Friday, June 28, 2013

Trouble In Paradise

I Kings 11:9-25

“And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded. 

Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant.  Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son.  Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen.” (I Kings 11:9-13)

Solomon had not slipped into sin unexpectedly.  He had systematically ignored God’s commands about different things.  When he was warned of the danger by God personally, he ignored those warnings.  His turning to idolatry was the result of deliberate decisions to disobey God, and it angered God.

Because Solomon had systematically violated his contract or covenant with God, he was not going to receive the reward for fulfilling it.  God was not willing to pay for work Solomon refused to do.   Because he had Made a contract with David, and David had fulfilled his part, God would keep the contract with David, not taking everything away from Solomon’s family.  He would allow Solomon to finish his reign, but would split the kingdom after his reign, leaving only one tribe with Solomon’s family., and even that only because of his promise to David.

It almost sounds as if Solomon was going to get off without any consequences personally, with the judgment coming on his son.  In reality, while the first twenty five or thirty years of his reign were a period of constant economic growth and world power, the last ten to fifteen years was a period of decreasing economic and political stability.  By the time of his death, Solomon would be barely able to keep the country together.   The most troubling aspect of all this is how closely it parallels what is happening in the United States today.

“And the LORD stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite: he was of the king's seed in Edom.  For it came to pass, when David was in Edom, and Joab the captain of the host was gone up to bury the slain, after he had smitten every male in Edom; (For six months did Joab remain there with all Israel, until he had cut off every male in Edom:) That Hadad fled, he and certain Edomites of his father's servants with him, to go into Egypt; Hadad being yet a little child.  And they arose out of Midian, and came to Paran: and they took men with them out of Paran, and they came to Egypt, unto Pharaoh king of Egypt; which gave him an house, and appointed him victuals, and gave him land.” (I Kings 11:14-18)

During the first twenty years or so of Solomon’s reign no body had dared attack Israel.  Solomon had built up a huge army that no one dared to confront.  When he turned his back on God, God caused different ones to lose their fear of fighting Israel.  One of those who first came against them was Hadad, a descendant of the rulers of Edom, Esau’s descendants, who had a grudge against Israel.

After David conquered Edom, Joab stayed six months in the land hunting down and killing every man and boy in the land.  Some Edomites lived among the Midianites, and were able to escape to Paran.  Fearing they would also be killed some of the men of Paran joined with them and the entire group fled to Egypt, asking Pharaoh for asylum.  Hadad was just a child at the time, but he learned to hate Israel as a result of their flight.

“And Hadad found great favour in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him to wife the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen.  And the sister of Tahpenes bare him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh's house: and Genubath was in Pharaoh's household among the sons of Pharaoh. 

And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, Let me depart, that I may go to mine own country. 

Then Pharaoh said unto him, But what hast thou lacked with me, that, behold, thou seekest to go to thine own country? And he answered, Nothing: howbeit let me go in any wise.” (I Kings 11:19-22) 

Hadad grew up in Egypt, developing powerful contacts, even becoming a friend and brother-in -law to Pharaoh.  Eventually, knowing David and Joab were dead, he decided to return to his homeland and rebuild the country, although Pharaoh didn’t want him to leave.  He stirred up a lot of unrest in Edom and the surrounding areas, forcing Solomon to spend a lot of time and resources keeping the area south and east of the Dead Sea under control .

“And God stirred him up another adversary, Rezon the son of Eliadah, which fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah: And he gathered men unto him, and became captain over a band, when David slew them of Zobah: and they went to Damascus, and dwelt therein, and reigned in Damascus.  And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, beside the mischief that Hadad did: and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.” (I Kings 11:23-25)

Many years before, the King of Zobah had tried to destroy a young man named Rezon.  He became and outlaw and formed an outlaw band.  When David conquered Zobah they fled Damascus, gradually taking over the city.  Though they had a treaty with Israel, he was chafing to break free.  Later in Solomon’s reign, he had gained enough of a following to start stirring up trouble in Syria and the northern part of the Empire much like Hadad was causing in the southeast, dividing Solomon’s forces and attention, demanding huge military expenditures, and changing the entire economic picture, although they posed little immediate threat to Israel itself.

Solomon had never had to deal with these kinds of problems as long as he served God.  He no longer could concentrate on enriching the economy or building his own reputation and wealth, because he had to worry about the trouble Hadad and Rezon were causing.

It is much like the effects of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, in that while they pose little immediate threat to our country they can hardly be ignored, and they siphon off vast amounts of financial and personal resources that would be better used elsewhere.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Solomon Goes Into Idolatry

I Kings 11:1-10

“But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.” (I Kings 11:1-2) 

In Exodus 34:12-16, God warned Israel against making treaties with or intermarrying with the people in the land of Canaan.  “Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.”

The warning was that getting involved with these groups would eventually result in lowering their standards and getting involved with their religion as well.  It is the same principel we see in II Corinthians 6:14-18.  “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?  And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?  And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

As long as they are clinging to their old religion and customs, there will be pressure for you to go along with those things even though they are in direct conflict with what God demands.  Please understand that the problem was not interracial marriage, but of religious standards.  God punished Aaron and Miriam for getting upset that Moses married an Ethiopian.  Both Rahab and Ruth were of the peoples God had forbidden Israel to marry, but both turned from their old religion to God, and both became ancestors to Jesus Christ physically.

Solomon fell into the same trap a lot of other men fall into, wanting to have every pretty woman he saw.  As king, he had power and wealth, that a lot of women were attracted to, much like a moth is attracted to a light.  In addition, other countries viewed a marriage with the ruler as a way of cementing peaceful relations between the countries.   Taking advantage of these things, Solomon indulged his every fancy, according to Ecclesiastes 2:9-10.  “So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.  And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour.”

“And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.  For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 1 And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.” (I Kings 11:3-6) 

In addition to ignoring God’s command in Exodus about making treaties with and marrying those who worshipped other gods, Solomon also ignored the commands about kings in Deuteronomy 17:15-17.  “Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.  But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.  Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.”

Solomon had formal state weddings with seven hundred princesses to cement treaties with their countries.  He also had three hundred ordinary women as mistresses, without all the formal hoopla, feeding his ego.  Coupled with his efforts to build such a strong military he didn’t need to depend on God by accumulating a huge herd of horses and chariots, and his constant efforts to increase his riches, he has broken every part of Deuteronomy 17:15-17.

Starting with his love for God, but sacrificing in the high places in I Kings 3:3, to his devoting more effort to building his own house than to God’s, to this point in time, we see a continual gradual progression away from what God had commanded.  As a result, when his wives began to pressure him to do things that were directly contrary to what God commanded, he yielded, putting their wishes ahead of God.

“Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon.  And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.” (I Kings 11:7-8)

Once he gave in, , building a worship to please one of his wives, everyone of the others could complain that he wasn’t being fair if he didn’t do the same thing for her, and suddenly, all his efforts were involved in sacrifices to all the other gods, rather than in worshipping God.  His mistresses were the only ones who didn’t put him under this pressure.

“And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded.” (I Kings 11:9-10)

Shortly after Solomon became king, God appeared to him making promises to bless him concluding in I Kings 3:14, “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.”

