:18); the second, the spiritual sustenance Jehovah provided for his servants (Psalm 132:15); the third, the self-consecration expected by Jehovah of all whose sins were covered by sacrificial blood (Romans 12:1). The assertion that in the first temple the evening offering was purely cereal (Robertson Smith, 'The Old Testament in the Jewish Church,' p. 421) is without foundation (Thenius, on 2 Kings 16:15).
IV. THE PROJECT PREPARED FOR. (Vers. 2, 18.)
1. The furnishing of workmen. (Vers. 2, 18.)
(1) Their number: 70,000 burden-bearers or labourers, 80,000 timber-hewers or skilled woodmen, 3600 overseers or superintendents, in all 153,600, quite an army of workmen. The discrepancy between 1 Kings 5:16 and this account vanishes by observing that to the 3300 overseers in Kings falls to be added 550 chief officers (1 Kings 9:53), while the 3600 of Chronicles require to be supplemented by 250 chief officers (2 Chronicles 8:10), thus making both totals equal 3850. A gang of 100,000 men, changed every three months, laboured for ten years in building a causeway along which to convey the stones for Cheops' pyramid; and seven millions more men were needed to build the pyramid itself (Birch, 'Egypt,' p. 35; Budge, 'The Dwellers on the Nile,' p. 58).
(2) Their orders - labourers, wood-cutters, overseers, chief officers. So society on a larger scale is organized. The principle of division of labour is of endless application.
"So work the honey bees;
(3) Their station: "strangers in the land" (ver. 17); i.e. descendants of the unexter-minated Canaanites (2 Chronicles 8:7, 8; 1 Kings 9:20-22). These had David also appointed to be stone-cutters (1 Chronicles 22:2).
2. The securing of materials. In addition to the stores gathered and given by his lately deceased father - gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, precious stones (1 Chronicles 29:2-5) - Solomon required cedar, fir, and algum trees out of Lebanon. Found nowhere in Palestine except Lebanon, the cedar was a rapidly growing, high-reaching, widespreading, and long-living tree, whose beautiful white wood was much prized for architectural purposes (2 Chronicles 3:5; 1 Kings 6:15; Jeremiah 22:14). The fir, often mentioned in connection with the cedar (Isaiah 14:8; Isaiah 37:24), was a "choice" and "goodly" tree, whose wood was used for building ships (Ezekiel 7:5) and making musical instruments (2 Samuel 6:5), and was now to be employed for flooring, ceiling, and doors in the temple (1 Kings 6:15, 34). The algum, probably the red sandalwood, fetched along with gold and precious stones from Ophir (2 Chronicles 9:10, 11; 1 Kings 10:11) by Solomon's and Hiram's fleets, and here inaccurately said to have grown in Lebanon, was used by Solomon for making pillars for the temple and the palace, as well as harps and psalteries for singers. These different sorts of timber accordingly Solomon sent for from Hiram, his father's friend and his own (ver. 3).
3. The obtaining of a skilled artificer. This also he courteously solicited from Hiram, whose subjects were the "artists" of the day (see homily on 'The two Hirams'). Both requests were accompanied with a promise of generous support to the workmen and the artist (ver. 10), and both were frankly honoured. Learn:
1. The highest glory of a king (or private person) is to seek the glory of God (John 8:50).
2. Great undertakings, especially in religion and the Church, should be gone about with deliberation, and only after due preparation (Luke 14:28).
3. The meanest service in connection with God's house is honourable (Psalm 84:10).
4. The value of friendship (Proverbs 27:10).
5. Humble thoughts of self the best preparation for acceptable service of God (2 Corinthians 3:5).
6. The talents of unbelievers may be legitimately employed in the service of the Church, seeing that "gifts" are from God, no less than "graces" (Job 32:8).
7. The Church should honourably requite those who aid in her undertakings, since "the labourer is worthy of his hire" (Luke 10:7; 1 Timothy 5:18). - W.
