Trade Between Phoenicia and Israel

(The following article was first published in The Exhorter on January 16, 2022 at the Cedar Park Church of Christ. RTS, age 16)

It’s no secret that I love history and politics. One of the most fascinating aspects of the Bible, and in particular Old Testament history, is the geopolitical interactions between God’s people and other nations. One that I find interesting is in 1 Kings 5. In that chapter, Solomon communicates with Hiram, the king of Phoenicia on a trade agreement to construct the temple:

Then Solomon sent to Hiram, saying: ‘You know how my father David could not build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the wars which were fought against him on every side, until the LORD put his foes under the soles of his feet. But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor evil occurrence.  And behold, I propose to build a house for the name of the LORD my God, as the LORD spoke to my father David, saying, “Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, he shall build the house for My name.” Now therefore, command that they cut down cedars for me from Lebanon; and my servants will be with your servants, and I will pay you wages for your servants according to whatever you say. For you know there is none among us who has skill to cut timber like the Sidonians.’

So it was, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, that he rejoiced greatly and said, ‘Blessed be the LORD this day, for He has given David a wise son over this great people!’ Then Hiram sent to Solomon, saying: ‘I have considered the message, which you sent me, and I will do all you desire concerning the cedar and cypress logs. My servants shall bring them down from Lebanon to the sea; I will float them in rafts by sea to the place you indicate to me, and will have them broken apart there; then you can take them away. And you shall fulfill my desire by giving food for my household.’”

Even the more overlooked passages in the Bible are often applicable not only to the overall storyline of the Bible, but to the modern day. For instance, this brief exchange highlights the state of diplomatic relations between the Israelites and Phoenicians. It is evident based on verse 3 of this passage that Phoenicia had very good relations with the Israelites. This would continue to affect the peace in the area for generations to come, as seen with Elijah’s travels to the region. (1 Kings 17:8-9) The actual trade agreement with the Phoenicians was also a notable steppingstone for the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem, as the massive and plentiful cedar trees native to Phoenicia/Lebanon were necessary for the construction of the Temple.

Why does any of this matter today? Throughout most of the Old Testament, God would frequently reprimand Israel on their interactions with foreign lands such as allying with them or intermarrying with them. However, this interaction between Phoenicia and Israel is not explicitly condemned. I believe that an important modern application is that Christians should put some emphasis on maintaining relationships with non-Christians, while being careful to avoid their negative influence on us. This is necessary not only because every one of us lives in a society with non-Christians, but also that we should be focused on bringing these people to salvation through Christ.

A passage that highlights this point further is Matthew 5:16, which reads:

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

This is what Solomon did by his generous trade agreement (which, arguably, benefited the Phoenicians more than Israel, as evident by verse 7: “As soon as Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly and said, “Blessed be the Lord this day, who has given to David a wise son to be over this great people.”), and it also reinforces my previous point that we need to have positive and generous/giving relations with non-Christians. This is something that I believe we don’t emphasize enough in Christian circles. Oftentimes, the focus is on making stronger relationships with our fellow Christians, and while this is extremely beneficial to our own faith, it should never completely replace relationships with people who are not Christians. After all, how are we supposed to bring people to Christ without having any meaningful social interactions with them?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal 6:9-10) This brief passage of scripture about the interaction between the Phoenicians and Israelites may not look like much on the surface, but 2 Tim 3:16 tells us that “All Scripture is … profitable for … training in righteousness,” so if analyzed further, application can be made on many other passages of the Bible as well. This should spur us on to study the Bible in more depth and to find every piece of detail that God has given us in His Word.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s