About twenty years later, when Solomon’s changing priorities were mor apparent, God again appeared to him, and warned him again in I Kings 9:4-7.  “And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.  But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people:”

Not only had Solomon disobeyed God ‘s commandments in the Law, he had ignored two personal warnings from God himself.  His sin was the cumulative result of deliberate choices to disobey God.  It was not his wives’ fault, although they contributed to the problem.

People almost never suddenly turn away from what is right.  Like Solomon, they make decisions and allow attitudes that turn their heart away.  While it may come as a complete surprise to others, it is usually something they have been building toward for some time.  Sudden things like David’s sin with Bathsheba are rare, and even then there is usually a period of development before the sin occurs..  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Solomon’s Economic Success

I Kings 10:14-29

“Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffic of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country.” (I Kings 10:14-15)

Solomon had many subject states, who who supported his government.  They were providing 666 talents of gold, or about eleven billion in annual income at today’s gold prices.  This did not include the fees the traders and business men paid or the kings of Arabia for permission to ship through the area.  It also didn’t include the provisions each area was required to provide.  At this point, the economy was booming, and the taxes and fees were not a problem.  With so much money, Solomon adopted a very lavish lifestyle.

“And king Solomon made two hundred targets of beaten gold: six hundred shekels of gold went to one target.  And he made three hundred shields of beaten gold; three pound of gold went to one shield: and the king put them in the house of the forest of Lebanon.” (I Kings 10:16-17)

Solomon had two hundred large shields made of pure gold, weighing twenty three pounds apiece, as well as three hundred small shields weighing around seven pounds each.  The word translated pound was the mina, or sixty shekels.  These were strictly for show as they were too soft to effectively block arrows or swords, although they would look quite impressive.

“Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with the best gold.  The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays.  And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps: there was not the like made in any kingdom.” (I Kings 10:18-20)

Solomon’s throne was made of ivory, with six steps leading up to a platform with a seat and  arms or railings on the sides.  A trained lion sat on each side of the seat, and one on each end of each step.  The entire throne was overlaid with gold.  It must have been quite impressive and some what intimidating to come before the king.

“And all king Solomon's drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the house of the forest of Lebanon were of pure gold; none were of silver: it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon.  For the king had at sea a navy of Tharshish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks.” (I Kings 10:21-22)

Israel was so rich at this point in Solomon’s reign that silver was considered worthless.  In Solomon’s palace, only gold dishes and utensils were allowed, even when silver would have made better ones, simply because it was more expensive.  Joint trading ventures with the Phoenicians brought in huge quantities of gold, silver, ivory, and exotic animals., enabling Solomon to live opulently.

“So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.   And all the earth sought to Solomon, to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.  And they brought every man his present, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and garments, and armour, and spices, horses, and mules, a rate year by year.” (I Kings 10:23-25) 

Solomon’s wealth and success as a ruler made his advice widely sought.  People paid high consulting fees for a little bit of Solomon’s time, much as they do consultants today.

“And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen: and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he bestowed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem.” (I Kings 10:26) 

Solomon built the most powerful standing army of his day, with fourteen hundred chariots, the equivalent of tanks in that day, and a cavalry of twelve thousand for quick response situations.  They were divided up and spread at strategic points throughout the kingdom, including a force in Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, in doing so, he was violating Deuteronomy 17:16, a part of the directions God gave for when they chose a king.  “But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.”  Rather than depending on God, Solomon was beginning to depend on his own wisdom and power.

“And the king made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones, and cedars made he to be as the sycamore trees that are in the vale, for abundance. 

 And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and linen yarn: the king's merchants received the linen yarn at a price.  And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and an horse for an hundred and fifty: and so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, did they bring them out by their means.” (I Kings 10:27-29)

Halfway through Solomon’s reign, Israel was flourishing.  Silver was almost as easy to find as a piece of gravel, and  cedar from Lebanon was as common as the native sycamores along the banks of the streams.  Linen yarn for weaving and horses and chariots were imported from Egypt for sale to other countries, including the Hittites and Syria, as well as for their own use.   It must have seemed like it would never end. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Impressing The Queen Of Sheba

I Kings 10:1-13

“And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.  And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart.” (I Kings 10:1-2)

While there is some disagreement as to where Sheba was, the Hebrew word translated Sheba in English is translated Saba in Arabic, and there was a Sabean kingdom known as Saba in present day Yemen.  Most of the records about the Sabeans detail trades with other groups, and not much is known about them other than that they were heavily involved in the spice trade and other trading ventures, that their empire at one point included present day Somalia, Yemen and Ethiopia, and that their language and writing resembles Hebrew and other Semetic languages.  The only record of warlike behavior is found in Job 1:15, when they seized Job’s oxen.  The description of the Queen of Sheba’s caravan and later her gifts to Solomon are in accord with what is known of the Sabeans, as are Hebrew, Ethiopian and Arab traditions.

Having heard of Solomon’s wisdom and how God had blessed him she came to see if the stories were true, having prepared questions to test his wisdom, probably something like the Mensa challenges.  

“And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not.” (I Kings 10:3)

Solomon was able to answer all the challenges satisfactorily, which was impressive.  Even more impressive, he was also able to answer her questions about real world problems.  I have wondered why, if the members of Mensa are so much smarter than the rest of us, why they don’t devote some of their efforts to solving real world problems instead of inventing theoretical ones.

“And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon's wisdom, and the house that he had built, And the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and his ascent by which he went up unto the house of the LORD; there was no more spirit in her.” (I Kings 10:4-5) 

After seeing the state of Solomon’s kingdom, and the wealth and power he had, and having learned far more than she expected, the Queen of Sheba’s Chasllenging attitude was completely gone.

“And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom.  Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. 

Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.  Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice.” (I Kings 10:6-9)

She had come with the intention of proving he wasn’t as smart or as rich as people claimed, and instead, she had found out he was both richer and smarter.  The country was lucky to have such a wise and good ruler and those who worked with him were blessed to have the opportunity to learn from him.  God had richly blessed Israel in giving them such a king.

“And she gave the king an hundred and twenty talents of gold, and of spices very great store, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon.” (I Kings 10:10)

As a token of respect she gave Solomon a hundred thirty two thousand troy ounces of gold, worth about two hundred million dollars at today’s prices.  She also donated quantities of spices that even Solomon’s traders had not been able to obtain, as well as precious stones, including diamonds.

“And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones.” (I Kings 10:11)

Solomon’s joint trading venture with Hiram to send ships down through the Gulf of Aqaba along the gold coast of Africa brought in vast quantities of the gold and precious stones, as well as huge quantities of  almug trees, generally believed to be sandalwood from India.

“And the king made of the almug trees pillars for the house of the LORD, and for the king's house, harps also and psalteries for singers: there came no such almug trees, nor were seen unto this day.” (I Kings 10:12)

Sandalwood is a dense aromatic hardwood useful for many purposes.  Solomon used it for carved pillars in the temple, as well as for making various musical instruments.

