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THE PENTATEUCH --- GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS --- NUMBERS --- DEUTERONOMY --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- THE BOOK OF RUTH --- SAMUEL --- KINGS --- I & II CHRONICLES --- EZRA---NEHEMIAH---ESTHER---PSALMS 1-73--- PROVERBS---ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- JEREMIAH --- LAMENTATIONS --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL --- --- HOSEA --- --- JOEL ------ AMOS --- --- OBADIAH --- --- JONAH --- --- MICAH --- --- NAHUM --- --- HABAKKUK--- --- ZEPHANIAH --- --- HAGGAI --- ZECHARIAH --- --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS --- 2 CORINTHIANS ---GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS--- PHILIPPIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- PHILEMON --- HEBREWS --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION --- THE GOSPELS & ACTS
Solomon Arranges With Hiram King Of Tyre For His Country’s Assistance In The Building Of The Temple (5.1-18).
The next example of Solomon’s glory and splendour is found by the writer in the building of a Temple to YHWH. Such a step on ascending the throne was well known among foreign kings, as they sought to show their gratitude to their gods, and win their continuing favour by building them a splendid temple. Solomon was no different, and he sought to justify doing the same thing on the grounds of YHWH’s covenant with David (2 Samuel 7.13), although it is doubtful whether that was what YHWH originally intended (2 Samuel 7.5-7). Indeed, in spite of God’s initial lack of enthusiasm for the project, David himself had taken it at least partly in the that way (2 Samuel 8.11; 1 Chronicles 22; 1 Kings 8.51; 1 Chronicles 26.25). It was not really surprising. It was difficult for even spiritual men like David men to think solely in spiritual terms in those days (as indeed there are many in the same position today who are unable to get away from the idea of a physical temple and physical sacrifices). They felt very much bound to earth.
But while the writer was building up a picture of Solomon’s glory, he was at the same time doing it with reservations. Underneath all the splendour he could already see the cracks appearing.
For the house that YHWH had really wanted Solomon to build had been a spiritual house made up of his sons and descendants, not a house of wood and stone. Careful scrutiny of 2 Samuel 7 indicates that the concentration throughout is not on the building of a Temple, but on the building of a dynastic house which would result finally in the arrival of the Coming King. ‘YHWH tells you that he will make you a house (dynasty) -- your seed -- he will build a house (a dynasty) for My Name and I will establish the throne of his kingship for ever -- and your house (dynasty) and your kingship will be established for ever before you, your throne will be established for ever’ (2 Samuel 7.11, 13, 16, compare 7.26). YHWH’s emphasis was thus on the promise of the foundation of a dynasty which would finally result in the everlasting King. The truth is that in building the physical house, and being satisfied with it and putting too much emphasis on it, Solomon did in fact miss out on the need to build a spiritual house. It would only be as a result of God’s activity that that spiritual house would come to a reality in our Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, God did in His graciousness accept the physical house from their hands, simply because He knew that they were bringing it to Him from a right attitude of heart. He recognised and made allowance for man’s weakness. (We saw a similar situation with regard to the kingship in 1 Samuel - 1 Samuel 8-9).
The result of Solomon’s dreams was that when Hiram the King of Tyre, whose countrymen were skilled in fine building techniques, contacted Solomon in order to congratulate him on his safe accession to the throne, it must have seemed to Solomon like a gift from Heaven (which in one sense it was), and he took advantage of Hiram’s friendly approach in order to obtain the assistance of his experts in the building of his planned Temple, pointing out that he had to build it because it had been required by YHWH.
His major need was the right kind of timber, selected and dressed by experienced timber experts, and he called on Hiram to provide this for him in return for adequate compensation. On hearing this Hiram replied with the right noises (he stood to gain a good deal from the venture), and arranged for the timber to be cut, delivered and dressed, in response to which Solomon paid him the first instalment of the agreed payment. Meanwhile Solomon himself arranged for the cutting out of stones suitable for the Temple by using huge amounts of forced labour. Then Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites (expert carpenters from Gebal/Byblos) got together to prepare the timber and the stones, ready for building the Temple.
As we read the following narrative we should perhaps bear in mind the contrast between this Sanctuary, and the one that YHWH had requested, for the prophetic writer does appear to wish for us to make the comparison.
Note On The Contrast Between The Tabernacle And The Temple.
In 2 Samuel 7.5-7 YHWH asks David, “Shall you build Me a house for Me to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt even to this day, but have walked in a Tent and in a Dwellingplace (shaken - Tabernacle). In all the places in which I have walked with the children of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed My people, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ ” And He then went on to point out rather that He would build a house for David, a house of flesh and blood which would inherit the throne. The emphasis in verses 11-16 is on that house (verses 11, 13, 16). While verse 13 may be slightly ambiguous out of context, in the context it is quite plain. There is not the slightest indication anywhere else in Samuel that a literal Temple was in mind. The ‘house’ that Solomon was to build was to result in the establishing of the kingdom and the permanent occupation of the throne (The Temple accomplished neither).
In view of this lack of positive reference to the building of the Temple we should perhaps compare the two in the light of what we find in Exodus and Kings.
A comparison between the Tabernacle and the Temple soon brings out the discrepancy between the two, and is in fact deliberately and patently brought out at one stage by the writer of Kings. Consider for example the Tabernacle. It was to be built of free-will offerings; ‘of every man whose heart makes him willing you will take my offering’ (Exodus 25.2). What a contrast with the building of the Temple where Hiram’s ‘gifts’ turned out to be very expensive indeed (1 Kings 5.10-12), helping to cripple the economy of Israel, and none of the people had any choice in the matter. And there was very little of free-will offering in the levies that Solomon raised out of Israel for the purpose (1 Kings 5.13-18). Indeed we learn very clearly about the ‘goodwill’ involved in 1 Kings 12.4, 14. As the author makes clear they lay at the root of the division that occurred between Israel and Judah.
Then YHWH adds, ‘And let them make me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them. According to all that I show you, the pattern of the Dwellingplace (Tabernacle), and the pattern of all its furniture, even so shall you make it’ (Exodus 25.8-9). So it was to be made of freewill offerings, gladly given, and was to be made according to YHWH’s pattern, and we have already noted that it was said to be in total contrast to David’s idea for a Temple (see above). Here in Exodus YHWH had asked them to make Him a Sanctuary. In 2 Samuel 7.5-7 YHWH specifically says that He has NOT asked for a Temple, while in 1 Kings 5.5 it is Solomon who says, ‘I purpose to build a house for the Name of YHWH my God’, (with the emphasis on the ‘I’), relying on a misinterpretation of 2 Samuel 7.13.
Furthermore it will be noted that far from being built on a pattern determined by YHWH, the furniture of the new Temple was very much seen to be a combination of the ideas of Solomon (6.14-36; 7.47-51) and Hiram The Metal-worker (7.13-46) as the author specifically brings out.
Having commanded the building of His Sanctuary YHWH later then called to Moses again and said, ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship’ (Exodus 31.2; compare 35.31). And Moses then called men in order to give instructions as to how the work was to proceed, ‘and Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every wise-hearted man, in whose heart YHWH had put wisdom, even everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to the work to do it’ (Exodus 36.2). Note how voluntary it all was.
In contrast the account in 1 Kings 7.13-14 commences with Solomon sending for a man named Hiram (not the king) whom he fetches out of Tyre. And here there appears to be a deliberate attempt in the description of him to bring to mind Bezalel, the skilled worker who made the Tabernacle furnishings and embellishments (Exodus 35.30-33), for Hiram is described as being ‘filled with wisdom (chokmah), and understanding (tabuwn), and skill (da’ath) to work all works in bronze’. With this we can compare the description of Bezalel, ‘He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom (chokmah), and in understanding (tabuwn), and in knowledge (da’ath), and in all manner of workmanship --.’
But it is the differences that are significant:
It will be noted indeed that the author of Kings makes no attempt to pretend that Hiram was filled with the Spirit of God.
Especially in view of the facts in 3). we find it very difficult to avoid in all this the suggestion that these contrasts were all in the mind of the author of Kings. He wanted us to see the distinction. They would appear to reveal that as a prophet he was not so entranced by the Temple as many of his compatriots appear to have been, seeing rather within it the seeds of its own destruction. Nowhere does he suggest that it was their attitude towards the Temple itself which lay at the root of the failure of the kings of Israel and Judah. His theme with regard to both was rather their attitude towards the setting up of false high places in contrast with the true. In view of the fact that Elijah set up genuine high places which the author clearly saw as acceptable, we cannot argue that his generally expressed attitude towards ‘high places’ necessarily reflected on their attitude towards the Temple. It reflected on their deviation from the truth. And in so far as it did reflect on the Temple it was not because of the Temple per se, but because of its position as the Central Sanctuary.
By the author’s day, of course, an open attack on the Temple would not have been wise (as Jeremiah discovered), but what he was certainly doing was laying seeds of doubt as to how much its building had really been of God. The only Temple which YHWH is in fact specifically said to have required was the Second Temple, outwardly a far inferior version to Solomon’s, but built with willing hands and hearts (Haggai 1.2, 14; compare how the author of Kings would appear to approve of this approach - 2 Kings 22.4).
End of Note.
Note that in ‘a’ Hiram sent his servants to Solomon on hearing of his anointing as king, and in the parallel their builders got together to prepare to build the Temple for YHWH. In ‘b’ Solomon declared that all hindrance to the building of the Temple had been removed, and in the parallel the stonework for the task was prepared. In ‘c’ Solomon declared that his purpose was to build a house for YHWH’s Name, and in the parallel those who would do the work were described. In ‘d’ Solomon calls on Hiram to set his carpenters to the work, and in the parallel sent over his own levies to give assistance. In ‘e’ Hiram blessed YHWH for the wisdom that He had given to Solomon so that he could rule his people, and in the parallel the giving and consequences of that wisdom were described. In ‘f’ Hiram confirmed that his workmen would prepare the timber as requested, and in the parallel Hiram gave the timber to Solomon. Centrally in ‘g’ the means of getting the timber to Solomon was described, along with the request for payment.
5.1 ‘And Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the room of his father, for Hiram was ever a lover of David.’
On hearing that Solomon had been anointed king of all Israel, and of the empire beyond, Hiram, king of Tyre, hastened to send his servants to Solomon in order to offer him his congratulations, a normal courtesy extended by friendly kings on the accession of another. And the writer tells us that it was because of his love and respect for David. But it was unquestionably also very expedient. Solomon was now the king of the strongest country around, with the possible, but marginal, exception of Egypt, and had control of the main trade routes which fed Tyre’s maritime trade. Israel was also an important source of grain and olive oil. There was therefore within his gesture a determined attempt to maintain the treaty between the two countries to the advantage of both.
The name Hiram is possibly a shortening of Ahiram (‘my brother is exalted’ or ‘my brother is Ram’), which was a good Phoenician name and is attested for a king of Byblos in about 1200 BC. It was also the name of the royal architect who will appear later.
Tyre was at this time mainly an island city, built on an island a short distance off shore, but with some of its environs established on the mainland. The island city itself was almost impregnable (until Alexander the Great came along later).
5.2-3 ‘And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying, “You know how it was that David my father could not build a house for the name of YHWH his God because of the wars which were about him on every side, until YHWH put them under the soles of his feet.”
Solomon was delighted to receive Hiram’s messengers and accept his good wishes, for his plans for building the Temple included the need to obtain help from Hiram. So he explained to Hiram what he was about, and what follows in verses 2-6 is typical of diplomatic correspondence in those days. He names the addressee, refers to previous contacts, and makes the opening moves towards an economic treaty. Hiram, who had previously helped David to build his palace (2 Samuel 5.11) no doubt already knew about the plans for the Temple because it had originally been David’s intention to build it (2 Samuel 7.2), and even had we not read about it in 1 Chronicles 22, we would have suspected that David had begun making preparations for it (see 8.51; 1 Chronicles 26.25). For while YHWH had not been enthusiastic about his suggestion, and had firmly countered it, it is clear that David had failed to allow YHWH’s words (2 Samuel 7.5-7) to sink deeply enough into his mind for them to replace his own fixed idea. His view was that every nation around had built a splendid temple or more to their gods. Why then should Israel be the exception? And because his heart was filled with love for YHWH he wanted it to be the very best. Yet even he, the Psalmist of Israel, was not spiritual enough to recognise that no earthly Temple could be remotely acceptable to, or suitable for, the God of Sinai. As we have seen, a careful exegesis of the covenant in 2 Samuel 7.8-16 makes clear that the ‘house’ mentioned in verse 13 was not a physical house (the passage as a whole only has in mind a ‘house’ that signifies descendants - verses 11, 16) but was paralleled with the idea of the everlasting throne. Verse 16 can thus be seen as explaining the fulfilment of verse 13. God would give David a house (verse 11), and his seed would build it to the glory of YHWH (verse 13), and it would be everlasting (verse 16).
However, both David and Solomon wrongly interpreted YHWH’s words in a physical fashion, and in His graciousness YHWH went along with them because He could see that they desired it and that it was from the right attitude of heart (just as God often goes along with us in our plans, even though they must sometimes make Him cringe). It is not difficult to understand why they failed in their understanding. The full concept that God had given them was beyond the grasp of their spiritual comprehension, even though David certainly partially grasped it (verses 18-19), and Solomon was himself aware of the inadequacy of the Temple as a dwelling-place for YHWH (8.27). Such understanding would await the illumination of the great prophets.
Solomon then explained to Hiram his view that David had been unable to build the house ‘for the Name of YHWH his God’ because of the wars that were about him on every side. But that again was something that Solomon was, at least to some extent, giving a misleading impression about (we must ever remember that Solomon’s words, while an accurate record of what he said, do not necessarily always themselves express Scriptural truth, any more than Satan’s words do elsewhere). For we have specifically been told that David himself had wanted to build the Temple himself precisely because the wars had ceased (2 Samuel 7.1, 11). In other words his enemies had been put under his feet at that time, and thus that could not be the basic reason for his failing to build the Temple.
It was, however, politic of Solomon to suggest that as the reason, rather than saying that it was because his father was ‘a man of blood’. And 1 Chronicles 22.9 does reveal that there was enough truth in it for it not to be totally false. In fact, however, 1 Chronicles 22.8 tells us that the main reason that David did not build the Temple was because the word of YHWH came to him saying ‘You have shed blood abundantly and have made great wars. You shall not build a house to My Name because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight’. After which YHWH had then yielded to David’s desire for his son to build it and had gone on to permit a physical interpretation of the prophecy first given in 2 Samuel 7.13. What God was doing was making it clear that, even though shed necessarily, the wholesale shedding of human blood by human beings was contrary to all that God was.
YHWH’s allowing of the building of the Temple would have caused no problem if only Israel (and later the Jews) had recognised that the physical Temple was but a symbol of the ‘spiritual house’ that YHWH would establish in the Coming King. How different history would have been in that case. But while they did partly grasp it in the idea of the coming of the Messiah, they had totally wrong ideas about Him, and on the whole both failed to recognise Him when He came, or to recognise that His coming signalled the demise of the Temple which had lost its significance with His coming. They had become wedded to the Temple. To them the Temple had become more important than the Messiah. Similar blindness to some extent pervades much of the church today. They too are looking for the building of a physical Temple, where non-Scriptural sacrifices of their own invention will be offered, and have failed to recognise that the physical Temple has outlived its usefulness and is no longer a valid option, and that it has been more than fully replaced by:
‘For the Name of YHWH his God’ probably has in mind the Ark of God for in 2 Samuel 6.2 we read of, ‘the Ark of God, whose Name is called by the Name of YHWH of Hosts Who dwells between the Cherubim’. As far as Israel were concerned where the Ark was the Name was. ‘The Name’ in essence indicates all that God is, and from a human viewpoint that was closely wrapped up with the Ark, with its revelation of the covenant God had made with them held within it and its seat of propitiation above it, indicating to them both God’s covenant requirements and His continual and everlasting mercy, while also emphasising His invisibility. Any reference here to Deuteronomy 12.5 is therefore secondary, if it existed at all.
