The treaty with Hiram about the workers (1 Kings 5:12-5:18)

“Yahweh gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him. There was peace between King Hiram and King Solomon. The two of them made a treaty. King Solomon conscripted forced labor out of all Israel. The levy numbered thirty thousand men. He sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month in shifts. They would be a month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. King Solomon also had seventy thousand laborers and eighty thousand stone cutters in the hill country, besides his three thousand three hundred supervisors, who were over the work, having charge of the people who carried on the work. At the king’s command, they quarried out great, costly stones in order to lay the foundation of the house with dressed stones. So Solomon’s builders, Hiram’s builders and the men of the Gebalites did the stone cutting. They prepared the timber and the stone to build the house.”

Hiram and Solomon had a peace treaty that worked well for both of them. King Solomon used forced labor that Adoniram organized. Every third month they had to go to Lebanon to work on the wood and then they would have 2 months off. Then King Solomon also had 70,000 laborers and 80,000 stone cutters, a lot of people so that there were over 3,300 supervisors. He was well organized. Hiram’s people and the Gebalites, from another Phoenician town near Tyre, were the stone cutters and wood workers.

King Hiram of Tyre sends cypress and cedar wood (1 Kings 5:7-5:11)

“When Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly, and said. ‘Blessed be Yahweh this day, who has given to David a wise son to be over this great people.’ King Hiram sent word to King Solomon. ‘I have heard the message that you have sent to me. I will fulfill all you needs in the matter of cedar and cypress timber. My servants shall bring it down to the sea from Lebanon. I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you indicate. I will have them broken up there for you to take away. You shall meet my needs by providing food for my household.’ Hiram supplied Solomon’s every need for cedar and cypress timber. Solomon in turn gave Hiram twenty thousand cors of wheat as food for his household and twenty cors of fine oil. Solomon gave this to Hiram year by year.”

When King Hiram heard the response from King Solomon, he blessed Yahweh for sending such a wise man to follow David. Hiram would be happy to help him with the cedar wood and the timber. He would send the wood down by the sea like rafts. Then they would break up the wood when they took it out of the water so that they could carry it. Now Solomon agreed to provide the food for the workers who came from Tyre and the Lebanon area.   With all the food he had coming in each month, this was not a big deal for Solomon to provide this food on a yearly basis. So this was a swap of food for timber and labor.

Preparations for the construction of the Temple (1 Kings 5:1-5:6)

“King Hiram of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father. Hiram had always been a friend to David. Solomon sent word to Hiram. ‘You know that my father David could not build a house for the name of Yahweh his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until Yahweh put them under the soles of his feet. But now Yahweh my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune. So I intend to build a house for the name of Yahweh my God, as Yahweh said to my father David. ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.’ Therefore command that cedars from Lebanon be cut for me. My servants will join your servants. I will give whatever wages you set for your servants. You know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”

King Hiram had been a good friend to David as indicated in 2 Samuel, chapter 5, where he sent wood and workers to help built David’s house. Once again Hiram the Phoenician will be helpful in the building of a house for the name of Yahweh. Solomon believed or at least said that David did not build a temple because he was too busy with his enemies and other misfortunes. However, he was told by Nathan the prophet not to build the temple in 2 Samuel, chapter 7. It is true that Nathan said that his successor would build the temple. Solomon wanted King Hiram’s men to come to Jerusalem and build the temple because they such good workmen with the Lebanon cedar wood. Solomon would pay their wages because of their skill.

The great wisdom of Solomon (1 Kings 4:29-4:34)

“God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breath of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else. He was wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol. His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. He composed three thousand proverbs. His songs numbered a thousand and five. He would speak of trees, from the cedar that grows in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows in the wall. He would speak of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish. People came from all the nations to hear this wisdom of Solomon. They came from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.”

Solomon had great wisdom, discernment and understanding from God. His wisdom was like the sand on the seashore that surpassed all wisdom in the near east and Egypt. Egypt was always a special category. He was wiser than anyone. He was wiser than 4 sons of Mahol, but this is the only mention of him and his sons. Just as the law was associated with Moses, David with the psalms, so wisdom will be associated with Solomon. His wisdom was so great it spread to all the other surrounding nations. Kings from everywhere came to hear his wisdom. He is said to have composed 3,000 proverbs and over 1,000 songs. He spoke about trees, animals, birds, reptiles, and fish. Thus it was not a stretch to say that he was the author of Proverbs. In fact, the folklore around all three, Moses, David, and Solomon is enormous. Many of their exploits can be found in the stories of other ancient kings in the Mideast.

The twelve officials supply Solomon with provisions (1 Kings 4:27-4:28)

“Those twelve officials supplied provisions for King Solomon, and for all who came to King Solomon’s table, each one in his month. They let nothing be lacking. They also brought to the required place barley and straw for the horses and the swift steeds, each according to his charge.”

