Franciscan Spirit Blog

Hiram of Tyre: Solomon’s Pagan Supporter

Without Hiram of Tyre, Solomon’s splendid Temple might not have been built and the Lord’s promise to David would not have been fulfilled. Hiram was the pagan king of Tyre, a port city on the Mediterranean coast about 140 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Under his reign, Tyre became an important Phoenician city and a large trading empire.

The Old Testament tells us that Hiram was a friend and business associate of David, Solomon’s father. Hiram was essentially responsible for building a magnificent house for David.

Of course, David was more interested in building a temple, “a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God” (1 Chronicles 28:2,NRSV). But God forbade him to do so because David had been “a warrior and shed blood.” Thus, God told David that Solomon would build the Temple instead.

 

Building God’s Temple

Before David died, he provided Solomon with an elaborate plan for the Temple. In addition, David handed over his treasure of gold, silver, bronze and precious stones for the Temple’s adornment.

Most important of all, David recommended his old friend Hiram as the man who could help his inexperienced son.

King Solomon sent word to Hiram, seeking his assistance with the Temple: “Once you dealt with my father David and sent him cedar to build himself a house to live in. I am now about to build a house” (2 Chronicles 2:3).

Hiram was able to offer Solomon wood and skilled workers, including artists to work with precious metals, fabric and engraving. Solomon, in turn, would provide thousands of laborers.

Hiram knew a good business deal when he saw one. But his obvious respect and affection for David and for the God-fearing Israelites appeared to be an equally strong motivation.

He sent Solomon his best supervisor and provided the new king of Israel with all that he asked for. Hiram told Solomon: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, endowed with discretion and understanding, who will build a temple for the Lord” (2 Chronicles 2:11).

Hiram, who was not Hebrew, venerated Melqart, the god of Tyre, and was to build a temple in honor of this ancestral king of his royal line. It seems reasonable to assume that in his monotheistic, creed-like statement to Solomon, Hiram may have been converted by David to the respectful acknowledgment of the one God, the “Lord God of Israel.”

When the Temple was finished, Solomon declared, “Now the Lord has fulfilled his promise that he made; for I have succeeded my father David, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. There I have set the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord that he made with the people of Israel” (2 Chronicles 6:11).

 

Friendship Continues

Both Solomon and Hiram benefited significantly from the building of the Temple and maintained a close relationship. We can assume that Hiram also continued to honor, after a fashion, the God of Israel as the one creator of heaven and earth.

Hiram is a reminder that God’s chosen people could not afford to be smug. In addition, the pagan king of Tyre was an early example of breaking down the wall between Jews and gentiles (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Among Hiram’s continuing gestures of friendship to the Jews was his granting permission for Solomon’s ships to participate in the profitable trade of the Mediterranean. Under the instruction of Tyrian mariners, Jewish sailors were taught how to bring gold from India to enrich their people and to beautify the Temple of their king. Tradition even has it that King Hiram gave his daughter in marriage to Solomon.

God moves in mysterious ways, as with David and Solomon in their desire to build God’s exalted house. A large part of it was made possible by someone who was not one of God’s chosen people: Hiram of Tyre, a pagan foreigner.


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