“And king Solomon gave unto the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants.” (I Kings 10:13)

Solomon freely provided for the Queen of Sheba’s entourage.  In addition he gave her anything she asked for, displaying his wealth.  She returned to her own country  after her visit was over.  Despite various traditions, there is no evidence of any deeper involvement.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Solomon’s Public Works And Trading Ventures

I Kings 9:10-28

“And it came to pass at the end of twenty years, when Solomon had built the two houses, the house of the LORD, and the king's house, (Now Hiram the king of Tyre had furnished Solomon with cedar trees and fir trees, and with gold, according to all his desire,) that then king Solomon gave Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee.” (I Kings 9:10-11)

Hiram had furnished the lumber, the gold, and the workmen for twenty years for Solomon to build the temple, his palace and all his other public buildings.  In return, Solomon gave Hiram twenty villages and their surrounding area along the border of present day Lebanon.

“And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him; and they pleased him not.  And he said, What cities are these which thou hast given me, my brother? And he called them the land of Cabul unto this day.  And Hiram sent to the king sixscore talents of gold. ” (I Kings 9:12-14)

After going to see the villages, Hiram wasn‘t very impressed by them.  The surrounding area was so barren he called it Cabul or “sterile”.  They had little of value to offer, but it was what they had agreed on and Hiram would keep his end of the bargain.  supplying an additional hundred twenty talents of gold, around 132,000  troy ounces.

“And this is the reason of the levy which king Solomon raised; for to build the house of the LORD, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer.

For Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up, and taken Gezer, and burnt it with fire, and slain the Canaanites that dwelt in the city, and given it for a present unto his daughter, Solomon's wife. 

And Solomon built Gezer, and Bethhoron the nether, And Baalath, and Tadmor in the wilderness, in the land, And all the cities of store that Solomon had, and cities for his chariots, and cities for his horsemen, and that which Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion.” (I Kings 9:15-19)

Special taxes were raised to build all Solomon’s public works.  These included the temple and palace, fortifications around the city of Jerusalem and various military outposts, as well as rebuilding the City of Gezer, which Pharaoh had captured and given as a wedding present.  Outposts were built in all the areas Solomon ruled.  In addition, various supply depots were built.  Special military bases were built for the various branches of service.

 “And all the people that were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which were not of the children of Israel, Their children that were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not able utterly to destroy, upon those did Solomon levy a tribute of bondservice unto this day. 

But of the children of Israel did Solomon make no bondmen: but they were men of war, and his servants, and his princes, and his captains, and rulers of his chariots, and his horsemen.  These were the chief of the officers that were over Solomon's work, five hundred and fifty, which bare rule over the people that wrought in the work. ” (I Kings 9:20-23)

There were numerous groups of the original residents that Israel had not been able to destroy still living among them six hundred years later.  Solomon drafted these groups to do the labor on the public works, while the Jews served as soldiers and administrators, including fife hundred fifty who oversaw construction of the public works.

“But Pharaoh's daughter came up out of the city of David unto her house which Solomon had built for her: then did he build Millo.” (I Kings 9:24) 

When Solomon finished building her new palace, Pharaoh’s daughter moved out of the old city into her new home.  Solomon then built a special fortified area for his family and advisors, called Millo.

“And three times in a year did Solomon offer burnt offerings and peace offerings upon the altar which he built unto the LORD, and he burnt incense upon the altar that was before the LORD. So he finished the house.” (I Kings 9:25)

When Solomon first became king, he frequently went out and offered sacrifices to God in the high places even though it was contrary to God’s word.  Twenty years later, when the temple has been completed right next door, he only makes it to offer sacrifices three times a year as the minimum the law required.  Once again we see his gradual moving away from God.

“And king Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red sea, in the land of Edom.  And Hiram sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon.  And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to king Solomon.” (I Kings 9:26-28)

There were several ports along the Mediterranean coast that ships could sail from for trading in north Africa, southern Europe, and western Asia.  They could also go out through the straits of Gibralter to trade along the west coast of Africa and Europe, and the Phoenicians, including the people of Tyre frequently did.

Solomon had a second navy of ships built at Eziongeber on the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, a branch of the Red Sea so they could work along the eastern side of Africa and western India without having to go all the way around the horn of Africa.  This gave him ready access to the goldfields of Ophir on the east coast of Africa.  They brought back almost a half million troy ounces of gold, worth nearly three quarters of a billion dollars at today’s prices.  Phoenicians from Tyre were hired to command the ships.

Friday, June 21, 2013

God Warns Solomon

I Kings 9:1-9

“And it came to pass, when Solomon had finished the building of the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all Solomon's desire which he was pleased to do, That the LORD appeared to Solomon the second time, as he had appeared unto him at Gibeon.” (I Kings 9:1-2)

When Solomon first became king, obviously desiring to serve the Lord, God had appeared to him and promised to bless in a mighty way if he would serve God.  About twenty years after Solomon became king, when he had accomplished all the things he originally set out to do, and was at his most powerful, God appeared to him the second time.  At that point, he was so successful, it appeared nothing would ever slow him down.

“And the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.” (I Kings 9:3)

In effect, God stated that he was satisfied with what Solomon had done up to that point.  He declares his intention to do exactly what Solomon had prayed for in his dedication of the temple, to make it a place of meeting with God forever.  It makes his next statements seem almost out of place.

“And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel.” (I Kings 9:4-5)

When God appeared to Solomon the first time, he had promised unconditionally to give him wisdom and wealth beyond anyone else.  However, in I Kings 3:14, he made one conditional promise.  “And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.”  The length of Solomon’s reign would depend on his obedience to God.

Just at the peak of his glory, God again reminds him of that condition, that if he will serve God completely, his family will be established as leaders over Israel forever.   It seems like an unnecessary reminder, because Solomon seems to be doing so well, but God doesn’t stop with that reminder.

“But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people: And at this house, which is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and to this house? 

And they shall answer, Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought forth their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have taken hold upon other gods, and have worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath the LORD brought upon them all this evil.” (I Kings 9:6-9) 

If Solomon or any of his descendants turning away from following God’s law, to worship other gods, then the entire nation of Israel will be tossed aside, and the temple Solomon built will be deserted and become a source of mockery against Israel.  The land which God had given will be taken from them because they turned away from their God.  It seemed impossible that Solomon or his descendants would ever turn away, considering how God was blessing them.

Please remember that the scripture made a special note of a couple of problems however.  I Kings 3:3 points out, “And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father: only he sacrificed and burnt incense in high places.”  Though he loved the Lord, he was disobeying him in one area, offering sacrifices in areas where God had forbidden them.

Speaking of building the temple, I Kings 6:38 says, “…So was he seven years in building it.”  The next verse, I Kings 7:1 points out, “But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years…”  Though he still loved the Lord and was trying to serve him, his emphasis had shifted.  Serving God was no longer the most important thing.

Like Solomon, the church a Ephesus seemed to be doing everything right.  However, in Revelation 2:4-5, God warned, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.  Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”

Frequently God gives us such warnings just when it seems the least needed, because he knows the dangers of success.  There is and old saying to the effect that success destroys more people than failure.  It was Solomon’s success that enabled him to do the things that eventually destroyed him.  The same thing has happened to some of the biggest and best known pastors and churches.  We need to learn to listen for those warnings from God.  Unfortunately, we tend to think we don’t need it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Solomon Blessing The People

I Kings 8:54-66

“And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.  And he stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice, saying, Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.” (I Kings 8:54-56)

Notice Solomon’s attitude of supplication during his prayer.  He was on his knees with his hands spread out toward heaven, asking God to answer his prayer, even though it is a time when they could have had an emotional sense success and accomplishment.