I. THE AMPLITUDE OF MATERIAL WITH WHICH GOD HAS SUPPLIED US. We have mention made (ver. 7) of different metals - gold, silver, brass, iron; and this enumeration is far from being exhaustive. We have reference (ver. 8) to different trees; and these are only a reminder of all the kinds of timber to be had in the forests of the earth. We have a statement of articles of food (ver. 10), representing various industries; and these again are only suggestive of a large number at our command. The Divine Author of our nature and Builder of our home has given us many tastes and cravings; he has also supplied us with the most ample material on which our skill and our labour can be expended, so that all our wants and even our wishes may be supplied.
II. THE NECESSITY, DIVINELY ORDERED, FOR CORDIAL CO-OPERATION. Solomon had to negotiate with Hiram; the skilled labour of Israel had to be supplemented with the more skilled labour of Tyre (vers. 3, 8). The servants of one sovereign had to "be with," to co-operate with, those of another, if the house was to be built. And not only had land to work with land, but citizen with citizen, according to individual culture; some had to "bear burdens," others to "hew trees," others to overlook both of these workmen (ver. 2). As one country produces valuable commodities which another lacks; and as one man has a natural faculty of which another is devoid; as the interchange of products and of industries is spreading comfort and acquisition; - we are learning that God has so made this earth and so constituted us, his children, that we may work together, and make one another inheritors of the results of our thought and toil. Commerce is not more human in its outworking than it is Divine in its origin.
III. THE GRADATIONS IN LABOUR. To overlook implies more trained intelligence than manual labour itself involves (ver. 2). And men "cunning to work" and men that bad skill to hew (ver. 8) were superior workmen to those that did the labour of carrying. Work has its gradations; it ascends in rank as it involves natural intelligence and sagacity, long and careful training, faithfulness and trustworthiness.
IV. THE ADVANTAGE OF INTEGRITY TO THOSE WHO COME AFTER US. (Ver. 30 Solomon invited Hiram to treat with him "as thou didst deal with David my father." And Hiram responded; for we read (1 Kings 5:1), "Hiram was ever a lover of David." He found that he could trust the King of Israel - that with him piety meant truthfulness and equity. Thus David's integrity made the path of Solomon smooth and easy; it perhaps contributed as much to the work as the various materials he had so carefully stored up for his son. It is impossible to reckon how much thoroughness and uprightness in our labour have to do with our own real success, and how much they do for those who come after us. In this way one generation truly serves another.
V. THE RIGHTEOUS CLAIM OF LABOUR TO A FULL RECOMPENSE. (Ver. 10.) "The workman is worthy of his hire" (see James 5:4).
VI. OUR DUTY TO DO OUR BEST. "The house shall, be wonderfully great" (ver. 9). Solomon meant to make it worthy, not only of himself and his kingdom, but even, as far as that might be, of the Lord for whom it was to be erected. It should be constructed of the best materials and with the greatest skill he could command.
1. What we do in the direct service of God has a distinct claim on our highest faculties, on our largest resources. What we do for Christ should be done at the full height of our capacity and opportunity. In his worship and service we should be at our very best.
2. All work, as rendered unto God, should be done faithfully and heartily. Into all the labour of our hands we should put our mind and our strength, because everything is done in the presence of the Master, and should be done with a view to his approval. - C.
I. THE INESTIMABLE ADVANTAGE OF THE REVEALED RELIGION OVER CONTEMPORARY FAITHS. "Great is our God above all gods" (ver. 5). Great indeed; for he was the living God, and they were only imaginary; he was the holy God, and they were (by supposition) unholy; he was just and kind, and they were capricious and cruel; he could and did hear and answer prayer, and they were powerless and helpless. Who could estimate the priceless advantage to the nation of having for the object of its worship the Lord God of Israel? It makes a difference which is simply incalculable to have as the Object of our worship a Being who is worthy of our devotion. What, then, is it to us to be worshipping the Divine Father revealed to us in and by Jesus Christ?
1. It is to be seeking the favour of that Living One who holds us all in his mighty hand, and is able and is willing to confer upon us inestimable blessings, even unto eternal life.
