1 Kings 5: The Stone as the Foundation of the Church

1[a] Now(A) Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon when he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father,(B) for Hiram always loved David. 2And Solomon sent word to Hiram, 3(C) “You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of the LORD his God(D) because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the LORD put them under the soles of his feet. 4(E) But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune. 5And so I intend to build a house for the name of the LORD my God,(F) 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.’ 6Now 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.”

“The great work which Solomon was raised up to do was the building of the temple; his wealth and wisdom were given him to qualify him for that. In this, especially, he was to be a type of Christ, for “he shall build the temple of the Lord,”” Zech. vi. 12 (Matthew Henry).  Indeed, this is how the chapter begins.  Observe here that the subject of this chapter, after the wondrous insight into Solomon’s newly received Wisdom especially laid out by the end of chapter 4, is the very masterpiece and privilege which only this king could have.  David who had retrieved the neglected ark (2 Samuel 6) had shared with Hiram in the past the concern of building a house for the name of the LORD (v.3 – “You know that David…”).  Though the narrative in 2 Samuel does not record this in length (2 Samuel 7), this is recorded in 2 Chronicles 28 – and we see that the primary reason is because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him (v.3) as Solomon explains in this chapter.

This implies that only one king in Israel has been suited to fulfil this role.  Even to David’s dying day, he still had trouble securing peace and safety for Israel, whether externally or internally.  Yet, in all the days of Solomon (1 Kings 4), rest is given on every side (v.4).  It is therefore imperative that rest precedes the building of the house of the LORD; but the tabernacle was built in the wilderness.  The contrast is important in understanding the purpose behind the two – for the tabernacle is but a representative of the moving presence of the LORD (Exodus 33), the very heart of the tribes surrounding it when it travels (Numbers 14:14; Nehemiah 9); yet, the First Temple is deliberately more concrete with a strong foundation for it represents the New Creation temple (Ezekiel 40-48; Revelation 21) after the wilderness of the end days, after the wilderness of Israel and the church, when we have finally, safely, and peacefully rested in true Canaan.

V.5 is therefore a prophecy which relates exclusively to Solomon, the shadow of Christ.  No one else can build this house but Christ; no hand riddled (and still riddling) with war can touch the temple which represents the eternal Sabbath rest of the Trinity and the church.

What is particularly interesting is Zechariah’s Christological view of the building such a temple (Zechariah 6:12-15) in contrast with the historical narrative here regarding the building of the first temple – here, Solomon immediately appeals to Hiram, knowing that he as an influential non-Israelite king is capable of commanding the aid of skillful Sidonians using the beautiful cedars of Lebanon.  The key importance of the cooperation of Hiram and Solomon, initiated by the latter, is that the Christ is the one who initiates the unity of the Israelites and the Gentiles in these very words “And my servants will join your servants” (v.6), such a powerful command in building this house of worship, mediation, sacrifice, propitiation, atonement.

“The cedars of Lebanon are spoken of as, in a special manner, the planting of the Lord (Ps. cix. 16), being designed for Israel’s use and particularly for temple service. But Solomon owned that though the trees were his the Israelites had not skill to hew timber like the Sidonians, who were Hiram’s subjects. Canaan was a land of wheat and barley (Deut. viii. 8), which employed Israel in the affairs of husbandry, so that they were not at all versed in manufactures: in them the Sidonians excelled. Israel, in the things of God, are a wise and understanding people; and yet, in curious arts, inferior to their neighbours. True piety is a much more valuable gift of heaven than the highest degree of ingenuity. Better be an Israelite skilful in the law than a Sidonian skilful to hew timber. But, the case being thus, Solomon courts Hiram to send him workmen, and promises (v. 6) both to assist them (my servants shall be with thy servants, to work under them), and to pay them (unto thee will I give hire for thy servants); for the labourer, even in church-work, though it be indeed its own wages, is worthy of his hire, The evangelical prophet, foretelling the glory of the church in the days of the Messiah, seems to allude to this story, Isa. 60, where he prophesies, (1.) That the sons of strangers (such were the Tyrians and Sidonians) shall build up the wall of the gospel temple, v. 10. Ministers were raised up among the Gentiles for the edifying of the body of Christ. (2.) That the glory of Lebanon shall be brought to it to beautify it, v. 13. All external endowments and advantages shall be made serviceable to the interests of Christ’s kingdom.” – Matthew Henry

Hiram is no idol-worshipper, though his descendants and kingdom may have descended into that (c.f. Ezekiel 28) – he is thoroughly Christian:

7As 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.” 8And 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. 9My 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(G) by providing food for my household.” 10So Hiram supplied Solomon with all the timber of cedar and cypress that he desired, 11while Solomon gave Hiram 20,000 cors[b] of wheat as food for his household, and 20,000[c] cors of beaten oil. Solomon gave this to Hiram year by year. 12And the LORD gave Solomon wisdom,(H) as he promised him. And there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty.

