Today: [2 Chronicles Two] Did Immigrant Labor Build Solomon’s Temple? In this chapter Solomon contracts with Hiram to provide further building materials and laborers for the work of building the great temple. We see clearly from the verses here that thousands upon thousands of immigrant workers were employed in the work. We also make note of the archeological proofs (or lack thereof) that the temple ever existed or that Solomon actually lived for that matter. We also look at the precious few artifacts that are held by antiquities authorities that make mention of the temple or point to it’s existence.
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[2Ch 2:1-18 KJV] 1 And Solomon determined to build an house for the name of the LORD, and an house for his kingdom. 2 And Solomon told out threescore and ten thousand men to bear burdens, and fourscore thousand to hew in the mountain, and three thousand and six hundred to oversee them. 3 And Solomon sent to Huram the king of Tyre, saying, As thou didst deal with David my father, and didst send him cedars to build him an house to dwell therein, [even so deal with me]. 4 Behold, I build an house to the name of the LORD my God, to dedicate [it] to him, [and] to burn before him sweet incense, and for the continual shewbread, and for the burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts of the LORD our God. This [is an ordinance] for ever to Israel.
In this chapter we see that Solomon proceeds to further make preperation for building the temple of God in Jerusalem. In addition he adds to the project at this time a house for his own kingdom. We also know from previous studies that he plans to build a house for the daughter of the king of Egypt who becomes his wife. In our treatment of Solomon the focus is usually upon his wisdom and his wealth. For the writer of Chronicles the attention is given to the building of the temple itself. Solomon is recognizes as both wise and wealthy but his greatest achievement from Ezra’s point of view is construction of the famed temple of Solomon. Everything we know about Solomon is secondary in the writer’s mind to the building of this great building as the center of Jewish devotional life.
Solomon contracts 80,000 common laborers just to quarry the stone for the work. 70,000 porters, were also contracted. There were 3,600 overseers just for this part of the work to see things were done expeditiously. In all of this there is not one report of workplace accidents, injury or death during the entire project.
Additionally Solomon appeals to Hiram the great commercial ally of his father David to assist him in the work as he had so done for his father. The actual existence of biblical figures is often brought into question. Archeologists have however uncovered the sarcophagous of a 12th century BC ruler with the inscription “Abhiram” who is apparently the king mentioned in this passage and in 1 Kings. The letter that Solomon wrote to Hiram was purportedly available to the 1st century historian Josephus some 1,200 years later in historical records chronicles in his histories of the Jews.
Solomon indicates to Hiram his determination to build a temple to the “name of the Living God”. He is actually building a temple to God Himself but this is Solomon’s choice of words in order to avoid invoking the actual name of God which is held sacred then as it is by many today. In our own culture this bears some consideration in view of the casual attitudes even otherwise devout Christians have toward the name of God.
5 And the house which I build [is] great: for great [is] our God above all gods. 6 But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him? who [am] I then, that I should build him an house, save only to burn sacrifice before him? 7 Send me now therefore a man cunning to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in iron, and in purple, and crimson, and blue, and that can skill to grave with the cunning men that [are] with me in Judah and in Jerusalem, whom David my father did provide. 8 Send me also cedar trees, fir trees, and algum trees, out of Lebanon: for I know that thy servants can skill to cut timber in Lebanon; and, behold, my servants [shall be] with thy servants, 9 Even to prepare me timber in abundance: for the house which I am about to build [shall be] wonderful great. 10 And, behold, I will give to thy servants, the hewers that cut timber, twenty thousand measures of beaten wheat, and twenty thousand measures of barley, and twenty thousand baths of wine, and twenty thousand baths of oil.
Solomon specifically asks for a man skilled in metalurgy and precious metals. We can also see that in calling upon Hiram’s assistance that Solomon is using non-Jewish labor both common and skilled. He is also using building materials that do not originate in Israel itself but rather from Gentile lands. Israelite culture at this time it has been shown did not have the technology or skills to produce the quality of work that ultimately the temple that Solomon built reflects. In calling upon Hiram’s assistance we can draw from this the inference that much of the temple of Solomon was Phonecian in design.