The idea of ‘the Name of YHWH’ comes as early as Genesis 13.4 where we read that, ‘Abram called on the Name of YHWH’ (and even earlier in Genesis 4.26). In Exodus 20.24 YHWH speaks of ‘the places where I record My Name’, closely linking His Name with His temporary sanctuaries. In Exodus 23.21 YHWH could say of the Angel of YHWH, ‘My Name is in Him’. Thus in all cases ‘the Name’ represented YHWH’s own presence. Again in Exodus 33.19 YHWH ‘pronounced the Name of YHWH’ before Moses as an indication of His revealed presence, compare Exodus 34.5. We can see therefore why the Ark of God which symbolised His presence was ‘called by the Name of YHWH’ (2 Samuel 6.2), and why building the ‘Dwellingplace of YHWH’ was considered as being in order to house His Name, because it housed the Ark, and because He had revealed His ancient glory there. The origin of the idea had therefore little to do with Deuteronomy 12 ff. It was much older. Right from the beginning men had looked to, and worshipped, the Name of YHWH at their sanctuaries, a Name which, however, was not limited to their sanctuaries but went forth as YHWH went forth. Like 2 Samuel references in Deuteronomy 12 ff rather look back to the above references (see Deuteronomy 12.5, 11; 14.23, 24; 16.2, 6, 11; 26.2).
‘Put them under the soles of his feet.’ The conqueror would expect the defeated enemy to prostrate themselves before him while he symbolically put the soles of his feet on their heads.
Note On The Temple.
The impression given in 2 Samuel 7 is that God did not want a Temple built to His Name, which is why He initially dissuaded David from doing so. It is very doubtful whether 2 Samuel 7.13 initially had in mind the building of a physical Temple for the emphasis in the whole passage is on the coming ‘house of David’ made up of his son and his descendants. But once the idea had become lodged in David’s mind he found it difficult to dismiss. To him it seemed logical that YHWH should have a Temple, and the best Temple possible. He would not see that it simply brought YHWH down to the same level as other (false) gods.
There are then clear hints in Samuel that David had not given up on the idea. See, for example, 2 Samuel 8.11. The Chronicler thus points out that after the incident of the pestilence and the threshing floor (2 Samuel 24) David again began to prepare for the building of such a Temple at which point he was dissuaded from it by being reminded of how much blood he had shed (1 Chronicles 22.8). But he was still insisting on interpreting what God had said in His covenant as referring to a physical Temple. God then seems to have made a concession in allowing his son to build such a Temple because he wanted it so much. There is a very similar parallel between this building of a Temple, which God did not really want, and the original establishment of kingship in 1 Samuel, which God did not really want. In both cases YHWH had not wanted it, but in the end allowed it as a concession.
The idea that then arose was that if such a Temple was to be built it should be as the foundation of the coming successful kingdom of peace, it not being seen as seemly that YHWH’s unique and holy Temple should be founded on the shedding of men’s blood. It was to be a harbinger of joy and peace not of success in war. And Solomon’s reign was being hailed as the beginning of that kingdom of peace. Sadly that kingdom of peace would only too quickly prove abortive because of Solomon’s own failings, but at least the right idea had been conveyed. If only Solomon had rather concentrated on building the right kind of house, a righteous house made up of his sons and descendants, and had given his own time and effort to training them wisely, much of what follows could have been avoided. Instead he thought that he had done enough by building a physical Temple and as a result went wildly wrong, leaving a bad example for his children.
End of note.
5.4 “But now YHWH my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary, nor evil occurring.”
Solomon then basically cited the promise made to David as per 1 Chronicles 22.9. YHWH had given him rest on every side from the start, with the result that there was peace and quietness in his day. For he had at the time no known adversaries (they had all been dealt with, and others had not yet arisen) and nothing physically ‘evil’ was threatening. Thus the building of YHWH’s house would take place as a celebration of peace and prosperity, rather than as a memorial of blood and death.
Solomon could have cited in his support Deuteronomy 12.19, (although as far as we know he did not), but that had strictly already been seen as fulfilled in Joshua 23.1, where again the emphasis was on the establishment of a holy people.
5.5 “And, behold, I purpose to build a house for the name of YHWH my God, as YHWH spoke to David my father, saying, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your room, he will build the house for my name’.”
So he explained to Hiram that as a result of the situation brought about by YHWH, he purposed to build a house for the name of YHWH his God as (in his view) YHWH had originally declared to David. Unable to grasp the whole glorious significance of 2 Samuel 7 he selected out from it the little that he thought that he did understand and which would bring the greatest glory to him. Had he put as much effort into building up his spiritual house as YHWH had wished, instead of into building up a physical house for YHWH, history would have been very different. And from the Temple would eventually grow up the iniquitous doctrine of the inviolability of the Temple, a doctrine that would finally contribute to Israel’s downfall, for by it they had made YHWH into a little God firmly tied to earth.. Solomon would prove to be the perfect exemplar of the fact that man loves to thrust his outward religious formalities into the limelight, and having then fulfilled them to his own satisfaction, considers that he can live the remainder of his life as he pleases. It is the story both of later Judaism, and of the physical monstrosity which was built up and called itself the church in the middle ages, and whose legacy still hangs on in many places today.
5.6 “Now therefore do you command that they cut me cedar-trees out of Lebanon, and my servants will be with your servants, and I will give you hire for your servants in accordance with all that you shall say, for you know that there is not among us any who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”
Then Solomon explained what he really wanted of Hiram. He wanted him to provide the finest of timber from his forests in Lebanon, and to provide experts who would cut it and dress it, because no one knew how to do that like the Sidonians. Sidon, as opposed to Tyre, clearly had a reputation for forest carpentry. The forests would be in their area. He would meanwhile provide men from among ‘his servants’ who would work alongside them, possibly with a view to them learning some of the skills, and he would pay the hire of the Sidonians employed on the work.
5.7 “And it came about that, when Hiram heard the words of Solomon, he rejoiced greatly, and said, “Blessed be YHWH this day, who has given to David a wise son over this great people.”
When Hiram heard this he was delighted. It would not only put him in well with one of the most powerful kings of the day, who also had control of the major trade routes (a major consideration for a trading power), but it would also prove very profitable. So he replied to Solomon’s request with pleasing words. He would not have been a worshipper of YHWH himself, but he was quite prepared to acknowledge that Israel’s God YHWH had given to David a wise son over God’s great and numerous people.
Note again the emphasis on Solomon’s wisdom which comes out throughout this section. His wisdom was not only seen as great, but also as many-varied. He was seen as wise in all that he did. (His subsequent fall must therefore come as a warning to us all. Let him who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall).
5.8 ‘And Hiram sent to Solomon, saying, “I have heard the message which you have sent to me. I will do all your desire concerning timber of cedar, and concerning timber of pine.”
Then he got down to the practicalities of the matter. The contract, like all oriental contracts, was made in the most euphemistic of terms, terms which hid, with a layer of generosity and bonhomie, the hard bargaining that ensued (compare Genesis 23). ‘I have heard the message that you have sent me and I will fulfil all your timber requirements of both cedar and pine (as long, of course, as the price is right, although we gentlemen do not discuss such things as price)’.
5.9 “My servants will bring them down from Lebanon to the sea, and I will make them into rafts to go by sea to the place that you shall appoint me, and will cause them to be broken up there, and you will receive them, and you will accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household.”
Hiram’s ‘servants’ (in this case his timber experts, in combination with bearers, and with his seamen) would bring the timber from the mountains of Lebanon to the sea, and would then make them into rafts and tow them along the coast to the place that Solomon appointed, and would break up the rafts of timber and deliver the timber to Solomon and his workmen so that they could do what they liked with them. And in return Solomon would provide payment in the form of large amounts of food for Hiram’s whole court, his ‘household’. This did not simply mean that he would expect food for his workers. It was a requirement for large quantities of grain and pure beaten olive oil (a staple Israelite luxury export) which would be paid to Hiram in exchange for what he had provided (possibly along with an agreement allowing Hiram to purchase a number of Israelite cities and their environs as we shall see later - 9.11-12).
5.10 ‘So Hiram gave Solomon timber of cedar and timber of pine according to all his desire.’
The contract having been agreed Hiram then supplied Solomon with all his timber requirements, providing him with as much cedar and pine as he desired.
5.11 ‘And Solomon gave Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food for his household, and twenty measures of pure oil. Thus did Solomon give to Hiram year by year.’
And in return Solomon gave Hiram ‘twenty thousand measures (cors) of wheat for food for his household, and twenty measures (cors) of pure oil’ each year over a number of years. The number of years was possibly determined by the number of years in which Solomon required assistance, that is, for the length of time that it took to build the Temple, and possibly the palace. A ‘cor’ is 220 litres.
We should not confuse these figures with the figures in 2 Chronicles 2.10 which were given once for all and were specifically for the workforce, ‘the hewers who cut timber’.
5.12 ‘And YHWH gave Solomon wisdom, as he promised him, and there was peace (or ‘concord’) between Hiram and Solomon, and they two made a league together.’
But the greatest gift was seen by the writer as coming from YHWH. He it was who gave Solomon wisdom as He had promised him, and part of that wisdom consisted in his political and negotiating ability which resulted in peace and concord between the two great countries and a firm treaty between them. By this time Tyre and Sidon were becoming even more important because they were beginning to rule the waves and trade far and wide by sea (see for example Isaiah 23.8). ‘Peace’ might be better translated as ‘concord’.
5.13 ‘And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel, and the levy was thirty thousand men.’
For the purpose of building the Temple Solomon raised a compulsory levy from Israel itself. This levy on Israel was probably seen as necessary in order that the work might not be done by ‘profane’ Canaanite hands, the Sidonian contribution being seen as not quite in the same category because it could be looked at as part of the purchase of the timber and they would not be seen as ‘Canaanites’. Canaanites were seen as off limits (Deuteronomy 23.1-2; Exodus 23.23 and often). The levy consisted of thirty large work units.
Alternately it may have been due to the fear that Canaanite bondsmen sent to Tyre and Sidon may not have chosen to return to Israel, and may have found it easy to escape from there.
5.14 ‘And he sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month by courses; a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home; and Adoniram was over the men subject to taskwork.’
Each group of ten work units would spend one month working in the Lebanon, and two months back at their homes. They were thus very much not seen as slave labour, which would have been required to work permanently, and Solomon (like any politician who did not have to get his hands dirty) probably thought that they should feel privileged to be doing such work. They were, however, under Adoniram’s control and, as we know from what happened later, he was not very much admired as a result of the way in which he treated them. In those days under such circumstances being whipped was normal (12.4, 11, 18), even though it is very possible that they were working as paid labourers.
5.15-16 ‘And Solomon had threescore and ten thousand who bore burdens, and fourscore thousand who were hewers in the mountains, besides Solomon’s chief officers who were over the work, three thousand and three hundred, who bore rule over the people who wrought in the work.’
As well as these thirty work units working in Lebanon there were seventy work units who ‘bore burdens’ (were shifters and carriers), and eighty work units of quarrymen. These were Canaanite bond-slaves (compare 2 Chronicles 2.17-18). Over all these were the general Canaanite overseers who were directly supervising the work, who numbered three thousand three hundred, a figure which seemingly excluded three hundred senior Canaanite overseers who were included in the figure of three thousand six hundred in 2 Chronicles 2.2. In Kings these were rather included in the figure of five hundred and fifty chief overseers mentioned in 9.23, which was made up of three hundred chief Canaanite overseers plus two hundred and fifty chief Israelite overseers (2 Chronicles 8.10). The numbers all tie in once we recognise that each writer was selecting different statistics and referring to different levels.
Alternately we may see three levels of ‘chief officers’, the three thousand three hundred who directly supervised the workers, the three hundred who supervised the supervisors, and the two hundred and fifty who were the overall supervisors.
Note that all the ‘numbers’ are round numbers, and are significant numbers, ‘three’ indicating completeness, ‘seven’ indicating divine perfection, and ‘eight’ signifying the new springing out of the old (compare the eight people in the Ark and the circumcision on the eighth day). They were intended to give the impression of the completely satisfactory nature of the work force at work on the Temple rather than as indicating the exact actual size of the workforce.
5.17 ‘And the king commanded, and they hewed out great stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house with wrought stone.’
At the king’s command the Canaanite levies hewed out, from the quarries in the hills, stones which were especially valued, being of a type which could be easily dressed and shaped, and then became hardened, in order for them to be delivered to the Israelite workers at the quarry (6.7). Presumably as this was simply seen as the extraction of rough unshaped stones the use of Canaanites was not seen as profaning them. But they would not be allowed to dress or shape them.
5.18 ‘And Solomon’s builders and Hiram’s builders and the Gebalites fashioned them, and prepared the timber and the stones to build the house.’
Solomon’s builders then worked alongside Hiram’s builders, and with specialists brought in from Gebal (Greek - Byblos) further up the coast, in order to fashion and shape the stones, and prepare the stones and timber for building the Temple.
All this is a reminder to us that if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing well. As Paul reminds us, whatever we do, we should do it heartily to the Lord and not to men (Colossians 3.21). Nevertheless it was unnecessary effort which could have been better put into building up the spiritual life of Israel, and preventing their worship at syncretistic high places.
The Building Of The Temple And Its Specifications (6.1-38).
The description of the building of the Temple, and its specifications, are now given in order to bring out the glory of Solomon, and the glowing picture (untainted by the later reality) suggests that the whole was taken from the original source. It was common for such information to be found in the records kept by kings of the ancient Near East, for their temples were an important aspect of their reigns, and thus there is no need to look for a source outside the court records. The overall emphasis is on the materials used, the measurements, and the techniques.
Being mainly designed by the Phoenicians it was, as we would expect, similar to neighbouring temples, although having the addition of a Most Holy Place, following the pattern of the Tabernacle. Thus the porch led in to the Holy Place, an elongated room, which itself led up to the Most Holy Place which was designed as a perfect cube. An almost parallel design was found at Ebla, in Syria, dating to the third millennium BC. A further example of a similar, but smaller, tripartite shrine was discovered at Tell Tainat on the Orontes (9th century BC), although that had an altar in the inner room. A late bronze age tripartite shrine was also discovered at Hazor constructed with timber between the stone courses.
One outstanding feature of Solomon’s Temple was that it was coated with gold. It was a display of Solomon’s great wealth. It is, however, an interesting indication of Solomon’s lack of spiritual perception that he did not follow the pattern laid down for the Tabernacle whereby the closer men came to the Most Holy Place, the more precious the metal that was in use. That indicated to men, as they moved from bronze, to silver, to gold, that they were, as it were, moving gradually out of their mundane world closer into His presence until at last they approached the very curtain behind which was the Ark of YHWH. It was a reminder that man was what he was, earthly and mundane, and that God was the God of Heaven, and that a purifying process must take place before we could come face to face with Him. But in Solomon’s Temple all was gold. God had simply become a ‘national treasure’. Yes, He was valued. But enclosed in His own little box.
From a literary viewpoint the passage itself follows a clear plan which seeks to bring out its important message. It opens and closes with a record of the dates involved, which form an inclusio, and are a reminder that we are dealing with the genuine history of men, and it centres round a confirming word from YHWH demanding obedience to His covenant. Indeed without such obedience all that the Temple was supposed to indicate meant nothing. And in between we have the description of the building and decorating of the Temple, indicating man’s efforts on God’s behalf. The writer has already made clear the huge physical effort that has gone into the building of the Temple (5.13-17), and in verses 14-36 it is made clear the greatness of the wealth that was being poured into its decoration. The lesson that is being emphasised is clear. Whatever efforts we may put in, and however much wealth we may devote to God, if we do not live in obedience to him, all else is in vain. Being ‘religious’ is not sufficient. What God requires is personal response. Obedience is central. In the words of Samuel, ‘to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams’ (1 Samuel 15.22). This lesson that great effort and great giving is not in itself sufficient but must be centred on obedience explains why the writer divided up the description of the building of the Temple into two parts around the central covenant.
In this regard God’s words concerning the Temple can hardly be described as over-enthusiastic. Notice the rather unenthusiastic, ‘Concerning this house which you have built,’ and compare it with Nebuchadnezzar’s ‘Is this not great Babylon which I have built?’ (Daniel 4.30). The initiative for the Temple had come from men and not from YHWH, which was in total contrast to the Tabernacle (2 Samuel 7.5-7). And even in its building YHWH’s requirements had been disobeyed as we have already seen above. It was thus more a monument to Solomon’s great splendour, and to his spiritual superficiality, than to a genuine evidence of deep spirituality. Like Saul he was more into the externals than into genuine obedience, something which in both cases did not become apparent immediately.
