Interesting facts arise from this chapter, showing that God’s people, ruled by a new and godly king, Solomon, were great in number. We see a non-Hebrew king making an alliance with Israel and acknowledging their God, here named Jehovah. Solomon added 30,000 Hebrew men to the ‘tribute’ workers (called here the ‘levy’), plus many thousands as carriers and stone workers. The cost of this was phenomenal, but it was for the first Temple. The money came from Solomon’s incalculable wealth, promised to him by God as a reward for his faithfulness and godly rule… a wealth that kept accruing all his life.
We note that it is possible for godly men to live beside men who were not God’s nation. For centuries even the pagan Muslims lived in peace alongside Jews, until Islamists rose up in the 20th century to destroy the social harmony. Satan is and was the person who did this, and he continues to encourages violence and murderous intent in the Middle East. No longer do the non-Hebrews of the region acknowledge the God of Israel – they despise Him and them, wishing to bring to naught the very name of Jehovah, in favour of their pagan moon-god. Christians must ever be careful not to believe there is peace when there is no peace! It is the nature of all unbelievers, of whatever religion, to eventually hate Christians and God.
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 an 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.
And, behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build an house unto my name.
A close friend of David, king Hiram of Tyre, sent a message of recognition and commendation to Solomon, after hearing of his succession to the throne. Tyre was a major port-city at that time, and Hiram ruled the Phoenicians. He lived for 53 years and ruled for 34 of those years, over a city that was very important and rich, through commercial activities.
His interest in Solomon was both to do with maintaining his mercantile access to Egypt and lands to the east, as well as friendship. The two kings jointly opened a route over the Red Sea to a place called Ophir – possibly near modern Mumbai, India. It was probably this joint effort at gaining great financial rewards that helped the friendship to flourish, and why Hiram sent Solomon so many natural resources, such as wood, and experts in a variety of skills, such as architects.
Solomon reciprocated to Hiram’s gesture of goodwill, who sent his highest ambassadors to Jerusalem in homage and respect. Solomon, through the ambassadors, told Hiram what he already knew – that David his father wanted to build a permanent Temple to God, but was prevented from doing so by continual wars with surrounding nations (started by them). But those enemies were now vanquished. By contrast, his own reign has been blessed by God with peace and tranquility, as there were no longer adversaries “nor evil occurrent” (occurrences or instances of enmity/war).
Because of the favourable atmosphere, Solomon said he now wanted to carry out his father’s wishes, to build the Temple, particularly as it was a prophecy made by God. We may safely assume that his statement was based on Hiram’s friendly approach.
Now therefore command thou 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 thou shalt appoint: for thou knowest that there is not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians.
And 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.
And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, I have considered the things which thou sentest to me for: and I will do all thy desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of 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 thou shalt appoint me, and will cause them to be discharged there, and thou shalt receive them: and thou shalt accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household.
After this introduction, Solomon made a big request – for Hiram to supply a large number of people to cut down massive trees* of Lebanon. He would also send his own servants to join them in the task. Solomon said he would pay the “hewers” the going-rate for their labour. The number of hewers could be determined by Hiram, so Solomon made an incredible contribution to the wealth of the Tyrean people. It seems that the “Sidonians”* were particularly skilled at cutting trees.
(*Notes: Sidon is now ruled by Lebanon. It was named after a son of Canaan, grandson of Noah. Sidon was north-west of Jerusalem. Later in his reign Solomon sinfully followed after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians. The trees of Lebanon were huge cedars, the “cedars of the Lord”, and firs, grown in extensive forests covering the Lebanese mountains. Surrounding nations prized the wood for buildings and shipbuilding, such as the Phoenicians and Egyptians in particular. The resin of the wood was also used by Egyptians in their mummification process).
When Solomon’s request reached Hiram, he was overjoyed, and blessed “the LORD”. It is very interesting that a non-Hebrew should bless Jehovah in this way. Hiram proclaimed how wise David’s son was. See how he confirms what archaeology has since started to prove – that Israel was a “great people”.
In response, Hiram sent a reply to Solomon, saying he would indeed comply with David’s request, and send fir and cedar trees to Israel. The trees would be transported from the port of Tyre by floats (rafts), to a place required by Solomon. Apart from paying the hewers and for the wood, Solomon agreed to send Hiram food for his royal household. The number of hewers ran into many thousands.
So Hiram gave Solomon cedar trees and fir trees according to all his desire.
And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food to his household, and twenty measures of pure oil: thus gave Solomon to Hiram year by year.
And the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him: and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and they two made a league together.
Hiram sent as many trees as Solomon wanted. In return Solomon sent 20,000 measures of wheat and twenty measures of virgin olive oil to Hiram, every year that the agreement lasted. We see that God gave Solomon increasing wisdom during his reign, and peace between him and Hiram; together they forged an official alliance that served both well.
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 levy.
And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains;
Beside the chief of Solomon's officers which were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, which ruled over the people that wrought in the work.
And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house.
And Solomon's builders and Hiram's builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house.
In these verses we see the extent of Solomon’s use of men for his Temple project. The ‘levy’ spoken of is the same as the ‘tribute’. But, unlike David, he added men of Israel to the levy, an act that eventually led to a split in the kingdom, even though the work was for the Lord. He sent 30,000 men to the forests of Lebanon. However, this was divided into one month hewing the wood followed by two months off, so they only worked one month in three. Adoniram was in charge of this workforce.
Solomon sent 10,000 a month (thus a total of 30,000 every three months). He also sent 70,000 men to transport the wood, food, and so on, plus 80,000 men to cut the trees down. There were 3,300 officers who supervised all this work, making about 200,000 men in total.
Cutting and transporting trees was not the only job; men were also used to bring massive valuable stones, from quarries, for the foundation of the Temple. As with the wood, the labour was provided by a combination of Hiram’s and Solomon’s men. The “stonesquarers” were the skilled masons (Giblites from Gebal) who dressed the stones. There was a continuous stream of work, from cutting the trees, transporting them, quarrying stone, and erecting the foundation and walls of the Temple, for many years.
See how simple and easy trading was back then? A straightforward agreement making thousands of jobs and increase of financial quality! Not like the complex and untrusted methods used today, and the hideously communistic ones used by the EU and UN! It is about time all countries went back to the times of loyalty and trusted agreements, removing all those things that make for complications.
© August 2015