Hiram, King Solomon’s Ally

Everett R. Turnbull & Ray V. Denslow

Solomon the Great had ascended the throne of David, his father. By clever political manipulation, and the powerful influence of the Queen Mother, Bathsheba, of Nathan, the Prophet, Zadok, the priest, Benaish, the head of the highly trained mercenary bodyguard of the old King, and others of the intimate circle of court favorites, Solomon (whom Nathan had also named "Jedidiah" — "Beloved of Jah") had made secure his throne. His troublesome rivals had been disposed of by arrest or banishment, and usually thereafter by murder. And the Wise King was well on his way toward establishing his reputation as the greatest of the Kings of Judah and Israel and the wisest of all men.

David had yearned to build a temple for the worship of the one God more splendid and magnificent than any devoted to the worship of the heathen gods of his neighbors. Whether because he was too busy building the foundations of his kingdom or because he was a man of war and blood was on his hands, or actually because there was too great opposition of the old fashioned who believed that the erection of costly fixed temples was contrary to the true and primitive worship of Jahweh, which should involve a tent or tabernacle — whatever the reason may have been ( maybe all of them), David did not build. But he did select the site for such a fane on the threshing floor of Araunah, he did amass great amounts of material for the building, he did leave in the minds of his people a vision of a temple-to-be, and, more than that, he left to his son and successor the hot ambition to do that which his father could not do, and that which he perhaps hoped no other person could do. So began the building of the Temple of Solomon.

But Solomon had not the resources with which to undertake alone so stupendous a project. He did, however, have the business acumen and the abilities of statecraft which enabled him to make his deals and contracts with those who did have them. And in those arrangements and associations we of Freemasonry learn of the second of the great triad of Masonic heroes-Hiram, King of Tyre.

Along the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Israel, lay the best known and most famous of the ancient cities of Phoenicia, Tyre, which was said to have been founded as early as three thousand years before the Christian era, and was perhaps originally a colony of the almost equally famous City of Zidon (Sidon). Early Egyptian records speak of it as a city "in the sea," (which accord with Biblical descriptions) to which water was brought in ships and where the fish were more numerous than the sands of the sea. Its name, which means a rock, was perhaps derived from its being first builded on a rocky hill for purposes of defense. In was in fact builded on an island, well fortified and practically impregnable. While it apparently paid tribute in the very early days to the Assyrians, it did battle off successfully many of the great invaders like Shalmoneser, Esarhaddon, Ashurbanipal, and even the great Babylonian, Nebuchadnezzar, and it was not until Alexander the Great had built a mole from the mainland to the island stronghold that it suffered complete capture and defeat.

Tyre had established commercial relations with the whole of the known world, not alone the countries around the Great Sea, but even as far away as Britain. Its colonies dotted Northern Africa, including Cyprus, Utica and Carthage, and its settlements were found as far west as Spain. It produced many manufactured products not only in the island stronghold but in its colonies around the Mediterranean. It was known the world over for its products such as purple dyes, metalwork, glassware, emeralds, broidered work, fine linen, coral and agate. Robes of Tyrian purple were coveted by the kings of the world, great and small. Isaiah characterized it as "the bestower of crowns, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers are the honorable of the earth," and Ezekiel abounds in references to it. Its fleets covered the seas, and tradition says that its sailors were the first to round the Cape of Good Hope. It was wealthy beyond all of the ancient nations, its trade bringing to it the gold of the world. At this time, its geographical limits included the mountains from which came the world famed Cedars of Lebanon.

To this fabulous center of commerce the eyes of Solomon turned, as had those of his royal father, when he sought the help he needed in the great task which he had set for himself.

There is some difficulty in determining what are the real facts as to the relationship between David and Solomon, on the one hand, and Hiram, on the other. The Old Testament account of the relationship between David and Hiram begins rather abruptly and indicates that there was a previous course of dealing over some time.

Suffice it to say Tyre was perhaps at its zenith of power, wealth and influence in the reign of Hiram, son of Abibaal, and friend of Solomon, whose sway overlapped the reigns of David and his son, and represented the Golden Age of Phoenicia.

The name "Hiram," sometimes "Hunram," probably from "Ahiram," means "exalted brother," a meaning that has especial significance to those familiar with the Cryptic rituals. The relations he had with David were most cordial, and he had furnished to David in his lifetime many of the materials which that king was amassing for the construction of the Temple.

Upon the death of David and Solomon's succession to the throne Hiram sent an embassy of condolence and congratulations to Jerusalem, thereby further cementing the already cordial relations between the two royal houses. Out of it all grew the closest and most intimate alliance that existed in all of Jewish history between a Jewish king and a foreign potentate.

The cordiality of this cooperation is indicated, for instance, by the joint undertaking of the two in sending ships to Ophir (India) for gold and silver, algum wood, ivory, silver, monkeys and peacocks. Solomon could not perhaps have successfully undertaken this project without the seafaring experience of the Phoenecian mariners and traders. And one cannot forget that the Hebrews were not a seagoing people and did not look with too much favor upon seagoing commerce.

The upshot of it all was that Hiram supplied to Solomon the famous Cedars of Lebanon which were shipped by floats to Joppa, the port of Jerusalem, and great quantities of other rare and valuable materials. He also furnished men, particularly skilled workmen, among them the Masonically renowned Hiram, the Builder. In return for them Solomon supplied Tyre with wheat and oil and balm and like products.

The tremendous reserves of gold accumulated in Tyre enabled Hiram to furnish no less than five hundred talents of gold for the ornamental work of the Temple. For this Solomon ceded him twenty towns in Galilee. But, it is said, upon inspecting them, Hiram referred to them contemptuously and restored them to their donor. There was, however, apparently no permanent ill feeling or disharmony resulting from the incident. Both Biblical and profane history confirm the story of the close personal friendship and economic alliance between these two great rulers. It was an alliance of advantage to both, although the evil effects of the terrific expense and indebtedness incurred by Solomon in his building effort remained to plague his successors for centuries.

The Jews were, of course, familiar with the religious practices and beliefs of the Phoenicians, their gods, Baal and Ashraroth, and the tutelary god of Tyre, Melhar. Likewise the Phoenicians knew the monotheism (the worship of the one god) of the Jew. Hiram, King of Tyre, was perfectly familiar with the religion and the religious rites of the King of Judah and Israel and his people. In fact this mutual familiarity led the Israelitish people into violent conflict with their prophets, whose faces were always set like flint against too great toleration of neighboring paganism.

But the Masonic story of these two great kings in the Rite is natural and easily understandable, for the King of Tyre must have had more than a passive commercial interest in the Most High God to Whom the great temple of his royal friend was to be dedicated.

History of Royal Arch Masonry Vol. 1