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Hiram in Jewish Tradition
Rabbi Harold M. Kamsler
Ra'anana Lodge #70
Reprinted from The Israeli Freemason

The Master Builder
The Master Builder

There are more than 200 references to Hiram in Jewish sacred literature. Most of them refer to Hiram, King of Tyre, but a goodly number tell of Hiram, the skilful designer sent by King Hiram to help King Solomon in building the Beth HaMikdash (the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem).

Hiram, known in Masonic tradition as Hiram Abif, is often mentioned in the Bible. For example, we read in I Kings 7:14:

"And King Solomon fetched Hiram out of Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in brass; and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill, to work all works in brass."

According to Halacha (Jewish Law), therefore, this Hiram was born a Jew.

And it was this Hiram, the mason, builder, and architect, who constructed the Beth HaMikdash.

In II Chronicles we also read that Hiram of Tyre sent Hiram Abif to help King Solomon build the Beth HaMikdash:

"And now I have sent a skilful man, Hiram Abi, the son of a woman of the daughters of Dan, his father was a man of Tyre, skilful to work in gold, silver, copper, iron, stone, and in wood, in purple, blue and in fine linen and to execute any manner of engraving, and to devise every kind of art which may be given to him."

The Mezudat David explains that the word Abi (my father) refers to his skills and so we may translate "Hiram a skilful man."

I Kings 7:40 tells us:

"And Hiram made the basins and shovels and sprinkling bowls. And Hiram made an end of doing all the work that he wrought for King Solomon in the house of the L-rd."

In II Chronicles 4:16, this is repeated, and after giving a description of all the things that were made, the text notes:

"And the pots, the shovels, and the tongs and all the vessels did Hiram Abif make for King Solomon for the House of the L-rd."

All Master Masons remember how symbolically they helped raise Hiram from the depths.

According to one Midrash, Hiram lived eternally. In Yalkut Shimoni (Parshat Lech Lecha 247) we read of nine people who enter paradise alive and these are: Enoch, the Messiah, Elijah, Eliezer, the servant of the Kushite king, Hiram, Javetz the son of Rabbi Judah HaNasi, Serah the daughter of Asher, and Batya daughter of Pharaoh.

While some disagreements are found in making the differentiation between King Hiram and Hiram Abif, in some instances we may differentiate between them by a close reading of the text. When it refers to the master mason and builder, the reference is obviously to Hiram Abif.

However in the following passage, which refers to Hiram's arrogance because he helped to build G-d's house, does the text refer to King Hiram who sent the cedars of Lebanon to King Solomon or to Hiram Abif, the master mason and builder who helped to erect the Temple? Your opinion is as good as any.

In Yalkut Shimoni, we read further that Hiram began to imagine that he himself was a god and he wanted people to believe in him. He constructed four iron pillars fastened to the bottom of the sea, and he erected seven heavens on these.

The first of glass, the second of iron, the third of lead, the fourth of brass, the fifth of copper, the sixth of silver, and the seventh of gold. They were separated from each other by channels of water 400 to 3599 ells. Each heaven was 500 ells larger than the one below it. In the second heaven, Hiram collected large boulders that resembled thunder. With large precious stones he produced lightening.

During this time, Ezekiel was brought to him through the air to remonstrate with him for his arrogance. You are born of woman (a mortal). Why are you so arrogant? There are many greater than you who have not done as you have. Hiram answered, "I am born of a woman, but I live forever."

Hiram declared that he, like G-d, was sitting on the sea and in seven heavens and already survived David and Solomon and twenty-one kings of Israel, ten prophets and ten high priests, and "I am still here." The citation continues:

Hiram was filled with pride because he sent the cedars of Lebanon to build the Beth HaMikdash.

G-d then said, "A mortal dares to believe he is a god because he furnished cedars for the building of the Beth HaMikdash. I will destroy My house so that proper punishment may come to him."

And so it was. After the destruction of the Temple, Nebuchadnezzar dethroned his stepfather, Hiram, and every day, a piece was taken from his body and he died a miserable death. The wonderful palace sunk into the earth, where it is preserved for the pious in the future world.

Hiram is also credited with the reason for the death of humankind. In the Talmud Baba Batra (75a) we read:

Rabbi Judah said in the name of Rab "G-d said to Hiram: When I created the world, I looked and observed that you would rebel, thinking yourself a god. I therefore created holes and apertures in men." And according to others he said: "I saw that you would rebel and therefore decreed death over Adam the first person."

This is but a sampling of the Jewish material on Hiram.