When he stood up he blessed the people, reminding them what God had already done for them and asking that he continue to treat them in a similar fashion as he promised.  

“The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us: That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.  And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the LORD, be nigh unto the LORD our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require: That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God, and that there is none else.  Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.” (I Kings 8:57-61)

His blessing involved asking that God would act in their lives that they would desire to follow him completely, obeying his commands and laws.  In return, that God would support and protect Israel as needed.  As a result, the other races and nations throughout the world would know who God was.  This would require the people committing themselves to serve God completely.

It fascinates me that Solomon could so thoroughly express the need for following God completely, yet turn away himself.  Frequently, those who take the strongest stand are the first to succumb to temptation.  One can only guess that is because they think they are above it.

“And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the LORD.  And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the LORD, two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD.” (I Kings 8:62-63)

The peace offering given was of twenty two thousand head of cattle and a hundred twenty thousand sheep.  By the end of the time, the priests and Levites must have been exhausted, and the smell of burning flesh permeated the air.  Fortunately, God helped with the burning of the sacrifices, because they were not able to go into the temple itself at the time.  II Chronicles 7:1-6 gives more detail.

“Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house.  And the priests could not enter into the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD'S house. 

And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. 

Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD.  And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of twenty and two thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep: so the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.  And the priests waited on their offices: the Levites also with instruments of music of the LORD, which David the king had made to praise the LORD, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them, and all Israel stood.”

While the sacrifices were made, the Levites provided instrumental music, and the priests periodically sounded the trumpets to get the people to rise.  The whole effort was to praise God, literally, as Hebrews 13: 15 says, thanking God for what he had done.

“The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD for there he offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings: because the brazen altar that was before the LORD was too little to receive the burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings.” (I Kings 8:64)

Because the number of sacrifices were more than could be burned on the brazen altar, even though the new one was far larger than the one from the tabernacle, they dedicated the middle courtyard for offering sacrifices.  Normally this court or open area was not considered holy, and every Jew was allowed to enter it, not just those who were making sacrifices.

“And at that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt, before the LORD our God, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days.  On the eighth day he sent the people away: and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people.” (I Kings 8:65-66)

The celebrating went on for a solid week, although it took a week to get everyone together since some traveled from around the sea of Galilee or beyond while others came from down at the boundary with Egypt, well into the Sinai peninsula.  On the eighth day, they went home rejoicing at what was happening.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Solomon’s Prayer Of Dedication

I Kings 8:22-53

“And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven: And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart: Who hast kept with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him: thou spakest also with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day. 

Therefore now, LORD God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; so that thy children take heed to their way, that they walk before me as thou hast walked before me.  And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father.” (I Kings 8:22-26)

Solomon starts out by acknowledging who God is and thanking him for keeping his promises.  He continues by asking him to keep on fulfilling those promises.

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?  Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day: That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.” (I Kings 8:27-29) 

Solomon acknowledges that what they have built, while the best they are capable of in no way meets God’s requirements.  In spite of the shortcomings, he asks that God will take int account their desires to please him and heed their prayers.

“And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.  If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house: Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.” (I Kings 8:30-32)

Solomon prayed for God to grant individual forgiveness  when people had sinned against one another, in matters such as keeping a promise.  He did not ask him to allow the guilty to go unpunished but that there be justice in each case.

“When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house: Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers. 

When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them: Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance. 

If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be; What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)  That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers.” (I Kings 8:33-40)

Solomon recognized the ease with which people forget God, and he would find it necessary to send judgment on them, perhaps in the form of military defeat for minor turning away, or famine an drought for more severe and prolonged turning away.  In extreme cases he might even take their land away from them.   Solomon prayed that when such things happened, if they turned back to him, God would remember his promise, he would forgive and restore them, teaching them to do what was right, and punishing those who would not.

“Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake; (For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house; Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name.” (I Kings 8:41-43)

Solomon prayed that God would not just answer the prayers of Jews, but of anyone who came to the temple to pray, that they might all know God, and recognize his power.

“If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the LORD toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name: Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.” (I Kings 8:44-45)

He prayed that when Israel went into battle, if they would make God’s house the center of their worship, God would answer their prayers and give the victory.

“If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near; Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness; And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name: Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them: For they be thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron: That thine eyes may be open unto the supplication of thy servant, and unto the supplication of thy people Israel, to hearken unto them in all that they call for unto thee.” (I Kings 8:46-52)

Thanks to the sin nature we inherited from Adam, sin is inevitable, despite our best efforts.  Solomon prayed that when God’s people sinned, even so badly as to lose their land, that if they realized their sin, and stopped it, acknowledging it was wrong, and asking forgiveness, that God would grant forgiveness, and cause the people who had conquered them to have compassion because they were God’s people that he brought out of Egypt.

“For thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be thine inheritance, as thou spakest by the hand of Moses thy servant, when thou broughtest our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord GOD.” (I Kings 8:53)

By taking Israel out of Egypt and making a covenant with them, God had committed to care for them and do these things, and Solomon was just asking that he continue to keep that promise.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

I Kings 8:1-21

“Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto king Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.” (I Kings 8:1)

David had had the tabernacle set up in the city of David.  In the New Testament, Bethlehem is called the city of David because it was his family home.  In the Old Testament, however he established his capital in the ancient city of Jebus or Zion, renaming it Jerusalem, and it became known as the city of David.

 When Solomon built the temple, and his palace, they were located outside the walls of the ancient city although they part of the city of Jerusalem.  When he called for the leaders to come and help move the Ark to the temple, it was in effect a formal ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony, even though it was only a short move, unlike David’s bringing the ark from the house of Obededom to Jerusalem.

“And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.  And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark.  And they brought up the ark of the LORD, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, even those did the priests and the Levites bring up. 

And king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, that were assembled unto him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude.” (I Kings 8:2-5)

After more than seven years, the temple was almost finished.  The leaders came together to celebrate the opening of the temple, and moving in of the ark so that it could be opened for business.  The entire tabernacle was moved onto the temple site.  It would be the last official move of the tabernacle, and once it was made, the temple could be finished with just a few days work.

As the ark was moved an untold number of sheep and cattle were sacrificed to the Lord along the way, remembering what God had done in the past and anticipating what he would do in the future.

“And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims.  For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above.  And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the oracle, and they were not seen without: and there they are unto this day.” (I Kings 8:6-8)

The ark was brought into the Holy of Holies, the oracle, and placed under the cherubim’s wings.  The staves for transporting it were drawn out for the first time since the ark had been built almost seven hundred years before.  While they were kept in the temple, their removal from the ark signified that they were in the permanent place god had prepared for them.   It would remain there until the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians about three hundred years later.

“There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.” (I Kings 8:9)

In Exodus 16:33-34, “…Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations. As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.”  While the tabernacle was in use, Hebrews 9:4 describes it’s contents.  “Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;”

Apparently, when the ark was permanently located and the stases removed, the pot of manna and Aarons rod were also removed and place on display as a reminder of what God had done,  although the tables of stone were left in the ark, since it was built specifically to contain them.