The ordinary reader may feel somewhat bewildered at all the detail provided with regard to the construction and embellishment of the Temple, but we should learn from this important lessons. Firstly how interested God is in the details of life. he ensured that a record was made of all the attempts of men to please Him (‘and then shall every (believing) man have praise of God’ - 1 Corinthians 4.5), just as He keeps a record of our lives. Secondly of how important it is that we should devote our skills to worshipping Him as well as serving Him. It reminds us that both are important. How much time do we, for example, spend in planning and designing our own public and private worship so as to bring glory to Him?). Thirdly as a reminder of how generous we should be towards God, and of how we should never treat Him lightly. Fourthly that the Temple, at its best, was designed to lift up men’s hearts towards God and remind them of His glory, so that as we consider its detail we might bring glory to our God. It is equally as important for us that we do not get so absorbed in ‘the church’ that we fail to give Him the glory that is His due. Fifthly in that it was designed so as to demonstrate that all creation is important in the eyes of God, and that He created it for our benefit (even though we may misuse it). Sixthly in that it was demonstrating the presence of God among His people in splendour and glory, and lifting up their eyes towards Him. The danger came when they turned their eyes away from God to the Temple and gave it an importance beyond its deserving. Seventhly in that it stood as a guarantee of the fulfilment of all God’s promises concerning the rise of the Coming King.
This particular passage is divided into three main parts by three phrases, each of which is a reminder that the Temple was completed, a repetition which was typical of ancient literature. These phrases are as follows:
In writings where the script continued unbroken such ‘breaks’ were vital in order to enable the reader to recognise when a change in the subject matter was taking place and a new point in the narrative was being reached.
We may analyse the whole as follows:
Thus the whole is planted firmly in history, man’s efforts on God’s behalf are described, but central to all is the requirement for obedience to God and His covenant.
6.1a ‘It came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt ---.’
The interpretation of these words is a decisive point in Biblical chronology. It does at first sight give the appearance of indicating an exact chronology, but if taken literally it would be the only place in Scripture where such a specific attempt at exact dating, covering so long a period, has been attempted, apart from Exodus 12.40-41. Indeed, speaking from a human point of view it is difficult to see who would have been in a position to be able to accurately arrive at this figure. Records were not meticulously kept before the time of the monarchy, and the periods covered by Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Saul, contain time periods so uncertain that no one could have pinpointed the length of time with such accuracy from them, even if they accepted the exact round numbers in Judges literally. Certainly many attempts have been made to do so since, but none of them have been successful, for they have always had to make (or ignore) uncertain assumptions concerning the time period of Joshua, the length of time to the first invasion of the land in Judges 3.8, and the length of the periods for Samuel and Saul. We may take a scholarly interest in such matters, but it is doubtful if the writer of Kings or his source did so.
It is true, of course, that God would have known how long the true period was, but the words are not shown as coming from the mouth of God nor are they put in the form of a prophetic announcement, and there is no indication given anywhere that the writer obtained special divine assistance in arriving at the figure. He appears rather to have made the statement almost matter-of-factedly on the basis of his own knowledge. In that case we may ask why did he do so, and what was the criteria on which he based his information?
A point that must be borne in mind in considering the matter is the way in which number words were used in ancient times. They were not times in which much stress was laid on mathematics and arithmetic. Numbers were a mystery to most people. Indeed most probably could not accurately use numbers beyond, say, twenty (even if that). Numbers were rather used in order to convey an impression, and many of what we see as number words (e.g. a thousand) also had a number of other different meanings (such as military unit, family unit, clan unit, work unit, etc.). This being so our question should rather therefore be, what impression was the writer trying to give?
A clue may perhaps be found in another reference which has in mind the period from the Exodus to Solomon and that is found in 1 Chronicles 6. Indicated there we have the list of ‘Priests’ from Aaron to the time of Solomon, and then from Solomon to the Exile. If we list the ‘Priests’ from Aaron to Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, who would succeed Zadok as Priest in the early days of Solomon, we have twelve names, and if we take a ‘generation’ to represent forty years that would give us four hundred and eighty years. Thus the writer may simply be intending to indicate that there were ‘twelve generations’ (12x40=480) between the coming out of Egypt and the commencement of the building of the Temple, which would in reality be considerably less than 480 years. And a connection with the High Priesthood would be a very fit way in which to date the growth of Israel’s faith to the point at which the Temple was built (which was as the men of the day would see it).
But we must then ask, why was the matter seen as being of such importance that such dating was required? The answer would appear to lie in the emphasis that is earlier laid on the fact that the Temple was being built by Solomon because at long last the land was at rest, with all its enemies having been dealt with. It was an indication that the period of wandering, and of having a temporary, travelling sanctuary, was considered to be over. Thus the ‘four hundred and eighty years’ indicated the period that had passed between the first deliverance from Egypt and the time at which Israel could say, ‘now at last we are permanently settled in the land and at rest, with all our enemies subdued.’ It was a moment of great satisfaction.
6.1 ‘And it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of YHWH.’
So after twelve generations from the coming out of Egypt, Solomon felt that things were so at rest that a permanent Temple could be built. The impression being given was that now at last Israel were finally settled in the land for good. But as we know, and as the writer knew, within a generation that vision would collapse, and a united Israel would be no more. It was a dream that would turn into a nightmare. Thus the positive note of the verse suggests that it was written before the crises that followed occurred, confirming that it was very early and part of the original source.
The date was seen as so important that the exact date is then given. It was in the month Ziv, which was the second month, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign (somewhere around 960 BC). It was seen as a glorious month in history, for it was in this month Solomon began to build the house of YHWH. The final writer of Kings must, however, certainly have had in mind what the future of the Temple was. He would have known that that too was doomed even as it was being erected, and that a promising beginning would end in disaster. The dream would come to nothing because the injunction to Solomon in verses 12-13 would be ignored.
The word used for ‘moon period’ appears regularly in Genesis, Exodus, etc. The moon period Ziv occurs only in this chapter, and is explained as being the second moon period in the year. It is an indication of early date, for later the second month would be Iyyar. The dating from the beginning of the reign was a normal method of dating. Everything about this verse indicates its antiquity.
Description Of The Erection Of The Main Stone Buildings (6.2-10).
As we read these descriptions we need to keep in mind the huge effort that had been put into bringing things up to this stage. It was the result of blood, sweat and tears, and the slave labour of tens of thousands of workers. It must be borne in mind that there are a number of technical terms in what follows which are not fully understood. Thus to some extent the descriptions are tentative. But the basic idea is relatively clear.
6.2 ‘And the house which king Solomon built for YHWH, its the length was threescore cubits, and its breadth twenty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.’
The dimensions of the Temple were now given. It was double the size of the Tabernacle in all dimensions. The cubit was the distance from the elbow to the finger tips, about forty five centimetres or seventeen and a half inches. Thus the building was about twenty seven metres (ninety feet) long, nine metres (thirty feet) wide, and thirteen and a half metres (forty five feet) high. It was divided up into the main sanctuary (the Holy Place), and an inner sanctuary (the Most Holy Place), with a porch in front of the main sanctuary. It was thus adequate but not huge, and dwarfed by the House of the Forest of Lebanon ( 7.2-3). We may feel that had David built it he would have ensured that it was larger than his own palace.
6.3 ‘And the porch before the temple of the house, its length was twenty cubits, according to the breadth of the house; and ten cubits was its breadth before the house.’
The porch in front of the Temple was roughly nine metres (thirty feet) in length i.e. going the breadth of the building and four and a half metres (fifteen feet) in width (from outer door to inner door).
(There were also in fact side-chambers going along the outside of the building (verses 5 and 7), and seemingly an outer and inner court (see verse 36), but the latter are not mentioned in any detail).
6.4 ‘And for the house he made windows of fixed lattice-work.’
The Hebrew words used here are of uncertain meaning, but if the usual ‘guess’, partly supported by grammar and ancient versions, is correct the main sanctuary was lit by small windows near the roof, either of fixed lattice work or embrasured.
6.5 ‘And against the wall of the house he built stories (or ‘platforms’) round about, against the walls of the house round about, both of the temple and of the inner room, and he made side-chambers round about.’
Along the walls on the outside were built side-chambers (which would act as ‘store rooms’ and provide facilities for the priests) which went the whole length of the building, probably built on platforms (‘stories’).
6.6 ‘The lowest story was five cubits broad, and the middle was six cubits broad, and the third was seven cubits broad, for on the outside he made offsets in the wall of the house round about, that the beams should not have hold in the walls of the house.’
These side-chambers were built in three stories with the lowest story just over two metres (seven foot six) broad, the second story nearly three metres (nine foot) broad and the top story over three metres ( ten and a half foot) broad. These were thus tiered, and the main building was built in such a way that the tiered walls of the sacred building itself were not pierced, but rebated so as to offer support for the timbers which supported the side-chambers. The sanctuary wall itself was to be kept unpierced, and therefore untainted in any way.
There is a reminder here that we should maintain our own inner hearts (the temples of the Holy Spirit - 1 Corinthians 6.15, 19-20) unpierced by the world, even though we are nevertheless ready to bear the world’s burdens.
6.7 ‘And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.’
It has been made clear that the sanctuary was kept ‘untainted’ by using tiering so that its integrity might not be infringed on, and that now leads on to the fact that it was also kept untainted by not allowing any noise or activity of building work to disturb its peacefulness. We have here a reminder that the Temple was built of stone, but it then very importantly (from their viewpoint) informs us that all the work of dressing the stone from which the Temple was built had been done at the quarry. This prevented any noisy work taking place on the actual site of the sanctuary itself, noise which might defile its peacefulness. The central problem being guarded against appears to have been the clanging and clattering noise caused by builder’s tools, which was apparently considered not to be seemly for the site of the house of YHWH, (and which would certainly have disturbed the neighbours). The only noise to be allowed in the Temple area from now on was the praises of God’s people.
It has been suggested that the aim was to prevent the introduction of masons’ tools to the site, especially iron tools, (for the latter compare Exodus 20.25; Deuteronomy 27.5, where, however, they were not to touch the altar at all). But the aim would appear to have been to exclude the noise of the tools rather than the tools themselves. (Although we can possibly compare the way in which only flint knives were used for circumcision - Joshua 5.2-3; Exodus 4.25). Tools would certainly be required later for repair work.
This information was inserted here in order to tie in with the fact that the beams of the storerooms had not ‘tainted’ the main sanctuary by piercing it. It is saying that in the same way, the area of the sanctuary had not been tainted by the noise and cries of builders. The special ‘holiness’ of the sanctuary was thus being maintained.
There is a reminder to us here that when we meet for worship we should not allow the atmosphere to be tainted by the intrusion of the outside world. Rather it should only be disturbed by the testimony, praises and worship of God’s people. Unseemly noise should be left outside.
6.8 ‘The door for the middle side-chamber was in the right side of the house, and they went up by winding stairs into the middle story, and out of the middle into the third.’
The side-chambers were entered by their own door placed on the right hand side, leading into the middle side-chamber, from where access to the remainder could be obtained. It is quite possible that this access was from within the Holy Place, although it may have been from outside, from the inner court. This included the provision of lulim (possibly ‘winding stairs’, obtained from the Arabic lawiyah, ‘to be coiled’, an example of which was found at Atchana; or ‘ladders’; or ‘trapdoors’, which was the meaning of lulim in later Hebrew) which gave access to the upper chambers. These side-chambers probably had multiple uses. They could be used, for example, to house the priests’ portions and skins, the Temple treasure (much of which would, however, be kept in the sanctuary proper), and even possibly the priests themselves when they were on duty, or when they were preparing to partake of their portions.
6.9 ‘So he built the house, and finished it, and he covered the house with beams and planks of cedar.’
The stonework having been completed, and the house built, the whole was then encased in beams and planks of cedar. The idea is that all was made beautiful and a delight to behold.
6.10 ‘And he built the stories against all the house, each five cubits high, and they rested on the house with timber of cedar.’
And the store-rooms which were built against the house, each of them just over two metres (seven foot six inches) high, rested on cedar beams, which themselves rested on the rebatements made on the walls. Again therefore it is stressed that the purity of the sanctuary was maintained, and that it was not infringed upon by the timbers from the more mundane store-rooms.
YHWH’s Mini-Covenant With Solomon (6.11-14).
These words are deliberately place in the centre of the description of the building of the Temple, because they went to the heart of what the passage was all about. Into the Temple would be brought the Ark of God containing the tablets of the covenant, and they were a reminder that, unless that covenant was kept at the heart of what was going on in the Temple, the whole would be in vain. Thus YHWH’s genuine dwelling among them would only continue while they were genuinely faithful to His covenant. God was only too well aware that the Temple could so easily become an outward symbol that was unable to move the heart. We can compare here 1 Samuel 15.22; Isaiah 1.10-18; 58.2-14.
It appears very probable that the revelation came through a prophet once the stonework had been erected and completed, but prior to its embellishment, partly as an encouragement in the work, but very much as a warning not to be too taken up with the Temple itself.
6.11 ‘And the word of YHWH came to Solomon, saying,’
So in the midst of the busyness of building the Temple the voice of YHWH broke through on Solomon, seeking to encourage him, but also in order to remind him that without obedience to His Instruction all that he was building would be futile.
6.12-13 “Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments to walk in them, then will I establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father, and I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.”
“Concerning this house which you are building.” This was hardly the warmest way of describing the Temple, and in a sense it was a disclaimer of responsibility (note the absence of ‘My’). This was not what YHWH had had in mind when He had made His covenant with David (2 Samuel 7.5-7), and He wanted it to be recognised that its success would depend on faithfulness to His covenant, and obedience to His ways. It was only on such terms that He would ‘establish’ the covenant that he had made with David, and would dwell among His people and not forsake them. He wanted it recognised that the Temple itself would be no guarantee of His presence. What would guarantee His presence would be their faithful walk with Him. Without that He would desert both the house and the people.
‘If you will walk in My statutes and execute My judgments, and keep all My commandments.’ The emphasis is on threefold obedience to all God’s ways and requirements. The phrase ‘if you will walk in my statutes’ is taken from Leviticus 26.3. The phrase ‘execute My judgments’ is taken from Leviticus 18.4. See also Leviticus 18.5; 19.37; 20.22; 25.15 for a similar idea. ‘Keep all my commandments’ is found in Deuteronomy 5.29. The nearest to ‘keep all My commandments to walk in them’ are Deuteronomy 5.29; 8.6; 28.9; but none are very close. For the appeal ‘if you will --’ see 3.14; Exodus 15.26; Leviticus 26.3; (interestingly an opening and direct ‘if you will --’ is not a Deuteronomic approach. We may compare Deuteronomy 19.9; 30.10, but they are not using the words as a direct opening phrase and are therefore not strictly comparable). In view of this it is not justifiable to suggest that this covenant is ‘Deuteronomic’. It should rather be called ‘Mosaic’.
For the overall idea see for example 2.3; 3.14; 2 Kings 17.34, 37; Genesis 26.5; Exodus 15.26; Leviticus 18.4, 5, 26; 19.37; 20.22; 25.18; 26.3, 15; Deuteronomy 5.31; 6.1; 7.11; 8.11; 11.1; 26.17; 30.16.
On the condition of such threefold obedience YHWH promises that He will establish with him His word which He spoke to David his father. This word primarily has in mind His covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7.12-16, but compare 1 Chronicles 22.7-13, which was a further revelation given after the incident of the numbering of Israel and the purchase and use of Ornan’s threshingfloor for sacrifices (1 Chronicles 21.28-30). Ornan’s threshingfloor was itself the site of the Temple (2 Chronicles 3.1). In that revelation YHWH belatedly gave permission for a permanent Temple to be built (in contrast with David’s house).
