1 Kings 8-9
Solomon brings the Ark into his newly completed temple. There is great celebration at the dedication, resulting in the sacrifice of thousands of animals. And what would an opening ceremony be without the obligatory longwinded speech? Solomon’s prayer to Yahweh is less presumptuous and egocentric than that of many of his predecessors; he almost sounds humble as he beseeches god to take pity on the Israelites. He asks for the usual – rain, success in battle, justice, forgiveness, freedom from disease – all things that people in pre-scientific societies believe come from the gods. Verses 41-43 reflect an attitude that I think is a bit unusual for this time. He prays that if foreigners move into the area and accept Yahweh as their god and pray to him, that their prayers be answered; essentially that they be welcomed among the Hebrews. This seems like a bit of a divergence from the usual tribalism. Next – more speeches – blah, blah, blah. The party goes on for two weeks, with a death toll of 22,000 cattle and 120,000 sheep and goats.
Yahweh responds, and sad to say, he isn’t any more benevolent to Solomon than he was to his predecessors. We get the usual threats – if you defy my laws or worship other gods etc, followed by the usual punishments – I will boot you from Israel, destroy the temple, make you a laughing stock. Yawn, we’re used to this by now.
Verses 10-14 relate the details of the business deal between Solomon and King Hiram; and it doesn’t make sense to me. Hiram supplied the timber for the palace and temple, and Solomon paid for it with wheat and olive oil (ch 5:10-11). Now here in ch 9 it says that Hiram provided the gold as well, and that Solomon gave Hiram 20 towns in Galilee. OK, so presumably that was payment for the gold. But Hiram isn’t pleased with the towns, and calls them worthless. Nevertheless, he pays Solomon 9,000 pounds of gold. Why and for what? Who owes whom here?
Verses 15-21 are an account of the ‘forced labor’ (ie slaves) that Solomon used to complete his building spree. How did the SAB miss this? There is no annotation there. Perhaps it’s because the KJV uses the euphemistic word ‘bondservice’. So the temple is finished and now Solomon decides he needs a fleet of ships. Hiram sails to Ophir and brings back to Solomon 16 tons of gold. Now there is an annotation in the SAB – a link to the gold price index, indicating that the modern value of the gold would be around 1 Billion US dollars. I looked up Ophir, and found that archeologists and biblical scholars have no idea where it was – conjecture includes such disparate locations as Asia, North Africa, even the Americas.