1 Kings 5:13
And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) Levy out of all Israel.—This, though far from being onerous, appears to have been at this time exceptional. For in 1Kings 9:22 we read that “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.” Thus exceptionally introduced at first for the special service of God, it may have been the beginning of what was hereafter an oppressive despotism over the Israelites themselves. Probably even now the Israelite labourers were (under the chief officers) put in authority over the great mass of 150,000 bondmen, evidently drawn from the native races. (See 2Chronicles 2:17.) But the whole description suggests to us—what the history of Exodus, the monuments of Egypt, and the description by Herodotus of the building of the Pyramids confirm—the vast sacrifice of human labour and life, at which (in the absence of machinery to spare labour) the great monuments of ancient splendour were reared.

1 Kings 5:13. Solomon raised a levy — Which were to be employed in the most honourable and easy parts of the work relating to the temple, in the manner expressed 1 Kings 5:14; and these were Israelites; but those one hundred and fifty thousand mentioned 1 Kings 5:15 were strangers. if it seem strange that so many thousands should be employed about so small a building as the temple was, it must be considered, 1st, That the temple, all its parts being considered, was far larger than men imagine: 2d, That it is probable they were employed by turns, as the thirty thousand were, (1 Kings 5:13,) else they had been oppressed with hard and uninterrupted labours: 3d, That the timber and stone hewed and carried by them were designed, not only for the temple, but also for Solomon’s own houses and buildings; because we read of no other levy of men, nor of any care and pains taken, after the building of the temple, for the procurement or preparation of materials for his own houses, or his other buildings; nay, that this very levy of men was made and employed for the building of the Lord’s house, and Solomon’s house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer, is expressed chap. 1 Kings 9:15.5:10-18 The temple was chiefly built by the riches and labour of Gentiles, which typified their being called into the church. Solomon commanded, and they brought costly stones for the foundation. Christ, who is laid for a Foundation, is a chosen and precious Stone. We should lay our foundation firm, and bestow most pains on that part of our religion which lies out of the sight of men. And happy those who, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, for a habitation of God through the Spirit. Who among us will build in the house of the Lord?A levy out of all Israel - This was, apparently, the first time that the Israelites had been called upon to perform forced labor, though it had been prophesied 1 Samuel 8:16. David had bound to forced service "the strangers" 1 Chronicles 22:2; but hitherto the Israelites had escaped. Solomon now, in connection with his proposed work of building the temple, with the honor of God as an excuse, laid this burden upon them. Out of the 1,300, 000 able-bodied Israelites 2 Samuel 24:9, a band of 30,000 - one in forty-four - was raised, of whom one-third was constantly at work in Lebanon, while two-thirds remained at home, and pursued their usual occupations. This, though a very light form of task work, was felt as a great oppression, and was the chief cause of the revolt of the ten tribes at Solomon's death 1 Kings 12:4. 1Ki 5:13-18. Solomon's Workmen and Laborers.

13. Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel—The renewed notice of Solomon's divine gift of wisdom (1Ki 5:12) is evidently introduced to prepare for this record of the strong but prudent measures he took towards the accomplishment of his work. So great a stretch of arbitrary power as is implied in this compulsory levy would have raised great discontent, if not opposition, had not his wise arrangement of letting the laborers remain at home two months out of three, added to the sacredness of the work, reconciled the people to this forced labor. The carrying of burdens and the irksome work of excavating the quarries was assigned to the remnant of the Canaanites (1Ki 9:20; 2Ch 8:7-9) and war prisoners made by David—amounting to 153,600. The employment of persons of that condition in Eastern countries for carrying on any public work, would make this part of the arrangements the less thought of.

Which were to be employed in the most honourable and easy parts of the work relating to the temple, in manner expressed, 1 Kings 5:14. And these were Israelites; but those 150,000, mentioned 1 Kings 5:15, were strangers, by comparing this with 1 Kings 9:21,22. If it seem strange to any man that so many thousands should be employed about so small a building as the temple was, it must be considered,

1. That the temple, all its parts being considered, was far larger than men imagine, of which more hereafter.

2. That it is probable, that they were employed by turns, as the 30,000 were, 1 Kings 5:14, else they had been oppressed with hard and uninterrupted labours.

