1 Kings 9
Solomon’s Canaanite slaves rebuild Israel
God to Solomon: Follow your dad’s example1So, Solomon built the Temple, his palace, and every other thing he wanted to build. 2When he was done, the LORD appeared to him for a second time in his life. Again, this happened in Gibeon.
3The LORD said, “I heard that prayer you prayed when you dedicated the Temple to me. You wrote my name on this place. And now my heart is here. I’ll never take my eyes off this Temple. 4Now about you. Your father David was a good man of integrity. He did what I told him. He followed the directions I gave him. He kept the law. You need to follow that example. 5If you do, future rulers of Israel will all come from your family. That’s the promise I made to David. It’s the promise I make to you: ‘You will never be without a successor to the throne.’
6But if you or your children break the law, ignore the instructions I gave to you, and take the devotion you have for me and give it to other gods, you’ll be headed to trouble. 7I’ll take back the land I gave you. I’ll treat the Temple like just another ruin in a ghost town. The name of Israel will become the punchline for a thousand jokes in a hundred languages.  8This Temple you built will collapse into ruins. It’s a sight that will shock anyone passing by. They’ll say, ‘Why on earth would the LORD do this to the Temple and to his own people?’
9Then they’ll answer their own question: “They quit on God. He led them out of slavery in Egypt. But when they were free to make their own decisions, they decided to worship other gods. So, the LORD served them a cold dish of disaster.’
Solomon gives away 20 cities in Galilee10Solomon spent 20 years building two houses. One house for God, the Temple. One house for himself, the palace.  11King Hiram of Tyre supplied Solomon with all the wood he needed for these building projects. Hiram sent gold along with cedar and cypress from the Lebanon forests. In return, Solomon gave him a bonus gift  of 20 towns in Galilee, along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
12But when Hiram saw the 20 villages he got as a gift for his 20 years of trouble, he felt cheated. 13He told Solomon, “My friend, you call these cities?” Hiram decided to call them “Worthless.”  And that’s what he named the region.
14But Hiram felt obligated to give Solomon a gift in return. He sent a little less than four tons of gold. 
Solomon the slavedriver15This is a report about how Solomon depended on slave labor for his building projects. Slaves built the Temple for the LORD, the king’s palace,  and the Millo  terraces between the City of David and the Temple-Palace complex higher up the hill. They reinforced the walls of Jerusalem and rebuilt the walls of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer.
16Before that, Egypt’s king, the Pharoah, captured the town of Gezer, burned it to the ground, and killed the Canaanites who lived there. He gave the land to his daughter as a dowry for her marriage to King Solomon.
17Solomon rebuilt Gezer, on his western border. He also rebuilt Lower Beth-horon, 18Baalath, and Tamar  in the desert of Judah.
19Solomon created a network of storage cities along with cities for his battlegroup of chariots and for his cavalry. Solomon used forced labor to build anything and everything he wanted in Jerusalem and in the neighboring land of Lebanon and everywhere else under his control.
20Solomon enslaved locals who were not Israelites: Amorites, Hivites, Jebusites—anyone but the people of Israel. 21These locals descended from Canaanites who survived Israel’s invasion. Israelite invaders attempted but failed to annihilate  the locals—men, women, and children. Solomon rounded up the leftover Canaanites and created a slave guild of builders.
22Solomon refused to enslave any of his own people, the Israelites. He appointed them as officials and soldiers: captains, commanders, charioteers, and cavalrymen. 23Solomon commissioned 550 directors to oversee the work he wanted done.
24Pharaoh’s daughter moved from her home in the City of David, in lower Jerusalem, to her home in the new palace complex Solomon built. After that, Solomon built the adjacent Millo terraces.
25Solomon offered sacrifices at the Temple three times a year.  He sacrificed peace offerings of gratitude and burnt offerings  for sin. He burned incense offerings as well. Solomon finished his work on the Temple of the LORD.
Solomon’s business26Solomon owned a fleet of ships sailing out of Edom’s port city of Ezion-geber. That was close to Israel’s southernmost city of Elath, on the Reed Sea.  27King Hiram stationed some of his experienced sailors  on Solomon’s ships. They sailed with Solomon’s men and worked side-by-side on the ships. 28They sailed to Ophir  and came back with about 16 tons  of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon.
Another way to say it: “People everywhere will ridicule Israel and write demeaning proverbs about it.” What God describes here as a possibility, Babylonians invaders made a reality. They destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC, leveled the Temple, and took the Israelite survivors captive, exiled from their homeland. Israel, the nation on a map, no longer existed.
It took seven years to build the Temple (6:38) and thirteen to build the palace (7:1).
We’re offering a guess about why Hiram got the cities. The writer doesn’t explain why. The writer doesn’t tell us what kind of deal Solomon made with Hiram. It would have made sense for Solomon to pay for the timber on delivery. Perhaps the 20 villages was Solomon’s idea of a thank-you gift to Hiram. And the gold Hiram gave him for the towns were his way of reciprocating, which was the custom. If you get a gift, you give a gift of equal value, when possible. But this footnote is speculation.
The writer used the Hebrew word for worthless: Cabul. It seems that the name stuck. There’s an Israeli city called Kabul, near the northwest border with Lebanon. The population is mostly Arab. Some scholars suggest this was one of the 20 cities Solomon gave to Hiram. Israel captured the city in 1948 in Operation Dekel, an offensive that also led to the capture of Nazareth and about 30 other Arab towns in western Galilee.