‘And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.’ YHWH’s dwelling among His people was thus conditional on Solomon’s obedience as revealed by ‘walking in His statutes, executing His judgments and keeping all His statutes to walk in them’. The idea, however, was that this would then cause the people to walk in them too, for His presence would in the end always depend on the faithful response of His people (compare Isaiah 57.15). On the other hand, for those who were faithful it was guaranteed (Deuteronomy 31.6, 8; Joshua 1.5; 1 Samuel 12.28; Hebrews 13.5).
6.14 ‘So Solomon built the house, and finished it.’
In response to YHWH’s covenant Solomon ‘built the house and finished it’ (with a little help from numerous others). All the stonework was now complete. As we have seen this and similar phrases end the three sections into which the passage is divided (see verses 9 and 38).
Description Of The Embellishment Of The Building (6.15-38).
Having been given the description of the erection of the basic stonework we are now provided with brief details of how the building was embellished, which emphasises the wealth that was poured into it. Once again we have the problem of technical information and unusual technical words which would have been quite understandable to the builders but are somewhat of a mystery to us. The passage has been described as ‘untranslatable’, but we should recognise that that is due to our ignorance, and not to the grammar of the passage itself. It was possibly originally composed from builder’s technical notes which would help to explain its obscurity.
The work proceeded as follows:
The Lining Of The Building And Creation Of The Most Holy Place (6.16-19).
6.15 ‘And he built the walls of the house within with boards of cedar, from the floor of the house to the walls of the ceiling, he covered them on the inside with wood, and he covered the floor of the house with boards of pine.’
The whole inside of the building from top to bottom was covered with boards of cedar, and the floor was covered with pine wood. These walls would later be carved with carved figures of cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, which would be covered in gold. The whole intention was probably that it would, with its glory and beauty, convey the idea of creation, especially as seen in the Garden of Eden (cedar and pine wood, cherubim, trees and flowers).
6.16 ‘And he built twenty cubits on the back part of the house with boards of cedar from the floor to the walls of the ceiling. He built them for it within, for an inner room (dbr - ‘back part’), even for the most holy place.’
A separate Inner Room was then divided off at the rear of the building to form the Most Holy Place. This was built of cedar wood in the form of a perfect cube (the ancients way of indicating perfection and total completeness) with dimensions of twenty cubits (nine metres, thirty feet). There would thus have been a space above this inner chamber of ten cubit high, which was presumably necessary in case any work had to be done on the Most Holy Place for which elaborate precautions would have been deemed necessary and special access arranged.
The word dbr is in some translations rendered as ‘oracle’ from the verb dbr ‘to speak’. But it more probably signifies ‘the back part, back room’ coming from dbr ‘to turn the back’, compare Akkadian dabaru, Arabic dubr.
‘The Most Holy Place.’ Literally ‘the Holy of holies’ a Hebraism intensifying the idea of its holiness. It is an obvious Hebraism for indicating what is most holy, what is the most sacred of all, and there is no justification in arguing that it is necessarily ‘late’. The idea of the extreme holiness of the Ark, and of the place where it was to be found, is constant throughout Scripture.
6.17 ‘And the house, that is, the temple before (the inner room), was forty cubits long.’
As a consequence of the separation of the Inner Room, the Outer Room, or Holy Place, was made up of what remained, being forty cubits long (eighteen metres, sixty feet), and, of course twenty cubits wide. It is first thought of as ‘the house’, but then, recognising that that description signified the whole, more closely defined as ‘the temple before’, i.e. the main sanctuary before the Inner Room.
6.18 ‘And there was cedar on the house within, carved with wild fruits and open flowers, all was cedar, there was no stone seen.’
It is then stressed that all the stonework was hidden behind cedar wood, which was carved with wild fruits (gourds) and open flowers, the whole together indicating beauty, life and fruitfulness. The thought was more of life and beauty in creation than of fertility. All was of cedar embellished with symbols of natural beauty and fruitfulness. No stonework was visible. It was symbolic, not of dead stone, but of the living creation, and was thus suitable for the worship of, and reminder about, the God of creation Who, through their representatives, welcomed His people into His garden world (reminiscent of Eden). Compare the way in which the semi-deified king of Tyre saw himself, when in his Temple which had been fashioned in the likeness of a garden of Paradise, as walking in the garden of God (Ezekiel 28.1-19).
6.19 ‘And he prepared an inner room in the midst of the house within, to set there the ark of the covenant of YHWH.’
The Inner Room, already described in verse 16, was for the purpose of housing the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH. It was the Most Holy Place, the Holiest of all, which could only be entered by the High Priest, and that only once a year on the Day of Atonement. It indicated the invisible presence of their covenant God, YHWH, ever ready to meet with His people, continually expectant of their obedience (the covenant tablets were within), and open with the offer of mercy (the propitiatory or ‘mercy seat’ was above).
The Overlaying Of Everything With Gold (6.20-22).
6.20 ‘And within the inner room was a space of twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in its the height, and he overlaid it with pure gold, and he covered the altar with cedar.’
The whole of the inner room was covered with refined gold, probably applied in liquid form. Such coverings of precious metals were common among rich kings in antiquity. In Egypt, for example, we know of temples which had silver and gold covered floors and stairways, while Queen Hatshepsut is known to have capped and plated her giant obelisks (30 metres, 97 feet, high) with gold and electrum. The skilled artisans of Rameses II delighted in gold-covered temple-doors and sacred barques, and we have only to consider the golden coffin of Tutenkahmen, together with his other treasures, which many readers will actually have seen, to realise how much wealth could be expended. Indeed within ten years of Solomon’s death Osorkon I of Egypt made a whole host of staggering gifts of precious metals to the gods of Egypt. During the first four years of his reign he presented them with a total of two million deben weight of silver (about 220 tons) and another 2,300,000 deben weight of silver and gold (some 250 tons) largely in the form of precious objects (vessels, statuary, etc.). In other parts of the unfortunately damaged inscription a good number of such objects are itemised, many by weight. And all this is precisely recorded in the inscription. No doubt much of it came from the Temple in Jerusalem (14.26).
There were a number of sources of such gold in the ancient Near East, including the abundant supplies in the alluvium of the eastern desert of Egypt, and the sources in the west coast of Arabia, the mountains of Armenia and Persia, western Asia Minor and the Aegean, with all of whom Solomon had trading contact. In view of his monopoly of the trading routes there is no reason to doubt that he was wealthy enough to have this much gold available.
‘And he covered the altar with cedar.’ This refers to the altar of incense which he installed in the Holy Place, but was always seen as ‘belonging’ to the Most Holy Place (compare Hebrews 9.3-4). It would appear that it was made of stone like the Temple walls, and therefore required a covering of cedar, prior to its coating with gold. Note how the writer seeks to give the impression of the work proceeding action by action for in verse 22 we are then told that this altar was further overlaid with gold (compare also 7.48).
6.21 ‘So Solomon overlaid the house within with pure gold, and he drew chains of gold across before the inner room, and he overlaid it with gold.’
What has been said about overlaying with gold is now emphasised by repetition in typically ancient fashion, possibly indicating the length of time that this all took, and the care with which it was carried out. While it may make boring reading to us, to those who were listening to it read out it would build up picture on picture which emphasised the munificence of Solomon’s gifts to the Temple. Now therefore we are reminded that the whole of the Most Holy Place was overlaid with gold. The chains may have been designed to hang across the doors thus preventing entry into the Most Holy Place, or they may have been the chains from which the sacred curtain (2 Chronicles 3.14) would hang, separating the Most Holy Place from the Holy Place. These were also made of gold. And everything, but everything (to use our modern method of repetition), was overlaid with gold.
6.22 ‘And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until all the house was finished, also the whole altar that belonged to the inner room he overlaid with gold.’
Not only the Most Holy Place, but also the Holy Place, was overlaid with gold, and at the same time the altar of incenses, which had been covered with cedar, was now overlaid with gold. There may have been a distinction between the thickness of the gold applied to the Holy Place in comparison with the Most Holy Place, which would explain the reason for the distinction being made. On the other hand the whole purpose may have been to hang out the description in order to bring it home as men listened to it being read out.
The Provision Of Cherubim For The Most Holy Place (6.23-28).
We do not know the form in which the cherubim were presented apart from the fact that they are seen as having wings. The fact that they stood ten cubits high, with wings extended sideways, militates against them having the forms of sphinxes known from other temples, where they were, for example, a combination of animal body, bird wings and human face (although this would partly fit the ideas behind the descriptions in Ezekiel 1 and Revelation). There were, however, many different types of such figures in foreign Temples, some acting as guardians, others in a worshipping attitude. From Genesis 3.24, Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4-5 it is apparent that they were seen as protectors and conveyors of the sense of YHWH’s holiness, and as bearers of His throne. Compare also Isaiah 37.16; Psalm 80.1.
6.23-24 ‘And in the inner room he made two cherubim of olive-wood, each ten cubits high (literally ‘it was ten cubits high’). And five cubits was the one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the other wing of the cherub, from the uttermost part of the one wing unto the uttermost part of the other were ten cubits.’
The two cherubim were made of olive-wood (prior to being placed in the Temple) and were each ten cubits (4.8 metres, fifteen feet) high, each with wings extended sideways which were each five cubits (2.4 metres, seven and a half feet) long, including the width of the body. ‘It was ten cubits high.’ The singular is explained by the description in verse 25, indicating that the writer was giving the size of one cherubim, and then the other.
6.25-26 ‘And the other cherub was ten cubits. Both the cherubim were of one measure and one form. The height of the one cherub was ten cubits, and so was it of the other cherub.’
It is then emphasised that both cherubim were identical in both size and shape, both being ten cubits high.
6.27 ‘And he set the cherubim within the inner house, and the wings of the cherubim were stretched forth, so that the wing of the one touched the one wall, and the wing of the other cherub touched the other wall, and their wings touched one another in the midst of the house.’
Once it was completed the two cherubim were set within the Most Holy Place, seemingly standing alongside each other with wings outstretched, so that one wing of one cherub touched one wing of the other, with, in both cases, their other wing reaching out to the wall. Between them would be placed the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH. Unlike the cherubim on the Ark, who would, of course shortly join these two cherubim, these two looked out towards the curtain behind which was the Holy Place, presumably watching so as to ensure that no one dared to come through the curtain.
6.28 ‘And he overlaid the cherubim with gold.’
Both Cherubim were overlaid with gold in the same way as everything else in the Most Holy Place. They shared in the holiness of the inner Sanctuary.
The Further Decoration Of The Temple (6.29-30).
6.29 ‘And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubim and palm-trees and open flowers, within and without.’
We were informed in verse 18 about the carvings on the cedar wood where it was described as carved with wild flowers (gourds) and open flowers. Here are added carvings of cherubim, and palm trees. Once again the writer is trying to give the impression of step by step progression. First the outline features, now the central features. The palm trees and the Cherubim would alternate around the wall. They probably symbolised the heavenly garden, possibly including the idea of the tree of life which the Cherubim had been set to guard. The way back to God was to be seen as possible through the presenting of blood before the Ark.
Open flowers and palm trees have been found on a number of Phoenician artefacts, which again suggests Phoenician influence here.
6.30 ‘And the floor of the house he overlaid with gold, within and without.’
Not only were the walls and ceiling overlaid with gold, but the floor as well, both within the Inner Room and outside it. This gilding of the floor followed a well known pattern evidenced in Egypt. See on verse 20.
The Doors Guarding The Two Rooms Of The Temple, The Inner Doors and The Outer Doors (6.31-35).
6.31 ‘And for the entrance of the inner room he made doors of olive-wood, the lintel and doorposts were a fifth part of the wall.’
The way into the inner room was not only to be guarded by the curtain, but also by two doors of olive wood covering four fifths of the space, the other fifth being occupied by the lintels and the door posts.
6.32 ‘So he made two doors of olive-wood, and he carved on them carvings of cherubim and palm-trees and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold, and he spread the gold on the cherubim, and upon the palm-trees.’
These two doors of olive wood again had on them carvings of Cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, and both the doors and the carvings were also overlaid with gold.
6.33-34 ‘So he also made for the entrance of the temple doorposts of olive-wood, out of a fourth part of the wall; and two doors of pine-wood: the two leaves of the one door were folding, and the two leaves of the other door were folding.’
Similarly doors were made to cover the entrance into the outer sanctuary. These were made of pine wood, and the door posts of olive wood. The door posts took up a quarter of the space, and two doors, which folded in two, covered the remainder of the space.
6.35 ‘And he carved on them cherubim and palm-trees and open flowers; and he overlaid them with gold fitted on the graven work.’
And on these also were carved Cherubim and palm trees and open flowers. And these also were overlaid with gold. Thus anyone who approached the sanctuary would be made aware of Cherubim guarding the way, and palm trees and open flowers reminding them of how once their ancestor had walked in the garden of God. And the priests who entered would find themselves surrounded by these on all sides as they sought to maintain the access of the people into God’s mercy.
The Inner Court (6.36).
6.36 ‘And he built the inner court with three courses of hewn stone, and a course of cedar beams.’
The Temple clearly had an Inner court, and therefore presumably an Outer court. The Inner court would be where people brought their offerings, and it would contain the bronze altar and the bowls of water where the priests washed their hands and feet prior to entering the Holy Place. Jeremiah calls it ‘the upper court’ which suggests that it was higher than the Outer court (Jeremiah 36.10). The Outer court would be a place for worshippers to gather, and may well at this time have also incorporated within it the king’s palace. See 7.9, 12. The wall of the inner court was built with three courses of hewn stone to one course of cedar beams as it rose upwards. We are not told anything about the height that it reached. This construction, which was commonly found in buildings elsewhere, may have provided protection from damage through earthquake. Or it may in this case have symbolised the materials from which the Temple was made. Or the cedar course may have provided spaces through which people could look in. The same pattern is found in a number of excavated Syrian buildings, and generally in the ancient world.
According to 2 Chronicles 4.9 the outer wall had gates lined with bronze, thus it also clearly had high walls. Around it were rooms and cells for the priests and Levites (2 Kings 23.11; Jeremiah 35.4; 36.10). The principal gate of the outer court was the east gate (Ezekiel 11.1) but other gates are mentioned (2 Kings 11.6; 2 Chronicles 23.5; Jeremiah 20.2; 2 Kings 12.10; 2 Chronicles 24.8). The reason why it is not mentioned here is probably because it also included within it the palace of Solomon shortly to be described.
The Date Of The Finalising Of The Temple (6.37). 6.37 ‘In the fourth year was the foundation of the house of YHWH laid, in the moon period (yerach) Ziv. And in the eleventh year, in the moon period (yerach) Bul, which is the eighth month (chodesh), was the house finished throughout all its parts, and according to all the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it.’
The building of the Temple took seven years and six months. The fact that it took ‘seven years’ would have been seen as a good sign. It was the divinely perfect period. Note again the ancient pre-exilic names for the months. Ziv means ‘flowers’ (spring time) and Bul means ‘moisture’ (the rainy season). We need not doubt that the building of it was a genuine act of worship, but as we have already seen it revealed the shallowness of Solomon’s religious awareness. It lacked in obedience. It revealed man’s view of God, not what God had revealed Himself to be.
‘Yerach’ is an ancient word for a moon period, found also at Ugarit and on the Gezer tablet, but comparatively rare in Scripture, being found prior to Kings only in Exodus 2.2; Deuteronomy 21.13; 33.14. ‘Chodesh’ is a parallel word and is of common use, being found regularly from Genesis onwards. Both words were used by Job and Zechariah which demonstrates that they were parallel words in use throughout the Biblical period.
The Building Of Solomon’s Own Palace (7.1-12).
The building of Solomon’s palace complex comes between the description of the building of the Temple and the further details of the completion of the Temple in 7.13-51). This may well have been because they were all included within the wall of the Great Court (7.9, 12). But a more patent reason is that the writer was bringing out how much longer the time was that was spent on Solomon’s palace complex than on the Temple, and how much larger his palace was. This is emphasised by the fact that 7.1 immediately follows 6.37, making the contrast specific and explicit. It fits in with the fact that while continually expanding on the glory of Solomon the writer also constantly draws attention to where Solomon failed (compare 3.3; 5.13-16 in the context of what follows). He was not wearing rose-tinted spectacles. You can almost hear him saying, ‘Solomon was undoubtedly splendid, wealthy and wise, BUT ---.’