“And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.” (I Kings 8:10-11)

When the tabernacle had been dedicated, Exodus 40:34-35 described the event.  “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle."  Almost seven hundred years later, the same thing happened when they dedicated the temple.  Obviously God approved their efforts to please him.

“Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.  I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever.” (I Kings 8:12-13)  

Solomon offered the temple to God as a place for him to dwell forever, a place that followed what God had declared himself as wanting.

“And the king turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: (and all the congregation of Israel stood;) And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which spake with his mouth unto David my father, and hath with his hand fulfilled it, saying, Since the day that I brought forth my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build an house, that my name might be therein; but I chose David to be over my people Israel. 

And it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel.  And the LORD said unto David my father, Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart.  Nevertheless thou shalt not build the house; but thy son that shall come forth out of thy loins, he shall build the house unto my name. 

And the LORD hath performed his word that he spake, and I am risen up in the room of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and have built an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel.  And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the LORD, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.” (I Kings 8:14-21)

Solomon then blessed the people, reminding them how they had been able to accomplish so much because they followed God.  Their accomplishments were the result of God’s promises when they followed him out of Egypt.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Temple Fixtures And Furnishings

I Kings 7:27-51

"And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.  And under the brim of it round about there were knops compassing it, ten in a cubit, compassing the sea round about: the knops were cast in two rows, when it was cast. 

It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.  And it was an hand breadth thick, and the brim thereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies: it contained two thousand baths.” (I Kings 7:23-26)

In the Tabernacle, there had been the brazen laver for the priests to wash at.  Hiram made a much larger one for the Temple. It was made in the form of a large bowl or cup, fifteen feet across and seven and a half feet deep.  Just below the rim were a double row of one and a half inch knobs, formed into the casting.  The rim itself had a pattern of lilies cast in it.  The casting was about four inches thick and held about twelve thousand gallons.  It was supported on the backs of twelve cast oxen, with three facing each direction.  It would serve as a storage reservoir.

“And he made ten bases of brass; four cubits was the length of one base, and four cubits the breadth thereof, and three cubits the height of it.  And the work of the bases was on this manner: they had borders, and the borders were between the ledges: And on the borders that were between the ledges were lions, oxen, and cherubims: and upon the ledges there was a base above: and beneath the lions and oxen were certain additions made of thin work.

And every base had four brazen wheels, and plates of brass: and the four corners thereof had undersetters: under the laver were undersetters molten, at the side of every addition.  And the mouth of it within the chapiter and above was a cubit: but the mouth thereof was round after the work of the base, a cubit and an half: and also upon the mouth of it were gravings with their borders, foursquare, not round.  And under the borders were four wheels; and the axletrees of the wheels were joined to the base: and the height of a wheel was a cubit and half a cubit.

 And the work of the wheels was like the work of a chariot wheel: their axletrees, and their naves, and their felloes, and their spokes, were all molten.  And there were four undersetters to the four corners of one base: and the undersetters were of the very base itself. 

And in the top of the base was there a round compass of half a cubit high: and on the top of the base the ledges thereof and the borders thereof were of the same.  For on the plates of the ledges thereof, and on the borders thereof, he graved cherubims, lions, and palm trees, according to the proportion of every one, and additions round about.  After this manner he made the ten bases: all of them had one casting, one measure, and one size.  Then made he ten lavers of brass: one laver contained forty baths: and every laver was four cubits: and upon every one of the ten bases one laver.” (I Kings 7:27-38) 

Ten six foot square brass bases were made to hold large washbowls. Each base had four twenty seven inch spoke wheels resembling chariot wheels to make them portable.  Each base was a single casting which when mounted on the wheels was about four and a half feet tall.  Extra supports or under setters were cast into each corner to help support the weight of the wash basins and reinforce the axles.  Ledges extended out beyond the wheels, and a pattern of lions and oxen was cast into the border above them.  A circular support for the lavers or washbasins was cast into the top.  

The washbasins were huge, holding about two hundred forty gallons apiece.  They would have been impractical to clean and refill without the wheeled bases to move them around’ but their large size would minimize the need for constant cleaning and refilling.

“And he put five bases on the right side of the house, and five on the left side of the house: and he set the sea on the right side of the house eastward over against the south.” (I Kings 7:39)

A row of the bases was set on  each side of the entry to the temple so the priests would have ready access when they went in to make sacrifices, while the storage tank, the sea, was set on the south side of the courtyard, toward the eastern end.

“And Hiram made the lavers, and the shovels, and the basins. So Hiram made an end of doing all the work that he made king Solomon for the house of the LORD: The two pillars, and the two bowls of the chapiters that were on the top of the two pillars; and the two networks, to cover the two bowls of the chapiters which were upon the top of the pillars; And four hundred pomegranates for the two networks, even two rows of pomegranates for one network, to cover the two bowls of the chapiters that were upon the pillars; And the ten bases, and ten lavers on the bases; And one sea, and twelve oxen under the sea; And the pots, and the shovels, and the basins: and all these vessels, which Hiram made to king Solomon for the house of the LORD, were of bright brass. 

In the plain of Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarthan.  And Solomon left all the vessels unweighed, because they were exceeding many: neither was the weight of the brass found out.” (I Kings 7:40-47)

The actual casting was done north of the Dead Sea, between Succoth and Zarthan, because the clay soil made very fine molds, and steep clay cliffs made it easy to build efficient natural draft furnaces for melting the metal using natural convection to provide draft.  The ore could be transported by water most of the way, minimizing transportation problems.  No record was kept of the amount of metal used, or of the finished products.

“And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the LORD: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the showbread was, And the candlesticks of pure gold, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the oracle, with the flowers, and the lamps, and the tongs of gold, And the bowls, and the snuffers, and the basins, and the spoons, and the censers of pure gold; and the hinges of gold, both for the doors of the inner house, the most holy place, and for the doors of the house, to wit, of the temple.  So was ended all the work that king Solomon made for the house of the LORD. 

And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the LORD.” (I Kings 7:48-51) 

Because the Temple was so much larger than the tabernacle, more candlesticks were required, as was a larger altar of incense and more implements to care for them.  Rather than using wood overlaid with gold like they used in the tabernacle, Solomon used solid gold for the Altar and the table of shew bread.  Even the door hinges and latches were of gold.

Solomon also brought the things David had consecrated for the Lord into the Temple for special use.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Pillars Of The Temple

I Kings 7:13-26

“And king Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre.  He was a widow's son of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass: and he was filled with wisdom, and understanding, and cunning to work all works in brass.” (I Kings 7:13-14)

Hiram, king of the Phoenician city of Tyre was half Jewish.  His mother was of the tribe of Naphtali, while his father was a skilled brass worker from Tyre.  Hiram became a of the craft himself.  He was widely respected for his practical abilities as well as his political accomplishments.  He personally came to oversee the production of the huge brass fittings and fixtures for the temple.

