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Bible Commentaries
2 Chronicles 2

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verse 1

XXVIII

THE WORKS OF SOLOMON

1 Kings 5:1-7:51; 2 Chronicles 2:1-5:1

The works of Solomon were mainly buildings, whether of houses, or cisterns, etc., constructed during his reign and under his supervision. The first and most famous was the Temple. The second was his own house. The third was his wife’s house. The fourth was the upbuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and its fortifications, strengthening particularly the famous citadel of Millo. Fifth, he built two kinds of cities, and quite a number of each kind. One kind was for the headquarters and protection of his commerce; another kind was fortified cities controlling all the passes from any direction into his land. Among the fortified cities note the following:


First, Lebanon. He erected a strong fortification in the northern part of his country in the mountains of Lebanon on the great highway of Damascus, to guard the immense trade that poured through that city from the fords of the Euphrates.


Next, Hazor, still further north near Lake Merom. The object of that city was to protect the entrance from the south of Syria into his country. You should know the topography of the country in order to understand fully the wisdom of the location of each fortified city.


The next was at Megiddon on the plain of Bsdraelon, which was the great battle plain of the Holy Land. It was so in ancient times. It was so in mediaeval times, and according to prophecy will be so near the end of time. This fortification controlled all the Esdraelon plain. It was in the western part of the Holy Land, about the middle of it not far from the Mediterranean Sea.


The next was the great pass of Bethhoron, where Joshua fought his decisive battle. That is the pass leading from the Philistine country to Jerusalem. He fortified both ends of that pass, upper and nether, so that from the Plains of the Philistines an army could not approach Jerusalem in that direction.


Then on the south there were Gezer and Baalath, two other fortified places that protected not only from the Philistine raids, but from the Egyptian raids on the southwest. His other fenced cities and I will not mention all of them, protected the borders on the east of the Jordan, so that when these fortifications were completed Solomon’s country was like Paris before the war with Germany, and even since, i.e., from every direction there were long lines of fortifications.


The other class of cities was mainly on account of trade. You should have a map before you. East or northeast of Damascus, and south of his border on the Euphrates, was a desert, and in that desert a cluster of the most famous springs or fountains in the world – perennial water in abundance and beautiful groves of palm trees – and there Solomon built a city, Tadmor, which stood a thousand years, and in later history is called Palmyra, where Zenobia, the Queen of the East, reigned. If you are familiar with Roman history, you will remember her capture at her capital Palmyra, and her being brought a prisoner to Rome, and there settling down as a quiet Roman matron, marrying a member of the Roman nobility. In history the city of Palmyra is famous. In our times it is famous for archaeology. To the ruins of Palmyra, Baalbek, and Thebes on the Nile, and similar places, scholars go to excavate and give us the result of their studies in archaeology.


Solomon built quite a city, not for land commerce, but for sea commerce, at the head of the Gulf of Akaba, and transported a large population there in order that it should be held by loyal Jews, as that was his only good seaport. Those on the Mediterranean coast that lay within the boundary of his country – Joppa, for example – were very poor seaports. The next great buildings in connection with his reign were the store houses, immense structures on all the lines of traffic leading to Jerusalem where the revenues of the king were collected. Then the great stables that he had erected for the housing of his chariot horses and cavalry horses.


Another great work of Solomon was the building of roads. Our city papers say much about the split-log drag and the necessity for good wagon roads, roads for foot passengers and horsemen, for bringing the country products to the city markets. Solomon’s system of roads became as famous as the roads described by Prescott in the history of Peru, which are ahead of any in history except the Roman roads.


A very difficult work of Solomon was the building of a navy of his own. When he traded in the Mediterranean he had to use the ships of Tyre, just as a great part of our trade now is carried on in English or German bottoms. That is not as helpful to a country as to have its own merchant marine, its own ships for carriage. A tremendous change in Solomon’s kingdom was brought about by the establishment of this navy of his at Eziongeber at the head of the Gulf of Akaba, which is a part of the Red Sea. Those ships were manned largely by Tyrians, as the Jews were not good sailors, and that fleet would sail with imposing ceremony, to be gone three years. That is a very considerable voyage. The fleet would sail down the Indian Ocean to the East Indies, Borneo, Sumatra, and other islands of the archipelago in the. Indian Ocean, and then on to the archipelagos in the Pacific Ocean, and all down the eastern coast of Africa.


Before Solomon’s time Africa had been circumnavigated. Fleets, starting in the Red Sea, had gone clear around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, and back into the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar. They seemed to have forgotten about this when, not long before the time of Columbus, Vasco da Gama circumnavigated Africa, but it had been done before Solomon’s time. That fleet would bring him back spices, jewels, gold, and silver, and it mentions in your text here peacocks among other things, with the hundred eyes of Argus in their tails, according to Greek legend. You remember that Juno appointed Argus, because he had a hundred eyes, to watch Jupiter and see that he did not stay out at night, and Jupiter employed Mercury to play on his flute, and by its music to put Argus to sleep, and while asleep to kill him; and then Jupiter had his own sweet will without espionage. But Juno put the eyes of Argus in the peacock’s tail, and indeed if his eyes could serve no better purpose while in his head, they might as well be in a bird’s tail. In Huribut’s Bible Atlas is a detailed description of Solomon’s famous building, the Temple of the Lord. You must not expect from me an elaborate description of the Temple. I submit, rather, some salient points.