The Palace was probably built on the north east side of the Temple mount, adjacent to the Temple. But once again we are faced with technical words and technical descriptions, all of which would have been plain at the time, but are not so plain to us now. Very little detail is actually given and we do not intend to give the various alternative possibilities, as in the end all are necessarily speculative. The aim of what information was given was to bring out its grandeur and luxuriousness, not to give detailed specifications. To the Israelites, unaccustomed to such buildings, it must have appeared as one of the wonders of the world.
Note that in ‘a’ he built and finished his house, and in the parallel he built around it the great court. In ‘b’ the emphasis is on the largeness of the building, and in the parallel the emphasis is on the largeness of the foundation. In ‘c’ more of the detail is given and in the parallel details of the method of working are supplied. In ‘d’ we have a description of the hall of pillars, and in the parallel a description of the two palaces. Centrally in ‘e’ we have the hall of justice where the righteousness of the Law would be applied.
7.1 ‘And Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house.’
Together with the building of the Temple the whole project took twenty years, that is, twenty years of hard labour for the Israelites and the Canaanites (and they were not even finished then for there would be much further building work - 9.17-19). The contrast between seven years for the Temple and thirteen years here has been made impossible to avoid. It is a reminder that, although Solomon gloried in the Lord, he gloried in Solomon more.
7.2 ‘For he built the house of the forest of Lebanon. Its length was a hundred cubits, and its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits, on four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams on the pillars.’
Solomon’s palace complex was divided up into sections, although those sections were probably in one huge building. Such large palace complexes were a common feature of the ancient world. Some such complexes were found at Ebla in Syria around 2300 BC. Compare also the huge complexes at Mari, Nineveh, Babylon, Alalakh and Ugarit, and also later at Samaria. It was made up of the house of the forest of Lebanon (so named after its rows of huge cedar pillars), which was among other things a treasury and armoury (10.17; Isaiah 22.8); the hall of pillars, which was probably where people waited who wanted to attend on the king; the hall of justice, which was where he openly dispensed justice; and his own living quarters; and the spacious living quarters of Pharaoh’s daughter, his Egyptian wife. It would no doubt also have included space for a number of his harem (11.3). Others of his large harem were probably quartered in different cities around the country, living in luxury and available for whenever he visited.
The measurements of the house of the Forest of Lebanon dwarf the Temple, a contrast that the writer no doubt intended us to observe. It was one hundred cubits long (compared with sixty), fifty cubits wide (compared with twenty), and thirty cubits high, and was especially notable for the four rows of huge cedar pillars around which it was constructed. The pillars, which would have looked like a forest of cedars, were what gave the house its name, and they were necessary so as to bear its massive roof, and possibly a second story. There were apparently fifteen pillars in each row.
That the house was built ‘on the pillars’ simply indicates that the pillars held the house up, and must not be overpressed (as though the house was on stilts).
7.3 ‘And it was covered with cedar above over the forty and five beams, that were on the pillars, fifteen in a row.’
The four rows of pillars were connected at the top by huge beams, forty five in all, stretching across from pillar to pillar, on which the massive roof, or possibly an upper story, would rest. (The word for ‘beams’ can, however, mean either beams or side chambers, as in 6.5, 6. 8, 15, 16)
7.4 ‘And there were beams in three rows, and window was over against window in three ranks.’
The beams were in three rows, lying on top of the four rows of pillars, and in each of the side walls were three rows of windows, paralleled on each side. Alternately we may see this as indicating side chambers on three stories, as with the Temple.
7.5 ‘And all the doors and doorposts were made square with beams, and window was over against window in three ranks.’
All the doors and door posts were made square with the beams, thus providing strength to the construction, and to the doors, and it is again repeated that the windows were opposite each other in three ranks. It is being emphasised that the whole place was light and airy.
7.6 ‘And he made the hall (porch) of pillars. Its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth thirty cubits; and a porch before them, and pillars and a threshold before them.
This large ‘hall of pillars’ may have been built on to the front of the house of the forest of Lebanon, stretching across its width of fifty cubits. It may have been where people who were seeking audience to the king waited. This hall too had its own porch, with pillars and a threshold in front of it.
7.7 And he made the hall (porch) of the throne where he was to judge, even the hall (porch) of judgment, and it was covered with cedar from floor to floor.’
He also built a hall where he could dispense justice, which contained his throne of judgment. This was covered with cedar ‘from floor to floor’ i.e. from the floor below to the ‘floor’ above (we would say from floor to ceiling).
7.8 ‘And his house where he was to dwell, the other court within the building (porch), was of similar work. He made also a house for Pharaoh’s daughter (whom Solomon had taken to wife), which was like this building (porch).’
Solomon’s house was built in a similar way, of stone and cedar, with its own court, while, probably on the other side of the courtyard, a house was built for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom Solomon had taken as his wife. This was built in a similar way. All the buildings may in fact have been built around this central court, but the descriptions are too vague for us to be certain. It would be necessary for Pharaoh’s daughter to have her own special apartments because of her unique status, but parts of the harem were no doubt also housed close by. The writer is simply bringing out that the people of highest status were given accommodation suitable to their status, and reminding us that Solomon had married Pharaoh’s daughter. All who heard it would have been suitably impressed.
7.9 ‘All these were of costly stones, even of hewn stone, according to measure, sawed with saws, within and without, even from the foundation to the coping, and so on the outside to the great court.’
All these building were built with valuable stonework from top to bottom, stones which had been cut out of the mountains and hewn with saws, to careful measurement so as to fit into their place in the complex. They would be made of the soft limestone which, on having been cut out of the hills, would gradually harden naturally on exposure to the air. The great court probably surrounded the whole, including the Temple (which as we have seen had its own inner court).
7.10 ‘And the foundation was of costly stones, even great stones, stones of ten cubits, and stones of eight cubits.’
The foundations of the buildings were made of massive stones, some of which were ten cubits long, and some of eight cubits. These were not overlarge compared with building stones found in similar buildings elsewhere, but would have appeared huge to the Israelites.
7.11 ‘And above were costly stones, even hewn stone, according to measure, and cedar-wood.’
On top of the foundation the remainder of the building was of valuable stonework, made to measure, and of cedar wood. The aim was to bring out how carefully it was built, and how massive and luxurious was the whole.
7.12 ‘And the great court round about had three courses of hewn stone, and a course of cedar beams, like as the inner court of the house of YHWH, and the porch of the house.’
The great court probably contained all the buildings including the Temple, and it was surrounded by a wall made up of three courses of stone to one of cedar wood, in a similar way to the wall of the inner court of the Temple. This was a common construction with buildings found elsewhere (including at Ugarit) and was probably in order to enable it to withstand earthquakes.
The Furnishing And Embellishment Of The Temple (7.13-51).
The passage is divided into two parts. The first part emphasises that what is described was the work of Hiram, a skilled metalworker and carpenter from Tyre who was half Israelite, half Tyrian. He was called on to complete the furnishing and embellishing of the Temple for the Inner court. It will be noted that there is a deliberate attempt to parallel him with Bezalel, the craftsman who made the original Tabernacle furnishings and embellishments (Exodus 35.30-33), for he is described in similar terms. What is lacking is the idea that that he was filled with the Holy Spirit, or that he was a full-born Israelite. The second part describes all the furnishings for the new Sanctuary, for which overall credit is given to Solomon.
The whole passage is also divided into three subsections by the following closing phrases;
We can compare with this how in chapter 6 the passage was divided into three parts by the references to ‘he built the house and finished it’ and its equivalents (6.9, 14, 38).
The first part of the passage, which refers to the activities of Hiram the Metalworker is also carefully crafted and can be analysed as follows:
Note how in ‘a’ Hiram wrought all Solomon’s work for him, and in the parallel he made an end of all the work that he wrought for king Solomon. In ‘b’ he came to king Solomon and wrought all his work, and in the parallel some of what he wrought is described. In ‘c’ he made the two free standing pillars, and in the parallel he made the ten lavers. Centrally in ‘d’ he made the molten Sea.
Solomon Sends For A Tyrian Expert To Fashion The Embellishments And New Furnishings For The Temple (7.13-14).
These two verses introduce the whole. They commence with Solomon sending for a man named Hiram (not the king) whom he fetches out of Tyre. There appears to be a deliberate attempt in the description of him to bring to mind Bezalel, the skilled worker who made the Tabernacle furnishings and embellishments (Exodus 35.30-33), for he is described as being ‘filled with wisdom (chokmah), and understanding (tabuwn), and skill (da’ath) to work all works in bronze’. With this we can compare the description of Bezalel, ‘He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom (chokmah), and in understanding (tabuwn), and in knowledge (da’ath), and in all manner of workmanship --.’
But the differences are significant:
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that in the first case God was to be seen as at work, and in the second case Solomon was at work, doing the best he could. It all fits in with the constant impression that somehow Solomon’s Temple falls short of the Tabernacle, even though that fact was probably not recognised by many at the time when it was built. People are always impressed by grandeur and splendour (we can compare the disciples’ reaction to Herod’s Temple, and Jesus’ verdict on it - Mark 13.1-2 and parallels).
7.13 ‘And king Solomon sent and fetched Hiram out of Tyre.’
The Temple having been completed Solomon sought a skilled metalworker to fashion the embellishments that he had in mind for the Temple. The man he found was Hiram of Tyre (an artisan, not the king), called in Chronicles Hurum-abi (2 Chronicles 2.13), which was an alternative for Hiram. It was not unusual for the name of an architect to be given when describing building work, for it is evidenced elsewhere. The -abi (my father) may well have been a title of honour given to Hiram because of his supreme skill as a master workman.
7.14 ‘He was the son of a widow of the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze, and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill, to work all works in bronze. And he came to king Solomon, and wrought all his work.’
Hiram was the son of a widow who was an Israelite of the tribe of Naphtali. She had married a Tyrian worker in bronze. Like Bezalel, the son of Uri, (Exodus 35.30; 36.1-2) he was skilled, competent and intelligent, and he was a specialist in working bronze, but there is no suggestion that (in the same way as Bezalel was) he was ‘filled with the Spirit of YHWH’. Nor was he a full Israelite. Thus in everything the Temple was seen to be second rate compared with the Tabernacle. It was man-impelled, not God-impelled. It was man-designed, not God-designed. The creator of its furnishings was only half-Israelite and living in a foreign country. And it will be noted that he is only mentioned in connection with work performed outside the inner sacred sanctuary. He was, however, an extremely highly skilled craftsman, and he came to Solomon and ‘wrought all his work’. Along with his assistants he did the best he could.
According to 2 Chronicles 2.13, his mother was “of the daughters of Dan,” which would suggest that she was of the tribe of Dan. But there is no real problem with that, for Israelite women necessarily changed tribes when they married into another tribe, something which was a regular occurrence. Each woman was adopted by the tribe of her husband. Thus Hiram’s mother could simply be a Danite by birth, who had married into the tribe of Naphtali, prior to marrying the Tyrian who was Hiram’s father, once her first husband had died.
Hiram Fashions The Two Pillars Of Bronze, Yakin and Boaz (7.15-22).
In front of the Temple were to be placed two pillars, which, going by clay models of temples which have been discovered in Palestine and Cyprus (13th-9th centuries BC), and possible examples found elsewhere (e.g. in Hazor, Arad and Kition), would be free standing. This is also confirmed on Sidonian coins. One of the pillars was named Yakin (‘He establishes’), and the other was named Boaz (‘with strength’). We must always beware of just assuming that similarity of construction meant similarity of significance, for even though there may often be common ground in religious symbols, in the end each country imbues its own symbols with its own meaning. And this was moreso with Israel than with any other nation. So we must in this case seek in them some significance which pointed towards the uniqueness of YHWH, for at this time Solomon was undoubtedly still fully focused on the sole worship of YHWH. Possibly in fact the thought is that of a proclamation, ‘He establishes -- with strength (the house of David)’. Another remoter possibility is that, with their decoration of blood-red pomegranates and lotus blossoms (an Egyptian symbol of life), they represented the two unique trees in the Garden of Eden, with one acting as a warning against sin and the other offering the possibility of life from YHWH. But the pomegranate was always seen as a sign of fruitfulness, and, alternated with bells, adorned the High Priest’s robe. Thus they are more likely to be giving a positive picture as two witnesses to creation, and to God’s promises to Israel.
Note that in ‘a’ he fashioned the pillars, and in the parallel the pillars were finished. In ‘b’ the heads were set on the top of the pillars, and in ‘b’ the pillars were set up with the tops of the pillars (the heads) being lily-work. In ‘c’ we have a description of decorations on the heads, and in the parallel we have further descriptions of the decorations on the heads. In ‘d’ and centrally we have a summary of the pillars and their heads, with an emphasis on the lily-work (or lotus blossoms). The lily-work or lotus blossoms were clearly seen as important.
7.15 ‘For he fashioned the two pillars of bronze, one was eighteen cubits high, and a line of twelve cubits compassed the other about.’
The wording is quaint, referring one measurement to one pillar and another to the other, with both measurements actually applying to both. This may have been with the intention of abbreviating the description, probably because he wanted the emphasis to be on the ‘heads’. The meaning is, however, clear. Each of the two pillars was made of bronze, and each was eighteen cubits (eight metres, twenty seven feet) high, a figure confirmed by 2 Kings 24.17. Their circumference is given as twelve cubits. That means that their diameter was about 3.8 cubits (just under two metres, or six feet). So they were large and impressive. That they were hollow is apparent from Jeremiah 52.21. In 2 Chronicles 3.15 they are stated to be ‘thirty five cubits high’, but that is almost certainly because the Chronicler was seeking to obtain a multiple of five, the sacred number for both the Tabernacle and the Temple, and accomplished it by giving the height of the two pillars added together. (Half a cubit each may have been seen as lost in putting them into their foundations, or it may simply have been a rounding off in order to obtain a multiple of five).
7.16 ‘And he made two capitals of molten bronze, to set on the tops of the pillars: the height of the one capital was five cubits, and the height of the other capital was five cubits.’
On top of each pillar was set a ‘capital’ or ‘crown’ or ‘head’ of molten bronze which was five cubits in height. The same size ‘crown’ or ‘head’ was set on both pillars. The dual emphasis on them in contrast with the pillars, brings out their importance and significance. They were seen as acting as two witnesses.
In 2 Kings 25.17, at the time of the destruction of the Temple, they would be said to be three cubits in height. This was probably due to deterioration, followed by repair work carried out during the renovations of Jehoash (2 Kings 12.6 ff) and Josiah (2 Kings 22.3 ff), which reduced their size.
7.17 ‘There were networks of latticework, and wreaths (spirals) of chain-work, for the capitals (heads) which were on the top of the pillars, seven for the one capital, and seven for the other capital.’
Around the ‘crowns’ or ‘heads’ on top of the pillars were wound nets of latticework and wreaths of chain work, presumably to form a kind of decoration. There were seven to each pillar.
7.18 ‘So he made the pillars, and there were two rows round about on the one network, to cover the capitals that were on the top of the pomegranates, and so did he for the other capital.’
It is now again emphasised that ‘he made the pillars’, and it would appear that what follows, although in technical language, is intended to indicate that each network of lattice work had two rows of wreaths of chain work which covered the ‘heads’, this being above where the pomegranates (mentioned later) were engraved. And this occurred in both cases. (We must remember that the original listeners as it was read out would have been able to visualise the situation from memory).
7.19 ‘And the capitals that were on the top of the pillars in the porch were of lily-work, four cubits.’
Furthermore, with regard to the top four of the five cubits of the heads, there was, as well as the other decorations, engraved lily-work (or lotus blossoms). The limitation would presumably be because the first cubit of the head was covered with the network and wreaths, and with the engraved pomegranates. The emphasis on the lily-work (see also verse 22) brings out its importance. In the Song of Solomon (e.g. 2.16; 6.2-3) the shepherd was seen as ‘feeding among the lilies’ which were a picture of a fruitful and pure Israel, and the beloved herself was seen as like a lily (e.g. 2.1-2; 4.5; 7.2). To go among the lilies was to leave behind the imperfections of city life and to enjoy the God-given freedom of Israel’s countryside. Lilies thus symbolised the purity of all that was best in Israel before it was spoiled by sophistication.
