Pillar of Strength: Hiram King of Tyre and His Kingdom

Note: I wrote this article the April 2020 newsletter for my lodge -Richmond Randolph Lodge #19 in Richmond, VA – that I publish as Secretary of that lodge. I thought I should probably post it here. This blog will likely become a place I just dump content that I’ve written for other things.

 

Introduction

We know from our ritual that Hiram I, King of Tyre (pictured left) is one of our first three most-excellent Grandmasters who, by his vast wealth and resources, strengthened and supported King Solomon in the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. But who was this Hiram? Where was Tyre? Why was he so rich? Why on earth would this pagan king want to help the King of Israel build a temple? 

Where is Tyre?

Geographically, Tyre is a peninsular city in what is today southwestern Lebanon. Its formation is somewhat complicated. There is Palaetrius (“Old Tyre”) and an island called Tyre. According to Heroditus (a Greek historian who visited the place c. 450 BC and learned this from some locals) the mainland Tyre was founded around 2750 BC and at some point in the next thousand years, a ruler of the City-State moved the city to an Island off the coast which became the new Tyre. Today, there is no geographic distinction between the island and the old city. When Alexander the Great was conquering the Persian Empire (650 years after Hiram’s reign) Tyre held out thinking their defenses and natural moat were impregnable. Alexander the Great (in one of history’s best “hold my beer” moments) ordered the old city (Palaetrius) to be destroyed and used the stones to form a land bridge to the island to besiege and conquer it. This land bridge, built in 333 BC remains to this day. Over the years, it has accumulated silt and other debris which have widened it to give this Lebanese peninsula its form.

Phoenecia

Why was Hiram so Wealthy?

Prior to Alexander’s terraforming activities, this island kingdom was a part of Phoenicia- several independent maritime merchant-republic city-states that dominated trade in the Mediterannean. These commerce based kingdoms spread their influence by trade rather than by force.  The main cash commodity, and the basis for Tyre’s and thus Hiram’s wealth, was a purple dye known as “Tyrian Purple” that was extracted from a secretion of the predatory sea-snails that populated its shores. This dye, unlike others, did not fade in the sun but rather aged and became more brilliant. The extraction process was so involved that it made the dye outrageously expensive and thus a status symbol of royalty in the ancient world. With this snail mucus money, Tyre could patronize Tyrian astronomers to develop better navigational methods for their ships. Because the island city had such limited space, the inhabitants constructed multi-storey buildings. They thus acquired a reputation for being great masons, engineers, metalworkers, and shipbuilders.

Who was Hiram I?

Hiram I succeeded his father Abibaal in 969 BCE and reigned for 34 years. He is credited in written histories with Tyre’s vast growth in the 10th century BCE. Writing 1,000 years after Hiram’s reign, Roman Historian Flavius Josephus wrote that Hiram expanded the urban territory by projects connecting two islands or Reefs via a canal to form a single island. Furthermore, Hiram’s regional cooperation as well as his fight against Philistine pirates helped to develop trade with Arabia, and North and East Africa. Products in transit from throughout the ancient world were gathered into warehouses in Tyre, as its fortifications offered protection for valuable goods stored there on their way to their final destination.

Hiram I King of Tyre

Relationship with Israel and King Solomon

Among the kingdoms that Hiram developed close relationships with was Israel and its King, David. When David built his palace, he contacted King Hiram for assistance from Tyre’s renowned engineers and stonemasons. Hiram sent laborers and cedar to aid in its construction. David had also wanted to build a  temple dedicated to God and to house the Ark of the Covenant but since he was dealing with constant war and had enemies on every side he could not accomplish his objective. 

David’s son, King Solomon, succeeded his father as King of Israel. With peace pervading his kingdom, Solomon took the plans and materials that David had set aside for the temple and resumed this enterprise. Solomon contacted his father’s friend and ally, King Hiram I of Tyre, for assistance in his great and important undertaking. Solomon requested of Hiram hewn cedar and cypress wood timbers as well as overseers to supervise the workers assembling these parts in Israel. 

King Hiram I responded by saying how much he liked David and considered Solomon an “equal” or “brother.” He was happy to help and provide these workers and this timber in exchange for corn “which we stand in need of, because we inhabit an island.” 

