“It took Solomon twenty years to build the LORD’s Temple and his own royal palace. At the end of that time, he gave twenty towns in the land of Galilee to King Hiram of Tyre. (Hiram had previously provided all the cedar and cypress timber and gold that Solomon had requested.) But when Hiram came from Tyre to see the towns Solomon had given him, he was not at all pleased with them. ‘What kind of towns are these, my brother?’ he asked. So Hiram called that area Cabul (which means “worthless”), as it is still known today. Nevertheless, Hiram paid Solomon 9,000 pounds of gold.”*
Why would Solomon give away part of Israel’s inheritance from God (which was not allowed by the Law) to a non-Israelite monarch? It seems that this magnificent temple was the reason for a magnificent debt, as well as a conscripted labor force (alas, no unions). And the debt was to a heathen king that seemingly didn’t even appreciate the cites that were given to him. Hmmm….
Various commentaries are in disagreement (fancy that) about the legality of those gifted cities, which, BTW, were eventually returned to Solomon, the reasons of which are, again, in dispute. But a few possible thoughts emerge:
- Going into debt, even for what we consider a “cause from God” is generally not a good idea, especially as it pertains to worldly entanglements. We sometimes expose ourselves (and thereby God’s honor) to dispute when our “good ideas” are actually an excuse for extravagant indulgence. God Himself said He doesn’t really live in a temple made of human hands.
- If the villages that Solomon gave/levied to the gentile king were actually part of the Promised Land, then they were not Solomon’s to give; they belonged to God, even if they were yet populated by non-Israelites. Every Christian, by definition, is a work in progress; we have under- or undeveloped parts of our character and talents and personality that nevertheless belong to God. To separate that from its intended use is to distain and show contempt for what God plans to do in that part of “me” for His kingdom.
- Interestingly, the foreign king did not see the potential in these cities that King Solomon did (as when the towns were returned, they were built up and used properly for Israel.) The world tends to glean what they can from those portions we unwisely give away, and then discard them as “worthless”. God, on the other hand, graciously receives that part of us back, and builds it up for its intended productivity. (Part of that amazing grace we sing about…)
Then, like Paul Harvey used to say, there’s the rest of the story, hundreds of years later, when a baby was born in that spurned back-forty and became known as (you guessed it) the Man from Galilee.
*1 Kings 9: 10-14 Tyndale House Publishers Inc (2008-06-01). The One Year Bible NLT (One Year Bible: Nlt) (Kindle Locations 19170-19176). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.