"And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work.  For he cast two pillars of brass, of eighteen cubits high apiece: and a line of twelve cubits did compass either of them about.  And he made two chapiters of molten brass, to set upon the tops of the pillars: the height of the one chapiter was five cubits, and the height of the other chapiter was five cubits: And nets of checker work, and wreaths of chain work, for the chapiters which were upon the top of the pillars; seven for the one chapiter, and seven for the other chapiter. 

And he made the pillars, and two rows round about upon the one network, to cover the chapiters that were upon the top, with pomegranates: and so did he for the other chapiter.  And the chapiters that were upon the top of the pillars were of lily work in the porch, four cubits.  And the chapiters upon the two pillars had pomegranates also above, over against the belly which was by the network: and the pomegranates were two hundred in rows round about upon the other chapiter.” (I Kings 7:15-20)

Hiram cast two hollow brass columns or pillars for the entrance to the temple.  Each was twenty seven feet tall, and about five and a half feet in diameter, weighing many tons.  After Jerusalem was destroyed, and effort was made to carry the columns to away.  One of them rolled overboard while being transported, and the Romans were unable to recover it.  A brass pillar of these approximate dimensions was discovered about 1960, and some believe it is the lost pillar.

A separate capital or top piece was made for each totaling another seven and a half feet., and making the pillars nearly thirty five feet tall.  They were in the form of a lily about six feet high with two rows of a hundred balls or pomegranates around them with rings resembling checkerboards and rings resembling chains around them and covering the joint.

During the 1930’s, a group of ancient copper mines were discovered south of the Dead Sea in what is now Jordan.  They were generally accepted to be Edomite in origin and were not believed to have been used until about the seventh century BC., some two to three hundred years after Solomon’s reign.  In 2008, evidence was found indicating that they were in fact active as early as the tenth century BC., during Solomon‘s reign.  We know that Solomon controlled the area at that time.  It is believed that these mines provided the raw materials for Hiram.  The technology required to cast such large castings, transport them and erect them is mind boggling.

“And he set up the pillars in the porch of the temple: and he set up the right pillar, and called the name thereof Jachin: and he set up the left pillar, and called the name thereof Boaz.  And upon the top of the pillars was lily work: so was the work of the pillars finished.” (I Kings 7:21-22)

The pillars were set at the corners of the porch.  One was called Jachin, or “He shall establish”, while the other was called Boaz, or “In Him is strength”.  These two pillars are a major focus of the Masonic Lodge’s beliefs, which credits them with actually being derived from Nimrod before the tower of Babel.  A great deal of prophecy and meaning has been assigned to them, most of which has no scriptural basis.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Solomon’s Other Constructions

I Kings 7:1-12

“But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house.” (I Kings 7:1)

While Solomon loved the Lord, spending seven years building the temple,  he spent thirteen years building his own home, starting while he was still having the temple built.  In addition he built a number of great structures, both public and private.  

“He built also the house of the forest of Lebanon; the length thereof was an hundred cubits, and the breadth thereof fifty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits, upon four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams upon the pillars.  And it was covered with cedar above upon the beams, that lay on forty five pillars, fifteen in a row.  And there were windows in three rows, and light was against light in three ranks.  And all the doors and posts were square, with the windows: and light was against light in three ranks. 

And he made a porch of pillars; the length thereof was fifty cubits, and the breadth thereof thirty cubits: and the porch was before them: and the other pillars and the thick beam were before them. 

Then he made a porch for the throne where he might judge, even the porch of judgment: and it was covered with cedar from one side of the floor to the other.” (I Kings 7:2-7)

The house of the forest of Lebanon was the seat of government.  It was a huge meeting hall, a hundred fifty feet long by seventy five feet wide and forty five feet tall.  It was built with open beam construction with  four rows of pillars joined at the top by large beams to carry the weight at the bottom level, probably rising about twenty feet into the air.  On top of that frame work, and additional forty five pillars were placed to raise the roof to the final height of forty five feet.  All the posts or pillars and beams were squared , and three rows of windows of windows were incorporated.  Apparently there were also three rows or ranks of skylights.

An external porch was built as a platform for speaking to large public gatherings across one end.  An enclosed porch, at the other end was made as the throne room, and was finished off with cedar flooring and paneling to be used as a court room.

“And his house where he dwelt had another court within the porch, which was of the like work.  Solomon made also an house for Pharaoh's daughter, whom he had taken to wife, like unto this porch.” (I Kings 7:8)

Solomon’s personal residence also had another court or throne room in the porch similar to the one at the house of the forest of Lebanon.  Solomon also built a separate residence for his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh.  It was similar to the porch at the house of the Forest of Lebanon.

 “All these were of costly stones, according to the measures of hewed stones, sawed with saws, within and without, even from the foundation unto the coping, and so on the outside toward the great court. 

“And the foundation was of costly stones, even great stones, stones of ten cubits, and stones of eight cubits.  And above were costly stones, after the measures of hewed stones, and cedars.” (I Kings 7:9-11) 

No expense was spared in Solomon’s construction.  Every stone for the outer walls was sawed to exact measurement on all sides and transported to Jerusalem, from the first course to the wall cap or coping.  The foundation was made of huge, hand cut stones averaging twelve to fifteen feet in length.  All the timbers were of squared off cedar.

“And the great court round about was with three rows of hewed stones, and a row of cedar beams, both for the inner court of the house of the LORD, and for the porch of the house.” (I Kings 7:12)

A large area outside the porch for public meetings and the inner court for Jewish worshippers were enclosed with three courses of stone, capped with cedar beams.  Besides providing a meeting place, they would provide a defensive wall in case of attack.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Completion of the Temple

I Kings 6:23-38

“And within the oracle he made two cherubims of olive tree, each ten cubits high.  And five cubits was the one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the other wing of the cherub: from the uttermost part of the one wing unto the uttermost part of the other were ten cubits.  And the other cherub was ten cubits: both the cherubims were of one measure and one size.  The height of the one cherub was ten cubits, and so was it of the other cherub.” (I Kings 6:23-26)

Inside the oracle or as Hebrews 9 calls it, the holiest of all, Solomon had two cherubim carved of olive wood.  Each cherub was fifteen feet tall with a fifteen foot wingspan.  

“And he set the cherubims within the inner house: and they stretched forth the wings of the cherubims, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall; and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house.  And he overlaid the cherubims with gold.” (I Kings 6:27-28)

The two cherubim were place facing each other with one wing of each touching the wall and the other wing touching the wing of the other cherub, about halfway back in the oracle..  The carved cherubs were then overlaid with gold

“And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, within and without.  And the floor of the house he overlaid with gold, within and without.” (I Kings 6:29-30)

Outside the oracle, the cedar paneling was carved with cherubs, palm trees and flowers.  This motif was used on th paneling both inside and outside.  Everything including the floor was overlaid with gold.

“And for the entering of the oracle he made doors of olive tree: the lintel and side posts were a fifth part of the wall.  The two doors also were of olive tree; and he carved upon them carvings of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold, and spread gold upon the cherubims, and upon the palm trees.” (I Kings 6:31-32)

A six foot tall double door was made from olive wood for the entry to the oracle.  It was carved with the same motif as that of the paneling outside the oracle, then overlaid with gold.