Solomon “sent him yearly twenty thousand cori of wheat: and as many baths of oil. He also sent him the same measure of wine.” This partnership also ensured Hiram access to the major river and land-based trade routes to Egypt, Arabia and Mesopotamia. The two kings also jointly opened a trade route over the Red Sea, connecting the Israelite harbour of Ezion-Geber with a land called Ophir.

King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem

Why?

This leaves the final question: “Why?” The answer seems to boil down to a valued partnership. Hiram King of Tyre expanded his empire through commerce and partnerships rather than by force. By befriending Israel, he was able to increase the reach of his trade routes. Economic interdependence also can often breed defensive benefits. What of the question of religion? Hiram I and the Tyrians were polytheistic and largely worshiped a god called Melchart. It’s possible that King Hiram saw the God of Israel as one of many gods so this wasn’t an important distinction for him. At this time, most Mediterranean cultures were polytheistic and different city-states venerated different gods. 

 

I hope this has added some historical context to the Masonic pillar of strength and gives the reader some interesting reading. There is probably a lot more esoteric detail about this partnership surrounding mystery schools, priests, astronomy, and the like that is beyond the scope of this article but that I encourage you to research on your own.

Sources: The geographical history is mostly from Wikipedia articles in which I back checked the sources. The story about Alexander the Great is from any number of biographies on the man. The parts about King Hiram and his relationship with King Solomon and the temple are littered throughout 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament and in the writings of Josephus Flavius, a Romano-Jewish chronicler in a Book 8 of  “Antiquities of the Jews.” (https://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/ant-8.html)

My Father’s 1969 People’s Park Protest Photos

I was digging through my dad, August Maggy’s old photos and found these great pictures of the People’s Park protest that took place in Berkley, California 45 years ago in 1969. I don’t know who took these photos, but they’re darn cool.

But first, a little background on the People’s Park protest to lend some context to these photos:

in 1969. In the midst of an era of social upheaval when students all over the country were bucking the trends of stodgy old universities, UC Berkley in Berkley, California had some land that they had left unimproved for several years. Local merchants thought it was ugly, so they, along with some other locals turned it into a public space in the form of a park. They dubbed it “People’s Park.”

Not everybody in the country was caught up in this anti-establishment fervor. In fact, most weren’t. To them, these protests and upheavals were disrupting their every day lives. Ronald Reagan was Governor of California at the time and ran on the promise that he would reign in these “communist sympathizers, protesters, and sex deviants,” that were taking over California’s college campuses. This was his chance to make good on that promise.

So one day, he had the Alameda Police fence off the park. The people who gave their time and resources to make this happen were, obviously, a little peeved. So they protested.

Governor Regan, determined to put a stop to these “communist sympathizers, protesters, and sex deviants,” sends the National Guard down to keep order. An Arab-Israeli Conflict conference demonstration turned into a protest against the state’s actions against this park on what became known as “Bloody Thursday.” National Guardsmen and police from various jurisdictions used tear gas, batons, and riot gear to beat back the crowd who began peacefully protesting, but resorted throwing rocks and bottles after the assaults by the lawmen began.

My Dad, who was a reporter for the Berkley Gazette, was covering the story. His long hair and military surplus helmet (to protect from flying rocks, bottles, and other debris) made the police suspect he was a protester. He refused to leave on the basis that his press pass allowed him access. The police did not take kindly to this “display of defiance,” and beat him with batons.

He actually won an award from the organizers in recognition of his unbiased coverage of the incident. It was a piece of the fence mounted on a trophy stand. One of his prized possessions.

This incedent was a cluster-mess that went on at various levels of intensity for three weeks until it eventually subsided. People’s Park would, eventually, just be a park. Although these days it’s mostly inhabited by panhandlers, homeless people, and druggies; it is a testament to the “power of the people.”

So enjoy these photos. If you use them, please credit August Maggy and link back to this blog. (Click to view full size)

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Discovering Podcasts

logopodcastI am not a fan of what’s on the radio.

I can only listed to so much NPR.

I’m on a long drive and even “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” the seminal 80s pump up jam by Twisted Sister is lulling me to sleep.

What am I to do?

Enter Podcasts.

Podcasts are something that I had heard of for years, but never had bothered to check out. After all, isn’t it just some jokers in their basement with a microphone? Anyone with any talent would be on the radio.

But that, past Matthew, could not be more incorrect.

