Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 5

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


In this chapter we have an account of Solomon’s preparations for building the temple, and the three following chapters describe the building and dedication of that celebrated edifice. It was the mighty work which, above all others, shed a glory over the reign of Solomon. The temple was to be the central seat of national worship and religious interest, and was designed thenceforth to mould the religious life and knowledge of the Hebrew race, and to stand a type and symbol of the Christian Church that great spiritual temple of which Jesus Christ is the chief corner-stone. This great work was not a sudden device of Solomon. It had been planned by David, to whom its first idea had come like an inspiration from the Almighty. 2 Samuel 7:2. He would not have the ark dwelling in curtains, while he himself occupied a house of cedar. And though not permitted to build, in his day, a worthy dwelling for the mighty God of Jacob, he nevertheless prepared by Divine counsel its pattern, and carefully committed it to his son Solomon. 1Ch 28:11-12 ; 1 Chronicles 28:19. Compare the notes on 2 Samuel 7:1-17. He also prepared the place for its erection on Ornan’s threshingfloor, where he had seen the angel of the Lord. 2Ch 3:1 ; 2 Samuel 24:17.

In the next two chapters, and their parallels in Chronicles, we learn the most that is known of this celebrated structure, built so long ago, and long ago destroyed. “There is no building of the ancient world which has excited so much attention since the time of its destruction as the temple which Solomon built at Jerusalem. and its successor as rebuilt by Herod. Its spoils were considered worthy of forming the principal illustration of one of the most beautiful of Roman triumphal arches; and Justinian’s highest architectural ambition was, that he might surpass it. Throughout the middle ages it influenced to a considerable degree the forms of Christian churches, and its peculiarities were the watchwords and rallying points of all associations of builders. Since the revival of learning in the sixteenth century its arrangements have employed the pens of many learned antiquarians, and architects of several countries have taxed their science in trying to reproduce its forms.

But it is not only to Christians that the temple of Solomon is so interesting, the whole Mohammedan world look to it as the foundation of all architectural knowledge, and the Jews still recall its glories, and sigh over their loss with a constant tenacity, unmatched by that of any other people to any other building of the ancient world.” FERGUSSON, in Smith’s Dictionary.

Verse 1


1. Hiram king of Tyre Whether this Hiram was the same king of Tyre who supplied David with cedars and carpenters to build his royal palace, (see 2 Samuel 5:11,) some have presumed to doubt. But the positive statement of this verse, that Hiram was ever a lover of David, and the words of Solomon’s message, (2 Chronicles 2:3,) “As thou didst deal with David my father, and didst send him cedars to build him a house,” seem clearly to put it beyond all question that the same Hiram who furnished David materials for his palace assisted Solomon in the building of the temple. No one would ever have thought otherwise had not Menander of Ephesus, according to Josephus, ( Jos. against Apion, 1, 18,) affirmed that Hiram reigned thirty-four years; and this seems not long enough to meet the demands of the scriptural narrative. According to 1 Kings 9:10, he was still living in the twentieth year of Solomon’s reign, and this would leave only fourteen years in which to have had his intercourse with David. Accordingly David, who reigned in all but forty years, and seven of these at Hebron, must have reigned nineteen years at Jerusalem before he began to build his royal palace there, a supposition altogether improbable. In view, therefore, of the consistency and positive statements of the scriptural narrative, we conclude that Menander’s chronology is wrong, and that Hiram’s reign must have extended over a large portion of that of both David and Solomon.

His servants Ambassadors.

Verse 3

3. My father could not build There was a moral incapacity in David on account of his many wars, or, as expressed in 1 Chronicles 22:8, because he had shed so much blood in the sight of the Lord. He that builds the Lord’s house must not be a noted shedder of blood. Solomon assumes that Hiram knew this.

Verse 4

4. Neither adversary nor evil occurrent No adversary like the Philistines or Moabites, who were formerly anxious to reduce Israel to a state of subjection; no evil incident like the rebellion of Absalom, or the curse of famine or plague.

