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5.43 1 Kings -- Hiram of Tyre

The friendly relations between Tyre and Israel began in David’s reign, apparently at Hiram’s initiative (2 Sam 5:11).  He supplied Israel with cedar logs, stone and skilled builders for the large projects both David and Solomon undertook in Jerusalem.  


The Phoenician civilization hugged the Mediterranean coast northwest of Israel. The tribal allotment of Asher was a next-door neighbor of Tyre.  Phoenicia was a collection of city-states, such as Byblos, Sidon, and Tyre, whose wealth was based on maritime trade.  The Phoenicians had their own language, and their alphabet was the predecessor of modern European alphabets.  They explored and colonized throughout the Mediterranean, reaching even to Spain, Portugal and northwest Africa.  Their most famous foreign settlement was Carthage.  


The culture and religion of the Phoenician cities were akin to the Canaanite tribes that Israel warred against for centuries.  And they were in fact intended for destruction by God:

          "As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you" (Josh 13:6).


But Israel was not able to defeat them:

         These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan… the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath (Judg 3:1-3).  


Israel couldn’t defeat the Phoenician cities, but learned to live with them far more peaceably than with any of the other border states.  Even as late as the New Testament, Jesus attempted to get away from the crowds by going to Tyre (Mk 7:24), where he encountered the "Greek" or "Syro-Phoenician" or "Canaanite" woman with the demon-possessed daughter.  And people from Tyre and Sidon flocked to hear him preach in Galilee (Mk 3:8).  Thus we can see that close physical proximity to Israel led to considerable contact, despite the lack of cultural affinity between the two nations.


Hiram’s 34-year reign as king of Tyre (c. 980 - 947 BC) overlapped the reigns of David and Solomon.  He and Solomon engaged in a number of joint ventures.  Apart from sending building material for the Temple and Solomon’s palace, Hiram supplied sailors to man Solomon’s trading ships in the Persian Gulf:

         King Solomon also built ships at Ezion Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shore of the Red Sea.  And Hiram sent his men -- sailors who knew the sea -- to serve in the fleet with Solomon's men. They sailed to Ophir and brought back 420 talents of gold, which they delivered to King Solomon (1 Kings 9:26-28).


         Sometimes Phoenician and Israelite ships sailed together (1 Kings 10:22).


It wasn’t only Solomon who profited from their friendship.  Hiram gained access to inland trade routes, security on his landward borders, plus agricultural provisions (1 Kings 5:11).  The latter would have been particularly valuable to a seacoast kingdom. The one note of discord between the two kings was when Hiram was unhappy with 20 towns in Galilee that Solomon gave him (1 Kings 9:11).   But 2 Chronicles reverses the direction of the gift:  it was Hiram who gave towns to Solomon (2 Chron 8:2).  The NIV suggests that the towns were a downpayment by Solomon for a loan of gold from Hiram, and that later on he recovered these towns after repaying the gold (p. 490 footnote).


This relationship between two incompatible cultures was a novelty in Scripture, an unforeseen, unprophesied development.  It did not fit the script.  Partly it reflected the new possibilities of statecraft once Israel existed as a cohesive political unit.  The Phoenician cities no longer had to deal with a plethora of tribes and random judges on their eastern border.  Besides, they seemed to have no expansionist tendencies by land, although they ranged a thousand miles by sea.  No doubt they valued a strong and stable state next door, rather than their former Canaanite neighbors who were always feuding among themselves.  So peaceful coexistence was a desirable possibility, especially after Israel gave up the idea of annihilating them.  


Yet this alliance was a problem from the Israelite perspective.  The Scriptural directive was insistent:

          "Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going" (Ex 34:12).

          "Make no treaty with them" (Deut 7:2).

          "Your servants were clearly told how the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you" (Josh 9:24).

And what did Solomon do?

          There were peaceful relations between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty (1 Kings 5:12).


And this treaty had some bad consequences, for two reasons.  One is that it allowed for easy assimilation of pagan practices.  Where trade goes, religion follows.  Second, Hiram apparently sent not just timber and stone to decorate Solomon’s palace, but some local beauties too:

          King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter -- Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites… . He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians (1 Kings 11:1-5).


We will discuss Solomon’s wives shortly.  Here it is enough to point out that the influx of Sidonian women was probably not limited to the palace.  If Solomon was doing it, no doubt that was taken as permission for lesser men to marry Sidonian women and other foreigners.  And these foreign women brought their gods with them.  This was the negative consequences offsetting the peace and prosperity brought about by the treaty.

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