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Tuesday, May 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 5

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

Verses 1-6


“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. And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying, Thou knowest how that David my father could not build a house for the name of Jehovah his God for the wars which were about him on every side, until Jehovah put them under the soles of his feet. But now Jehovah my God hath given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary, nor evil occurrence. And, behold, l purpose to build a house for the name of Jehovah my God, as Jehovah spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon my throne in my room, he shall build a house for my name. Now therefore command thou that they cut me cedar trees out of Lebanon; and my servants shall be with thy servants; and I will give thee hire for thy servants according to all that thou shalt say: for thou knowest that there is not among us any that knoweth how to cut timber like unto the Sidonians.”

It is almost incredible to this writer that no commentator whom we have consulted has challenged Solomon’s arrogant assumption in this passage that he himself was that promised `seed’ of David whom God would establish eternally upon David’s throne, declaring emphatically that, “I (God) will establish the throne of his kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:13).”

The subsequent events in the history of David’s earthly dynasty demonstrated most effectively the error of Solomon’s conceited assumption. Furthermore, Solomon had been elevated to David’s throne during David’s lifetime, with whom, for a season, Solomon Was actually co-regent; and the promise of 2 Samuel 7:12 regarding that `seed’ whose throne would last for ever stressed that he would rise at a time, “When David should sleep with his fathers and after David’s days on earth had been fulfilled.” (See our full discussion of this in our Commentary on Second Samuel in chapter 7.)

Solomon is not the only one who misunderstood that heavenly promise; because the Jewish people themselves quickly concluded that the extravaganza of Solomon’s kingdom was scheduled to last eternally. However, the enormous taxation, the forced labor, and the heartless selfishness of Solomon’s reign quickly issued in the resentment and bitterness that split the kingdom.


The fact of God’s accommodation to Solomon’s Temple, and his use of it during the following history of Israel should not obscure that fact that God had made it perfectly clear to David that God did not Desire a Temple (2 Samuel 7:4-7). In that passage, God stated that he had never said to any Israelite, “build me a house (temple).” And we must point out that God never commanded Solomon to build him a house. If so, where is the commandment? It was Solomon’s project, first, last, and always. In our whole series of Bible Commentaries, we have frequently stressed the fact of both the monarchy and the Temple being contrary to God’s will. If it had not been so, why would God have destroyed it twice?

It is refreshing to note that La Sor, writing in The New Bible Commentary (Revised) raised a question: “Solomon utilized the skills of the Phoenicians, the slave-labor of conquered peoples, and the enforced labor of the Israelites, even mortgaging a part of his kingdom; and at last he had a splendid Temple, and probably an even more splendid palace. But was it right”?(F1) Of course, La Sor assumed it was right, basing his assumption upon the fact that God surely used it, but we cannot believe that God’s use of the Temple was any more proof of its being right than was his use of the monarchy.

That Temple proved to be a millstone around the necks of God’s people as long as it stood. As Stephen the Martyr observed in his Farewell Address, “All of God’s great victories for Israel came, not in the days of the Temple, but in those of the Tabernacle” (Acts 7:44-46). Furthermore, Stephen’s remark, that, “Solomon built him (God) a house” can be nothing but sarcasm. Also, the sacred author of Hebrews made no mention whatever of Solomon’s Temple, but repeatedly stressed the significance of the Tabernacle. This bypass of Solomon’s Temple by the inspired author of Hebrews is extremely significant. It is obvious that God never approved of the Temple.

What is wrong with a Temple? As Stephen put it, “God dwelleth not in Temples made with hands” (Acts 7:39). What is wrong with a temple, any temple? It purports to say that “God is there,” but that is a lie. The Temple of Solomon became a center of pagan worship (Ezekiel 8); and that prophet recorded the departure of God’s Spirit from it (Ezekiel 10-11).

“I will give thee hire,… according to all that thou shalt say” “This amount was so enormous (according to 1 Kings 5:11, 220,000 bushels of wheat and 180,000 gallons of oil) that we are not surprised to find out later that Solomon apparently went bankrupt and had to cede part of his territory to settle the debt.”(F2)

This alliance with Hiram king of Tyre was mutually advantageous both to him and to Solomon. “The corn-growing (wheat) districts of northern Palestine were the granary of the Phoenicians in the times of Solomon, no less than in the days of Herod (Acts 12:20).”(F3) Also Solomon controlled the trade routes both from the East and from Egypt.