Verse 5

5. As the Lord spake unto David See 2 Samuel 7:12-13, and the notes there.

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Verse 6

6. Cedar trees out of Lebanon The cedars of Lebanon are the most celebrated of all the trees of Scripture, the monarchs of the vegetable kingdom. The prophets refer to them as emblems of greatness, majesty, and splendour. Ezekiel, in his prophecy, (chap 31,) presents us with a most graphic description of their grandeur and beauty when he makes them representatives of the Assyrian power and glory. The wood was used for beams, pillars, boards, masts of ships, and carved images. Not only did David and Solomon import it for their building purposes, but the kings of Assyria and Persia, and perhaps of other nations, did the same. This extensive use of the cedar of Lebanon makes it clear that in ancient times this mountain must have been largely covered with forests of this timber.

At present only one considerable group, embosomed in a magnificent recess among the loftiest heights of the mountain, and which is generally known, has been often visited and described by travellers. Other groves, however, have been found in other less frequented parts of the mountain. The modern cedar of Lebanon is usually from fifty to eighty feet high, and often covers with its branches, when standing alone, a space the diameter of which is greater than the height of the tree. It is an evergreen, and its leaves are produced in tufts. Its branches, disposed in layers, spread out horizontally, and form, as they approach the top, a thick pyramidal head. All this corresponds closely with Ezekiel’s description, Ezekiel 31:3.

The profane writers represent the cedar wood as specially noted for its durability, and the cedar roof of the great temple of Diana at Ephesus is said to have lasted four hundred years.

Hew timber like unto the Sidonians “The Sidonians,” writes Strabo, who lived about the time of Christ, “are said by historians to excel in various kinds of art, as the words of Homer also imply. Besides, they cultivate science and study astronomy and arithmetic. It is thought that geometry was introduced into Greece from Egypt, and astronomy and arithmetic from Phenicia. At present the best opportunities are afforded in these cities for acquiring a knowledge of these and of all other branches of philosophy.” On Zidon, or Sidon, see at Genesis 10:19, Joshua 11:8. כרת , here rendered to hew, means rather to cut down, or to fell. Merely for the felling and treatment of the timber great skill was required. According to Vitruvius, a contemporary of Julius Caesar, and author of a celebrated treatise on architecture, timber must be cut in the autumn or in the winter, when it is free from a moisture which is apt to make it rot, and it should be cut in such a manner as to allow the sap to distil away. It should never be exposed to a hot sun, high winds, or rain, nor drawn through the dew; and it should be in like manner guarded for three years before being used in building. Probably these and other similar precautions gave the Sidonians their fame for skill in felling timber.

Verse 7

7. Hiram heard… and said, Blessed be the Lord How far this implies that the king of Tyre was a worshipper of the true God is quite uncertain. His expressions of reverence for Jehovah, as Creator of heaven and earth, are still stronger in the parallel passage 2 Chronicles 2:11. He evidently acknowledged Jehovah and worshipped him as God, but, like the Samaritans of a later age, (2 Kings 17:33,) he may have feared the Lord and at the same time have worshipped the various gods of the heathen. In so far, however, as Hiram, a heathen king, was brought to a knowledge of the God of Israel, and worshipped him, and helped to build his holy temple, so far these things may be typical of events in Messiah’s day. The Greater than Solomon, in the building of his spiritual temple builds not with Jews alone. It is significant that the only time Jesus travelled on his works of mercy beyond the limits of the land of Israel was to the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. Mark 7:24. His human ministry was not to be among the Gentiles; but by this one miracle in the regions beyond Israel he would indicate his purpose to gather elect and precious stones from all nations, and build them up together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.

Verse 8

8. Timber of cedar, and… of fir The fir tree is often mentioned in connection with the cedar. It was a lofty, ornamental tree that grew on Lebanon, (2 Kings 19:23; Isaiah 60:13,) and was used in making ships, (Ezekiel 27:5,) spears, (Nahum 2:3,) and musical instruments, (2 Samuel 6:5.) The Hebrew name is berosh, ( ברושׁ ,) and may also designate the cypress or the pine. In 2 Chronicles 2:8, almug trees are mentioned besides cedar and fir, clearly showing that Lebanon was noted for other kinds of celebrated wood besides the cedar. But the almug trees furnished by Hiram were of a quality inferior to those which Solomon subsequently obtained from Ophir. See on 1 Kings 10:12.

