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This section on the preparation for laying the foundation and building the temple in Jerusalem continues the theme of God’s gift of wisdom to King Solomon. Even the Phoenician king, Hiram, testifies to God’s blessing as he enters into this economic contract with the son of his friend King David. The details for procuring the necessary lumber, transporting it by sea, providing the costly stones for the foundation, and conscripting and deploying the necessary workforce are all spelled out here. Solomon excels in the planning and preparation for this massive project as well as in the delegation of oversight and labor responsibilities. But it is the divine promise that undergirds the successful undertaking of this highly Messianic task. The reputation and glory of the God of Israel (who is also the Sovereign of all nations) must be highlighted in this temple construction. When Messiah comes, His body will be the ultimate temple for the presence of the Lord and the focal point for worship.

Donald Wiseman: 5:1 – 9:9 — The historian concentrates on Solomon’s unique work in building the temple (chapter 6) by negotiation for supplies of wood and skills not available within Israel (5:1–18). The construction of the Royal Palace and Judgment Hall (7:1–12) is followed by the furnishing of the new buildings (7:13–51), the bringing in of the ark (8:1–21) and the dedication of the work (8:22–66). The account of the second appearance of God (9:1–9) ends like an epilogue, with the reiteration of terms for the blessing of the dynasty, just as had the prologue when the work was begun (3:4–14).

August Konkel: Solomon’s preparations for building are described in two sections. The first section (vv. 1–12) explains the alliance between Hiram and Solomon through which Solomon acquires the necessary materials and craftsmen. The second section (vv. 13–18) describes the workforce that Solomon marshals to accomplish his building projects. Though the two sections are complementary to each other, they are different in character. In the first section the prophetic authors recount the diplomatic exchange between Solomon and Hiram in terms that specifically recall the Davidic promise. Solomon’s resolve to build the temple (v. 5) repeats the very words of the promise to David concerning his son (2 Sam. 7:13). The second section has the character of administrative records, detailing the number of conscripted workers, the procedures of rotation, the supervisors, and those responsible for the various aspects of skilled work.

Constable: The main emphasis in this chapter is on the favorable response of the Phoenician king, Hiram, with which God blessed Israel through Solomon’s wisdom (v. 7). Solomon wrote that “when a person’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Prov. 16:7). Such was God’s blessing on Solomon at this time.


A. (:1) Background = Friendship between King of Tyre and King of Israel

“Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram had always been a friend of David.”

Dilday: Hiram is an abbreviation of Ahiram which means ‘Brother of Ram,’ or ‘My brother is exalted,’ or ‘Brother of the lofty one’… Archaeologists have discovered a royal sarcophagus in Byblos of Tyre dated about 1200 b.c. inscribed with the king’s name, ‘Ahiram.’ Apparently it belonged to the man in this passage.

Donald Wiseman: Hiram ruled Tyre c. 969–936 bc (and possibly as co-regent with his father Abi-Baal from c. 980 bc). He was on friendly terms with David (translates Heb. ’ohēb, ‘love’ as used of a close covenant relationship, e.g. Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37). A trade treaty gave Tyre access to inland trade across Israel to Judah, the Red Sea and Transjordan.

MacArthur: Tyre was an important port city on the Mediterranean Sea N of Israel. Two towering mountain ranges ran within Lebanon’s borders, and on their lsopes grew thick forests of cedars.

B. (:2-6) Economic Contract to Secure the Necessary Lumber Proposed by Solomon

“Then Solomon sent word to Hiram, saying,”

Donald Wiseman: The next section (vv. 2–6) is typical diplomatic correspondence naming the addressee (v. 2), giving reference to previous contacts (vv. 3, 5) and making the opening gambit for a specific economic agreement (v. 6). 2 Chronicles 2 gives additional details. David had himself planned to build the temple but was unable to carry this out because of the unstable conditions resulting from war (2 Sam. 7:1–16) and his family’s inexperience (1 Chr. 22:2–5). This does not conflict with the statement that his failure to do the work was because he was a warrior and had shed blood (1 Chr. 28:3). David himself recognized that it would not be feasible before his death and the final victory (v. 5, 2 Sam. 7:12–13). Many a contemporary king who had been to war built temples.

1. (:3-4) Intentions of Solomon in Line with Desires of David

a. (:3) King David Surrounded by Wars

“You know that David my father was unable to build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the wars which surrounded him, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet.”

Constable: “A house for the name of the Lord” (v. 3) means a house for Yahweh that would communicate His reputation to the world.

b. (:4) King Solomon Secured by Peace

“But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor misfortune.”

