1 Kings 5-8: Solomon’s Temple
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1 Kings 5-8: Solomon’s Temple

Original Publication Date
January 21, 2017
Updated
Sep 18, 2023 3:12 AM
Tags
1 KingsChapter StudyTempleTyreApologeticsSacrificeSolomon
Bible References

1 Kings 5-8

Status
Done
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Table of Contents
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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on January 21, 2017 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.

Introduction

1 Kings 5-8 tell us of the marvelous construction work Solomon did in Jerusalem, including the Temple and his own home. The passages go into great detail about the finial look of the structure, though it is still hard to visualize. This information is also given in 2 Chronicles, however the information given in 2 Chronicles doesn't always seem to match that given in 1 King. I will discuss some of these differences in the sections below.

Hiram of Tyre

1 Kings 5 introduces us to Hiram, the king of Tyre. Hiram had been a great supporter of David and was eager to show his support for Solomon. When Hiram reaches out to Solomon, Solomon expresses his desire to build a house for the Lord (the Temple). David had promised to create a house for God in 1 Samuel 7:27, but was unable to carry out this mission because of the many wars he had to fight. Now that there was peace, Solomon could carry out the task.

Solomon seeks the help of Hiram because his land, though located in Lebanon, possessed the cedar and fir trees that Solomon needed for constructing the Temple. In exchange for these trees, Solomon would provide the king (and his family) with food. It is unclear if Tyre was experiencing a food shortage, but food is a necessity and in a society where food only came by hard labor, it would have been a grand payment. In addition to providing food for Hiram, Solomon sent his own men to labor in the forests. Later in 1 Kings 9:11-14, we learn that Solomon also gives Hiram 20 Israelite cities, but Hiram is not satisfied with these cities. The wood is shipped to Jerusalem via rafts in the sea, since Tyre is a city located on the Mediterranean Sea.[1]

It is interesting to note that the city of Tyre still exists today!

Paid in Food

1 Kings 5:11 tells us that each year of construction, Solomon sent 20,000 measures of wheat and 20,000 measures of pure oil. In 2 Chronicles 2:10, we learn that an additional 20,000 measures of barely and wine were also given. It appears, the author of Kings did not provide a complete list of food payments to Hiram, but merely enough to show the reader that something was paid. Some people incorrectly consider this a contradiction, however, 1 Kings 5:11 doesn't state that the list is exhaustive. Since 1 Kings 5:11 doesn't claim to be an exhaustive list of what was given to the king, it doesn't conflict with 2 Chronicles 2:10. Furthermore, the goods given in 1 Kings 5:11 are for Hiram's household while those given in 2 Chronicles 2:10 are given to the servants.

Men Sent to Work

Solomon drafts a group of 30,000 men to be sent to Lebanon to Hiram (as promised). He sent 10,000 men a month and these men would stay for in Lebanon for 1 month then return home for 2 months. Adoniram was in charge of these men. In total, Solomon sent 70,000 men to carry the lumber and 80,000 to chop the lumber. 3,300 men were placed in charge of overseeing the work. This was a large scale operation that took planning and organization.

This is another set of numbers that seems to differ from those in 2 Chronicles 2. 2 Chronicles 2:17-18 tells us there were 153,600 foreigners in Israel, of which Solomon took 70,000 to carry the wood and 80,000 to chop the wood. This matches what we are told 1 Kings 5:15-16. However, when we come to the total number of Israelites placed in charge of overseeing the work, we get a different number. 1 Kings 5:16 says that 3,300 were sent as overseers, but 2 Chronicles 2:18 says 3,600 were sent to oversee the work.