Verse 9

9. By sea in floats The timber was cut on the western sides of Lebanon, and thence conveyed, probably by beasts of burden, to the Mediterranean Sea; there it was bound together in rafts, and floated along the coast to Joppa, and thence conveyed again overland to Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 2:16. The timber was probably hewn out and prepared for use in the mountain, thus facilitating transportation.

Food for my household Provisions for the royal court of Tyre. Compare Solomon’s provision, 1 Kings 4:22-23.

Verse 11

11. Twenty thousand measures of wheat Or twenty thousand cors, about 222,000 bushels.

Pure oil Or beaten oil, the purest and finest kind, such as came from the olives by mere pounding and not by pressing. This was for Hiram’s household; but besides this, according to 2 Chronicles 2:10, he furnished Hiram’s servants, the hewers, 20,000 cors of beaten wheat, 20,000 cors of barley, 20,000 baths of wine, and 20,000 baths of oil; the last evidently common oil, not the beaten. Hence there is no discrepancy between these passages, for they refer to different things. The land of Israel abounded in grain and oil, while in this respect Phenicia was poor. Compare Acts 12:26.

Verse 13


13. Levy See note on 1 Kings 4:6, and 2 Samuel 20:24.

Verse 14

14. Ten thousand a month by courses Solomon carefully observed the law (Leviticus 25:39-46) in not making bondmen of his own people, but of the strangers of the land. Compare 1 Kings 9:21-22. The Israelitish labourers in Lebanon were allowed two months in three to be at home.

Verse 15

15. Threescore and ten thousand These, and the others mentioned in this verse and the following, were not Israelites, but foreigners dwelling in the land. The whole number, according to 2 Chronicles 2:17, was 153,600. Of these 70,000 bare burdens, 80,000 were hewers, and the remaining 3,600 were overseers of the others’ work, thus making one overseer to about every forty men.

Verse 16

16. Besides the chief of Solomon’s officers Which numbered in all 550, (chap. 1 Kings 9:23,) of which, however, 250 seem to have been Israelites, (2 Chronicles 8:9-10,) and the other 300 foreigners. These last, added to the 3,300 mentioned in this verse, make up the 3,600 of 2 Chronicles 2:18.

Verse 17

17. And they brought ויסעו , they quarried out, great stones. The reference is to the digging of the stones from the quarry, not to their transportation.

Great stones, costly stones, hewed stones Literally, They quarried out great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house of hewn stones. That is, the great costly stones were dug out for the purpose of being hewn or squared, that the foundation might be laid with stones thus squared, and not with rough stones. Josephus says: “The king laid the foundation of the temple very deep in the ground, and the materials were strong stones, and such as would resist the force of time. These were to unite themselves with the earth, and become a basis and sure foundation to sustain with ease those vast superstructures and precious ornaments whose own weight was to be not less than the weight of those other high and heavy buildings which the king designed to be very ornamental and magnificent.” Great stones are found in the walls of modern Jerusalem which measure from seventeen to over thirty feet in length, and vary in thickness from four to six and a half feet. They are doubtless some remains of the ancient temple. Dr. Robinson, who measured many of them, remarks that it is not only their great size, but also “the manner in which they are hewn, that gives them a peculiar character. In common parlance they are said to be bevelled; which means that after the whole face has first been hewn and squared, a narrow strip along the edge is cut down a quarter or half an inch lower than the rest of the surface. The face of the wall of such stones has the appearance of many panels.”

Verse 18

18. The stonesquarers Rather, as in the margin, the Giblites, whose city, Gebal, lay on the seacoast, and whose land lay in the vicinity of Lebanon. See on Joshua 13:5. According to Ezekiel 27:9, they were skilled in ship building. In one of the ravines of Lebanon, which opens at the port of the ancient Gebal, Tristram discovered extensive cedar groves; and observes that the Giblites probably cut and launched at their own port cedars from this very valley, which would be far more accessible to them than those on the distant inland moraines and snow-covered heights.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-kings-5.html. 1874-1909.
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