Thursday, February 18, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 18. Other Deeds Of Solomon

Prophets And Kings
Day 18
Other Deeds Of Solomon

Today we look at some other deeds of Solomon reign concernin the structures him built. We finds some information bouts the people of the area and even bouts a financial transaction between Solomon and the king of Tyre.

1 KINGS 9:10-28
"At the end of twenty years, during which Solomon built these two buildings---the temple of the Lord and the royal palace---King Solomon gave twenty towns in Galilee to Hiram king of Tyre, because Hiram had supplied him with all the cedar and juniper and gold he wanted." (1 Kings 9:10-11) Some scholars claim this was only a mortgage type of transaction, not a permanent gift, and that Hiram enjoyed the revenue of these cities for a set period of time. Other scholars believe Solomon handed the towns over in exchange for the materials from Tyre. Personally, I tend to agree with the first opinion, for a couple of reasons. First, it seems unlikely Solomon would be willing to permanently part with any of his kingdom, for during his reign Israel possessed more of the promised land than at any time before or since. Second, 2 Chronicles 8 appears to tell us that after a period of time Hiram restored these cities to Solomon and that Solomon settled Israelites in these territories. I feel it more likely that Hiram simply held a lien on these towns for a period of time until the debt, probably with interest, was paid off.

The towns didn't meet with Hiram's approval, however. "But when Hiram went from Tyre to see the towns that Solomon had given him, he was not pleased with them. 'What kind of towns are these you have given me, my brother?' he asked. And he called them the Land of Kabul, a name they have to this day. Now Hiram had sent to the king 120 talents of gold." (1 Kings 9:12-14) Hiram had not sent anyone to check out the towns before making the financial arrangement with Solomon and now he is disappointed with them, calling them a name that means "good for nothing". Hiram trusted Solomon and is surprised to have been swindled by someone he counts as a friend. The gold mentioned here must be the same gold mentioned above along with the cedar and juniper wood. I suppose the gold may have been what Solomon melted down into sheets to cover the inner walls of the temple. One commentary I studied states that the 120 talents of gold would equate to about $161 million today. Although Hiram has struck a bad deal in exchange for his money, he is bound by the terms of the contract. Hopefully he learned to investigate future deals more fully before agreeing to them. 

"Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord's temple, his own palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. (Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon's wife. And Solomon rebuilt Gezer.) He built up Lower Beth Horon, Baalath, and Tadmor in the desert, within his land, as well as his store cities and the towns for his chariots and for his horses---whatever he desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and throughout all the territory he ruled." (1 Kings 9:15-19) Solomon, in his later years, spoke of his building projects in Ecclesiastes 2:4-6, "I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees." He was what would be known today as a real estate developer but by the golden years of his life he realized that he wouldn't be able to take it with him. Solomon was grieved at the thought of leaving all these marvelous works behind without any way of knowing whether his heirs would appreciate them and care for them. He began to wonder why he had toiled so hard at these projects. He understood that work is a good thing for mankind and that the ability to enjoy the work and the results of it are a blessing, but he had learned that unless the Lord is included in every facet of our lives, we are accomplishing nothing of eternal value.

The town known as Gezer was originally Canaanite, then it was captured by Joshua, but in the intervening years the Canaanites must somehow have taken back control of it. Pharaoh of Egypt conquered it, burned it, killed the Canaanites living there, then presented the town to his daughter who was married to Solomon. Thus Gezer once again fell into the hands of Israel. The Bible doesn't tell us why Pharaoh took the city and gave it to Solomon's wife but it could be to prove the strength of his friendship and alliance with Solomon and with Israel. 

"There were still people left from the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (these people were not Israelites). Solomon conscripted the descendants of all these peoples remaining in the land---whom the Israelites could not exterminate---to serve as slave labor, as it is to this day." (1 Kings 9:20-21) These were the peoples God had commanded the Israelites to drive from the promised land but they never completely did so. Neither does Solomon. Instead he makes them subject to Israel and forces them work on his building projects. 

"But Solomon did not make slaves of any of the Israelites; they were his fighting men, his government officials, his officers, his captains, and the commanders of his chariots and charioteers. They were also the chief officials in charge of Solomon's projects---550 officials supervising those who did the work." (1 Kings 9:22-23) The Israelites were employed by Solomon in various jobs, being paid for their work. The Bible did allow Israelites to make slaves of their own countrymen, such as in the case of a man owing a debt, but an Israelite had to allow his countryman to go free the seventh year. During the six years his fellow Israelite worked for him as a slave, the master had to provide room and board, in addition to giving him provisions when he was set free. Solomon doesn't subject his own people to this but instead hires them in paid positions and puts the foreigners to work on the building projects.