Scholars suggest the following to explain the difference in totals. Throughout 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, we are told of "higher" positions of oversight that existed within the construction of the Temple. In 1 Kings 9:23, we are told there are 550 officers, presumably these 550 are higher ranked than the 3,300 men sent to oversee the foreign workers. Think of a corporate structure where you have a CEO (Solomon, the king), Vice Presidents (the 550), managers or supervisors (the 3,300), and workers (the foreign workers). If we add the 3,300 overseers and the 550 officers from 1 Kings, we get a total of 3,850 Israelite managers working on the project. Similarly, in 2 Chronicles 8:10, the number of officers given is 250. When 250 is added to the 3,600 overseers, we still get 3,850 Israelites working on the Temple. The difference here is not actually in how many people were present but who was considered a "chief officer" versus simply an officer. Apparently the authors of Kings and Chronicles disagreed on that matter. The division is presumed to use to officer to refer to military personnel and overseer to refer to industrial personnel.[2]

Two Hirams

There are actually 2 Hirams mentioned during the construction of the Temple. One is the King of Tyre, while the other is a half Israelite, also from Tyre, who is a skilled craftsman. The text doesn't explicitly tell us they are not the same people, however, their descriptions implicitly confirm that they cannot be the same person. For instance, Hiram who is half Israelite is unlikely to be king of Tyre, considering it is his father who was an Israelite. Unless he took the throne by force, it seems unlikely that he would have inherited the kingdom. Furthermore, the King of Tyre is never described as having any talent as a craftsman. It seems odd that a king would possess a skill considered to be a peasant trade.

Both men contribute to the building of the Temple, but their methods are distinct. King Hiram allows Solomon to purchase the wood from his land to be used for construction. The other Hiram handles the crafting of the wood once it arrives in Jerusalem. This Hiram was responsible for the ornate artistry of the Temple.

The name Hiram also appears as Huram, and Hirom in the Bible. All 3 names are considered equivalent. There is also a passage in which it appears as Huram-abi. Hiram means most noble, while abi means father. Many speculations exist as to the meaning of Huram-abi but no consensus has been reached.[3]

Free Masonry

Interestingly, as I began to research Hiram to confirm that there were in fact 2 Hirams, I discovered the fact that Hiram plays a role in masonry.[4]

Many churches and pastors denounce Free Masonry. While I don't know enough on the subject to comment one way or the other, I thought it was interesting to see that they have incorporated this into their fraternal order. While it may seem soothing to some, as I often say, the devil can quote scripture too! Remember just because people claim something has ties to the Bible, doesn't mean it actually does!

Building the Temple

Solomon began construction of the Temple in the 480th year after the Exodus in the month of Zif (part of April and May in our calendar). This timeline allows us to approximate the beginning of construction to 966 BC. This was the 4th year of Solomon's reign, which means he didn't waste any time carrying out this mission. In comparison, after the twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed it took the US 5 years to break ground on the One World Trade Center that replaced them, and another 7 to complete it. Solomon did all of his work without the aid of modern technology (to our knowledge). This shows that when God wants something done, He makes a way. God respected Solomon's desire to carry out an order God had given so He paved the way for Solomon to fulfill this desire. God states that as long as Solomon keeps the statutes of the law, He will bless Solomon.

We are given great detail about the Temple. The given size was 60 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 30 cubits tall (90' x 30' x 45'). A porch or covered hall was also added; it was 20 cubits by 10 cubits (30' x 15'). Narrow windows were installed. These would not have had glass like our windows today, but would have provided ventilation for sacrifices given on the altar. Like the Tabernacle, there are two rooms that make up the main part of the Temple. Solomon also includes chambers around the walls of the Temple.

Photocredit: source unknown
Temple imagery based on the Biblical description
Photocredit: source unknown Temple imagery based on the Biblical description

Solomon has the cedar carved with knops and flowers—this was likely the handiwork of Hiram the craftsman. The Temple was overlaid in gold such that nothing was visible that wasn't gold. This is a testament to Israel's wealth. Solomon also had 2 cherubs made from olive trees; each was 10 cubits (15') high and their wings were 5 cubits (7.5') wide. The wings spanned the wall where they were placed. They too were overlaid in gold. Palm trees, cherubim, and flowers were carved on the walls inside and out. The doors to the holy place were made of olive trees, then covered with gold, while the inner court was made of stone with cedar beams. So much detail is given it's actually harder to picture for me.