2. It is to be drawing nigh unto, and to be drawn spiritually towards, the Holy One; it is thus to be attracted in spirit, in sympathy, in character, in life, toward the Perfect One; it is to be gradually, unconsciously, effectually transformed into his likeness. For whom we reverence, we follow; whom we love, we resemble; and just as we worship the Divine Father and love the Divine Friend, so shall we breathe his spirit and bear his likeness.
II. THE IMPERFECTNESS OF THE MATERIAL AND OF THE HUMAN, IN VIEW OF THE DIVINE GREATNESS.
1. The material. "Who is able to build him a house, seeing the heaven... cannot contain him?" The temple of a heathen deity may be supposed by its ignorant devotees to be its residence; it certainly contains its visible image, the idol. But the temple Solomon was about to build could in no true sense become the residence of Jehovah. No building could contain him; "the heaven of heavens" could not do that: how much less an earthly house! There is no cathedral, no Christian sanctuary, that can be properly thought of as the residence or earthly home of Jesus Christ. The heaven where he dwells cannot contain him.
2. The human. "Who am I, that I should build," etc? To be the principal agent in the construction of the one building with which the Name of Jehovah would be associated, and the only building where there would be
(1) an abiding manifestation of his presence, and
(2) the opportunity of approaching him by sacrifice, - this was an honour of which Solomon naturally and becomingly considered himself unworthy. And who among the holiest and the wisest of men, who among the most faithful servants of Jesus Christ, can consider himself worthy to be
(1) the spokesman of his brethren in drawing nigh to God in prayer;
(2) the messenger to make known the love and grace of God as manifested in Jesus Christ his Son;
(3) the workman in even the humblest corner of that sacred and blessed field - the field of Christian service? To be thus engaged for the Father of spirits, for the Redeemer of mankind, should be considered by us all an honour of which we are wholly unworthy.
III. THE ACCEPTABLENESS OF IMPERFECT SERVICE.
1. Though the temple at Jerusalem could not contain God, yet it could render various valuable services (vers. 4, 6). It was a place where God met with and manifested himself to the people; where they drew consciously near to him, and realized that he was very near to them; where they communed with him and rejoiced before him; where they sought and found forgiveness of their sins; where they made grateful acknowledgment of their indebtedness to him for all blessings; and where they dedicated themselves anew to his service. Imperfect as it was, and utterly unable to constitute the residence of Deity, it yet answered most useful ends.
2. And thus with us who are the servants of God. Imperfection marks our character and our work; we are not worthy to "build him a house," nor to do anything, however humble, in his name and cause. Yet God will bless us, Christ will own and honour us as his servants, if only we are loyal and true. "To the wicked God says, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes?" etc. (Psalm 50:16). But to the upright in heart (including the penitent, see Psalm 51:12, 13), to all those who have returned in spirit to him, and who sincerely desire to extend his reign over the hearts of men, he is ever saying, "Go, work in my vineyard; go, build up my kingdom; go, gather my erring sons and daughters, and lead them home to my heart." - C.
I. ITS BUILDER. The temple of Solomon was constructed by Solomon the son of David; the temple of the Christian Church by Jesus, David's Son, but also David's Lord, the Only-Begotten of the Father, whose name is "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 45:13; Hebrews 3:3).
II. ITS MATERIALS. The temple of Solomon was fashioned out of gold, silver, precious stones, etc.; the temple of the Christian Church out of lively stones, or believing and regenerated souls (1 Peter 2:5).
III. ITS SITE. The temple of Solomon stood on Mount Moriah, where Jehovah had appeared to Abraham and afterwards to David, its walls reaching down to and rising up from the solid rock; the temple of the Christian Church rests upon the immovable rock of Christ's Person (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:20), in whom the clearest and fullest revelation of the Father has been made to men (John 1:18; John 14:9).
IV. ITS CONSTRUCTION. The temple of Solomon had two apartments - a holy place and a holy of holies, the former for the worshipping priests, the latter for the worshipped God; the Church of Jesus Christ has only one chamber, the separating veil being done away, in fact rent in twain, by the sacrifice of the cross (Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 10:20).