I. The plan and specifications. – These were all given to David by inspiration of God. The Temple proper was but an enlargement of the house built by Moses, with relative proportions preserved throughout. The plan of the house built by Moses was also inspired. This we studied in Exodus.


II. The date. – In 1 Kings 6:1, this statement is made: "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord," and on the second day of that second month, as you see from the corresponding passage in Chronicles, this Temple was commenced. This specific date, so circumstantially given, has puzzled many commentators. They don’t know how to fit the events of Moses, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and David into just 480 years. It is the governing passage that largely influenced Archbishop Usher in arranging the chronology as you see it at the head of your King James Bible.


Turn now to 1 Kings 6:37: "In the fourth year was the foundation of the house of the Lord laid, in the month of Ziv. And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it." Not only the building itself, but all its furniture, the utensils, and implements of every kind put in the Temple and used in its worship, was a work of seven years.


The next salient point worthy of your attention is the message of the Lord to Solomon when he was about to commence this work. You will find it on 1 Kings 6:11: "And the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying, Concerning this house which thou art building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes and execute my judgments, and keep all of my commandments to walk in them; then will I perform my word with thee, which I spake unto David, thy father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel." This is what he says to Solomon, "You have commenced to build a house for me. I come to tell you that I am with you, and give you my promise at the start that it shall be God’s dwelling-place." When we come to the next visit the Lord makes to Solomon, when the house was dedicated, I will give you another remarkable passage, but this one is at the commencement of the work.


The next thing we note is the site. The first intimation of the site is given to us in Abraham’s time. Abraham was commanded to take his son Isaac and offer him up as a burnt offering upon Mount Moriah, then held by the Jebusites; and on that mountain and at the very place where the Temple wag subsequently erected, there the symbolic forecast of the offering up of a greater Isaac took place. The next account that we have of the site is when the great plague came upon the people of Jerusalem, and David to avert the plague presented himself before God, and offered to die for his people, to let the punishment come upon him and spare the people. When he saw the angel of death approaching Jerusalem, he boldly went forth to meet the angel, and proposed a substitutionary sacrifice of himself; and then the plague was stayed, and at the place where the plague was stayed, David bought the threshing-floor of Araunah, the Jebusite, and marked it out as the site where God’s house was to be erected, where the great sacrifices were to be offered throughout the ages, that were to foretell the coming of the greatest Sacrifice.


Next in importance is the great work of preparing the foundation. You must conceive of an irregularly shaped mountain whose crest was taken off low enough down the mountain to give sufficient area. If on three sides the mountain sloped down into the valley, a wall must be built on those three sides high enough for the desired level, and the crest taken off must be used to fill in all the space to a level with the wall summit. On one side there would be no wall. The area of the space thus leveled was about thirty acres in the shape of a trapezoid, one side of which was 1,520 feet; the opposite side 1,611 feet; one end 1,017 feet, and the other end 921 feet. Of course, the height of the wall would vary on the three sides, according to the dip of the slope into the valley below. The greatest height of the wall was 143 feet. This perpendicular wall, built of immense stones bevelled into each other would cement, would render the Temple area unapproachable and impregnable on three sides. The fourth side was safe-guarded by an immense moat, and by the fortified tower of Millo. The crest of the mountain taken off was not sufficient in bulk to fill on the three sides up to the top of the wall, and then to furnish stones for the buildings and terraces. So Solomon opened quarries on the other mountainsides, tunneling under the city itself. There today may be seen Solomon’s subterranean quarries, where slaves toiled in the heart of the earth. Their bones are yet where they died, and the marks of their implements on the everlasting rock, and some of the mammoth unused stones. These slaves were the unassimilated Canaanites, fed and clothed indeed after a fashion, but without wages. So also the multitude of laborerg who were sent to Tyre under overseers to get out the forest timbers, were conscript laborers, thousands of them, working in reliefs under taskmasters.


But Solomon had nobody in his kingdom skilful enough to direct the stone work and establish foundries for the materials of brass, silver, and gold. So he appealed to Hiram, king of Tyre, for an expert superintendent. The king of Tyre sent him the son of a widow, also called Hiram. If you ever get to be a Mason, you will hear more about Hiram Abiff. He was the architect of the whole business, and had the full superintendence of everything. Your text here gives an account of him, and of what he did in constructing the Temple.


An equally stupendous work in the way of preparation had to be done, namely, to provide an adequate water supply. To this end, he built enormous cisterns capable of holding many millions of barrels of water, and aqueducts for carrying the water. He built pools, like the Pool of Siloam, and vast reservoirs.