Once again, we see the repeated phrase: “the LORD gave Solomon wisdom” (v.12 – 1 Kings 4:29), as if to emphasise that this treaty is not one made out of idolatry or sin.  Rather, this treaty is of such alliance in building the central driving force of the identity of Israel as a priesthood-nation (Exodus 19:6), but built by the hands of non-Israelites.  Note the exchange in v.6 – the building of the house of the LORD for the payment of wages for the servants, as set by Hiram (v.6).  Yet, all that Hiram has asked for is a simple request to provide food for his household.  Such a seemingly humble request is however blessed in return with such abundance which overwhelms mere food provision – 20,000 cors of wheat and beaten oil year by year is but reflective of God’s provision (Matthew 7:10) to our requests.

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

Note how the “forced” labour is treated – such labour, though “forced”, has two months of rest at home (c.f. Leviticus 23:22; 25:4; Deuteronomy 24:19) akin to the rest provided to all in the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25) – that Solomon should not wish for his men to spend more time outside of Israel than time spent with family or at home; it is apparent that though Solomon’s reign through Adoniram was tough on the Israelites (1 Kings 12:4), Rehoboam’s leadership and harshness led to Adoniram’s death (1 Kings 12:18).  Such is the contrast of the labour, though forced, but by the leadership of The Man – for are we not slaves of Christ (1 Corinthians 7:21-22)?  By this action, Solomon has redefined the meaning of “forced” – for under the rule of such a king, even our slavery to righteousness and to Christ redeems our very concept of “slavery” for the idea of forced labour and slavery has been marred by the leader him/herself, rather than the tool of such subservience.  V.15-17 adds 153,300 people to the 30,000, totaling to a massive 183,300 people working on the momentous First Temple of Israel (c.f. the mobilization of the people to contribute to the tabernacle in Exodus 35-40).  Never had there been such manpower and such exquisite skill spent on building the beautiful central hub of worship, and such a far cry from the sacrifices made on high places in 1 Kings 3, when all Christians whether Israelite or not are united to assist the King in building the house of the Lord of heaven and earth.  Such a driven hierarchy, starting from Solomon’s command (v.17) to the chief officers (v.16); from Adoniram to the forced labour; from Hiram, to the Sidonians – we are witnessing in this chapter the most historic moment of God’s glory through man in the Old Testament.

What stone can underlie this historic temple but “costly stone” (v.17) just as the tabernacle was laid with gold (Exodus 35-40)?  Yet no stone can compare to Christ, the cornerstone and foundation (Psalm 118:22; Zechariah 10:4).

“The laying of the foundation of the temple; for that is the building his heart is chiefly upon, and therefore he begins with that, v. 17, 18. It should seem, Solomon was himself present, and president, at the founding of the temple, and that the first stone (as has been usual in famous buildings) was laid with some solemnity. Solomon commanded and they brought costly stones for the foundation; he would do every thing like himself, generously, and therefore would have some of the costliest stones laid, or buried rather, in the foundation, though, being out of sight, worse might have served. Christ, who is laid for a foundation, is an elect and precious stone (Isa. xxviii. 16), and the foundations of the church are said to be laid with sapphires, Isa. liv. 11, compare Rev. xxi. 19. That sincerity which is our gospel perfection obliges us to lay our foundation firm and to bestow most pains on that part of our religion which lies out of the sight of men.” – Matthew Henry

It is for this reason that the old temple, though glorious it may be, will not stand – for Christ the precious stone, which prevents the temple from collapsing in total destruction, is not the foundation of this temple:

“…Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,

a stone, a tested stone,

a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:

‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’

And I will make justice the line,

and righteousness the plumb line;

and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,

and waters will overwhelm the shelter.” – Isaiah 28:16-17

To end with Dev Menon’s words:

“The old house finally runs out of odd stones, and collapses, being cast into the eternal rubbish heap…the new house is incredible, and is sealed with fire – the black stones turn into diamond, wonderfully reflecting the light of the White stone, the Cornerstone, constantly flowing (modern architecture is barely catching up to this), brilliant, and full of life.

The Father enters His House, handed back to Him by the cornerstone, and what a house it is… for all eternity.”

1 Kings 5: The Stone as the Foundation of the Church

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