Solomon’s arrangement here with Hiram was to procure sufficient timber for the proposed Temple from the great cedar forests of Lebanon, which were controlled by Hiram, and which were located, “Two days journey north of Beirut by the village of Bjerreh on the way to Baalbek near the loftiest summit of the Lebanon Mountains.”(F4) “Hiram also agreed to bring the timber down, probably via the Dog River to the Mediterranean, and thence by raft to a harbor in Israel.”(F5) The account in Chronicles identifies that harbor as Joppa (2 Chronicles 2:16).

Verses 7-12


“And it came to pass, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly, and said, “Blessed be Jehovah this day, who hath given unto David a wise son over this great people. And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, I have heard the message which thou hast sent unto me: I will do all thy desire concerning the timber of cedar, and concerning timber of fir. My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon unto the sea; and I will make them into rafts to go by sea unto the place that thou shalt appoint me, and will cause them to be broken up there, and thou shalt receive them; and thou shalt accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household. So Hiram gave Solomon timber of cedar and timber of fir according to all his desire. And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat to his household, and twenty measures of pure oil: thus gave Solomon to Hiram year by year. And Jehovah gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him; and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and they two made a league together.”

“Blessed be Jehovah this day” This word in the mouth of Hiram should not be understood as indicating his conversion to the knowledge of the One True and Only God It was merely his recognition of Jehovah as the God of Israel whom he revered on a parity with the false gods of his own country.

“Timber of fir” Jamieson identified this wood as cypress;(F6) and as cypress is mentioned in the Chronicles account, this may well be the case.

“Twenty measures of pure oil” The word `thousand’ in this phrase is understood; and, accordingly, the RSV properly translates the place as “Twenty thousand measures of pure oil.” It was an enormous annual payment. Furthermore, this does not include the enormous expenses of the slaves and forced laborers who were sent to Lebanon by Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:10).

“They two made a league together” “Solomon sealed this alliance with an addition to his harem, for Sidonian women are listed among those foreign women whom he is said to have loved; and it is said that his heart was turned away after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians (1 Kings 11:1; 1 Kings 11:4-5).”(F7)


Enthusiasts who manifest such appreciation for the Temple of the Jews should remember that it was built with slave-labor.

Verses 13-18

“And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men. 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 men subject to taskwork. And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand that were hewers in the mountains; Besides Solomon’s chief officers that were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, who bare rule over the people who wrought in the work. And the king commanded, and they hewed out great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house with wrought stone. And Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites did fashion them, and prepared the timber and the stones to build the house.”

Here is a summary of the manpower required to build Solomon’s Temple, the great burden of which was discharged by 150,000 slaves, who were remnants of the Canaanites whom Israel had enslaved rather than exterminating them as God had commanded. (See our commentary on Judges and Ruth for a full discussion of this shameful action on the part of Israel. (pp. 10-22).)

“Solomon raised a levy… of thirty thousand men from all Israel” All of these were able-bodied citizens of Israel who were thus conscripted for forced labor for a total of one fourth of each year! It should be remembered also, in this connection, that they no doubt bore the full share of the enormous tax burden in addition. Some have supposed that Solomon remunerated these men; but there is not a word in the text that supports such an improbable notion. Solomon referred to all of them contemptuously as “my servants.” This type of forced labor had first been introduced in Israel by David (2 Samuel 20:24); but, as was also the case in the harem which David introduced, Solomon’s excessive indulgence in both outstripped anything ever contemplated by David.

Regarding the forced labor on the part of the Israelites, Cook noted that, “They felt that this was a great oppression, and it was the chief cause of the revolt of the ten northern tribes following Solomon’s death.”(F8)

“Adoniram was over the men subject to taskwork” “The man thus placed over the levy was the same as Adoram (so-called in the days of David); and he came to be thoroughly detested in Israel (1 Kings 12:18).”(F9)

We should not be particularly concerned with the variations in the numbers given for the supervisors in 2 Chronicles 2:17 as contrasted with here. “The total number in both accounts terminates at exactly 3,850; and the variations may be accounted for by the different classifications.”(F10)

“And (they) prepared the timber and the stones to build the house” The foundation stones for Solomon’s Temple have been the marvel of all who ever saw them. “Those great beveled or grooved stones, measuring twenty or thirty feet in length, and from five to six feet in breadth, may still be seen in the substructure of the ancient site of the Temple; and, in the judgment of the most competent observers, are actually the original stones employed by Solomon’s workers `to lay the foundation of the house.’“(F11)

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 Kings 5". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/1-kings-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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