3. That the timber and stone hewed and carried by them was designed, not only (though principally) for the temple, but also for Solomon’s own houses and buildings; because we read of no other levy of men, nor of any great care and pains taken, after the building of the temple, for the procurement or preparation of materials for his own houses, or his other buildings; which implies, that that work was done before; nay, that this very levy of men was made and employed for the building of the Lord’s house, and Solomon’s house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor and Megiddo, and Gezer, is expressed 1 Kings 9:15, which may fully satisfy that scruple. And King Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel,.... Not of money, but of men, as follows:

and the levy was thirty thousand men; for what purpose, and how they were employed, 1 Kings 5:14 shows.

And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13–18. Solomon’s levy of forced labourers for the work on Lebanon (2 Chronicles 2:1-2; 2 Chronicles 2:17-18)

13. a levy] The men selected had to give their labour. Such compulsory service has been a not unusual demand of Oriental monarchs. If we take the census of the people as it is given in 2 Samuel 24:9 we find that the 30,000 labourers required for this work were rather more than 2 per cent. of the numbers given in by Joab to David. Of course this levy only lasted so long as the work on Lebanon was in hand. The levy of bondservice mentioned in 1 Kings 9:21 was of a different kind. The strangers there spoken of were made perpetually to do forced labour. Josephus considers the present levy to have been no hardship. He says that Solomon ἄπονον τὴν ἐργασίαν κατέστησε. And probably the object for which the work was done would lend some enthusiasm to the labourers. Samuel (1 Samuel 8:16) had given the people warning that their kings would make such demands upon their service.Verse 13. - And King Solomon raised a levy [Marg., tribute of men, i.e., conscription] out of all Israel [i.e., the people, not the land - Ewald] and the levy was thirty thousand men. [That is, if we may trust the figures of the census given in 2 Samuel 24:9 (which do not agree, however, with those of 1 Chronicles 21:5), the conscription only affected one in forty of the male population. But even the lower estimate of Samuel is regarded with some suspicion. Such a levy was predicted (1 Samuel 8:16). "And now command that they fell me cedars from Lebanon." We may see from 1 Kings 5:8 that Solomon had also asked for cypresses; and according to the parallel passage 2 Chronicles 2:6., he had asked for a skilful artist, which is passed over here, so that it is only in 1 Kings 7:13-14 that we find a supplementary notice that Hiram had sent one. It is evident from this request, that that portion of Lebanon on which the cedars suitable for building wood grew, belonged to the kingdom of Hiram. The cedar forest, which has been celebrated from very ancient times, was situated at least two days' journey to the north of Beirut, near the northernmost and loftiest summits of the range, by the village of Bjerreh, to the north of the road which leads to Baalbek and not far to the east of the convent of Canobin, the seat of the patriarch of the Maronites, although Seetzen, the American missionaries, and Professor Ehrenberg found cedars and cedar groves in other places on northern Lebanon (see Rob. Pal. iii. 440,441, and Bibl. Res. pp. 588ff.). The northern frontier of Canaan did not reach as far as Bjerreh (see at Numbers 34:8-9). "My servants shall be with thy servants," i.e., shall help them in the felling of the wood. "And the wages of thy servants will I give to thee altogether as thou sayest." "For thou knowest that no one among us is skilful in felling trees like the Sidonians." This refers to the knowledge of the most suitable trees, of the right time for felling, and of the proper treatment of the wood. The expression Sidonians stands for Phoenicians generally, since Sidon was formerly more powerful than Tyre, and that portion of Lebanon which produced the cedars belonged to the district of Sidon. The inhabitants of Sidon were celebrated from time immemorial as skilful builders, and well versed in mechanical arts (compare Rob. Pal. iii. 421ff., and Movers, Phoenizier, ii. 1, pp. 86ff.).

Hiram rejoiced exceedingly at this proposal on the part of Solomon, and praised Jehovah for having given David so wise a son as his successor (1 Kings 7:7). It must have been a matter of great importance to the king of Tyre to remain on good terms with Israel, because the land of Israel was a granary for the Phoenicians, and friendship with such a neighbour would necessarily tend greatly to promote the interests of the Phoenician commerce. The praise of Jehovah on the part of Hiram does not presuppose a full recognition of Jehovah as the only true God, but simply that Hiram regarded the God of Israel as being as real a God as his own deities. Hiram expresses a fuller acknowledgment of Jehovah in 2 Chronicles 2:11, where he calls Jehovah the Creator of heaven and earth; which may be explained, however, from Hiram's entering into the religious notions of the Israelites, and does not necessarily involve his own personal belief in the true deity of Jehovah.

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