Now we find out where all the provisions were coming from. Those 12 officials during 1 month of the year had to provide daily provisions for the king and his retinue. They also had to provide for those 40,000 horses which is a lot of horses to feed.

The power of Solomon (1 Kings 4:24-4:26)

“Solomon had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates. He had peace on all sides. During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel dwelt in safety, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all of them man under their vines and fig trees. Solomon also had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots with twelve thousand horsemen.”

Tiphsah was a city close to the Euphrates River, while Gaza was on the southeast coast. There was peace all over this land. Everyone seemed to be safe so that people lived under their fig trees and vines. In case there was trouble Solomon had 40,000 horses and 12,000 horsemen ready to go. No wonder he needed all that food for men and horses.

Solomon’s daily provisions (1 Kings 4:22-4:23)

“Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors of choice flour, and sixty cors of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, one hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fatted fowl.”

Solomon had lots of flower, meal, oxen, cattle, sheep, deer, gazelles, bucks and birds. His daily food supply was enormous. A cor was like a bushel of something so that we are talking about 30 and 60 bushels of flour and meal. Notice that the cows are pasture fed, that is domesticated and not wild. So you end up with a daily provision of 10 oxen, 20 cows, and 100 sheep plus the flour, meal, deer, and birds. He must have been feeding a lot of people.

Solomon’s rule (1 Kings 4:20-4:21)

Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank. They were happy. Solomon was sovereign over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, even to the borders of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.”

For the next chapter or two there is a discrepancy in the texts between the Jerusalem Bible and the New Oxford Bible. I will try to straighten this out by relying on the New Oxford Bible. Under Solomon everyone was happy and prosperous. These were the good old days. His rule went from the Euphrates River to Egypt. Only the Philistines on the coast seem to be still there and the area to the north had the unnamed Phoenicians. Everybody brought him tribute.

The twelve officials of Solomon (1 Kings 4:7-4:19)

“Solomon had twelve officials over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household. Each one had to make provision for one month in the year. These were their names:

Ben-hur, in the hill country of Ephraim;

Ben-deker, in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth-shemesh, and Elon-beth-hanan; Ben-hesed, in Arub-both; to him belonged Socoh and all the land of Hepher;

Ben-abinadab, in all Naphath-dor; he had the daughter of Solomon Taphath as his wife;

Baana son of Ahilud, in Taanach, Megiddo, and all Beth-shean which is beside Zarethan below Jezreel, and from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah, as far as the other side of Jokmeam;

Ben-geber, in Ramoth-gilead; he had the villages of Jair son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead, and he had the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, sixty great cities with walls and bronze bars; Ahinadab son of Iddo, in Mahanaim;

Ahimaaz, in Naphtali; he had taken Basemath daughter of Solomon as his wife;

Baana son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth;

Jehoshaphat son of Paruah, in Issachar;

Shimei son of Ela, in Benjamin;

Geber son of Uri, in the land of Gilead, the country of King Sihon of the Amorites and of King Og of Bashan.

There was one officer in the land of Judah.

You would have thought since there were 12 tribes of Israel, these 12 officials would correspond to that. However, the following 5 tribes are not even mentioned: Simon, Reuben, Gad, Dan, and Zebulun. Israel was divided into 3 major groups, Ephraim and Manasseh was one group, the Transjordan was another, with the tribes of the north being the third. Judah was separate and of course the Levites had no territory. Also of interest is that 2 of these leaders were the sons-in-law of Solomon, but not his sons.  However, this is the only mention of them in biblical literature. 2 others had the same name with 2 different fathers, but their names only appear here, Baana. This is the only biblical occurrence for all of these 12 people, although there are other people with the same name elsewhere.

The grand officers of Solomon (1 Kings 4:1-4:6)

“King Solomon was king over all Israel.

These were his high officials.

Azariah son of Zadok was the priest.

Elihoreph and Ahijah sons of Shisha were secretaries.

Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder.

Benaiah son of Jehoiada was in command of the army.

Zadok and Abiathar were priests.

Azariah son of Nathan was over the officials.

Zabud son of Nathan was priest and king’s friend.

Ahishar was in charge of the palace.

Adoniram son of Abda was in charge of the forced labor.”

As per usual the biblical author lists the top men in the Solomon regime. There is some dispute about the priests here since so many are mentioned. Azariah may have been the grandson of Zadok, who certainly was the high priest at the beginning of the reign of Solomon. Abiathar is listed with Zadok, but he was banned by Solomon. Benaiah took over Joab’s position being in charge of the army after the death of Joab. This is the only mention of Zabud in biblical literature so he must have played a minor role. This is the only mention of Solomon’s secretaries, Elihoreph and Ahijah as well as Ahishar. This Jehoshaphat is different from the one that will be king later. Adoniram will play a greater role later with the forced labor.