2 Chronicles 2 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

2 Chronicles 2
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers


Preliminary measures: (1) The levy of Canaanite labourers (2 Chronicles 2:1-2; 2 Chronicles 2:17-18). (2) The treaty with Huram of Tyre (2 Chronicles 2:3-16).

And Solomon determined to build an house for the name of the LORD, and an house for his kingdom.
(1) Determined.—Literally, said, which may mean either commanded, as in 2 Chronicles 1:2; 1 Chronicles 21:17, or thought, purposed, resolved, as in 1 Kings 5:5. The context seems to favour the latter sense.

And an house for his kingdom.—Or, for his royalty; that is, as the Vulg. renders, a palace for himself. Solomon’s royal palace is mentioned again in 2 Chronicles 2:12; 2 Chronicles 7:11; 2 Chronicles 8:1; but the building of it is not related in the Chronicle. (See 1 Kings 7:1-12.)

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.
(2) And Solomon told out.—That is, counted out. (Comp. Psalm 22:17; Exodus 5:8.) For the rest of this verse see Note on 2 Chronicles 2:18, where its contents are repeated. (Comp. 1 Kings 5:15.)

To bear . . . to hew . . . to oversee.Bearers of . . . hewers . . . overseers over, as in 2 Chronicles 2:18.

(2) The treaty with Huram of Tyre (2 Chronicles 2:3-16).

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.
(3) And Solomon sent to Huram.—Comp. 1 Kings 5:2-11, from which we learn that Huram or Hiram had first sent to congratulate Solomon upon his accession. The account here agrees generally with the parallel passage of the older work. The variations which present themselves only prove that the chronicler has made independent use of his sources.

Huram.—In Kings the name is spelt Hiram (1 Kings 5:1-2; 1 Kings 5:7) and Hirom (1 Kings 5:10; 1 Kings 5:18, Hebr.). (Comp. 1 Chronicles 14:1.) Whether the Tyrian name Sirōmos (Herod. vii. 98) is another form of Hiram, as Bertheau supposes, is more than doubtful. It is interesting to find that the king of Tyre bore this name in the time of Tiglath-pileser II., to whom he paid tribute (B.C. 738), along with Menahem of Samaria. (Assyr. Hi-ru-um-mu, to which the Hîrôm of 1 Kings 5:10; 1 Kings 5:18 comes very near.)

As thou didst deal . . . dwell therein.—See 1 Chronicles 14:1. The sense requires the clause, added by our translators, in italics, “Even so deal with me,” after the Vulg. “sic fac mecum.” 1 Kings 5:3 makes Solomon refer to the wars which hindered David from building the Temple.

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.
(4) I build.Am about to build (bôneh).

To the name of the Lord.1 Kings 3:2; 1 Chronicles 16:35; 1 Chronicles 22:7.

To dedicate.—Or, consecrate. (Comp. Leviticus 27:14; 1 Kings 9:3; 1 Kings 9:7.) The italicised and should be omitted, as the following words define the purpose of the dedication, viz., for burning before him, &c. Comp. Vulgate: “Ut consecrem eam ad adolendum incensum coram illo.” (See Exodus 25:6; Exodus 30:7-8.)

And for the continual shewbread, and for the burnt offerings.—In the Hebrew this is loosely connected with the verb rendered to burn, as part of its object: for offering before him incense of spices and a continual pile (of shewbread) and burnt offerings. (See Leviticus 24:5; Leviticus 24:8; Numbers 28:4.)

On the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts.1 Chronicles 23:31. “Solemn feasts:” set seasons. These special sacrifices are prescribed in Numbers 28:9 to Numbers 29:40

This is an ordinance for ever to Israel.—Literally, for ever this is (is obligatory) upon Israel, viz., this ordinance of offerings. (Comp. the similar phrase, 1 Chronicles 23:31; and the formula, “a statute for ever,” so common in the Law, Exodus 12:14; Exodus 29:9.)

And the house which I build is great: for great is our God above all gods.
(5) And the house which I build is great.1 Chronicles 29:1.