V. ITS ADORNMENTS. The temple of Solomon was radiant with gold and silver and decorations of carved work; the Church of Jesus Christ is rendered beautiful by the inward graces of the Spirit (Psalm 149:4; 1 Peter 3:3).
VI. ITS PROPORTIONS. The temple of Solomon was, after all, but a small structure; the temple of the Christian Church is a spacious house of many mansions (John 14:1).
VII. ITS USES. The temple of Solomon was designed as a habitation for Jehovah's symbolic presence; the Church of Jesus Christ is a habitation for Jehovah himself through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). Learn:
1. The glory of the Christian Church.
2. The superiority of the gospel dispensation.
3. The nobler privilege of New Testament believers. - W.
I. GOD'S ATTITUDE TOWARD ISRAEL IN RESPECT OF THE MONARCHY UP TO SOLOMON'S TIME. It has to be considered:
1. That for a visible human sovereignty God held the people themselves responsible. He did not impose it; nor did he suggest it; nor did he desire it; on the other hand, by the mouth of his servant Samuel, he strongly dissuaded from it (see 1 Samuel 8.).
2. That, granting their request, God gave them a king on their own chosen principle. They demanded a sovereign they could see and hear, one that would be a king "after the flesh;" and on this fleshly and material principle God selected one that had bodily advantages (see 1 Samuel 10:23, 24).
3. That, when Saul failed, God had pity upon them, and gave them a man after his own choice - a man who had, truly, some serious defects - as who had not? - but who, by the fascination of his bearing, by the courage and capacity of his leadership, by his unswerving loyalty to his God, bound the nation together, overcame its numerous enemies, extended its borders, and held it fast to the service of Jehovah. And now God had given to the people David's son, Solomon. And we look at -
II. GOD'S GIFT TO ISRAEL IN PREFERRING SOLOMON TO THE THRONE. It was a Divine appointment, that made for:
1. National piety. Solomon regarded as the great act of his reign the "building a house for the Name of the Lord." And the erection of the temple and the subsequent arrangement of its services did much to bind the people, not of Jerusalem only but of the entire kingdom, to the worship of Jehovah. It promoted national piety by securing the adherence of the people to the service of the true and living God. And this piety meant more than worship; it meant purity also, a sound morality. For no man could be an acceptable worshipper of Jehovah who did not renounce iniquity and seek after righteousness and blamelessness of life.
2. National peace. Solomon, true to his name, was a man of peace. The nation had known enough of war under David; it required peace, and this Solomon gave it. In this matter almost everything then and there depended upon the character and spirit of the monarch. A war-like king would create national hostilities; a peace-loving king ensured national rest from strife. We know what war means; it may mean glory, enlargement, enrichment; it must mean cruelty, passion, pain, death, desolation in heart and home; it must mean an arrest laid upon national industry and enterprise. But by the promotion of Solomon God was providing for:
3. National industry. During his reign a great stimulus was given to the industrial arts and to the commerce of the country. Israel opened its eyes to see what it had not had any glimpse of before, and an immense stride was taken in the path of civilization and production. Thus God cared for the country which he had especially made his own. Thus he cares for all countries, when he raises up men that seek the piety (and with that the morality), the peace, the industry, of the people. Thus shall we be truly working with God when we live to promote these great causes. It is in these things that a nation finds its real prosperity; and he is the faithful citizen of his native laud who throws his influence, in every open way, into these scales; it is he who truly loves and serves his country. - C.
I. HIRAM THE KING.
1. His kingdom. Phoenicia Variously explained as "the land of palms," "the land of purple-dyeing." "the land of the brown-red," with reference to the colour of the skin of its inhabitants, Phoenicia in Solomon's time was bounded on the west by the Mediterranean, on the east by Lebanon, on the south by the kingdom of Israel, while towards the north the limit was uncertain, though usually fixed about Arvad, thus making in all a territory a hundred and twenty miles long and twenty miles broad. "It is a liberal estimate for the area to reckon it at four thousand square miles, which is less than that of at least one English county, (Rawlinson, 'Phoenicia: Story of the Nations,' p. 2). Well watered by streams from Lebanon, the country was extremely fertile. In addition to cedars on the heights of Lebanon, fruit trees and vines clothed its slopes, whilst the valleys yielded an abundance of palms, fat pasture, garden produce, and corn. Silicious earth for making glass was found upon the coast, which also furnished the purple shells necessary for dyeing. Iron and probably copper were obtained at Sarepta and elsewhere (Riehm, Handworterbuch, art. Phoenicien ).