7.20 ‘And there were capitals above also on the two pillars, close by the belly (bulbous part) which was beside the network, and the pomegranates were two hundred, in rows round about on the other capital.’
It is now repeated that the two pillars had ‘heads’ above them, and it would appear that the lower part of the heads were in a bulbous shape, with the network and engraved rows of pomegranates going round the heads above (or even on) the bulge. A similar bulbous shape at the lower part of such a ‘head’ has actually been found on free-standing columns at the Temple of Aphrodite in Paphos.
To sum up the picture which has been painstakingly built up (probably so that the hearer could see it being accomplished stage by stage), we have the large, stout pillars of bronze, which lead up to the ‘heads’, with the lower part of the ‘heads’ having a bulge in them. These were then decorated with networks of lattice work and wreaths of chain work, with rows of pomegranates in the first cubit, and lily work (or lotus blossoms) covering all but the first cubit.
7.21 ‘And he set up the pillars at the porch of the temple. And he set up the right pillar, and called its name Yakin, and he set up the left pillar, and called its name Boaz.’
Having been made (which was a huge task in itself, comparable with Sennacherib’s mythical beasts cast in bronze) the pillars were then set up at the porch of the Temple, the one being named ‘He Establishes’ (Yakin) and the other being named ‘With Strength’ (Boaz). The verb ‘kun’, from which comes ‘yakin’, features prominently in Nathan’s prophecy concerning the Davidic house (2 Samuel 7.12, 13, 16, cited in 1 Kings 2.24, compare Isaiah 9.7), where the promise is that the throne of his kingship will be established for ever. (And Boaz was a well known ancestor of David and could stand for the Davidic house). So as already suggested above this may be intended to be an open proclamation that the house of David was ‘established -- with strength’ with the help of YHWH. And with their pomegranates and lily-work they may also possibly have been intended as a proclamation of the glory of the Creator, as the Creator of all that was beautiful (lily-work/lotus blossoms) and delightful and good to partake of (pomegranates).
This idea has been extended to suggest that the words yakin and be‘oz are the opening words of well known declarations about YHWH, e.g. ‘He will establish (yakin) the throne of David’ (compare 2 Samuel 13, 16) and ‘in the strength (be‘oz) of YHWH will the king rejoice’ (compare Psalm 21.1, 13).
Another suggestion which has gained some popularity is that fires were kept alight in one or both of the heads symbolising YHWH’s presence with His people, in the same way as He was present with them in the pillar of fire in the Exodus. There are indications of such pillars having fires in them elsewhere. Herodotus, for example, tells us that one of the pillars before the Temple of Baal in Tyre held a fire which glowed at night, and Hiram came from Tyre.
7.22 ‘And on the top of the pillars was lily-work. So was the work of the pillars finished.
The fact that the heads were decorated with lily-work is again emphasised, stressing the connection of the heads with nature (or with lotus blossoms connecting them with life. The word for lily is similar to the Egyptian word for lotus-flower). And with all this the work of the pillars was said to have been brought to completion, a statement which indicates the first break in the passage (see also verses 40, 51, and summary above).
To sum up we may see these two pillars as declaring the glory of the Creator, the purity of the pure in Israel, and as underlining the certainty of YHWH’s everlasting covenant with the house of David.
Hiram Fashions The Molten Sea And The Ten Lavers With Their Instruments (7.23-40).
Hiram also fashioned the molten Sea, or Sea made of cast-work. The Hebrew word ‘sea’ (yam) is nowhere else in Scripture used of anything other than literal large expanses of water or as an indicator of ‘the west’ (because the Great (Mediterranean) Sea was to the west of Palestine, see verse 25). Thus its occurrence in this connection is unique in the Old Testament. In post Biblical Hebrew it would be used of settling tanks. But we can see why the Israelites, who were not used to such a large artificial expanse of water, and were filled with admiration at it, might call it a ‘sea’ of water (compare how they would later call the lake of Galilee ‘a sea’). The word ‘molten’ signifies that it was cast-work. The same ‘sea’ is again mentioned in 2 Chronicles 4.2-10 where we are told that ‘the sea was for the priests to wash in’ (verse 6). We are not told how they accessed it, for it was five cubits high (2.3 metres, about seven and a half feet). Perhaps there was a kind of tap system by which water could be drawn off. But it clearly indicated the availability of abundant cleansing.
The suggestion that it symbolised the control of ‘chaos’ by YHWH (in the Psalms YHWH never fights the sea, He always controls it with His sovereign word and power - Psalm 74.12-14; 89.9-10; 93.3-4; 98.7-9; 104.9; compare Job 38.11) is attractive but probably ungrounded. There is nowhere any hint of chaos in connection with it. Compare how in Revelation 4.6 the sea had become a solid because in Heaven no cleansing was needed.
Artificial water sources were found in other temples. The nearest comparison is a large stone basin from Amathus in Cyprus, which is 2.2 metres in diameter and 1.85 metres high, specific purpose unknown. It has four false handles in relief, circling the heads of bulls (compare verse 24 in the light of 2 Chronicles 4.3). There was also an artificial sea connected with the temple of Marduk in Babylon which was associated with a monster, and therefore probably connected by them with Chaos. But in view of the fact that the Tabernacle had a laver, or large bowl on a base, filled with water, for the priests to wash in (Exodus 30.17-21), and that Solomon undoubtedly loved magnifying things up (consider the cherubim in the Most Holy Place), it is most probable that that is how the molten Sea was looked at in Israel, especially in view of 2 Chronicles 4.6. It was thus to be seen as the place of lavish provision for cleansing, much needed in view of Solomon’s tendency for multiple sacrifices which would involve many priests in relays. It would also probably be used to top up the ten ‘bowls on wheels’ described below, which according to the Chronicler were for washing the parts of the sacrifices (e.g. Leviticus 1.13; 8.21; etc.).
The Fashioning Of The Molten Sea (7.23-26).
Like the fashioning of the two pillars previously the making of the molten sea was a great technical achievement, but we are given no information about how it was accomplished. It is simply a reminder of Hiram’s skill. Its huge size is a reminder of the vastness of God’s provision for cleansing for us in the blood of Jesus (1 John 1.7).
Note that in ‘a’ their size is emphasised, and the same in the parallel. In ‘b’ its decorations are emphasised, and in the parallel it is described decoratively. In ‘c’ and centrally it is described as set on twelve oxen.
7.23 And he made the molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and its height was five cubits, and a line of thirty cubits compassed it round about.’
The measurements of the ‘sea’ are given as ten cubits (just under five metres or fifteen feet) in diameter, five cubits in height and thirty cubits (fourteen metres or forty five feet) in circumference. If the thirty cubits was correct then calculating accurately we would have expected the diameter to be 9.55 (or nine and a half) cubits, but the ten cubits might have included the size of the rims, or may simply, like the thirty cubits, have been an approximate figure. Few Israelites if any would have known how to make the calculation, and the figures may well have been obtained by rough measurement.
(Living in a mathematically oriented world we tend to forget that in those days all but the simplest of numbers were not in common use. They had no need for them. Similarly even in our day anthropologists and missionaries have often discovered that among many even sophisticated primitive tribes ‘numbers’ were almost meaningless).
7.24 ‘And under the brim of it round about there were spherical protrusions which compassed it, for ten cubits, compassing the sea round about. The spherical protrusions were in two rows, cast when it was cast.’
This probably mean that there were spherical protrusions on each side, each group or row covering five cubits, which were cast when the bowl was cast as an integral part of the bowl. 2 Chronicles 4.3 suggests that these protrusions were in the shape of ‘oxen’, and thus ox heads (or even small oxen). Compare the similar feature on the large basin found at Amathus mentioned above. The ox was a symbol of strength.
7.25 ‘It stood on twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west (yam), and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east, and the sea was set on them above, and all their hinder parts were inward.’
The bowl was stood on twelve representations of oxen looking outwards, three looking north, three looking west (‘yam’ - one of the regular uses of yam), three looking south, three looking east. Comparison with Numbers 2 might suggest a comparison with the twelve tribes of Israel, although there the order is reversed as east, south, west, north. The idea might be that from the Temple Israel could look out in all directions without fear, because they were the strong ones of YHWH, and east may have been put last because that was where the most serious enemies were. The oxen also symbolise the tame and controlled as opposed to the wild (compare the lions and oxen depicted elsewhere - 7.29).
7.26 ‘And it was a handbreadth thick, and its brim was wrought like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held two thousand baths.’
The bronze of which the bowl was constituted was a handbreadth thick (the width of the hand at the base of four fingers, therefore around 7.33 centimetres or three inches), with its brim wrought like the brim of a cup (bent outwards), and like the flower of a lily. This latter was possibly decoration, although it may simply indicate ‘spread out’. And the whole held water measuring two thousand baths, which at 1 bath = 22 litres (per a measuring vessel which has been discovered, compare Ezekiel 45.10-11) equals about eleven and a half thousand gallons. The figure would presumably have been calculated by pouring water into the bowl from vessels and assessing accordingly, and would not therefore necessarily be strictly accurate in modern terms.
2 Chronicles 4.5 has ‘three thousand baths’. But the Chronicler regularly alters numbers so as to give a specific impression and may here simply be seeking to indicate the ‘perfect completeness’ of the content. Three was the number of completeness, and also indicated ‘the many’ as opposed to ‘the few’ (see 1 Kings 17.12, where ‘two’ indicated ‘a few’), while ‘a thousand’ is often a vague number simply indicating a great many (compare ‘to a thousand generations’ - Deuteronomy 7.9; Psalm 105.8). Alternately he might have been using a different measurement for a bath. The ‘royal bath’, for example, was different in capacity from a common bath, and measurements altered over time. Or he may simply have been indicating what it held when completely full to the brim, with the writer here in Kings indicating how much was actually put into it. Note again the mention of the lily which was a symbol of purity.
The Fashioning Of The Bases For The Lavers (7.27-37).
As well as ‘the Sea’ at which priest could wash their hands and feet, there were also to be ten large wash bowls, situated on ten moveable bases, which were to be used for the purpose of washing parts of the sacrifices. They could be filled from the ‘sea’ and wheeled over to the altar for that purpose. The bases were somewhat complicated, described in technical language, and are explained first.
A ‘trolley’ for carrying bowls, which must have been something similar to these although much smaller, was discovered at Larnaka in Cyprus. It was a small bronze carriage, mounted on four wheels, with the square upper frame supporting a cylindrical ring which was adapted to receive rounded vessels. These ones in Solomon’s Temple were much larger. Another example was found at Enkomi, and a similar framework on a base but without the wheels was discovered at Megiddo.
Note that in ‘a’ he made the ten bases and in the parallel how he made the ten bases is referred to. In ‘b’ the panels were decorated with lions, oxen and Cherubim, and in the parallel were decorations of lions, oxen and palm trees. In ‘c’ the ‘pedestal above’ is referred to, and in the parallel details of that pedestal are given. In ‘d’ the wheels and undersetters are indicated, and in the parallel they are described. Central in ‘e’ is the description of the cylindrical ‘mouth’ which will hold the bowls of water.
7.27 ‘And he made the ten bases of bronze. Four cubits was the length of one base, and four cubits its breadth, and three cubits its height.’
The bases were made of bronze, and were four cubits by four cubits (foursquare), and three cubits in height. They would need to be foursquare (rather than oblong) to hold the four cubit bowls in place.
7.28-29 ‘And the work of the bases was on this manner, they had panels, and there were panels between the ledges, and on the panels that were between the ledges were lions, oxen, and cherubim, and upon the ledges there was a pedestal above, and beneath the lions and oxen were spiral patterns of hanging work.’
The bases were panelled between the two ledges at top and bottom, and on these panels were depictions of lions, oxen and cherubim. Above the top ledge was a pedestal which would hold the bowl. And beneath the representations of the lions and oxen were spiral patterns of hanging work.
It will be noted that apart from the Cherubim no images of living creatures were allowed within the Sanctuary itself. They could too easily be open to the wrong interpretation. But here in the Inner court they were a reminder that these creatures were a part of God’s creation, covering heavenly beings (the Cherubim), wild beasts (the lions) and domestic animals (the oxen). The Larnaka laver stand mentioned above was decorated with sphinxes (the pagan equivalent to Cherubim) and stylised palm trees.
7.30 ‘And every base had four bronze wheels, and axles of bronze, and its four feet had undersetters. Beneath the laver were the undersetters molten, with spiral patterns at the side of each.’
Each of the bases had four wheels to them, fixed on axles of bronze, and the four legs in which the axles were set had undersetters (literally ‘shoulders’ ) on them at the top which held up the basin, with spiral patterns (wreaths) by each one.
7.31 ‘And the mouth of it within the capital and above was a cubit, and its mouth was round after the work of a pedestal, a cubit and a half, and also on the mouth of it were gravings, and their panels were foursquare, not round.’
The ‘mouth’ would be the circular frame which was designed to hold the basin (which was four cubits in diameter). It was ‘round in the same way as a stand (or pedestal)’. This might suggest that above the main square base was a round pedestal or stand which could be described as ‘the head (or capital)’ (see verse 29) and held the circular framework, and was itself a cubit and a half above the main frame. The circular frame then rose one cubit above the top framework (the capital), no doubt by means of struts. Alternatively the top pedestal rose a cubit and a half above the main framework, with the circular frame sunk half a cubit within it, thus being one cubit above the main base. The circular frame was decorated with engravings, while the panels below on the main base (in verse 32 the four wheels are below the panels) were foursquare, not round.
Alternatively ‘in the same way as a pedestal’ may be a foreshortening for ‘in the same way as the wheels in the pedestal’, for the wheels were themselves a cubit and a half (verse 32). That would involve the word ‘pedestal’ being applied both to the top part of the whole, and to the whole, which is not impossible.
7.32 ‘And the four wheels were underneath the panels, and the axletrees of the wheels were in the base, and the height of a wheel was a cubit and half a cubit.’
The axle trees of the wheels were fitted into the base in such a way that they were below the panels, and thus did not hide them, and each wheel was a cubit and a half (three quarters of a metre, two foot three inches) in diameter.
7.33 ‘And the work of the wheels was like the work of a chariot wheel, their axletrees, and their felloes, and their spokes, and their naves, were all molten.’
The wheels were designed in a similar way to chariot wheels, except that all the parts of them were of cast work.
7.34 ‘And there were four undersetters at the four corners of each base. Its undersetters were of the base itself.’
These four undersetters were mentioned in verse 30, going from corner to corner at the top of the base and strengthening the base, and holding the cylindrical frame, being in fact cast as a part of the base.
7.35 ‘And in the top of the base was there a round compass half a cubit high; and on the top of the base were its stays and its panels were of the same.’
Here we have an abbreviated summary of the whole. If the suggestion that the top pedestal or stand rose one and a half cubits above the main base and that the circular frame for holding the bowls was sunk by half a cubit so that it was one cubit above the main base is correct (see verse 31), that would explain the half cubit here which can then be seen as describing the height of the rounded pedestal above the circular frame. Also on top of the base were its stays, and its panels were part of the base.
7.36 ‘And on the plates of its stays, and on its panels, he engraved cherubim, lions, and palm-trees, according to the space of each, with wreaths round about.’
And on the plates connected with the stays, and on the panels of the base, were engraved Cherubim, lions and palm trees, in accordance with the mount of space that they provided. The palm trees may have been engraved only on the stays, as they were not earlier mentioned as on the panels. Sphinxes and palm trees were similarly found on the Larnaka laver.
7.37 ‘After this manner he made the ten bases. All of them had one casting, one measure, and one form.’
So this was the way in which he made the ten bases, and they were all made in exactly the same way, and to the same measurement, and in the same shape.
The Making Of The Ten Lavers To Be Placed On The Bases And The Placing Of The Bases And The Sea In The Temple (7.38-39).
Ten large basins or lavers were now made to fit into the bases, and the bases with their basins, and the molten Sea, then took their place in the Inner court. The number ten, made up of two fives, is a covenant number, and the idea here may well have been one for each of the commandments.
In ‘a’ the lavers are described, and in the parallel the Sea is mentioned which was similar to a large laver. In ‘b’ between them are the bases for the lavers and where they were placed.
7.38 ‘And he made ten lavers of bronze. One laver contained forty baths, and every laver was four cubits, and on every one of the ten bases one laver.’