Great is our God above all gods.—Exodus 18

11; Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 77:13; Psalm 95:3. According to modern notions of magnitude, the Temple of Solomon was a small building. (See on 1 Kings 6:2-3.) Shelley’s

“There once proud Salem’s haughty fane

Reared high to heaven its thousand golden domes,

is pure fancy.

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?
(6) But who is able.—Literally, who could keep strength? (See 1 Chronicles 29:14.)

The heaven . . . cannot contain him.—This high thought occurs in Solomon’s prayer (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 6:18).

Who am I then . . . before him?—That is, I am not so ignorant of the infinite nature of Deity, as to think of localising it within an earthly dwelling. I build not for His residence, but for His worship and service. (Comp. Isaiah 40:22.)

To burn sacrifice.—Literally, to burn incense. Here, as in 2 Chronicles 2:4, used in a general sense.

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.
(7) Send me now . . .And now send me a wise man, to work in the gold and in the silver (1 Chronicles 22:15; 2 Chronicles 2:13).

And in (the) purple, and crimson, and blue.—No allusion is made to this kind of art in 2 Chronicles 4:11-16, nor in 1 Kings 7:13 seq., which describe only metallurgic works of this master, whose versatile genius might easily be paralleled by famous names of the Renaissance.

Purple (’argĕwān).—Aramaic form. (Heb. ’argāmān, Exodus 25:4.)

Crimson (karmîl).—A word of Persian origin, occurring only here and in 2 Chronicles 2:13, and 2 Chronicles 3:14. (Comp. our word carmine.)

Blue (tĕkēleth).Dark blue, or violet (Exodus 25:4, and elsewhere.)

Can skill.Knoweth how.

To grave.—Literally, to carve carvings; whether in wood or stone. (1 Kings 6:29; Zechariah 3:9; Exodus 28:9, on gems.)

With the cunning men.—The Hebrew connects this clause with the infinitive to work at the beginning of the verse. There should be a stop after the words to grave.

Whom David my father did provide (prepared, 1 Chronicles 29:2).—1 Chronicles 22:15; 1 Chronicles 28:21.

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,
(8) Fir trees.—The word bĕrôshîm is now often rendered cypresses. But Professor Robertson Smith has well pointed out that the Phoenician Ebusus (the modern Iviza) is the “isle of bĕrōshîm,” and is called in Greek Πετυου̑σαι, i.e., “Pine islets.” Moreover a species of pine is very common on the Lebanon.

Algum trees.Sandal wood; Heb. ’algummîm, which appears a more correct spelling of the native Indian word (valgûka) than the ’almuggîm of 1 Kings 10:11. (See Note on 2 Chronicles 10:10.)

Out of Lebanon.—The chronicler knew that sandal wood came from Ophir, or Abhîra, at the mouth of the Indus (2 Chronicles 10:10; comp. 1 Kings 10:11). The desire to be concise has betrayed him into an inaccuracy of statement. Or must we suppose that Solomon himself believed that the sandal wood, which he only knew as a Phoenician export, really grew, like the cedars and firs, on the Lebanon? Such a mistake would be perfectly natural; but the divergence of this account from the parallel in 1 Kings leaves it doubtful whether we have in either anything more than an ideal sketch of Solomon’s message.

For I know that thy servants . . .—Comp. the words of Solomon as reported in 1 Kings 5:6.

Even to prepare me timber in abundance: for the house which I am about to build shall be wonderful great.
(9) Even to prepare me timber in abundance.—Rather, And they shall prepare, or, let them prepare. (A use of the infinitive, to which the chronicler is partial: see 1 Chronicles 5:1; 1 Chronicles 9:25; 1 Chronicles 13:4; 1 Chronicles 15:2; 1 Chronicles 22:5.) So Syriac, “Let them be bringing to me.”

Shall be wonderful great.—See margin; and LXX., μέγας καὶ ἔνδοξος, “great and glorious;” Syriac, “an astonishment” (temhā).