The Temple was completed in the month of Bul (October/November) in Solomon's 11th year—it took 7 years to complete, just like the One World Trade Center. The month called Bul is also known as Marcheshvan.[5]

The Grandeur of Modern Churches

My dad often makes note of churches that don't match the community. Where we live there are often elaborate churches with grand windows and costly brick, but the houses around the church are falling apart. Although we are clearly told of the elaborate and grand beauty of Solomon's temple, we are also told that Solomon's palace was marked with grandeur as well. There was a reason the Israelites didn't build the Temple before Solomon came. God knows what we can and can't afford; He also makes a way when we don't see one. When we see the number of people that came together to build the Temple, it's on the order of a mega church and all of Israel was to come there to worship. However, today, we have churches that only service 10-20 people. I do not think God meant for these to be so extravagant the community suffers. In fact, we hear no mentioning of building a physical church when the apostles when to the churches of the gentiles.

The Court and Around the Temple

Solomon creates two brass pillars, which he names; the right pillar is named Jachin and the left is named Boaz. Boaz is an ancestor of Solomon’s, but together these names mean "He established in strength."[6] The pillars were quite ornate. They sat in front of the sanctuary of the Temple.[7]

Solomon also includes a "molten sea" made of brass in his new palace. The amount of brass used for the area outside of the Temple was so great it was could not be measured. It was likely something akin to a basin or tub for people to wash up in. It sat on top of 12 brass oxen. This basin was 10 cubits wide and 5 cubits tall, approximately 15' wide and 7.5' feet tall. This gives us a circumference of roughly 47'. The Bible tells us the circumference is 30 cubits which is a rounded figure since 10π is about 31.4 cubits (which is 47'). If we continue reading the text, we see that the rim of the basin was a handbreath or 4" thick. Scholars suggest that the measurement of the circumference refers to the inner circumference while the diameter refers to the outer edges. If we use this assumption we see the following:

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Measurement

Diameter

Inner Diameter = Diameter - 2 handbreaths

Circumference

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Cubits

10 Cubits

9.55 Cubits

30 cubits

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Feet

15 feet

14.33 feet

45.03 feet (172π)

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Inches

180 inches

172 inches

540.35 inches (172π)

Solomon's House

Solomon spent 13 years building his own home (a stark contrast to the 7 years he took for the Temple). It prompts me to wonder at the reason and motive. There are two possibilities, one shows Solomon to be wise and righteous, but the other speaks to mankind's greed and vanity. It is possible that Solomon was hurried and set forth more energy at building the Temple because he felt it was urgent to build the Lord's home. Solomon hired many Israelites and employed many slaves to accomplish this, but we aren't told how many of them he kept for the building of his own home. Perhaps he was simply sluggish in building it because it wasn't as important. The other possibility is that Solomon took more time planning and adding grandeur to his own house. The Bible shows that God is pleased with the Tabernacle, so I'm apt to believe Solomon didn't cut any corners.

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Note, the construction of Temple, specifically how Solomon used people to build it is part of the reason Israel split in half shortly after Solomon’s rule.

Solomon's home is also made of the cedar wood, but instead of overlaying it with gold, Solomon uses brass. To me, this is a signal that he recognizes his inferiority to God. Solomon makes an additional house for his wife, Pharaoh's daughter. Likely she expected lavish accommodations and he was happy to provide them.

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I think it’s important to highlight something here. People today often confuse tradition with being Biblical and this comes up often in conversations about how people life their lives. I want to point out that Solomon build an entirely separate house for his wife. (I hope he didn’t build a new house for all his wives—thats a lot of houses!)

"Contradictions" with 2 Chronicles

There are many suggested contradictions between the account given in 1 Kings and that given in 2 Chronicles. I have mentioned some in the text above, but I would like to address a few others here.

Hiram

Was Hiram from the tribe of Napthali or Dan? 1 Kings 7:14 tells us that Hiram was of the tribe Napthali, but 2 Chronicles 2:14 tells us Hiram's mother is from the tribe of Dan. Some scholars suggest that his mother's first husband was from the tribe of Napthali (she is a widow). This seems like an unlikely answer however, because we are told Hiram's father is from Tyre, which means the man of Napthali would not be his father.