My first exposure to a Podcast was Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. He is such an amazing broadcaster and raconteur that even Tim Ferris gushed when he interviewed him for his Podcast.

It’s okay to be star struck, Tim, I would be too.

So my journey into the exciting world of Podcast listening began earlier this year. I had been back from my round the world trip for 2.5 weeks and was visiting my friends and family back West. It was time to head back to Virginia, but due to budgetary constraints, I couldn’t make quite the epic road trip I had envisioned (save for a lovely few days with my cousin Alex and his family in St. Louis) and had to do a lot of driving without stopping other than for the occasional nap at rest stops.

So I downloaded the “Wrath of the Khans” quadrillogy of the Hardcore History podcast and was blown away by the sheer detail of story telling and the obvious preparation that was required to produce just one of these episodes. I was entertained for roughly 12 hours straight by this one guy’s story of the Khan conquerors (Khanquerors?).

I was hooked.

Then I found out that many of my favorite pro wrestling personalities have their own podcasts including the entertaining “Talk is Jericho” with the Fozzy lead-singing rockstar, and legendary professional ‘rassler, “The Ayatollah of Rock and Roll-A”, Chris Jericho.

Now I look forward to his new show every Wednesday and Friday.

All I have to do is load up my phone and hit play.

I didn’t think much of old Matthew and his mistaken view about the amateurish nature of podcasts until I heard Tim Ferris interview Dan Carlin. Carlin noted that he is a former television broadcaster and radio show host, but that he prefers Podcasts. There are no censors (not that he is risque’, by any means), no one telling him what he can and can’t say, and he can focus on talking about this very narrow topic that he enjoys for 3.5 hours and there are more people listening than on mainstream radio. He calls it “narrow casting” rather than “broadcasting.”

And its more proof that as people, we aren’t beholden to whatever Clear Channel wants to cram down our throats.

I don’t know if I can stand Kesha every 4 songs, or Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Rachel Maddow spewing hogwash and party propaganda.

To listen, you can go directly to the Podcasts website and listen/download, or use a service such as iTunes, Stitcher, or iPP Player (that’s what I use on my Android phone, but I have no idea what it is).

You’ll notice a pattern of history and pro-wrestling here…

The ones I listen to religiously are:

“Hardcore History” – Dan Carlin’s incredible, in-depth show about history. I cannot stress enough how fantastic this show is.

“Common Sense” – Dan Carlin’s quasi-conservative populist political show.

“Talk is Jericho” Chris Jericho (WWE Pro-Wrestling Legend, and Lead Singer of Fozzy, a fairly popular metal band) talks about pro-wrestling, music, movies, pop-culture, and interviews people from these various fields. From Jake “The Snake” Roberts, to UFO experts, to his dad. Good stuff.

 “History Replays Today: The Richmond History Podcast” – Jeff Majer does a bi-weekly show where he interviews someone about the history of Richmond or issues surrounding Richmond. As a Richmond Tour Guide, I have used this as a source for information.

Occasional/Alternating Weekly Listens

The above Podcasts I listen to every new episode, no matter what. The following are ones that I check out when the topic/interviewer interests me, or I run out of other Podcasts.

“Back Story” – The American History Guys take current events and talk about the the history behind them. For example, they did an entire show on the history of Political Factions in the United States and how we ended up with our (terrible) two-party system.

“The Art of Manliness Podcast” – Bret McKay and his wife are the founders of the men’s interest and self-improvement blog “Art of Manliness” and generally covers some pretty interesting topics, although the interviewees are sometimes not the most interesting people to listen to.

“The Ross Report” – Jim Ross, the legendary Pro-Wrestling announcer gives his opinions on the industry and the product, and interviews someone from the industry.

“My History Can Beat Up Your Politics” – Bruce Carlson does kind of the same thing as Back Story, but he seems a little more cynical, which I like.

“The Tim Ferriss Show” I am a big fan of his life and body hacking books (4-HB helped me lose 50 pounds) and he has some pretty interesting topics that he covers (such as the benefits of being a Jack-of-All Trades, or Generalist) and generally gives a new perspective on things that you think you know.

“The Steve Austin Show” is WWE Legend Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Podcast which is mostly him shooting the breeze about random topics like beer, food, and anecdotes from his life followed by an interview which is usually with a Pro-Wrestling related personality, but sometimes varies. Sometimes he just answers fan questions for an hour and a half, which is also good.