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.
(10) And, behold, I will give . . . barley.—Rather, And, behold, for the hewers, that is, for the woodcutters, I will give wheat as food for thy servants, viz., twenty thousand kors, and barley twenty thousand kors, &c. “For the hewers” may mean “as for the hewers,” or perhaps “on account of the hewers” (Genesis 4:23). The latter sense would bring the verse into substantial harmony with 1 Kings 5:11, where we read: “And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand kors of wheat as food for his household, and twenty kors” (LXX., 20,000 baths) “of pure oü: so used Solomon to give to Hiram year by year,” i.e., during his building operations.

Beaten wheat.—The Hebrew (hittîm makkôth) is literally wheatstrokes. But it is obvious that makkôth is a misreading for makkōleth, food, the word used in 1 Kings 5:11; and so the LXX. renders. The expression “thy servants” here seems to correspond with the phrase” his household “there; and the drift of the whole passage is that, in return for the services of the Tyrian artificers, Solomon engages to supply Hiram’s royal household with provisions of corn and wine and oil.

Others assume, without much likelihood, that the two passages relate to two distinct agreements, by one of which Solomon undertook to supply Hiram’s court, and by the other his Tyrian workmen, with provisions.

Hewers (hôtĕbîm).—An old word, not recurring in the chronicle, and therefore explained by the writer.

Measures (kōrîm).—The kor was a dry measure = one quarter. (Syriac, reb‘e, “quarters.”) The bath, a liquid measure, of six or seven gallons’ capacity. Both words occur in the Greek of Luke 16:6-7.

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.
(11-15) Huram’s reply. (Comp. 1 Kings 5:7-9.)

(11) Answered in writing.Said in a letter. This seems to imply that Solomon’s message had been orally delivered.

Because the Lord hath loved his people.—So 2 Chronicles 9:8; 1 Kings 10:9. In the parallel passage Hurain blesses Jehovah, on hearing Solomon’s message, apparently before writing his reply.

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.
(12) Huram said moreover.And Huram said, that is, in his letter to Solomon.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, that made heaven and earth.—In 1 Kings 5:7 we read simply, “Blessed be the Lord this day, which hath given unto David a wise son over this great people.” The chronicler has perhaps modified the words of his source in a monotheistic sense; although it is quite possible that Jeaovah was known to the polytheist Phoenician by the title of “Maker of heaven and earth.” (Comp. Genesis 14:19.) An inscription of the Persian emperor Xerxes speaks of the Supreme in terms which resemble what Solomon says in 2 Chronicles 2:5, as well as Huram’s language here: “The great god Ahuramazda, great one of the gods, who made this earth, who made these heavens” (inscription on rocks at Elvend).

An house for his kingdom.—A royal palace (2 Chronicles 7:11; 2 Chronicles 8:1).

And now I have sent a cunning man, endued with understanding, of Huram my father's,
(13) Endued with understanding.—See the same phrase in 1 Chronicles 12:32.

Of Huram my father’s.—Rather, Huram my father—i.e., master, preceptor, as in 2 Chronicles 4:16, where Huram is called the “father” of Solomon. (Comp. Genesis 45:8; Judges 17:10; Judges 18:19. So LXX. and Vulgate; Syriac omits.)

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.
(14) The son of a woman of the daughters of Dan.—In 1 Kings 7:14 Hiram is called “son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali.” “Bertheau explains,” She was by birth a Danite, married into the tribe of Naphtali, became a widow, and as a widow of the tribe of Naphtali became the wife of a man of Tyre, by whom she had a son Huram. Thus two of the tribes of Israel could boast that on the mother’s side Huram belonged to them.” But in the Hebrew words “daughters of Dan” it is possible to see a corruption of the word NAPHTALI.

Skilful.—This epithet belongs to Huram, not to his Tyrian father.

To work in gold.1 Kings 7:14 calls Huram simply “a worker in brass,” or bronze.

Purple.—The strictly Hebrew form (2 Chronicles 2:7).

Fine linen (bûç, byssus).—1 Chronicles 15:27. Neither this material of Huram’s art, nor stone nor timber was mentioned in 2 Chronicles 2:7. Huram is naturally represented as enhancing the accomplishments of his artist.

