The Word Made Fresh
1King Hiram of Tyre, who had been a friend to David, heard that Solomon had been anointed in David’s place and sent envoys to him. 2Solomon sent this word back to Hiram: 3“You know that my father was not able to build a house for the LORD his God because he was at war with the enemies who surrounded him, and the LORD helped him overcome them. 4And now, the LORD my God has given me peace on every border, with no enemy and no disasters. 5So, I will build a house for the LORD my God, for the LORD told my father David that his son who sat on the throne after him would do so. 6I am asking you, therefore, to cut cedars from Lebanon for me. I will send workers to join yours, and I will pay whatever wages you set for your workers. You are well aware that there is no one who can cut timber like the men of Sidon.”
7When they delivered this message to Hiram, he exclaimed, “The LORD is pleased today for having given David a wise son to rule this great people.” 8Then he sent this message to Solomon: “I have received your request, and I will supply all the cedar and cypress lumber you require. 9My men will make rafts with the logs and bring them down the coast from Lebanon to the place you select. They will dismantle the rafts there for your men to carry inland. I will be compensated if you will provide food for my household.”
10Hiram kept Solomon supplied with all the cedar and cypress logs he needed, 11and in turn Solomon sent Hiram one hundred twenty-five thousand bushels of wheat for his household, and one hundred fifteen thousand gallons of fine oil. He sent this to Hiram each year. 12As promised, the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, and he and Hiram were at peace with one another, sealed by treaty.
13King Solomon drafted thirty thousand men from Israel to do the work. 14He sent them to Lebanon in a monthly rotation of ten thousand workers, which gave each of them two months at home after one month of work. He put Adoniram in charge of them. 15He also sent seventy thousand laborers and eighty thousand stone cutters to the hill country, 16with three thousand three hundred foremen in charge of the work they were to do. 17On his orders, they quarried huge stones and dressed them for the foundation, 18and Solomon and Hiram’s builders and men from Gebal did all the stone cutting and dressed the lumber for the house.
1-6: Solomon contracts with King Hiram to provide cedar for the building of the temple in Jerusalem. David did not build the temple, he says, because he was too busy fighting wars. But now the land is at peace, so the time has arrived.
7-12: Hiram confirms the contract. His workers will cut the timber, take the logs to the Mediterranean, use them to build rafts and float them down the coast to a place of Solomon’s choosing, and dismantle the rafts so the logs can be transported inland by Solomon’s workers. Solomon will pay for the wood with wheat and oil. They become very strong allies.
13-18: An accounting of Solomon’s labor force is given. They are not for the most part hired laborers. They are conscripted, or drafted, from among the populace to work in three shifts, each having one month on and two months off. This may not have been as cruel as it sounds; in an agrarian economy it was not disastrous for a third of the workers to be away from their fields and herds for a month at a time. Thirty thousand are sent to the coastal border of Lebanon to bring the timber (apparently Solomon didn’t want Hiram’s men to float the rafts too far down his coast), and 150,000 to work in stone quarries in the hills. Adoniram is put in charge of the forced labor (see 4:8).
The details of building the temple may be tedious to us, but the idea of making space for God to dwell in our midst is as timely as ever. We need to make space for God in our busy lives, as well as making places of worship for believers to gather together. Keeping Sabbath connects space and time for us to be anchored in the presence of God.