11 Then Huram the king of Tyre answered in writing, which he sent to Solomon, Because the LORD hath loved his people, he hath made thee king over them. 12 Huram said moreover, Blessed [be] the LORD God of Israel, that made heaven and earth, who hath given to David the king a wise son, endued with prudence and understanding, that might build an house for the LORD, and an house for his kingdom. 13 And now I have sent a cunning man, endued with understanding, of Huram my father’s, 14 The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, and his father [was] a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, and in silver, in brass, in iron, in stone, and in timber, in purple, in blue, and in fine linen, and in crimson; also to grave any manner of graving, and to find out every device which shall be put to him, with thy cunning men, and with the cunning men of my lord David thy father. 15 Now therefore the wheat, and the barley, the oil, and the wine, which my lord hath spoken of, let him send unto his servants: 16 And we will cut wood out of Lebanon, as much as thou shalt need: and we will bring it to thee in floats by sea to Joppa; and thou shalt carry it up to Jerusalem. 17 And Solomon numbered all the strangers that [were] in the land of Israel, after the numbering wherewith David his father had numbered them; and they were found an hundred and fifty thousand and three thousand and six hundred. 18 And he set threescore and ten thousand of them [to be] bearers of burdens, and fourscore thousand [to be] hewers in the mountain, and three thousand and six hundred overseers to set the people a work.
In the archeological record there is no evidence that the temple of Solomon ever existed. Furthermore there is no mention of the temple in extra biblical histories written at the time. Because of political and religious sensitivities there has been no modern archeological excavations done on the site in search of proof. Remember that after Nebuchadnezzar destroys Solomon’s temple there is another temple built in Ezra and Nehemiah’s time and then another temple built by Herod in the first century period. The wailing wall is not the wailing wall of Solomon’s temple but rather Herod’s temple – which casts dispersion on the sacredness of that structure from the posture of a kingdom perspective.
While the existence of the temple from the standpoint of historical criticism is strong there are tantalizing suggestions of it’s origin. In Tel Arid a journal was unearthed from 600 years after Solomon’s time that mentions the temple (which in this case would have been the second temple). There is also a 44 milimeter amulet dating to Solomon’s time that is inscribed with a reference to the temple. This is one of the most prized items of biblical antiquities in Israel’s museum although authorities claim it is nothing other than an ancient forgery.
Whatever the archeological record may or may not confirm as Christians we believe the temple existed and that Solomon the son of David was responsible for it’s construction. A note here about the literacy of Solomon and Hiram. This correspondence between them was in written form yet centuries later we can find English kings on the throne that could not write their own names. The ancient world even in Roman times was highly advanced and technologically sophisticated. Much of this culture was lost in the fall of Rome and the onslaught of the middle ages.
In his letter Hiram blesses the name of God with great veneration. Whether Hiram was a true beleiver in monotheism we cannot say but we do see the influence of his friend king David upon him in his interactions with Solomon. In answer to Solomon’s request for a skilled metalurgist he sends his servant Huram who apparently is half Jewish himself. Hiram also agrees to Solomon’s offer of payment in barley, oil and wine. Many commentators scorn Hiram for taking compensation for his labors in spite of the fact that Jesus emphatically states that even in the kingdom of God and the work of the gospel the “workman is worthy of his hire”. This statement by Jesus affirms both the validity of compensation for his servants and acknolwdement that the payment they receive is hire for thier labors. Rejection of this thinking or repudiation of recompense for ministry services is a dispersion on the teachings of Jesus Himself.
In the last few verses Solomon takes a seperate census of the immigrant workers who were aliens and strangers in Israel. They numbered in the 10’s of 1000’s. Even in ancient Israel an immigrant labor force was necessary in the construction of the temple and probably many other public and private works. In our day in western culture we despise immigrant peoples and their labor but the fact is that their existence in our borders is as necessary as our borders themselves. Without an immigrant work force the temple of Solomon would never have been built.
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