Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Kings Of Israel And Judah. Day 17, Preparing To Build The Temple, Part One

While King David was alive he worked to make Solomon's job of building the temple easier by accumulating many of the materials for it. In today's text from 1 Kings 5 we'll look at some of the materials Solomon imported for use in the temple but first we'll learn what items David already had stored up for him. The books of 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles go along with 1 Kings and 2 Kings so we will be combining information from all these volumes in our study of the kings.

In 1 Chronicles 29 David told the assembled people that he was providing gold, silver, bronze, iron, onyx and turquoise and a variety of other gemstones, fine stone and marble. He asked the people what they would be willing to contribute for the construction of the temple and they donated gold, silver, bronze, iron, and precious stones. All these items have been kept in the treasury of the temple of the Lord under the care of a man named Jehiel the Gershonite ever since. Solomon also needs wood for building materials and in yesterday's text we found King Hiram of Tyre offering his hand of friendship to Solomon. King Hiram and King David had always been on good terms with each other and Hiram wants his alliance with Israel and his trade agreement with Israel to continue now that Solomon has succeeded his father as king.

Hiram sent envoys with gifts for Solomon and in today's passage Solomon sends a letter back to him (no doubt accompanied by many fine gifts) and in this letter he wants to purchase fine wood from Hiram and wants to hire Hiram's laborers for any price Hiram might want to name. "Solomon sent back this message to Hiram: 'You know that because of the wars waged against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the name of his God until the Lord put his enemies under his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster. I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when He said, 'Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for My name.' So give orders that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay for your men whatever wages you set. You know that we have no one so skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians.'" (1 Kings 5:2-6) Solomon clearly wants to continue trading with the kingdom of Tyre. The Sidonians are mentioned because Tyre and Sidon are often mentioned in the Bible in conjunction with each other. They were neighboring cities and were the two most important cities of all of ancient Phoenicia. 

Hiram is happy when he receives Solomon's friendly and respectful letter. He knows now that he can continue being on peaceful terms with Israel. He agrees to Solomon's request for the timber and tells him what he'd like sent from Israel in return. "When Hiram heard Solomon's message, he was greatly pleased and said, 'Praise be to the Lord today, for He has given David a wise son to rule over this great nation.' So Hiram sent word to Solomon: 'I have received the message you sent me and will do all you want in providing the cedar and juniper logs. My men will haul them down from Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, and I will float them as rafts by sea to the place you specify. There I will separate them and you can take them away. And you are to grant my wish by providing food for my royal household.'" (1 Kings 4:7-9)

We don't know whether Hiram ever forsook the gods of his people and gave his heart solely to the one true God. But what we do know is that he believes the God of Israel exists. What we do know is that he respects the God of Israel. Hiram praises the name of the Lord not in front of King Solomon or any of the people of Israel but in front of his own palace officials after one of them reads Solomon's letter to him. By this we know he is not mouthing empty words. He's free to say whatever he wants in his own palace in front of his own people. He doesn't have to speak words of praise that he doesn't mean. So whether or not he ever converted to the God of Israel, the thanks he gives Him is sincere. Hiram really is grateful to the Lord for placing a man on the throne of Israel who is reasonable and easy to deal with. He refers to Israel as a "great nation" and appears to want Solomon to succeed as king and appears to want to see Israel continuing to prosper.

Another thing we do know for sure from our passage today is that God always comes through on time. Solomon knows it's time to begin constructing the temple because the nation is enjoying an era of peace and prosperity. He does not have to turn his attentions to dealing with wars and disasters. He can concentrate on building the temple and building up the infrastructure of Israel. He has the fine metals and fine stones that his father and the people donated to the treasury for the temple but he doesn't have the lumber needed for such a large structure. At just the time he's wondering how and where to obtain lumber in the size and quality he needs, a king contacts him---a king whose nation has some of the tallest and finest (if not the finest) hardwood trees in the world. The Lord promises to provide His children's needs. (Philippians 4:19) In today's text we find Him providing a need for Solomon right on time.

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