HIRAM, KING OF TYRE, was in the lumber business, and when Solomon, king of Israel, decided he wanted to build the Temple in Jerusalem, Hiram let him have all the cedar and cypress he needed. He also charged such a cutthroat price for it that in order to pay up, Solomon had to tax his people blind and increase tolls on all the major highways.

Twenty years later, however, when the job was done and Hiram submitted his final bill, Solomon got a little of his own back by paying it in the form not of cash but of twelve Galilean cities whose turn-in value is suggested by the fact that when Hiram saw them, he called them Cabul, which means "No Place." According to the historian Josephus, Solomon followed this up by proposing a riddle contest, which Hiram lost hands down. As a result he had to give Solomon an enormous prize.

Josephus reports that Hiram bided his time for a while but then got hold of a friend named Abdemon, who made hash of Solomon's riddles in about twenty-five minutes, and at the end of that round it was Solomon who had to cough up an enormous prize for Hiram.

Unfortunately neither Josephus nor the book of Kings reports what new heights the friendship rose to after that.

1 Kings 5; 9

-Originally published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words

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