Useful Bible Studies > 1 Kings Commentary > chapter 5
God had given the country formerly called Canaan to Israel’s people. However, they were unable to gain control over large parts of it (Judges 1:27-36). For more than 400 years, the families of the original inhabitants of the land controlled important towns in Israel. They followed their own laws and religions; some of them had their own kings, even at the time when David ruled Israel (2 Samuel 13:37). They caused much trouble for Israel’s people.
Solomon saw that he was at last powerful enough to govern them. He ordered his officials to count them and, probably, to register their names (2 Chronicles 2:17-18). That made it possible for him to direct their work. He directed them to cut stones and to carry objects - this was part of the work to build the temple, the great house of God in Jerusalem. Solomon appointed the best and most loyal of them to organise their work. In that way, he gained authority over them.
That was similar to what Joshua did with Gibeon’s people. The people of Gibeon were original inhabitants of the land, who lied to obtain a peace agreement with Israel. Joshua gave them, too, a sacred task: they had to carry the wood and the water for God’s house (Joshua 9:27).
In some ways, these people were like slaves. They were not free to choose their work or where they would live. However, it is a great honour to work for God - and even to do a physical task for him (Psalm 84:10). These people probably received proper wages; and they had an opportunity to gain in authority. Their families remained together, and people from their own families directed their work. So, they were not working for people whom they hated.
Next part: The stone for the temple (1 Kings 5:17-18)
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