2. His capital. Tyre - in Hebrew Sor, in Assyrian Surru, in Old Latin Sarra. The city is supposed to have been so called because of its having been built - at least the insular part of it - upon a rock. Most likely younger than Sidon, it was yet a city "whose antiquity was of ancient days" (Jeremiah 23:7). Founded two hundred and forty years before the building of Solomon's temple (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8:3. 1), it was greatly celebrated for its natural and artificial splendour (Ezekiel 27:3). Planted in a pleasant place (Hosea 9:13), it was afterwards compared to "a virgin bathing in the sea, a Tartessus ship swimming upon the ocean, an island on shore, and a city in the sea" (Kitto's ' Cyclopaedia,' art. "Tyre').
3. His subjects. The men of Tyro. Renowned as wood-cutters and artists, "skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson," they were likewise merchants who traded with all parts of the then known world (Ezekiel 27:1-36). As to physical characteristics, on the whole "the Phoenicians probably, both in form and feature, very much resembled the Jews who were their near neighbours, and who occasionally intermarried with them (1 Kings 11:1; 1 Kings 16:31; 2 Chronicles 2:14), while as to moral characteristics, they shared those of the Western Semites generally - "first, pliability combined with iron fixedness of purpose; secondly, depth and force; thirdly, a yearning for dreamy ease, together with a capacity for the hardest work; fourthly, a love of abstract thought; and fifthly, religiousness, together with an intensely spiritual conception of the Deity" (Rawlinson, 'Phoenicia,' p. 25).
4. His history. A son of Abibaal, the first King of Tyro, and a contemporary as well as friend of both David and Solomon (see preceding homily), he was clearly a man of culture. He could write, and in that accomplishment many later kings, even in Christian times and in our own land, have been deficient. Withred, King of Kent, A.D. 700, thus concluded a charter to secure the liberties of the Church: "All the above dictated by myself I have confirmed, and, because I cannot write, I have with mine own hand expressed this by putting the sign of the holy cross + ' (Adam Clarke). Writing, however, had been introduced into Phoenicia from Egypt long before the days of Hiram (Rawlinson, 'Phoenicia,' p. 328). Whether copies of the epistolary correspondence of Hiram and Solomon were preserved in "the public records of Tyre" (Josephus, ' Ant.,' 8:2. 8) may be doubtful, but no ground exists for challenging the accuracy of the biblical account that both Solomon and Hiram could write.
5. His character. Originally a worshipper of Baal, and a restorer of the temple of the sun-god, he appears to have become an enlightened and sincere follower of Jehovah, whom he recognizes as not merely the national Divinity of Israel, but also as the Maker of heaven and earth (ver. 12). That he was courteous and kind, his intercourse both with David and Solomon attests. That he was a shrewd man of business, who could look well after his own interest, shines out by no means dimly in the hint given to Solomon to forward "the wheat and the barley, the oil and the wine, which my lord had spoken of," when he would see to the felling of the timber (vers. 15, 16).
II. HIRAM THE ARTIST.
1. His parentage. The son of a Tyrian brass-worker, and of a Danite widow belonging to the tribe of Naphtali.(ver. 14; 1 Kings 7:14), he was probably on this account selected by the aged sovereign as one likely to be acceptable to the Hebrew monarch and his people. The discrepancy as to the tribe from which Hiram's mother proceeded may be removed by supposing that she was originally a Danite maiden, whose first husband belonged to the tribe of Naphtali, and whose second was a Tyrian.
