Bible Commentaries

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

1 Kings 5

Verses 1-18

So Hiram the king of Tyre when he heard that Solomon was upon the throne in place of his David: for Hiram was always a great admirer of David. And Solomon sent to Hiram, and he said, You know how that David my father could not build a 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. But now the LORD my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent. Behold, I purpose to build a house unto the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spake to David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon the throne in your place, he will build a house unto my name. Now therefore command 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 you shall appoint: for thou knowest that there is not among any of us those that have the skill in cutting timber like those of Sidon. So 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 ( 1 Kings 5:1-7 ).

So Hiram rejoiced that Solomon had such wisdom as he began to reign in David"s stead.

Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, I have considered the things which you have sent for me: and I will do all that you desire concerning the timbers of cedar, and fir. My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon unto the sea: and I will convey them by sea in floats unto the place that you shall appoint me, and I will cause them to be discharged there, and thou shalt receive them: and you shall accomplish my desire, in giving food to my household ( 1 Kings 5:8-9 ).

So they made an arrangement where they would make these great log rafts, cutting the timbers out of the forest of Lebanon. Up in the area of Sidon and Tyre. Now it used to be that Lebanon was covered with great cedar forests. Most of these were destroyed during the time of the reign of the Turks. But there are just today a very few cedar groves left in Lebanon. Tragic. Used to be beautiful wooded area. And now just a few cedars left.

But they cut down these great cedars and firs and made these log rafts. And they floated them down the Mediterranean to the port city of Joppa, which is probably about fifty miles from Tyre. And there from Joppa they would take them over land to Jerusalem, a distance of about thirty-five miles. These huge logs. And so it was quite a task indeed.

Now for these logs, he was to pay Hiram in food to take care of these men who were cutting the timber out of the woods.

So Hiram gave Solomon cedar trees and fir trees according to all of his desire. And Solomon gave to Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat ( 1 Kings 5:10-11 )

So again, ten bushels, twenty thousand bushels of wheat.

for his household, twenty measures of pure oil ( 1 Kings 5:11 ):

And a measure of oil they figure somewhere between forty-five and eighty gallons. And this was the annual tribute or pay that he gave for the men so that they could eat.

And the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him: and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; for they had made a treaty. And king Solomon raised a tax from all of Israel ( 1 Kings 5:12-13 );

Or a draft actually.

and he drafted thirty thousand men. And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand each month ( 1 Kings 5:13-14 ).

So you go a month; you work a month and had two months off. Just like the fireman almost. Just you know, you work a day and off three and those neat kind of hours. So he had thirty thousand men, ten thousand going each month up to Lebanon to work in helping them in the cutting of the wood and so forth.

And Solomon had seventy thousand slaves ( 1 Kings 5:15 ).

That just carried the logs, you know, or worked along with the logs and so forth. They, of course, would put logs and roll them and, you know, they would run and put logs ahead, and they rolled the logs and so forth. And of course, when you have seventy thousand men doing it, you can move quite a few logs. And there were eighty thousand men who were up cutting the logs up in the forest. So really, quite a contingency of labor here.

Beside the chief of Solomon"s officers which were over the work, three thousand, three hundred foremen on the job, that guided them in the work. And Solomon commanded that they bring great and costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house of God. And Solomon"s builders and Hiram"s builders cut them, and the stonesquarers: so that they prepared timber and stones to build the house ( 1 Kings 5:16-18 ).

Now near Herod"s gate in Jerusalem today, there is a cave that goes under the wall and actually you can go down under the city of Jerusalem into Solomon"s quarries. And you can see where much of the stone was quarried for the walls of the city of Jerusalem during Solomon"s time for Solomon"s house and for the temple. These quarries are still there, and you can see the chisel marks on the wall where they cut out. What they would do actually, the rocks under that area are limestone and they lay in layers actually. And it"s excellent for building, because much of it is just flat and sort of layered. And what they would do is they would drill holes into the rock. And then they would put wooden branches in and then they would soak. They would put water on the wooden branches and make them expand and just pop the rock out. And you can always, an interesting thing to see in Jerusalem, Solomon"s quarries. Just to the right of Herod"s gate, between Herod"s gate and Damascus gate. If ever you get over there, you want to take a look at Solomon"s quarries. They"re very fascinating, because here is where the stone was quarried. And then, of course, they would cut it.

And it is interesting that today in Jerusalem there"s a city ordinance that all of the buildings in Jerusalem must be made out of what they call the Jerusalem stone. So even if they build the concrete buildings, they have to put a fascia over all of the buildings of this Jerusalem stone. Jerusalem stone is a very beautiful stone. It has a capacity in the early morning sun to look almost golden and that is why Jerusalem is called The Golden City. Because as the sun is rising, and as it first hits the stone or just even before it hits just in the early dawn, it takes on a golden hue, all of the stones. And it"s absolutely gorgeous. Of course, you"re in jet lag so you wake up early anyhow when you"re first there. But it"s always a thrill to see the sun coming up and see this golden color. And then, of course, as the sun hits it, it begins to level out into a sort of a beige kind of a color in the bright sun.

But Jerusalem stone is something beautiful to behold, and in the cutting of the stone and in the shaping of it, they would shape the stones so fine that they did not have to use mortar in putting it together. But the blocks would just all interlock and fit one upon another. And I saw the corner of the temple mount that was done during Herod"s time. With these gigantic stones. Now it says that Solomon had some hewn stones and some of them eight cubits, some of them five cubits, which are good size stones really. For Solomon"s day eight cubits would be a stone of about eleven, twelve, thirteen feet. But Herod used stones that were thirty-seven feet long, five feet high and eight feet thick. They estimate that they weigh somewhere between eighty and a hundred tons.

And these stones are carved so accurately, I guess is what you"d say, is that I took a knife blade and tried to insert it between them and you can"t. Now can you imagine how much chipping that must have taken. I know. That"s the kind of stuff I think about; how long did it take a guy to chip that thing that smooth? You know, because they"re working with just chisels and all, hand tools, no power grinders or pneumatic tools. Just chipping away. And the interesting thing is today, you can see these old men around Jerusalem sitting there in the ground or in the squatted position and they"re chipping away at stones. It"s still an art that is current to the present day because of the city ordinance that all of the building must be faced at least with Jerusalem stone. So stone-cutting, very interesting art indeed, and it is fascinating to watch. And Solomon ordered these stones and, of course, all of the material.


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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Kings 5". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.