To find out every device which shall be put to him.—Rather, to devise any manner of device that may be given him. (to devise); that is, to invent all kinds of artistic objects according to commission. The words are a reminiscence of Exodus 31:4; Exodus 35:32, probably interpolated by the chronicler.

With thy cunning men—i.e., to work along with them. (Comp. verse. 7.)

My lord David.—A touch of Oriental politeness. Huram was independent of David, as of Solomon.

Now therefore the wheat, and the barley, the oil, and the wine, which my lord hath spoken of, let him send unto his servants:
(15) The wheat, and the barley.—See 2 Chronicles 2:10. Huram accepts Solomon’s proposed exchange of benefits.

His servants.—Huram means himself and his court. The term is the correlative of “lord.”

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.
(16) And we will cut wood.—The we is emphatic, and we, on our part, the pronoun being expressed in the Hebrew.

Wood (= “timber,” 2 Chronicles 2:8-10; 2 Chronicles 2:14).—Properly trees.

As much as thou shalt need.—See margin. “Need” (çôrek) occurs here only in the Old Testament. The word is common in the Targums, and in Rabbinic writings; 1 Kings 5:8 has the classical phrase, “all thy desire.”

In flotes.—Heb., raphsōdôth. Another isolated expression. Rendered “rafts” by the LXX. and Vulgate, but omitted by Syriac and Arabic. 1 Kings 5:9 has dôbĕrôth, “rafts,” which settles the meaning.

To Joppa.1 Kings 5:9 has the less definite “unto the place that thou shalt appoint me.” Joppa (modern Jaffa) was the harbour nearest Jerusalem.

And thou shalt carry it up to Jerusalem.—This interprets the curt phrase of 1 Kings 5:9, “and thou shalt take (them) away.”

A comparison of this and the parallel account of Huram’s letter makes it clear (1) that the chronicler has not written without knowledge of the older text; (2; that neither text has preserved the exact form of the original documents. From Josephus (Ant. viii. 2, 8) it would appear that some record of the negotiations between Huram and Solomon was still extant at Tyre in his day, if only we might trust his authority.

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.
(17, 18) Solomon’s levy of Canaanite labourers. (A return to the subject of 2 Chronicles 2:2.)

(17) All the strangers.—The indigenous Canaanite population. (Comp. the use of the term in Genesis 23:4; Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 17:8.)

After the numbering.—The word sĕphâr, “reckoning,” “census,” occurs here only in the Old Testament.

Wherewith David his father.—The former census of the native Canaanites, which had taken place by order of David, is briefly recorded in 1 Chronicles 22:2. (Comp. 2 Samuel 20:24, “and Adoram was over the levy,” from which it appears that the subject population was liable to forced labour under David; comp. also 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 5:14; 1 Kings 12:4-18.)

And they were found.—The total of the numbers here given is 153,600, which is the sum of the figures assigned in the next verse, viz., 70,000 + 80,000 + 8.600.

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.
(18) And he set . . .—Literally, and he made seventy thousand of them bearers of burdens, and eighty thousand hewers in the mountains. This exactly agrees with 1 Kings 5:15.

And three thousand and six hundred overseers.—The same number was given in 2 Chronicles 2:2. In 1 Kings 5:16 we read of 3,300 officers. In the Hebrew, three (shālôsh) and six (shêsh) might easily be confused; our reading appears right. The chronicler omits all notice of the levy of 30,000 Israelites, which the parallel passage records (1 Kings 5:13-14); whether by an oversight, or from disapproval, we cannot say. Adding that number to the 70,000 and 80,000 other labourers, we get a grand total of 180,000, which gives a company of 50 for each of the 3,600 overseers.

Overseers.—Heb. mĕnaççĕhîm. Only here and in 2 Chronicles 2:2 supra, and 2 Chronicles 34:13. It is the plural of a participle which occurs only in the titles of the Psalms (including Habakkuk 3:19), while the verb is read only in Chronicles and Ezra 3:8-9. (See Note on 1 Chronicles 15:21.)

To set the people a worki.e., on work or a-working. (Comp. “I go a-fishing,” John 21:3.) Literally, to make the people work.

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