"After Pharaoh's daughter had come up from the City of David to the palace that Solomon had built for her, he constructed the terraces." (1 Kings 9:24) As we noticed earlier in our study, Solomon seems to treat Pharaoh's daughter as his queen and chief wife, although it's generally accepted that his first wife was Naamah, the mother of his son Rehoboam who would be the next king. We speculated before that perhaps she died while still a young woman and Pharaoh's daughter took her place as chief wife. Little is known about either of these women and so we cannot say for certain what happened to Naamah.

"Three times a year Solomon sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings on the altar he had built for the Lord, burning incense before the Lord along with them, and so fulfilled the temple obligations." (1 Kings 9:25) Hebrew men were required to keep three feasts every year. These were Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Passover is celebrated in the spring and it looks back to the meal eaten on the night before the Exodus, the night before God delivered Israel from Egypt. Pentecost takes place fifty days after Passover, having to do with the children of Israel reaching Mount Sinai fifty days after the exodus from Egypt. The Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast Of Booths, or Sukkoth, is a feast we studied earlier this week when Solomon and the people of Israel celebrated the dedication of the temple. This took place in the fall and its purpose was to recall God's covenant with His people. So we see Solomon is obedient to these requirements by going up to the temple on these occasions. It's difficult to tell whether he goes at other times, for the text is worded to cause us to think he fulfilled the obligations of the three feasts but did no more than that. As Solomon amasses a large harem of foreign women he will build altars for them to their pagan gods and will himself become carried away to the point of going up to these altars in worship to false gods.

"King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea. And Hiram sent his men---sailors who knew the sea---to serve in the fleet with Solomon's men. They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon." (1 Kings 9:26-28) Ancient Ophir is lost to history and it is not known where this area of great gold mines was located. The gold was of very fine purity and was highly desirable. In the wedding song of Psalm 45, the author describes the royal bride as being adorned in gold from Ophir. In Isaiah 13:12 the Lord describes the gold of Ophir as being rare. 

If Hiram was upset over receiving twenty hick towns from Solomon, he doesn't allow it to get in the way of an advantageous friendship and military alliance with Israel. Much wealth is to be gained by joining his navy with Solomon's. Together they can accomplish twice as much. I somewhat doubt that the friendship between them was as mutually respectful as the friendship between Hiram and David, because Solomon kind of pulled a fast one on Hiram, but the friendship is definitely mutually beneficial. In speaking of the importance of friendship, Solomon would later say, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up." (Ecclesiasters 4:9-10a)

The author of 1st Kings paints us a portrait of a man who stayed busy all the time, whose hours were filled with much thinking and many plans and a great deal of action. I bet Solomon went to sleep thinking about his projects and I bet he woke up thinking about them. The ability to work is a blessing and the ability to enjoy our work is an even greater blessing, but it mustn't be allowed to push God out of our lives. I doubt Solomon had much time left over for talking to the Lord. If we aren't careful, it's easy to fall into this trap. We might be working hard in the church: volunteering, teaching, cooking for bereaved families, visiting the sick, doing community outreach. And those are all good things, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10) We are called to do good works in the name of Christ our Savior. We are His hands and feet in this dark world, called to minister to our fellow man. But we cannot go out and be Christ in the world unless we have spent time sitting at His feet, learning of Him and becoming more like Him. While Martha the sister of Lazarus bustled about the house, feeling burned out in her efforts to serve the Lord and His disciples, her sister Mary sat quietly at the feet of the Lord soaking in His words. I feel like Martha gets a bad rap sometimes because her intentions were honorable. All she wanted was to give honor to Jesus by making a perfect meal for Him and the Lord doesn't rebuke her for this desire of her heart. He simply points out that, although works are good, fellowship with Him is more important. The fellowship must be taken care of first and then we can cheerfully serve without feeling stressed out and burned out. Solomon doesn't learn this lesson til late in his life and that's when he realizes why none of his impressive accomplishments satisfied him. I think he would agree with what the Lord said, "'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed---or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'" (Luke 10:41-42) 

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