The Cost of Construction

1 Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram always loved David. And Solomon sent word to Hiram, “You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune. And so I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to David my father, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.’ Now therefore command that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. And my servants will join your servants, and I will pay you for your servants such wages as you set, for you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”

As soon as Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly and said, “Blessed be the Lord this day, who has given to David a wise son to be over this great people.” And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, “I have heard the message that you have sent to me. I am ready to do all you desire in the matter of cedar and cypress timber. My servants shall bring it down to the sea from Lebanon, and I will make it into rafts to go by sea to the place you direct. And I will have them broken up there, and you shall receive it. And you shall meet my wishes by providing food for my household.” 10 So Hiram supplied Solomon with all the timber of cedar and cypress that he desired, 11 while Solomon gave Hiram 20,000 cors of wheat as food for his household, and 20,000 cors of beaten oil. Solomon gave this to Hiram year by year. 12 And the Lord gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him. And there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty.

13 King Solomon drafted forced labor out of all Israel, and the draft numbered 30,000 men. 14 And he sent them to Lebanon, 10,000 a month in shifts. They would be a month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the draft. 15 Solomon also had 70,000 burden-bearers and 80,000 stonecutters in the hill country, 16 besides Solomon’s 3,300 chief officers who were over the work, who had charge of the people who carried on the work. 17 At the king’s command they quarried out great, costly stones in order to lay the foundation of the house with dressed stones. 18 So Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the men of Gebal did the cutting and prepared the timber and the stone to build the house. 1 Kings 5:1-18 ESV

Solomon possessed both great wisdom and wealth. But the one characteristic he possessed that truly set his life apart was his faithfulness. Solomon kept his word. He was always careful to follow through on his commitment. Solomon had made a pledge to David that, after his death, he would settle affairs with some of his former adversaries, and Solomon had quickly and effectively accomplished all of his father’s wishes.

But there remained one last piece of unfinished business. David had assigned his son the formidable task of building a house or temple for God. At a time when David had conquered all his enemies and was enjoying a period of relative peace, he became convicted that he lived in a sumptuous palace while the dwelling place of God remained the tabernacle, which was nothing more than a glorified tent. This seeming contradiction prompted him to tell the prophet, Nathan, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent” (2 Samuel 2 ESV). And with Nathan’s blessing, David came up with a plan to build a “house of cedar” for God. But that night, God spoke to Nathan in a dream, giving him a message to deliver to David.

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’” – 2 Samuel 7:5-7 ESV

It seems that David’s well-intentioned plan to construct a house for God had not come from God. The sovereign God of the universe did not need a man-made house in which to dwell. No palace made with human hands could compare to the grandeur of God’s heavenly home.

“Heaven is my throne,
    and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
    and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
    and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.” – Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV

And Nathan told David that if anyone was going to build a house, it would be God Almighty. The King of the universe promised to extend King David’s dynasty and kingdom. He would “build” a house for David that would last far longer than the cedar palace in which David lived.

“Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:11-13 ESV

And God told David that the honor of building a house for Him would fall to someone else. One of his descendants would be allowed to fulfill his dream and complete the construction of the temple. And David graciously accepted God’s plan and later explained to his son, Solomon, why this important task had been passed on to him.

“My son, I wanted to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God,” David told him. “But the Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the battles you have fought. And since you have shed so much blood in my sight, you will not be the one to build a Temple to honor my name. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign. He is the one who will build a Temple to honor my name.’” – 1 Chronicles 22:7-10 NLT

David had been the warrior-king, spending the vast majority of his reign doing battle with the enemies of God. While done on behalf of God, his many military exploits had resulted in much bloodshed and, therefore, disqualified him from building a house for God. But rather than allow his zeal for the project to diminish, David simply redirected his energies into developing the plans and gathering all the materials that would be required to make this project a success. He personally chose the construction site and supervised the drawing of the plans and the initial collection of building materials.

“My son Solomon is still young and inexperienced. And since the Temple to be built for the Lord must be a magnificent structure, famous and glorious throughout the world, I will begin making preparations for it now.” So David collected vast amounts of building materials before his death. – 1 Chronicles 22:5 NLT

David went out of his way to ensure that Solomon had everything he would need to build the finest temple imaginable.

So David gave orders to call together the foreigners living in Israel, and he assigned them the task of preparing finished stone for building the Temple of God. David provided large amounts of iron for the nails that would be needed for the doors in the gates and for the clamps, and he gave more bronze than could be weighed. He also provided innumerable cedar logs, for the men of Tyre and Sidon had brought vast amounts of cedar to David. – 1 Chronicles 22:2-4 NLT

But, despite David’s meticulous planning, Solomon still found himself in need of additional construction materials, including cedar logs from Lebanon’s famed forests. So, Solomon negotiated a contract with Hiram, the king of Tyre, that provided all the lumber needed to complete the project in exchange for wheat and olive oil.

Combined with David’s careful planning and procurement strategy, Solomon’s arrangement with Hiram guaranteed that he had all he needed to begin construction. But one thing was missing: Workers. And this is where it gets interesting. The author reveals that Solomon instituted a non-military draft to supply the workers needed to complete the construction of the temple.

Then King Solomon conscripted a labor force of 30,000 men from all Israel. He sent them to Lebanon in shifts, 10,000 every month, so that each man would be one month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of this labor force. Solomon also had 70,000 common laborers, 80,000 quarry workers in the hill country, and 3,600 foremen to supervise the work. – 1 Kings 5:13-16 NLT

And this bit of information should bring to mind the words of Samuel, spoken to the people of Israel when they had first demanded that God give them a king.

“These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” – 1 Samuel 8:11-18 ESV

Solomon was God’s chosen successor to King David. And he had been blessed with godly wisdom and insight. Yet, even this divinely appointed king would still end up fulfilling the warnings that God had given. Solomon was just a man. And like all kings, he was a poor substitute for the King of the universe. In demanding that Samuel appoint a king over them, the people of Israel had rejected God as their sovereign ruler. And now, even under the wise and godly leadership of Solomon, they were going to find that their demand for a human king was going to cost them. The price for building the temple was going to include blood, sweat, and tears. It would take nearly eight years to construct this architectural masterpiece, a period filled with pain, sacrifice, and suffering. The temple David dreamed about would become a living nightmare for many of the people of Israel. They would end up sacrificing their sons and daughters to the cause. Some likely died during the construction of the temple. Others probably suffered debilitating injuries, some of a permanent nature.

Solomon employed the wisdom given to him by God and took advantage of the preparations made by his father, David. But even his best efforts done with the best of intentions still ended up having a negative impact on Israel’s people. The temple would be built, but not without cost. The people had their king, but his reign did not come without consequences. And it should not be overlooked that the construction of a house for God, the one true King of Israel, came with a price.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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