That would be about 720 gold bars today, weighing a total of 9,000 pounds or 4,000 kilograms. In ancient Hebrew measurement, it was 120 talents, at an estimated 75 pounds or 34 kilograms per talent. The weight of a talent varied by era and location. To haul that much gold today, it would take about five of the half-ton pickup trucks or seven well-built minivans or 60 Radio Flyer classic red wagons.
For more recent parallels, people from Africa—slaves and free—built the American president’s house, the White House. In the United Kingdom and France, slaves built many churches, including the Notre Dame Cathedral, terribly damaged in a fire in 2019.
The writer doesn’t tell us what Millo means. The root at the bottom of the Hebrew term means to “fill.” Some say the Millo may have been a bit like a retaining wall or an abutment to support the south side of the Temple Mount area. Many scholars say it probably was once part of a stair-step structure discovered by British archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon. And that structure may have been part of a large stone building discovered in 2005 by Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar.
It’s “Tadmor” in the old Masoretic Text, an ancient version of the Old Testament that dates to as early as 700 years after the time of Jesus Christ. It was an important resource for scholars who translated the King James Bible in 1600, in William Shakespeare’s day.
The Hebrew term to describe this is herem, “annihilate.” This is the same term used to describe what Joshua and the invading Israelites did to the Canaanites. Moses had told them, “When the LORD your God gives them to you, you’ll need to finish them off. After you defeat them in battle, wipe them out by killing them all. Don’t make any peace treaty with them. Don’t show them mercy” (Deuteronomy 7:2). Scholars describe this as a “curse of war” or a “ban.” The “ban” means that when soldiers conquer a city, for example, they are banned from keeping anything for themselves—everything in the city is under the curse of war and must die. This kind of vow in ancient times was considered irrevocable and irredeemable. You couldn’t take it back. And nothing of the enemy was allowed to live. Everything in the city was devoted to God, much like sacrificial animals that are slaughtered and burned. “It’s a vow of devotion. If something is devoted to the LORD—whether human, animal, or land—you can’t have it back. If you devote something in this unique way, it’s holy and it stays holy because it belongs to the LORD…You can’t reverse that. You can’t buy back that person’s life. That person is doomed to die” (Leviticus 27:28-29). People today might describe this kind of reaction to outsiders as “xenophobia,” which is prejudice against all others. And they might call the slaughter “genocide.” Those defending the Israelites might point readers to the source of the order, reportedly coming from God, and delivered by Moses. Many Bible scholars struggle over understanding how or why God would give such an apparently terrorizing order to Joshua and the others. Yet, it was a common approach to taking someone’s land and to making sure they never got a chance to take it back.
This may be a reference to Israel’s three most popular annual festivals: Feast of the Yeast-free Bread, Spring Harvest, and Late Harvest (Exodus 23:14, 34:18, 22-23).
A peace offering, described in Leviticus 3, is one of several prescribed offerings in Jewish tradition. When Jewish people wanted to give thanks to God for something, such as good health or safety, they would sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow, or bull. They would burn part of the animal, including the kidneys and fat covering the intestines. They would eat the rest in celebration, often with family and friends. It takes a fair number of hungry people to eat a cow. But people were eager to eat meat because it was rare in Bible times for common folks to eat meat, many Bible scholars say.
A burnt offering was the most common animal sacrifice. Worshipers burned the entire animal. See Leviticus 1.
The location is the Gulf of Aqaba, the eastern rabbit ear of the Red Sea. But the writer calls it the “Reed Sea” and not the Red Sea. The Hebrew words are yam suph, “sea reeds.” In the story of Moses and the Hebrew refugees, they escape through a path God makes in this body of water. Scholars usually track Moses and the Hebrews escaping Egypt by walking southeast, out of the Nile Delta fields and toward the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula. They would have passed through lake regions along what is now the Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. These lakes and ponds reportedly had reeds growing along the banks, like the ones the Bible says grew along the Nile River and helped anchor Baby Moses in a basket (Exodus 2:3). But all of this is on or near the western rabbit ear of the Red Sea, across the Sinai Peninsula. Why the writer calls this eastern side by the same term is a mystery. Maybe there were lots of reeds. Or maybe he was connecting this to Israel’s early history with the same body of water. An escape route for refugees became a gold mine for descendants of those refugees.
Phoenicians of the Mediterranean coastal territory around Tyre and Sidon show up in history as some of the most experienced sailors and seafaring merchants of the time.
Location of Ophir is unknown. But it was famous for producing the finest gold. A broken piece of pottery found near Tel Aviv and dated to the 700s BC, a couple centuries after kings David and Solomon, confirms that Ophir was a location from which gold was exported. The fragment reads “30 shekels…gold of Ophir for Beth-Horon.” Scholars have speculated that the gold was somewhere in Arabia or Africa or India. That narrows the search from seven continents to three.
In ancient Hebrew measure of weight, sailors came home with 420 “talents” of gold. The weight of a talent varied in time and location. But at this time and location, some scholars are guessing one talent equals 75 pounds or 34 kilograms. Multiply it by 420, that’s 31,500 pounds. It would take about 18 pickup trucks to haul that much weight. Or 210 little red wagons.
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