The Word Made Fresh
1Solomon decided to build a temple for the LORD and a palace for himself. 2He drafted seventy thousand workers and eighty thousand stone cutters in the hill country, with three thousand six hundred foremen.
3Then he sent this request to king Huram of Tyre: “Some time ago you had an agreement with my father and sent him cedar to build a house for himself. 4I am planning now to build a house for the name of the LORD my God. It will be dedicated to the LORD, and fragrant incense will be offered there as well as regular offerings of loaves of bread, and burnt offerings morning and evening on sabbaths and new moons and during the annual festivals to the LORD our God, as the people of Israel must do forever. 5The house I will build will be a great temple, for our God is the greatest among all the gods. 6But the LORD God cannot be contained even by the highest heaven, so who can build such a house? And who am I to build such a house, except as a place to bring offerings to the LORD? 7That is why I ask you to send me an artist with experience working with gold, silver, bronze, and iron, as well as with purple, crimson, and blue fabric, and who has been trained in the art of engraving. Send him to join the skilled workers in Judah and Jerusalem my father David enlisted. 8Also, send me cedar, cypress, and algum timber from Lebanon; I know your workers are skilled in cutting timber. My workers will join yours 9to prepare a great supply of lumber for me. The house I will build for the LORD will be large and ornate. 10I will pay your workers who cut the timber one hundred twenty-five thousand bushels of ground wheat, one hundred twenty-five thousand bushels of barley, one hundred fifteen thousand gallons of wine and another one hundred fifteen thousand gallons of oil.”
11King Huram replied by letter: “The LORD has made you king because the LORD loves the people over whom you rule. 12The LORD God of Israel who made heaven and earth is indeed rewarded by having given king David a wise son who is discrete and knowledgeable, and who will build a temple for the LORD, and a royal palace for himself. 13I am sending Huram-Abi, an artist of skill and wisdom, 14the son of a woman from your tribe of Dan, and whose father is from Tyre. He is trained and experienced in working with gold, silver, bronze, iron and wood, as well as with purple, blue and crimson cloth and fine linen. He can also perform all kinds of engraving and can engrave any design you give him along with your own artists, men of my lord your father David. 15As for the wheat, barley, wine and oil you mentioned, you may send them directly to the workers assigned to you. 16We will cut as much timber as you need from Lebanon and bring it to you down the seacoast by rafts to Joppa, and you can have them taken from there up to Jerusalem.”
17Then Solomon counted all the foreigners living in Israel, like the census David had taken, and there were one hundred fifty-three thousand six hundred of them. 18He assigned seventy thousand of them as workers, eighty thousand to be stonecutters in the hill country, and three thousand six hundred to be foremen to see to it that they did the work.
1-2: Solomon decides to build a temple. I find this to be curiously at odds with the account given of David’s final days in 1 Chronicles. Here, the narrative reads as if the temple is Solomon’s idea. He begins by conscripting a massive labor force. Although David apparently did use forced labor (see 2 Samuel 20:24 where there is a cryptic remark that Adoram was over the forced labor, but no further details are given about David’s use of a draft) Solomon makes it a centerpiece of his governmental policies. 150,000 citizens are forced to work as stonecutters and laborers in the hill country, and 3600 are conscripted to be foremen. This is very much like the arrangement in Egypt where Hebrew supervisors were put over the Hebrew slaves.
3-10: Solomon offers a business deal to King Huram of Tyre whereby Huram will supply timber and workers and Solomon will pay in shipments of grain, wine, and oil.
11-12: Huram’s gushing response is perhaps to be expected from the chronicler, who wants to paint the early kings of Israel in a positive light.
13-16: Huram tells Solomon that he is sending one Huram-abi, who is a skilled artisan, to work with Solomon’s craftsmen on the temple. It is apparent here that the chronicler is drawing a connection between the building of the temple and the construction of the tabernacle in the time of Moses, where God sends Bezalel whose credentials are very much like those described here for Huram-Abi (see Exodus 35:30-35).
17-18: Now we are told that Solomon only uses foreigners for the forced labor, based on a census he has taken for the purpose. One hundred fifty thousand are laborers, 3600 are “overseers to make the people work.” This echoes the Hebrew “supervisors” who were set over the Hebrew slaves in Egypt (Exodus 5:13-14). The chronicler is again drawing parallels between the time of Solomon and the time of Moses. However, Solomon here seems to be playing the role of Pharaoh!
The organized worship of the LORD is a centerpiece that holds Israel together in a common bond. That bond will be broken after Solomon’s reign, but it is important to note that the only holidays observed by the people of Israel were holy days. Still, human nature being what it is, even that was not a strong enough bond to keep them faithful to God – a hard but important lesson for us living in these days.