“So also made he for the door of the temple posts of olive tree, a fourth part of the wall.  And the two doors were of fir tree: the two leaves of the one door were folding, and the two leaves of the other door were folding.  And he carved thereon cherubims and palm trees and open flowers: and covered them with gold fitted upon the carved work.” (I Kings 6:33-35)

The entry of the temple was almost eight feet wide. It was closed with two folding doors made of fir wood, because it is lighter and would not be as hard to support in such large doors. The doorposts and lintel were of olive wood because it is stronger.  Making each a folding door also relieved the stress on the hinges.  They were carved with the same motif and overlaid with gold.

“And he built the inner court with three rows of hewed stone, and a row of cedar beams.” (I Kings 6:36) 

Around the temple a courtyard similar to that surrounding the tabernacle was built, although the fence around it was made of three courses of cut stone, capped with beams of cedar.  Later an outer court was built to keep other things further away.  The outer court would be known as the court of the Gentiles.

“In the fourth year was the foundation of the house of the LORD laid, in the month Zif: And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it.” (I Kings 6:37-38)

Solomon began construction of the temple the fourth year of his reign and spent seven and a half years completing it.  It was a huge and very expensive project, built for the Lord.

Remember how God reminded Solomon that his covenant with God was dependent on his obedience to God?  Although Solomon loved the Lord, his priorities were changing.  While he spent seven years building the temple, the next verse, I Kings 7:1 tells us, “But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house.”  He spent nearly twice as much effort on his own house as on the temple.   God was no longer his first love.   Leaving his first love would eventually lead to his turning away from God.

The warning to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2 is about this very serious danger, that is so easy to ignore.  We seldom realize we have put other things ahead of the one we are supposed to love until it is too late, either in our Christian life or in our marriage.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Construction of the Temple

I Kings 6:1-22

“And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.” (I Kings 6:1) 

In Galatians 3:16-17. Paul makes the statement, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.  And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.”  That four hundred thirty years is the same figure Exodus 12:40-41 gives as just the time they were in Egypt.  Since the promise to Abraham was made about ten years before Isaac was born and Isaac lived a hundred eighty years and died about fifteen years before Jacob and his children went to Egypt, Paul‘s statement ignores over two hundred years of history.

This verse does the same thing.  The individual time periods listed in the book of Judges total about four hundred seventy five years, not including the forty years in the wilderness, the period of Joshua’s leadership, Eli’s and Samuel’s periods as judges or Saul and David’s reigns.  Unfortunately, the author appears not to consider the exact time relevant, just wanting to establish that a long time had passed.   In fact the entire period was closer to seven hundred years, as the Jewish calendar and other historical records indicate.  Ussher and other bible scholars have accepted this figure for the period rather than going to the trouble of totaling the individual time periods, resulting in confusion as to when the Exodus occurred.  

“And the house which king Solomon built for the LORD, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits.  And the porch before the temple of the house, twenty cubits was the length thereof, according to the breadth of the house; and ten cubits was the breadth thereof before the house.” (I Kings 6:2-3) 

The main temple structure was ninety feet long by thirty feet wide, and forty five feet wide with a fifteen foot wide porch across the east end.

"And for the house he made windows of narrow lights.  And against the wall of the house he built chambers round about, against the walls of the house round about, both of the temple and of the oracle: and he made chambers round about: The nethermost chamber was five cubits broad, and the middle was six cubits broad, and the third was seven cubits broad: for without in the wall of the house he made narrowed rests round about, that the beams should not be fastened in the walls of the house.” (I Kings 6:4-6)

Narrow vertical windows similar to those found in ancient castles were made because they weaken the wall less.  Below them, surrounding the main structure were three tiers of rooms, with the lowest being about seven and a half feet wide, the middle about nine feet wide, and the upper about ten and a half, thanks to the taper of the outer walls.  Tapered columns on the outside of the walls supported the ends of the beams so it was not necessary to run them through the wall, and would not be visible inside.

“And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor ax nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.” (I Kings 6:7)

Every piece of  stone or wood was prefab bed offsite so that no tools of iron would be required to assemble it.  There would be almost no construction noise as a result.

“The door for the middle chamber was in the right side of the house: and they went up with winding stairs into the middle chamber, and out of the middle into the third.” (I Kings 6:8)

On the right hand side of the temple, a door opened on a spiral staircase that gave access to the second and third floor chambers

“So he built the house, and finished it; and covered the house with beams and boards of cedar.  And then he built chambers against all the house, five cubits high: and they rested on the house with timber of cedar.” (I Kings 6:9-10) 

The roof beams and decking were made of cedar lumber, as were the three stories of chambers around the house.  The chambers were about seven and a half feet tall, almost the same as an average house today.

“And the word of the LORD came to Solomon, saying, Concerning this house which thou art in building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments to walk in them; then will I perform my word with thee, which I spake unto David thy father: And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.” (I Kings 6:11-13)

I find it fascinating that only about six or eight years into Solomon‘s reign, even before he completed the temple, God found it necessary to remind him that the promise to him was dependent on his being obedient to God’s command.  Apparently his focus was already starting to shift.

“So Solomon built the house, and finished it.  And he built the walls of the house within with boards of cedar, both the floor of the house, and the walls of the ceiling: and he covered them on the inside with wood, and covered the floor of the house with planks of fir.” (I Kings 6:14-15) 

All of the stonework was covered inside with cedar so they could be covered with gold leaf.   Stone would tend to sweat in cool weather, softening the egg whites used to bind the gold leaf to the wall.

“And he built twenty cubits on the sides of the house, both the floor and the walls with boards of cedar: he even built them for it within, even for the oracle, even for the most holy place. 

And the house, that is, the temple before it, was forty cubits long.  And the cedar of the house within was carved with knops and open flowers: all was cedar; there was no stone seen. 

And the oracle he prepared in the house within, to set there the ark of the covenant of the LORD.  And the oracle in the forepart was twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in the height thereof: and he overlaid it with pure gold; and so covered the altar which was of cedar.

So Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold: and he made a partition by the chains of gold before the oracle; and he overlaid it with gold.  And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the house: also the whole altar that was by the oracle he overlaid with gold.” (I Kings 6:16-22) 

Inside the main structure, a cedar structure was erected separating it into two rooms similar to those in the tabernacle.  The Holy of Holies or Oracle had a dropped ceiling of cedar paneling so that it formed a cube roughly thirty feet on each side.   It would be reserved for the ark of the covenant.

No stone could be seen when the paneling was installed, and all the paneling was carved with open flowers and knobs or beads.   Everything about the oracle was covered with pure gold, including the new altar of incense.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Contract with Hiram Of Tyre

I Kings 5:1-18

“And Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants unto Solomon; for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the room of his father: for Hiram was ever a lover of David.” (I Kings 5:1)

Hiram, king of Tyre was a friend to David.  The Phoenicians were a sea going people, trading all around the Mediterranean and along the Eastern coast of both Europe and Africa.  To build sea going ships required extremely good engineering and construction technologies, and the Phoenicians were known for their skills.  According to II Samuel 5:11 Hiram had provided both materials and overseers for David’s palace.  He contacted Solomon with best wishes as well.

“And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying, Thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the LORD his God for the wars which were about him on every side, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet.  But now the LORD my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent.  And, behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spake unto David my father, saying, Thy son, whom I will set upon thy throne in thy room, he shall build an house unto my name. 