Hiram then made ten very large bowls of bronze for holding water (ten lavers). Each bowl had the capacity to hold forty baths (probably 880 litres, 232 gallons) of water, although they would not necessarily all be filled to the brim. Each bowl was four cubits in diameter (just under two metres/ six feet), and each base held one bowl. As we know the bases were four cubits foursquare (verse 27).
7.39 ‘And he set the bases, five on the right side of the house, and five on the left side of the house, and he set the sea on the right side of the house eastward, toward the south.’
And the bases were placed in two rows of five, five to the right of the house and five to the left, within the Inner court. This may indicate that they were placed on the north side and the south side of the Temple, or possibly that they were in front of the Temple, but half on the right and half on the left. The latter alternative would make them more readily available to those offering sacrifices, but the fact that they were on wheels may mean that they were dragged into position when required. The molten sea was placed on the right side of the house to the south east, and was, of course, static.
The comparatively huge size of all these constructions will easily be recognised (something typical of Solomon’s grandiose Temple), and we do not know how easily the laver bases could be moved, but the fact that they were on wheels suggests that they were moved so as to make them accessible when they were required. While we do not need to assume that the basins were always filled to the brim, each laver assembly was nonetheless very heavy (although lacking sufficient information about them we do not know quite how heavy). But this thought daunts us far more than it did them, for the ancients were experts at devising ways by which heavy equipment could be moved (witness the transport of the huge stones, the putting into place of the large pillars, etc. and they could well have been dragged into place using ropes simply by priest-power (or Temple servant-power)
The Final Summary Concerning The Lavers and Their Implements (7.40).
This summary along with verses 13-14 forms an inclusio. It stresses the conclusion by Hiram of the work commenced in verses 13-14.
7.40 ‘And Hiram made the lavers, and the shovels, and the basins. So Hiram made an end of doing all the work that he wrought for king Solomon in the house of YHWH.’
This second subsection is now closed off by a summary which explains that Hiram (with his assistants) also made both the lavers and all the necessary utensils, having thus made an end of doing all the work that he wrought for king Solomon in the house of YHWH. Previously we had been told that he had finished the work on the pillars (verse 22). Thus the emphasis here is mainly on the molten sea and the lavers, but bringing within it everything else that he had made. And here Hiram bows out (apart from a brief mention). From this point on, concluding with the final statement of what Solomon had accomplished in verse 51, we find a summary of what has gone before, together with further necessary additions to the Temple furniture, with the main emphasis being laid on what king Solomon himself had achieved. In the end it was to be seen as his achievement.
It will be noted that Hiram’s work was limited to the furniture in the Inner court. He is not connected by the writer with the furniture within the inner Sanctuary. Thus we see the continual inference that Hiram was not quite the thing. We must bear in mind that when Kings was finalised it was at a time when Israel were very much aware of what syncretism and compromise had done to Israel and Judah.
Summary Of The Great Achievement Of Solomon (7.41-51).
We now have summarised Solomon’s great achievement. The summary begins with a review of all that Hiram had ‘made for king Solomon’ out of burnished bronze, and the site on which the work was done, and then details further the items of gold which were for the Sanctuary itself, and the work is imputed to Solomon.
Not the contrast between what was made by Hiram on Solomon’s behalf, and what was ‘made by Solomon’. On the one hand all was bronze, on the other all was gold.
7.41-45 ‘The two pillars, and the two bowls of the capitals (the rounded bulge on the heads) that were on the top of the pillars, and the two networks to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were on the top of the pillars, and the four hundred pomegranates for the two networks; two rows of pomegranates for each network, to cover the two bowls of the capitals that were upon the pillars, and the ten bases, and the ten lavers on the bases, and the one sea, and the twelve oxen under the sea, and the pots, and the shovels, and the basins, even all these vessels, which Hiram made for king Solomon, in the house of YHWH, were of burnished bronze.’
We have here a summary of all that Hiram had made for Solomon which was for the house of YHWH. Note the emphasis on the ‘heads’ of the pillars which were clearly seen as important, and the reference to the globular feature mentioned earlier. The pillars, with their heads, the bases, the lavers and the sea have all been described above. The ‘pots’ were the large cauldrons used for cooking the meat from the offerings when it could be eaten (Leviticus 7.15-17). The shovels were for dealing with the ashes of the altar, and the basins, or sprinkling bowls, were for use in sprinkling blood and water.
7.46 ‘In the plain (circle) of the Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarethan.’
The work was performed in clay ground (‘thickening of the earth’) near the Jordan. The clay was necessary for the smelting work, and the Jordan provided plenty of water. The firing of large, shaped cores filled with molten metal was a common, but intricate, ancient procedure testified to both in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and with the clay for moulds, the forests for fuel, the availability for water in the Jordan, and the suitable north wind this area was ripe for the processes. Note how all the emphasis has now turned on ‘the king’ himself. From now on all the work will be seen as his.
All these things were made in the plain or circle of the Jordan (and thus not in the precincts of the Temple) over a fairly wide area. ‘Circle’ probably here only indicates ‘neighbourhood, district’. They would then all have to be taken over the mountain roads to Jerusalem. The effort must have been prodigious.
Succoth was on the east side of the Jordan, probably just north of the Jabbok, and excavations of a site there have revealed that it was a centre for metallurgy, complete with furnaces outside the city wall. But even though we may not be sure of the site, the whole area gives evidence of having been involved in metal smelting. Zarethan was probably on the west bank of the Jordan. Thus the cities are merely indications of the region in which all this happened, and we do not know whether the work was carried out on the east bank or the west bank (or both).
7.47 ‘And Solomon left all the vessels unweighed, because they were such a great many. The weight of the bronze could not be found out.’
The weight of the bronze used was so much that there was no point in trying to weight it, so that no accurate figure could be recorded in the king’s annals. This draws out the value of what was involved.
7.48 ‘And Solomon made all the vessels that were in the house of YHWH.’
Solomon also made all the vessels that were in the house of YHWH. In other words all was done under his direction, with the gold that was provided by him. Nothing was spared in honouring the house of YHWH. At this point YHWH had all his heart. The main reason why what follows is not presented in so much detail is precisely because the items were well known from the past and were on the whole made in accordance with the instructions given in the Torah (Instruction of Moses). And it may well be that Solomon did not want to draw attention to any alterations he made as regards the sacred objects.
7.48b ‘The golden altar, and the table on which the showbread was, of gold.’
First were the golden altar of incense (made of cedar-covered stone and then covered with gold), and the table on which the showbread would be placed. The Ark itself could not, of course, be altered or replaced. All was covered in gold. They were presumably made in accordance with the instructions in the Torah, in the end replacing the ones at present in the Tabernacle.
There is no good reason for suggesting that the altar of incense was not yet a part of the Holy Place. Such altars have been evidenced in many places, and it would have been extremely unusual for there not to be one in the Tabernacle and in the Temple. If incense was being offered by Solomon in high places (3.3), it would certainly be offered in the Temple. Indeed the first question of any ancient priest when considering the furnishings of the Temple would have been, ‘where do you have the altar of incense?’ For details and the prior existence of the altar of incense see 6.20; Exodus 30.1-10, 27; 31.8; 35.15; 37.25; 39.38;40.5, 26-27; Leviticus 10.1; 16.12-13; Numbers 4.16; 16.7-40; Deuteronomy 33.10; 1 Samuel 2.28.
Solomon did in fact eventually arrange for ten tables to be made, which would range five and five at each side of the Holy Place (2 Chronicles 4.8), although that may have been later. However, there was only one table of showbread.
7.49 ‘And the lampstands, five on the right side, and five on the left, before the inner room, of pure gold; and the flower, and the lamps, and the tongs, of gold.’
And he made ten new lampstands, five on the right side of the inner sanctuary, and five on the left, in front of the Inner Room, together with the flower of each lampstand, and the lamps, and the tongs. All was of pure gold.
Ten lampstands was an innovation, but partly required by the much larger Holy Place (compare Jeremiah 52.19; 2 Chronicles 4.7). ‘Five and five’ were covenant numbers. Thus it appears that to Solomon they indicated the light of the covenant (Psalm 119.105), each lamp possibly indicating a commandment. Had he seen them as indicating Israel there would presumably have been twelve. Had he seen them as representing God as his and the nation’s light (Psalm 27.1) there would surely only have been one. The ten may also have been intended to parallel the ten lavers. The ‘flower’ (ornamental base?) , if connected with the lampstands, is in the singular, indicating ‘each flower’.
7.50 ‘And the cups, and the snuffers, and the basins, and the spoons, and the firepans, of pure gold; and the hinges, both for the doors of the inner house, the most holy place, and for the doors of the house, that is, of the temple, of gold.’
And the same applied to all the vessels used in the Holy Place, and to the hinges of the very doors, both the inner doors of the Holy Place and the outer doors of the Temple. All were made with gold. It was unquestionably splendid, and the recording of it was in order to bring out Solomon’s glory. It will, however, be noticed that it was not in obedience to the instructions given through Moses in the Torah where there was supposed to be a gradual movement from bronze, to silver, to gold as the Most Holy Place was approached.. We have here already the seeds of the reason for his final failure. Outward show and ostentation was considered of more value than obedience.
The gold used by Solomon may sound vast, but it was no vaster than was used by the Egyptian Osorkon I of Egypt to the gods of Egypt barely ten years after Solomon’s death. During the first four years of his reign, this king presented a total of two million deben weight of silver (about 220 tons) and another 2,300,000 deben weight of silver and gold (some 250 tons) to the gods, largely in the form of precious objects (vessels, statuary, etc.). Such huge gifts to their deity were seen as commonplace by great monarchs. And the covering of places and sacred objects in gold was a regular feature of the lives of many ancient monarchs. In Egypt there were temples which had silver and gold covered floors and stairways, while Queen Hatshepsut capped and plated her giant obelisks (97 feet high) with gold and electrum . Rameses II’s skilled workmen were also known to have been responsible for gold-covered temple-doors and sacred barques.
7.51 ‘Thus all the work that king Solomon wrought in the house of YHWH was finished. And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated, even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, and put them in the treasuries of the house of YHWH.’
All the embellishments and furniture for the house of YHWH were now complete and are described as ‘wrought’ by king Solomon. In other words, whoever might have fashioned them the credit was to go to Solomon. And once all was in place Solomon brought into the sanctuary all the gifts that David had sanctified to YHWH (2 Samuel 8.11), the spoils that had been gathered in fighting a holy war against the surrounding nations who had sought to infringe on the rights of YHWH. YHWH now had His splendid sanctuary, which contained the treasures of the nations. Solomon no doubt felt very satisfied that he had done all that could be expected of him. Now he determined to dedicate it to YHWH with equal splendour.
We should not be surprised by the amounts of gold at Solomon’s disposal. He had not only had available to him the rich spoils from David’s continual victories, which must have been huge in themselves, and the fruits of the regular tribute which David had received from vassal states, but David had no doubt made full use of his control of all the trade routes between Mesopotamia, Egypt and Arabia to exact maximum tolls. On top of all this was the regular contribution made to state coffers by taxation. And we need not doubt that Solomon had continued to benefit from and expand on all these sources.
The Bringing Of The Ark Into The Temple And The Manifestation Of God’s Presence (8.1-11).
The moment for which Solomon had waited had eventually arrived. The Temple itself was now fully completed and stood there in its pristine glory, and all the furniture and embellishments had been made and put in place. Now the next thing that was necessary was to bring into it all that was ‘holy’ (set apart wholly to God, and seen as uniquely His) in Israel, for he wanted his Temple to be acknowledged as ‘the Central Sanctuary’. What was ‘holy’, of course, especially included the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, the most sacred item of them all, for it bore the Name of YHWH and indicated His invisible presence among them (2 Samuel 6.2; Genesis 13.4; Exodus 33.19; Deuteronomy 12.11). But along with it was the sacred Tabernacle and its holy furnishings. These together constituted the original Central Sanctuary.
Such an event required the bringing together of all who counted in Israel, and they came up seven days before the Feast of Tabernacles and with all due ceremony brought the Ark from its Sacred Tent and set it up in the Most Holy Place. It was accompanied by all that was looked on as holy, including the ‘ancient’ Tabernacle, which may have then been stored in the room constructed over the Most Holy Place, although the only other item kept in use was the brazen altar (which explains why it has never been mentioned. And once the Ark was in its place, and the priests had left the Most Holy Place, the glory of YHWH filled His house under cover of the sacred cloud. It was an indication that He did not despise or reject what they had done, for He recognised that what they had done had been done because they were seeking to glorify Him. It is an indication to us that God always graciously acknowledges our genuinely best efforts, even though they might not be quite what He would have hoped for, and in this case He wanted Israel to know that He was still with them and watching over them. It was His way of putting His seal on what they had done.
Note how in ‘a’ all the chief men of Israel gathered to do honour to the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH and bring it up into the new Most Holy Place, and in the parallel YHWH responded by revealing His glory and filling the house with His cloud. In ‘b’ all assembled and the priests took up the Ark, and in the parallel the priests came out of the Holy Place having brought the Ark up. In ‘c’ the Ark of YHWH was brought up, along with all the holy things, and in the parallel we are told what was in the Ark (the Ark clearly therefore having been opened up by the priests, unless this was simply an inspired assumption). In ‘d’ men offered a multitude of offerings which could not be counted, and in the parallel the staves of the Ark were so long that the Most Holy Place could not fully contain them. Centrally in ‘e’ the Ark took up its place under the protection of the Cherubim.
8.1 ‘Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the princes of the fathers of the children of Israel, to king Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of YHWH out of the city of David, which is Zion.’
There is a distinct echo here of 2 Samuel 6, but that is partly because this is precisely what would happen on such an occasion. Firstly all the notable men of Israel/Judah would be assembled together, probably at a sacred feast (the seventh month was the month of the feast of Tabernacles). Then the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH, which had rested in its place in the Sacred Tent in the citadel of David, (which was on the southern part of hill of Jerusalem and was at that time exclusively named Zion), was now brought out from there with due solemnity up to the Temple mount on the northern plateau (which would from now on be included in the term Zion) in order to be set up in the Most Holy Place in the new Temple. (Later still ‘Zion’ would refer to the whole of Jerusalem, and then to the people even when far away from Jerusalem in Babylon - e.g. Zechariah 2.7).
It was a most important moment in the history of Israel. The Temple on its mount was being made into the unique earthly dwelling-place of YHWH, replacing and incorporating both the Ancient Tabernacle and the Sacred Tent. It was becoming the Central Sanctuary around which all Israel should unite within the covenant. (We are not, however, to think of it as the only place where sacrifices could be officially offered, for that could still occur at places ‘where YHWH had recorded His Name’. Thus Elijah could refer to genuinely acceptable ‘altars of YHWH’ (1 Kings 19.10, see also 18.30). And the Temple itself was built on a site where YHWH had recorded His Name (2 Chronicles 3.1).
Note the different levels of authority in Israel. ‘The elders of Israel’, ‘the heads of the tribes’, the princes of the fathers’. All these still had responsibility in the ruling of the kingdom, which was a kind of semi-democracy It was very necessary for Solomon to keep them alongside, and ensure their support (and was where he later failed).
For ‘the princes of the fathers’ compare Numbers 1.16; 3.30, 35; 7.2; Joshua 22.14. For ‘the heads of the tribes’ see Numbers 30.1. For ‘the elders of Israel’ see Exodus 3.16, 18; 12.21; 17.5-6; 18.12; 24.1, 9; Leviticus 9.1; Numbers 11.16, 30; 16.25; Deuteronomy 27.1; 31.9. They all had solid Mosaic (but mainly not Deuteronomic) backgrounds.
8.2 ‘And all the men of Israel assembled themselves to king Solomon at the feast, in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.’
As required by the Law of Moses all the men of Israel gathered at the Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh month (Leviticus 23.34-35; Numbers 28.12-38; Deuteronomy 16.13-15). Note in this case that portrayal of the feast in Deuteronomy actually requires the detailed information given in Numbers 28.12-38 in order to make sense. But this time their coming together was also at the special summons of the king, for they gathered seven days before the feast. They assembled ‘to king Solomon’. All the concentration was on him. And the feast would then last for fourteen days (verse 65), the initial seven days of dedication being followed by the actual Feast of Tabernacles, thus making it twice the usual length.