You must not conceive of the thirty-five acres as one level, but several terraced levels, one terrace rising above another until on the highest level is the Temple proper and its immediate approaches. The lowest level was the court of the Gentiles, a higher level the court of the women. The whole area with its inner divisions corresponds in general plan to the enclosed area around the tabernacle of Moses and the tent itself. The Temple proper, itself a small building, was only the tent of Moses on a larger scale, all relative proportions preserved.


The lumber material was more difficult to procure than the stone material. It came from the forests of Lebanon – cedar and fir. The getting out of the timber from the forest, and the floating of it in great rafts from Tyre to Joppa, was performed by Hiram’s men. Solomon furnished the rations and compensated for the labor by giving King Hiram ten cities. When Hiram came to inspect the cities, he found them to be only sites for cities, something like Charles Dickens’ description of American cities, which existed only in sanguine prospect, or like the Bible description of Jerusalem in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah: "Now the city was exceedingly large, only the houses were not yet built, and the inhabitants thereof were few." Hiram, in disgust, refused to receive them, and Solomon built them and peopled them with Jews. It has always seemed, on the face of it, that Solomon played an unworthy Yankee trick on his confiding and generous ally. Solomon’s own men had to transport this lumber material all the way up hill from Joppa to Jerusalem, and there, under the skilled supervision of Hiram, the widow’s son, they were fashioned for their place in the Temple. Indeed, every part, whether of stone, timber, or metal, was so skilfully fashioned that the Temple went up without the sound of ax, saw, or hammer. So the spiritual temple arises in silence rather than noise. The kingdom of heaven comes not with observation. "Sanctified rows," as in many modern meetings, and confusions of mingled services, as at Corinth, are not contributory to the edifying of the temple of Christ.


There are some very striking references to the works of Solomon in the books of Ecclesiastes and the Song. For instance, this passage from Ecclesiastes 2 – Solomon himself talking: "I made me great works, I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards; I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kinds of fruits; I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees."


The gardens or paradises built by Solomon, the principal ones, were these: One near Jerusalem, where tremendous work in the rock had to be made to get space – terrace space – for his garden. Another was built about seven miles south of Jerusalem, near Bethlehem; and his summer park was at Mount Lebanon, described in the Song of Solomon, and when the hot summertime would come, and he would start to that summer resort in the mountains, a palanquin, or traveling carriage was made, and what a gorgeous thing it was! As it was a mountainous country, a palanquin was used and carried on the shoulders of men, but not until he got to a point where a chariot could not be used; up to that point he went in a beautiful chariot, the finest ever known, drawn by the finest of horses, as that Song tells you: "Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the powders of the merchant?"


The era of all these famous works was one of peace. These are not the achievements of unsettled times. War is destructive, not constructive. Solomon was not a man of blood, but the prince of peace, and hence the type of him at whose triumph all wars cease forever.

QUESTIONS

1. What was the principal building works of Solomon in Jerusalem?

2. What two kinds of cities elsewhere?

3. Cite the more important fortified cities and the purpose of each.

4. Locate and describe the trade city of Tadmor, and give something of its subsequent history.

5. What was city for sea trade, and how peopled?

6. Why was he dependent upon the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon for Mediterranean trade?

7. Locate and give the reason for building Eziongeber, and describe the commerce promoted by it. Tell about his fleet there, how manned and why, the time length of its voyages, the countries visited, and the products imported.

8. Was Africa circumnavigated before the famous voyages around it by Vasco da Gama? How was it done?

9. Where, probably, the Ophir of the ancients? Where Tarshish?

10. What did Solomon build in the way of roads, and what other countries since his time were noted for the building of good roads?

11. What attention is given to this matter by our country now?

12. How were the plans and specifications of the Temple obtained, and through whom?

13. What previous plan on a smaller scale was followed, and how and through whom was it obtained?

14. Why was Jehovah so particular in insisting on exact conformity with every detail of his plan?

15. What was the site of the Temple, and the two great historical events leading to its selection, and their typical import?

16. Where may we find the details of the Temple structure?

17. Give the date of its beginning, and time of its building.

18. Describe the foundation work, the area obtained, and its shape and side dimensions.

19. Whence the material for this foundation work, the laborers, and the modern evidence of their labor?

20. How many levels on this area, and the purpose of each?

21. Whence and what the materials of wood, how gotten out and transported, who the laborers, how many, and how supplied with food?

22. Who was the human architect?

23. Besides food supplies, how did Solomon compensate Hiram, king of Tyre, for his help, what Hiram’s opinion of the bargain, and what became of the rejected compensation?

24. What evidence of the perfect preparation of every piece of material before it was put into the building, and what the typical import?

25. What became of Solomon’s Temple, and whose succeeded it? What were its fortunes, and who restored it on a grand scale near the time of our Lord, and what became of it? What building now occupies the ancient building site?

26. Of what was the tabernacle of Moses and Solomon’s Temple a type?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Chronicles 2". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/2-chronicles-2.html.
 
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