2. (:5) Intentions of Solomon in Line with Divine Prophecy

“And behold, I intend to build a house for the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spoke to David my father, saying, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, he will build the house for My name.’”

Dale Ralph Davis: Yahweh’s promise, then, drives Solomon’s project. It is important to see this. The real foundation of the temple does not consist of huge blocks of stone; the temple rests upon the promise of Yahweh. . . The promise of 2 Samuel 7:13 shows that Yahweh wanted the temple built in its time. It was the sacrament of his presence among his people.

Is there not, however, a principle of ministry implicit in this text for all Yahweh’s servants? Does it not say that kingdom promises encourage kingdom work? It is Yahweh’s clear assurance to David (v. 5) that is both the justification and stimulus for Solomon’s venture. Is this not always the case? Is it not because we have—and believe—Yahweh’s promises that we serve and labor for him? Let me reduce the principle to bare bones: eschatology drives ministry. It is precisely because we have these big kingdom promises like Micah 4:1–4, Habakkuk 2:13–14, Daniel 7:13–14, and Matthew 24:29–31 that we remain on our feet and do not lose heart. Where does the energy come for ministry unless from solid promises from God’s own mouth? Someone will say they are very old promises. . . So Yahweh’s promises may seem very distant but they will prove very accurate. And that is the foundation of kingdom labor.

Donald Wiseman: here the Name refers to the person of God and his self-revelation, presence and ownership (Exod. 20:24; Deut. 12:5).

3. (:6) Intentions of Solomon Require this Economic Contract with Hiram

“Now therefore, command that they cut for me cedars from Lebanon, and my servants will be with your servants; and I will give you wages for your servants according to all that you say, for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”

MacArthur: The cedars of Lebanon symbolized majesty and might (Ps 92:12; Eze 31:3). Because it was durable, resistant to rot and worms, closely grained, and could be polished to a fine shine, its wood was regarded as the best timber for building.

John Gates: Having taken hundreds of years to grow, these trees were valuable for building purposes because of the beauty of the wood and its extreme bitterness, which repelled insects and worms, and therefore it did not decay as rapidly as other woods.

C. (:7-9) Modifications to the Contract Proposed by Hiram

1. (:7) Recognition of Solomon’s Gift of Wisdom from the Lord

“And it came about when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly and said, ‘Blessed be the LORD today, who has given to David a wise son over this great people.’”

2. (:8-9) Ratifying the Details of the Contract

a. (:8) Provision of Lumber for Solomon’s Temple Project

“So Hiram sent word to Solomon, saying, ‘I have heard the message which you have sent me; I will do what you desire concerning the cedar and cypress timber.’”

b. (:9a) Division of Labor

“My servants will bring them down from Lebanon to the sea; and I will make them into rafts to go by sea to the place where you direct me, and I will have them broken up there, and you shall carry them away.”

William Barnes: Such transportation by sea was the only practicable method of movement to the Israelite region; 2 Chr 2:16 further specifies that the rafts would be broken apart at the seaport of Joppa. An Assyrian bas-relief from the palace of Sargon in Khorsabad (c. 710 bc) depicting such rafts is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris (see the picture in Aubet 1993:33, figure 9).

Paul House: vv. 8-12 — Hiram’s return message basically agrees to Solomon’s requests in 5:6. Tyre will provide “cedar and pine logs” by floating “them in rafts by sea to the place you specify.” Two alterations are made in Solomon’s request. The men from Tyre and Israel will not work together, and Hiram wants food for the “royal household” instead of wages for his workers. These terms are met, the nations remain at peace, the kings make a treaty, and temple construction is under way. Again, this whole episode demonstrates God’s gracious giving of wisdom to Solomon.

c. (:9b) Provision of Food for Hiram’s Household

“Then you shall accomplish my desire

by giving food to my household.”

August Konkel: The political loyalty between Hiram and Solomon was probably based on a mutual need. Israel lacked technical skills for advancing its material culture, and Phoenicia lacked adequate agricultural production. Hiram took the initiative in affirming Solomon’s accession to the throne. Palestine became Phoenicia’s granary, supplying agricultural products for the king’s household and workers. In return Solomon received skilled labor and materials for his massive building projects.

D. (:10-11) Execution of the Contract

1. (:10) Hiram Fulfilled the Contract

“So Hiram gave Solomon as much as he desired

of the cedar and cypress timber.”

2. (:11) Solomon Fulfilled the Contract

“Solomon then gave Hiram 20,000 kors of wheat as food for his household, and twenty kors of beaten oil; thus Solomon would give Hiram year by year.”

