Day 162: Solomon’s Divided Attention (1 Kings 5)

Through the Bible: 1 Kings 5-6; 2 Chronicles 2-3

“But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune. And so I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, 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.’”
‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭5‬:‭4‬-‭5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

God had cleared every obstacle away that could have kept Solomon from building the temple. His kingdom was uncontested. There were no foreign wars during his reign, nor was there widespread civil unrest. 1 Kings 5:4 says that Solomon faced “no adversary or misfortune” when he got started on the temple. No famine, no drought, no plague of locusts.

Plus, Solomon had a massive workforce . 1 Kings 5:13 tells us that Solomon conscripted 30,000 forced laborers from “all over Israel” (likely non Israelites from the Canaanite people groups). Then verse 14 describes how they were divided:

“And he sent them to Lebanon, 10,000 a month in shifts. They would be a month in Lebanon and two months at home. Adoniram was in charge of the draft.”
‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭5:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

We’ll come back to that. But notice also that in addition to the 30,000 Canaanites mentioned in 5:13, 5:15 tells us there were

“…70,000 burden-bearers and 80,000 stonecutters in the hill country, besides Solomon’s 3,300 chief officers who were over the work, who had charge of the people who carried on the work.”
‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭5‬:‭15‬-‭16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Remember that the temple was not large. According to 1 Kings 6:2, it was 2,700 square feet. So why did it take seven years for 183,000 people to build a building the size of a Chick-Fil-A (6:38)?

For a long time, I thought that the “one month in Lebanon, two months at home” meant that the workers got to go back to their families between shifts. But that may not have been the case. There is a note in the ESV Study Bible that in the Hebrew, “home” strongly suggests “Solomon’s home”

Now, we know from 1 Kings 7:1 that it took Solomon nearly twice as long to build his own house as it did the temple (see 1Kings 7:1). I had always imagined that he completed the temple and then started the palace. But if it’s true that home meant “Solomon’s home,” that means the two projects were happening at the same time.

So, there are a few possibilities here. Solomon could have completed the temple in a third of the time if all his workers had been focused on building God’s house rather than dividing their time between the temple and the palace.

Or, he could have gotten the work done with about twenty thousand fewer slaves. At least.

All this for a building that Solomon himself was quick to remind people the Lord didn’t actually live in:

““But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!”
‭‭1 Kings‬ ‭8:27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I love church buildings. I really do. I’m one of those people that visits the Holy Land and gets excited about all the ancient churches. Touring Europe to see all the cathedrals is high on my bucket list. But there are things that are more important than magnificent buildings. One is the focus of the one in charge. Is he single minded on bringing glory to God? Or is he more focused on his own house, as Solomon was?

Beloved, the church is not a building. The church is you and me. So the question becomes very personal: are you singularly focused on building a life that brings glory to God? Or is your attention divided between God’s kingdom and your kingdom?

The Westminster Catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” In other words, you have one job.

Focus. Get it done.






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