Since Hiram's father was bit an Israelite, Hiram wouldn't have belonged to any tribe. The tribal information must refer to his mother. Tribal inheritance was passed from the father to his children, but when a woman married, she married into the tribe of her husband. Thus Hiram's mother was probably born into the tribe of Dan; "a daughter of Dan" refers to her blood lineage of being a Danite. 1 Kings is giving us the tribe she married into (whether this husband was a first husband or a husband after the birth of Hiram). This is supported by most scholars.[8]

Porch Measurements

Many people cite the height of the porch as problematic: 1 Kings 6:2 tells us that the hall or porch created was 30 cubits tall, but 2 Chronicles 3:4 tells us it was 120 cubits high. This is a great different in height! Once again, however, if you read carefully, you will see that 1 Kings 6:2 is describing the height of the house of the Lord, where 2 Chronicles 3:4 is discussing the height of the porch before the Temple. These heights could very will be different.

I agree that it seems odd for the Temple to be 30 cubits (45') tall with a porch attached that is 120 cubits (180'), however it isn't impossible. Nonetheless, many still try to explain the "discrepancy." Some people believe it is a copyist error. Historian Josephus maintained that the height was actually 120 cubits. 120 cubits is 180', while 30 cubits is only 45'.[2]

Height of the Pillars

1 Kings tells us the height of the pillars placed in front of the Temple were 18 cubits tall and Jeremiah 52:21 confirms this measurement. 2 Chronicles 3:16, however, says that the pillars were 35 cubits tall. Scholars take note of the language in 1 Kings verses 2 Chronicles. 1 Kings makes it explicit that the height given is the height of each pillar, whereas 2 Chronicles does not. Margin notes for 2 Chronicles suggest that the height given is the sum of the two pillars. Scholars assert that the pillars were cast as one pillar then cut in half. Each pillar would have been 17.5 cubits (or 18 cubits to the nearest cubit).

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Basin Capacity

1 Kings 7:26 says the basin created held 2,000 baths, while 2 Chronicles 4:5 claims it held 3,000 baths. A "bath" was a unity similar to our liters or gallons today. Scholars suggest that 2,000 refers to the typical amount of water contained in the basin, but 3,000 refers to how much it can old to the brim.[2]

Solomon's Prayer and God's Approval

When the temple is complete, Solomon sends for the elders and the heads of the tribes to bring the ark into the Temple. The priests place the ark in its proper place and when the priests leave, a cloud fills the holy place indicating the presence of God. God had already promised Solomon that He would uphold His covenant with David as long as Solomon obeyed Him. God's presence in the Temple proved that God was pleased with Solomon's work.

Continuing his relationship with the Lord, Solomon offers a prayer to God. He admits his wonder at God dwelling in the Temple, since no place could ever contain Him. Solomon asks that when the people of Israel mess up and turn to the Temple to call on God, He will answer. Solomon even prays for strangers who venture into Israel seeking God. Solomon's heart was filled with love in these requests; he didn't seek retribution on these people or wish that they suffer, instead he prayed that God would still hear their requests and help them back to righteousness. This is the spirit of God and the spirit of the law that we should be keeping.

At the close of Solomon's prayer, he reminds the people to follow the statutes, then they offer sacrifices to God. To dedicate the Temple, they offer 22,000 oxen and 120,00 sheep. The people feast and rejoice for 8 days.

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The animal lover in me shudders when I read that 142,000 animals were sacrificed, however it is important to put this number in perspective. First, sacrifices were meant to replace the blood owed by humans for the sins we commit (this is the origin of the word scapegoat). Technically each of us owes our blood (and death) for any sin we commit. Before Messiah shed His blood to pay this debt, animals were used. These animals were covering the sins of all the people of Israel, which explains the large number (please note, I’m not saying this is a 1 to 1 ratio). Second, the meat of the animals was used to feed the people. Today we skip the dirty parts of eating meat and don’t think about the slaughtering part, but this was an integral part of culture before recently. How many goats do you think it would take to feed a crowd of 100? 5000?

References and Footnotes

  1. "Tyre, Lebanon". Google Maps; visited January 2017
  2. William MacDonald. Believer's Bible Commentary, pg. 468. 1995
  3. "Huram-abi". Abarim Publications; visited January 2017
  4. Stephen Dafoe. "Hiram". Masonic Dictionary. 2008
  5. "Bul". Bible Study Tools; visited January 2017
  6. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 591. 2014
  7. "Jachin and Boaz". Jewish Virtual Library; visited January 2017
  8. "1 Kings 7:14 Commentary". Bible Hub; visited January 2017

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