Now therefore command thou that they hew me cedar trees out of Lebanon; and my servants shall be with thy servants: and unto thee will I give hire for thy servants according to all that thou shalt appoint: for thou knowest that there is not among us any that can skill to hew timber like unto the Sidonians.” (I Kings 5:2-6)

Hiram had been a friend to David, and David had shared his desire to build a temple, but had been unable to do so because of the need to defend the country.  God had promised that his son would build that temple, and Solomon asked Hiram to supply the lumber and skilled carpenters to build it because they were considered the best in the world at the time.  

“And it came to pass, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly, and said, Blessed be the LORD this day, which hath given unto David a wise son over this great people.” (I Kings 5:7)

Hiram was thrilled that Solomon had a similar attitude to his father and wanted to worship God.  He praised God for putting Solomon in that position.  It was due to the friendship between David and Hiram that while Israel controlled part of present day Lebanon, the Phoenicians controlled the rest.

“And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, I have considered the things which thou sentest to me for: and I will do all thy desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of fir.  My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon unto the sea: and I will convey them by sea in floats unto the place that thou shalt appoint me, and will cause them to be discharged there, and thou shalt receive them: and thou shalt accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household. 

So Hiram gave Solomon cedar trees and fir trees according to all his desire.  And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food to his household, and twenty measures of pure oil: thus gave Solomon to Hiram year by year.

And the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him: and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon; and they two made a league together. ” (I Kings 5:8-12)

Hiram agreed to supply overseers and materials for the temple in exchange for grain and olive oil.  Both sides would benefit from the arrangement, and it would later lead to greater cooperation between the two kingdoms.

“And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men.  And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month by courses: a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home: and Adoniram was over the levy.” (I Kings 5:13-14)

Solomon drafted his people to work on the temple.  Thirty thousand were designated to go to Lebanon to do the logging and transport the lumber.   They were divided into groups of ten thousand working thirty days straight before being off for sixty days.  It gave them two months each time to take care of their own business.  The number seems extreme until you realize that every operation from cutting down the tree to squaring it up and transporting it had to be done by hand.   Any one who has cut a large tree with an axe or a crosscut saw has a vague idea of the work involved.  Prior to the development of water powered sawmills, it was considered normal for two men to produce one or two boards a day.

“And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand that bare burdens, and fourscore thousand hewers in the mountains; Beside the chief of Solomon's officers which were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, which ruled over the people that wrought in the work. 

And the king commanded, and they brought great stones, costly stones, and hewed stones, to lay the foundation of the house. And Solomon's builders and Hiram's builders did hew them, and the stonesquarers: so they prepared timber and stones to build the house.” (I Kings 5:15-18)

Besides those who went to Lebanon, Solomon had seventy thousand men just to transport materials from place to place, and eighty thousand were sent into the mountains to quarry the stone for the temple.   A lack of modern machinery did not prevent them from producing whatever they wanted, but it did ensure full employment.  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Solomon’s Kingdom

I Kings 4:1-34

“So king Solomon was king over all Israel.” (I Kings 4:1) 

Only three Israelite kings reigned over all Israel, and Solomon would be the last.  David left Solomon a strong and united kingdom, and under his leadership Israel would reach it’s greatest extent, with other countries allying themselves with Israel.  

“And these were the princes which he had; Azariah the son of Zadok the priest, Elihoreph and Ahiah, the sons of Shisha, scribes; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud, the recorder.  And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the host: and Zadok and Abiathar were the priests: And Azariah the son of Nathan was over the officers; and Zabud the son of Nathan was principal officer, and the king's friend: And Ahishar was over the household: and Adoniram the son of Abda was over the tribute.” (I Kings 4:2-6)

Wise as he was, Solomon made it a point to find the best men possible for the various positions that needed to be filled, rather than trying to do it all himself.  Each was given credit for the job they did, encouraging them for doing it, and demonstrating Solomon’s wisdom again.

"And Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, which provided victuals for the king and his household: each man his month in a year made provision. 

And these are their names: The son of Hur, in mount Ephraim: The son of Dekar, in Makaz, and in Shaalbim, and Bethshemesh, and Elonbethhanan: The son of Hesed, in Aruboth; to him pertained Sochoh, and all the land of Hepher: The son of Abinadab, in all the region of Dor; which had Taphath the daughter of Solomon to wife: Baana the son of Ahilud; to him pertained Taanach and Megiddo, and all Bethshean, which is by Zartanah beneath Jezreel, from Bethshean to Abelmeholah, even unto the place that is beyond Jokneam: The son of Geber, in Ramothgilead; to him pertained the towns of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead; to him also pertained the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, threescore great cities with walls and brazen bars: Ahinadab the son of Iddo had Mahanaim: Ahimaaz was in Naphtali; he also took Basmath the daughter of Solomon to wife: Baanah the son of Hushai was in Asher and in Aloth: Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar: Shimei the son of Elah, in Benjamin: Geber the son of Uri was in the country of Gilead, in the country of Sihon king of the Amorites, and of Og king of Bashan; and he was the only officer which was in the land.” (I Kings 4:7-19)

The land was divided into tax districts with each district responsible for providing one month’s operating expenses for the government.   It was a convenient way of doing things, but it also made Solomon and his government aware of any areas that were struggling.  A system such as we use in the United States results in a government that is less aware of what is going on with individual states because not every area is affected at the same time.  Individual states may be suffering major losses while the federal government experiences almost no decline in income.  Solomon’s government would thus be more responsive to the people than the American government is,

“Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry.  And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life.” (I Kings 4:20-21)

Solomon’s kingdom extended from the Euphrates river south and west to the border of Egypt.  It included most of present day Syria, part of Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and part of present day Egypt, as well a present day Israel.  Even countries which had not been conquered formed alliances with Solomon.

“And Solomon's provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal, Ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallowdeer, and fatted fowl.” (I Kings 4:22-23)  

Supporting the government took a hundred eighty bushels of fine flour and three hundred sisty bushels of coarse flour everyday as well as ten grain fed cattle and twenty gras fed ones.  It also took a hundred sheep and what ever game was taken.  This included supporting

“For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him.  And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.” (I Kings 4:22-25) 

Throughout Solomon’s reign Israel dwelt at peace with the surrounding countries,  As a result they experienced an era of economic prosperity, despite the expense of supporting the government.

“And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. 

And those officers provided victual for king Solomon, and for all that came unto king Solomon's table, every man in his month: they lacked nothing.  Barley also and straw for the horses and dromedaries brought they unto the place where the officers were, every man according to his charge.” (I Kings 4:26-28)

Solomon maintained a powerful standing military force with forty thousand stalls for chariot horses and twelve thousand cavalrymen.  It was a force few would wish to confront.  They were also supported through the taxation program.

“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.  And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.  For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about. 

And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five.  And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.  And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.” (I Kings 4:29-34)

As a result of the wisdom God provided, Solomon became an advisor to many other world leaders.  He used common everyday things to help others understand what he was teaching them, and studied various things to learn as much as possible.  As Ecclesiastes 1:13 describes it, “And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven:”