2. His profession. A sort of universal genius, who had skill and understanding to find out every device put before him - like the artist Harmon, of whom Homer ('Iliad,' 5:59, 60) says that he "knew how to form with his hands all ingenious things." "As Theodore of Samos was an architect, a caster of works in bronze, an engraver of signets, and a maker of minute works in the precious metals, as Michael Angelo Buonarotti was at once a painter, a sculptor, an architect, and a worker in bronze" (Rawlinson, 'Phoenicia,' p. 97), so Hiram of Tyro, like Bezaleel (Exodus 31:4), was goldsmith, silversmith, brazier, iron-worker, stone-carver, wood-engraver, linen-weaver, all in one.
3. His renown. On account of professional eminence the king had dignified him with the title Abi, "my father," which meant "master;" in the sense that he was both master of his work and master of works for the king, as afterwards he is styled Solomon's father (2 Chronicles 4:16), because he manufactured for Solomon the vessels for the house of the Lord. Compare Joseph's calling himself "a father," i.e. a master or manager, "to Pharaoh" (Genesis 45:8). Learn:
1. The highest office of a king - to promote the material, intellectual, and religious prosperity of his people.
2. The proper duty of friendship - to rejoice in the welfare, co-operate in the undertakings, and reciprocate the courtesies of others.
3. The noblest service of art - to consecrate its genius to the glory of God and the advancement of true religion. - W.
I. THE VALUE OF A WISE INTERMINGLING.
1. Of blood. The principal architect and engineer supplied by King Hiram was a man of mixed blood; his father was a man of Tyro, but his mother was a Jewess (see 1 Kings 7:14), and he appears to have been a man of unusual ability. The mixture of races is proved to be of a very distinct advantage, and we may be very thankful that the discords and contentions of our early history resulted in the mingling of the virtues of Saxon, Celt, and Roman in the English of our own time.
2. Of labour. "I have sent a cunning man.., to find out every device... with thy cunning men" (ver. 14). International exchange and co-operation are of immense value, and will prove to be more and more so as the nations open their doors, and all peoples meet and mingle together (see homily on vers. 2, 3, 7-10).
II. A BENEFICENT APPEAL TO OUR INTELLIGENCE. (Ver. 14.) In the variety of material with which God has supplied us we find a striking instance of his creative kindness. It is conceivable that he might have placed us on a planet which had little elemental variety, and which did not therefore admit of many combinations. But on this earth there is practically no limit to the variety of productions, by the putting forth of our observation, ingenuity, and skill. Herein we have very much more, and very much better, than a provision for our comforts; we have an effective appeal to our intelligence, a constant development of our intellectual powers, an elevation of our manhood. It is a rich and noble home, furnished with everything that meets the needs of our complex nature, in which our heavenly Father has placed us.
III. THE POWER WE POSSESS OVER THE ELEMENTS OF NATURE. (Ver. 16.) At that time and in that country men had learned to hew down the tall trees, to cut and carve them into what size and shape they liked, to carry them across the land, and to employ the sea as a highway. "We will bring it to thee in flotes by sea." The sea, with its depth and breadth, with its swelling billows and its fearful storms, may well have been regarded at first as an impassable barrier between land and land, as a decisive limit put upon our progress. But we have made it a common highway on which to travel, by which to transport our treasures, and we can map our route and calculate our time with nearly as much regularity as on the still and solid land. Indeed, we can rule the elements of nature much more readily and constantly than we can govern the forces within our own breast. These too often baffle our skill and defeat our purpose. Our greatest difficulty and truest triumph is in turning to good account the elements of our own human nature.
IV. AN UNCONSCIOUS ANTICIPATION OF GOSPEL BREADTH. (Vers. 17, 18.) Solomon employed "the strangers" to do the triple work, here specified, in the temple-building. Moreover, he had recourse to the King of Tyre and to his "cunning workmen." So that we have Gentiles as well as Jews engaged in this work which we may regard as the work of the Lord. Between that event and the present time there was to come a long period of exclusiveness which manifested itself in most ungracious forms in the days of our Lord. But this co-operation of those without and those within the sacred pale is predictive of the glorious breadth of these later times, when, in Christ Jesus, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, barbarian nor Soythian, bend nor free. There is an absolutely open way to the kingdom of God, and an equally open gate into the broad field of holy usefulness. - C.
The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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