E. (:12) Blessing of the Lord on this Alliance

1. Promised Wisdom

“And the LORD gave wisdom to Solomon, just as He promised him;”

2. Peace

“and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon,”

3. Pact

“and the two of them made a covenant.”


A. (:13-14) Conscription and Deployment of Forced Laborers

1. (:13) Conscription of Forced Laborers

a. Nationality

“Now King Solomon levied forced laborers from all Israel;”

b. Number

“and the forced laborers numbered 30,000 men.”

Paul House: Scholars disagree about the identity of the thirty thousand Israelite laborers mentioned in 5:13. Part of the problem stems from 1 Kgs 9:20–22, which describes Solomon’s forced labor, then states, “But Solomon did not make slaves of any of the Israelites” (9:22). Gray, Skinner, Matheney, and others think these two references (5:13–18 and 9:20–22) contradict each other. Keil, Patterson and Austel, and Jones disagree. Linguistic analysis may help explain the perceived contradiction, since the text uses different terminology to describe the laborers in 5:13–18 and 9:20–22. In the former text they are called simply “laborers” (mas) while in the latter they are called “servant [slave] laborers” (mas ʿobēd). Apparently, the Israelite workers were required only to toil four months of the year until the task was done. Forced labor does not necessarily entail slavery. On the other hand, foreign workers were permanently assigned to forced labor.

Wiersbe: Even though the conscription involved a very small portion of the male citizens, the Jewish people resented Solomon taking 30,000 of their men to work in Lebanon four months out of the year. This critical attitude helped to strengthen the people’s revolt against Rehoboam and to precipitate the division of the nation after Solomon’s death (12:1-21). Indeed, when it came to labor and taxes, Solomon did indeed put a heavy yoke on the people.

2. (:14a) Deployment of Forced Laborers

a. Relays

“And he sent them to Lebanon, 10,000 a month in relays;”

b. Rotation

“they were in Lebanon a month and two months at home.”

3. (:14b) Oversight of Forced Laborers

“And Adoniram was over the forced laborers.”

Dale Ralph Davis: Let us return to the main point: verses 13–18 are to be seen in the light of verse 12. The administration, organization, and delegation involved in assembling and directing the temple labor force, the arrangements for obtaining stone and wood—all these flow from the wisdom Yahweh had given Solomon. Sometimes in the Bible wisdom is the skill to get things done (e.g. Eccles. 10:10). And, so the text implies, it is important to remember that it is a divine gift, not merely a human aptitude.

B. (:15-16) Structure of the Workforce

1. (:15) Multitude of Workers

a. Transporters

“Now Solomon had 70,000 transporters,”

b. Stonecutters

“and 80,000 hewers of stone in the mountains,”

2. (:16) Multitude of Supervisors

“besides Solomon’s 3,300 chief deputies who were over the project

and who ruled over the people who were doing the work.”

C. (:17-18) Initial Tasks

1. (:17) Quarrying Costly Stones for the Foundation

“Then the king commanded, and they quarried great stones,

costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house with cut stones.”

John Gates: The term foundation refers both to the foundation of the Temple proper and to that of its related structures.

2. (:18) Preparing the Building Materials

“So Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites cut them, and prepared the timbers and the stones to build the house.”

August Konkel: Thirty thousand workers serve for three-month periods, making an annual total of one hundred twenty thousand men. The rotation consists of one month of work in Lebanon and two months of work on the temple in Jerusalem. Hiram has determined that his workers will bring the wood down from Lebanon (v. 9), but according to this description they are assisted by Solomon’s work force as well.

In addition to the wood workers there are seventy thousand workers transporting materials and eighty thousand quarrying rock in the hills of Palestine. Three thousand three hundred supervising officials provide a ratio of one officer for every thirty-five workers. The amount of labor required to quarry and shape the stones to lay the foundation of the temple makes them costly (v. 17). The concluding verse explains that Solomon’s workers are assisted by the men of Gebal to finish the stone and wood in preparation for the temple construction.

Paul House: The forced laborers had two simple yet time-consuming and backbreaking tasks. They were to quarry and fashion the temple’s huge foundation stones. They also “cut and prepared the timber and stone” necessary for the main portion of the temple. Given the nature of this work, it is no wonder many men were needed, and it is no wonder only conscripted men would attempt the task.

Constable: The stones were used primarily for the foundation of the temple. But there was also a stone wall, a section of which is still in existence. The first few rows of stone blocks that make out the present “Wailing Wall” are the only remaining parts of what used to be Solomon’s temple.