1Ki 5:1-6. Hiram Sends to Congratulate Solomon.
1. Hiram ... sent his servants unto Solomon -- the grandson of David's contemporary [Kitto]; or the same Hiram [Winer and others]. The friendly relations which the king of Tyre had cultivated with David are here seen renewed with his son and successor, by a message of condolence as well as of congratulation on his accession to the throne of Israel. The alliance between the two nations had been mutually beneficial by the encouragement of useful traffic. Israel, being agricultural, furnished corn and oil, while the Tyrians, who were a commercial people, gave in exchange their Phoenician manufactures, as well as the produce of foreign lands. A special treaty was now entered into in furtherance of that undertaking which was the great work of Solomon's splendid and peaceful reign.
6. command thou that they hew me cedar trees out of Lebanon -- Nowhere else could Solomon have procured materials for the woodwork of his contemplated building. The forests of Lebanon, adjoining the seas in Solomon's time, belonged to the Phoenicians, and the timber being a lucrative branch of their exports, immense numbers of workmen were constantly employed in the felling of trees as well as the transportation and preparation of the wood. Hiram stipulated to furnish Solomon with as large a quantity of cedars and cypresses as he might require and it was a great additional obligation that he engaged to render the important service of having it brought down, probably by the Dog river, to the seaside, and conveyed along the coast in floats; that is, the logs being bound together, to the harbor of Joppa (2Ch 2:16), whence they could easily find the means of transport to Jerusalem.
my servants shall be with thy servants -- The operations were to be on so extensive a scale that the Tyrians alone would be insufficient. A division of labor was necessary, and while the former would do the work that required skilful artisans, Solomon engaged to supply the laborers.
1Ki 5:7-12. Furnishes Timber to Build the Temple.
7. Blessed be the Lord -- This language is no decisive evidence that Hiram was a worshipper of the true God, as he might use it only on the polytheistic principle of acknowledging Jehovah as the God of the Hebrews (see on 2Ch 2:11).
8. Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, I have considered the things ... and I will do -- The contract was drawn out formally in a written document (2Ch 2:11), which, according to Josephus, was preserved both in the Jewish and Tyrian records.
10. fir trees -- rather, the cypress.
11. food to his household -- This was an annual supply for the palace, different from that mentioned in 2Ch 2:10, which was for the workmen in the forests.
1Ki 5:13-18. Solomon's Workmen and Laborers.
13. Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel -- The renewed notice of Solomon's divine gift of wisdom (1Ki 5:12) is evidently introduced to prepare for this record of the strong but prudent measures he took towards the accomplishment of his work. So great a stretch of arbitrary power as is implied in this compulsory levy would have raised great discontent, if not opposition, had not his wise arrangement of letting the laborers remain at home two months out of three, added to the sacredness of the work, reconciled the people to this forced labor. The carrying of burdens and the irksome work of excavating the quarries was assigned to the remnant of the Canaanites (1Ki 9:20; 2Ch 8:7-9) and war prisoners made by David -- amounting to 153,600. The employment of persons of that condition in Eastern countries for carrying on any public work, would make this part of the arrangements the less thought of.
17. brought great stones -- The stone of Lebanon is |hard, calcareous, whitish and sonorous, like free stone| [Shaw]. The same white and beautiful stone can be obtained in every part of Syria and Palestine.
hewed stones -- or neatly polished, as the Hebrew word signifies (Ex 20:25). Both Jewish and Tyrian builders were employed in hewing these great stones.
18. and the stone squarers -- The Margin, which renders it |the Giblites| (Jos 13:5), has long been considered a preferable translation. This marginal translation also must yield to another which has lately been proposed, by a slight change in the Hebrew text, and which would be rendered thus: |Solomon's builders, and Hiram's builders, did hew them and bevel them| [Thenius]. These great bevelled or grooved stones, measuring some twenty, others thirty feet in length, and from five to six feet in breadth, are still seen in the substructures about the ancient site of the temple; and, in the judgment of the most competent observers, were those originally employed |to lay the foundation of the house.|