‘Ethanim’ (regularly flowing) was the ancient name for the seventh moon period (compare 6.1, 38 for similar ancient names). Later it would be called Tishri (although we cannot be too dogmatic. Tishri was already in use at Ugarit). There is no indication of the relationship of this particular feast to surrounding events, for while we know that the actual building of the Temple was completed on the eighth moon period of the year in which it occurred (6.38), and that this ‘seventh month’ must therefore be at least eleven months later, we do not know how long it took to make all the embellishments and furniture described in chapter 7. Thus this may have been in the following year. On the other hand 1 Kings 9.2 might suggest that it only took place once the king’s house had also been completed, for the king’s palace complex and the Temple were seen as closely linked, emphasising the fact that the king was the intercessor supreme for Israel. He thus had direct access as God’s viceroy. This connection only ceased in the time of Ahab at the demand of the king of Assyria (2 Kings 16.18) and is assumed in the heavenly Temple in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 44.3). As a result the Temple might not have been seen as finally ‘completed’ until the king’s new palace was occupied.
It is possible that the time around the Feast of Tabernacles was chosen as the time for dedicating the Temple because it was intended to be a reminder that the people of Israel had once dwelt in tents, but now dwelt in permanent houses. It could thus be seen as indicating that the same would now be true of YHWH. He too could now enjoy His own house. Its folly lay in its failure to recognise that YHWH had a far more permanent dwellingplace and therefore required no such Temple.
‘All the men of Israel.’ That is, all the leaders who had gathered in response to Solomon’s summons, together with those who had come up for the feast of Tabernacles.
8.3-4 ‘And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark, and they brought up the ark of YHWH, and the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels which were in the Tent, even these did the priests and the Levites bring up.’
All that was seen as holy in Israel was now brought up into the Temple in the presence of the elders of Israel, It was brought by ‘the priests, with the assistance of the Levites’. As in 2 Samuel 6 the Ark itself was borne by the priests, possibly uncovered, while the Tent of Meeting and the holy vessels and furniture which were in it, were borne by the Levites in accordance with the requirements of the Torah.
This distinction between the priests and the Levites was maintained from earliest times (e.g. Exodus 28; 30.30; 29.19-44; 39.27-29; 40.12-15; Leviticus 10; 21; Numbers 3.1-4, 5-51; 4; 8.5-26; 18.1-7, 19-24; 26.57-62) and was made clear by the book of Deuteronomy in Deuteronomy 18.1-8 (see note below). The Tent of Meeting is one name by which the ancient Tabernacle was known (Exodus 27.21; 28.43; 29 six times; 30 five times; 31.7; 33.7; 35.21; 38.8, 30; 40.12; Leviticus 1-7 fifteen times; 8 five times; 9-15 nine times; 16 six times; 17-24, six times); Numbers over fifty times; Deuteronomy 31.14; Joshua 18.1; 19.51; 1 Samuel 2.22), and its continued existence is confirmed in 1 Samuel 1-3, see especially 2.22; and 21.1-9. See also 1 Kings 3.4. It was a name taken over from the ancient Tent used prior to arriving at Mount Sinai (Exodus 33.7), signifying that it was the place where God was met with, and where Israel could gather to worship God.
Brief Note On The Use Of LXX.
In spite of LXX (of which there are various conflicting texts) there are no good grounds for omitting phrases in the verse (which are anyway all included in LXX in 2 Chronicles 5.5) simply because of their inconvenience and in order to support out-of-date theories (although we should note that the reference to the Tent of Meeting is in LXX in Kings). One commentator (a man of great erudition) excels himself, going through the verse excising one clause because it was not in LXX, another in spite of the fact that it was, and putting in a third which was not in LXX and excluding one that was. At least he could not be accused of bias towards LXX! But if you can treat LXX like that why suggest that it can support your idea of what the text should be? It has proved unreliable. (LXX is not in fact too reliable in Kings and appears to have a tendency to alter the text). And why did he do it? Not because of any essential intrinsic demand, but because like all of us it suited his theories about what should be in and what should not.
On the other hand, to be fair, the fragments of the 6QK papyrus from Qumran do also reveal a slightly shorter text for 8.1-6, although not in line with LXX and of course we do not know the source for the papyrus. The whole question of who changed what is, however, very complicated and we must always bear in mind that in MT we probably have on the whole the official text as reliably preserved in the Temple.
Brief Note On Deuteronomy 18.1.
‘The priests the Levites, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no portion nor inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the offerings of YHWH made by fire and His inheritance. And they shall have no inheritance among their brethren. YHWH is their inheritance, as He has spoken to them’ (Deuteronomy 18.1-2).
The opening phrase ‘The priests the Levites, all the tribe of Levi’ raises questions as to whether this covers both levitical priests (the priests the Levites) and Levites (all the tribe of Levi) or just the levitical priests alone. This is determined by the fact that in Deuteronomy such phrases in apposition regularly represent the item in apposition as signifying something greater than the first phrase. See 3.4-5; 15.21; 16.21; 17.1; 23.19; 25.16. This confirms that as ‘the priests the Levites’ are in apposition to ‘all the tribe of Levi’, the latter is made up of more people than the former. Compare also 3.18 where, however, there is a reduction in the idea. Thus in Deuteronomy words in apposition are never just a description of the same idea. In 2.37; 3.13; 4.19; 5.8; 20.14; 29.10 the clauses in apposition are always of one against a number and therefore not strictly comparable. This would confirm that ‘all the tribe of Levi’ is an extension of, and addition to, the idea of the levitical priests, and thus refers to both priests and Levites and not just levitical priests alone. Significantly there are no examples of the use of the construction where both parts refer to the same thing. Equally significantly in verses 3-8 the priests and the Levites are clearly distinguished.
End of note.
8.5 ‘And king Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who were assembled to him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, which could not be counted nor numbered for multitude.’
These sacrifices, made in the presence of the Ark (and thus where YHWH had recorded His Name), were felt to be necessary because of the precarious situation brought about by moving the Ark. They did not want a repetition of the incident of Uzzah (2 Samuel 6.7). This would again appear to parallel 2 Samuel 6.13 where the same thing is said to have occurred. As so often when the text says ‘he sacrificed’ the idea is probably that he brought the offering for a priest to sacrifice (all the priests would be there). In other words Solomon and his people brought a constant stream of animals to the priests who were not bearing the Ark, in order that they might be offered up so as to ensure the safe passage of the Ark.
‘Sacrificing sheep and oxen, which could not be counted nor numbered for multitude.’ This is not just an expression indicating a great number. It also bears witness to the fact that counting and numbering was not something found easy by Israelites (outside the trained accountants). They found in this case that, in view of the difficulties, keeping count was too much for them simply because of the quantity.
8.6-7 ‘And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of YHWH to its place, into the inner room of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread forth their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubim covered (formed a screen over) the ark and its staves above.’
The priests brought the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH (its official name of which others are abbreviations. See 3.15; Numbers 10.33; 14.44; Deuteronomy 10.8; 31 three times; Joshua 1-8 seven times; 1 Samuel 4.3-5 three times) into the Inner house, into the Most Holy Place. And there they set it down under the wings of the massive Cherubim which Solomon had had made. They were there as guardian Cherubim, and as a reminder that YHWH’s Name could not be approached or touched. And the wings of the Cherubim were spread out so that they reached out over and covered the Ark and the staves.
‘Covered, formed a screen’ need not be taken absolutely literally. The point is that the Ark and its staves were under their watch and protection, It is indicating that the heavenly beings whom they represented were keeping their watch over all that was in the Most Holy Place, and that the Ark was remaining in its place. For when in Ezekiel the time came for YHWH to finally visibly depart, it was He Who stood over the Cherubim (Ezekiel 11.18). Thus here YHWH was seen as at rest among His people, with His attendants watching out for Him.
8.8 ‘And the staves were so long that the ends of the staves were seen from the holy place before the inner room, but they were not seen outside, and there they are to this day.’
God’s instructions had been that the staves should not be taken out of the rings on the Ark, but should be left in place (Exodus 25.15). And they were so long that they protruded slightly into the Holy Place. We are not told how provision was made for this. Presumably the doors were left partly open, with the Veil preventing anyone seeing or having access into the Most Holy Place. The staves then presumably protruded making the Veil bulge. Thus the Most Holy Place was, as it were brought into the Holy Place, with the result that the altar of incense, situated in front of the Veil could be seen as directly connected with the Most Holy Place, for when spoken of it is regularly seen as connected with the Most Holy Place. See e.g. 6.20; Hebrews 9.4.
‘And there they are to this day.’ These words could not have been the words of the final compiler of Kings, for in his day the Temple had been destroyed and the staves were not still there. They must clearly therefore come from his source, written when the Temple was still standing. The period required prior to this being able to be said could have been anywhere from, say, six months onwards. They is no real indication in the words of the length of the passage of time (everyone come to his own opinion about it depending on his theories). All that they do tell us is that the protrusion of the staves into the Holy Place was an evidenced reality.
Some see them as the words of the author of almost the whole of Kings in the early days of Jehoiakim (while the Temple was still standing), with the ending having been added by a subsequent prophet during the Exile (because of its content).
8.9 ‘There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when YHWH made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.’
The only articles that were in the Ark were the two tables of stone put there by Moses at Horeb (Sinai) when YHWH made His covenant with His people when they came out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 25.16;40.20). The reason for mentioning this was in order to remind His people of the original covenant made with them at Sinai which was still binding on them, and was the one thing in the Ark. It was not simply an historical aside or a list of contents In other words it is emphasising that that covenant was central to all their worship, and to all that the Ark stood for. Nothing had been, or was to be, added. (In view of its reputation it must indeed be considered doubtful whether anyone would actually check what was in the Ark. The statement may well simply have been made as a known fact).
If anything else ever had been in the Ark, and that is doubtful, it would probably have disappeared when the Philistines captured the Ark and bore it in triumph though the Philistine crowds, or when they placed it in their temples as a trophy. But Aaron’s rod that budded and the vessel containing the manna were probably never placed in the Ark (the rod would be too long) but were placed before or alongside the Ark (Exodus 16.33-34; Numbers 17.10). In Hebrews 9.4 ‘in/by which’ need only indicate connection in some way.
8.10 ‘And it came about that, when the priests were come out of the holy place, the cloud filled the house of YHWH.’
The Ark having been set down in the Most Holy Place, the priests retired, never to enter it again (apart from the High Priest once a year after suitable preparation). And it was then that the most remarkable thing happened. No doubt to their wondering astonishment ‘the cloud’ (the one known about from Exodus 40.34) filled the house of YHWH. It was a sign that YHWH was putting His seal on the Temple as the new Central Sanctuary and Dwellingplace of YHWH.
8.11 ‘So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud, for the glory of YHWH filled the house of YHWH.’
And the result was that the priests could not enter the Holy Place in order to perform their functions, for the presence of the cloud was veiling the presence of the glory of YHWH which filled the whole house. There is little doubt that there is a definite reference intended here back to Exodus 40.34-35. We are never told at what stage the cloud departed. If it was as permanent as the earlier cloud in Exodus it may simply have retired into the Most Holy Place where necessarily no one would ever see it, but the probability is that it was intended only to be a short term seal on the Temple and therefore at some stage departed from the house.
Solomon Speaks To The People And Explains The Basis For And Significance Of The Building Of The Temple (8.12-21).
The speech that follows is an interesting one. To quite some extent Solomon’s words here read like a defence of what he was doing, and an attempt to prove that it was in line with YHWH’s will, and with the covenant that YHWH had made with His people when He delivered them out of Egypt. They reveal his own awareness of the fact that the people were not as a whole comfortable with the transfer of the Tabernacle from its acknowledged position in ‘the great high place’ in Gibeon, a recognised Israelite city, sanctified by its past as one of the first cities to become YHWH’s during the conquest, when it meant that it would be moved to a city which up until the time of David had been openly Canaanite (even granted that the Temple would not actually be built within the Canaanite citadel). Thus instead of positively extolling the benefits of the Temple, he busied himself with presenting his arguments as to why they should accept it as YHWH’s will, on the basis of His covenant with David. Many have suggested that he had also written the Song of Solomon, (with its message of a bride who longs for the purity of the Israel’s countryside, but who finally goes up to the mountain of spices) and made it popular among the people at their feasts, with the same end in view.
It is noteworthy from this point of view that he failed to mention Jerusalem or Zion in his speech even once, and while there was a mild hint of it in the negative reference in verse 16, nowhere did he suggest that Jerusalem was the city chosen by YHWH for the purpose. It was almost as though he did not want to draw their attention to the fact that he had built the Temple in Jerusalem. Rather he stressed that YHWH had chosen David, and that the building of the Temple arose from that fact, and that YHWH had confirmed His agreement with David’s plan on that basis, and because the purpose of his heart was right. Thus he wanted the Temple to be seen as permitted by YHWH to David, the one whom He had chosen, and then as built by his son in accordance with YHWH’s wishes. (This is a good indication of the fact that these were the genuine words of Solomon, recorded at the time. No one would ever have put these words on his lips later. They would have gloried more in the Temple).
That is not to deny the important truth of what he said, an importance that lies not in what it says about the Temple, which was simply part of his ‘defence’ for transferring the Central Sanctuary to the Temple and was merely his interpretation of the covenant ( verses 17-20), but in its vital testimony to the importance of YHWH’s covenant with David (verses 14-16).
Note that in ‘a’ Solomon refers to the house that he has built for YHWH to dwell in, and in the parallel declares that he has set the Ark there for that purpose. In ‘b’ he speaks of YHWH having made a covenant with his father and as having fulfilled it, and in the parallel declares that YHWH had established His word as He had promised. In ‘c’ YHWH stresses that since the day that they had left Egypt He had chosen no city in which to build a house, but rather had chosen David to be over His people, and in the parallel he explains that YHWH has given David permission for the house now to be built, by his son. Centrally in ‘d’ this is stated to be because it was something dear to David’s heart. YHWH had wanted to please David Whom He had chosen.
8.12-13 ‘Then spoke Solomon,
The words ‘“YHWH has said that he would dwell in the thick darkness’ are a preliminary statement prior to his two line dedication. We know of no actual previous example of YHWH as saying this, but Solomon may well have been referring to Exodus 20.21; Deuteronomy 4.11; 5.2; 2 Samuel 22.10; Psalm 18.9; compare 97.2, seeing them as indicating what God had spoken through Moses and David, and interpreting them as YHWH’s word on the basic grounds that what the Scripture had said, YHWH had said. The basic idea behind the picture of thick darkness is of the mysteriousness and hidden nature of God, of God as a God Who cannot reveal Himself fully to any man, because no man could bear it (see Exodus 33.20; 1 Timothy 6.16; and compare Genesis 32.30, although there God had equally been concealed in a human body; Judges 6.22-23, where He had been revealed through His ‘Angel’; Judges 13.22, where the same applied). It is a reminder that except as far as He reveals Himself He is the Great Unknown.
The words that follow were then Solomon’s preliminary dedication to YHWH, before addressing the people:
His idea was presumably that although YHWH dwells in thick darkness, and cannot therefore be seen in the fullness of what He is (something already expressed by the cloud which had covered YHWH’s glory in verses 10-11), yet nevertheless by building the Temple with its Most Holy Place which was inaccessible to man and in total darkness, he had made it possible for YHWH to live among His people. It was ‘a house for His habitation’ (i.e. a house fit for His habitation, a magnificent house. Compare the Assyrian bit zabal) and it was his intention as a result that YHWH would there be among His people into the distant future. Linking his Temple with the everlasting covenant of 2 Samuel 7.13, 16; he saw it as equally ‘everlasting’, (which the final compiler knew to be folly, for by his day it had been destroyed). It was his pious hope that it would mean that God would be for ever with His people. (Fortunately the presence of God with His people was not dependent on there being a Temple. After all He could provide His own temple whenever He wanted. (Compare the description in Ezekiel 40 a temple which demonstrated His presence but was never intended to be built. It was ‘accessed’ through the altar set up in Jerusalem, which was built).
There was undoubtedly a bit of self-glamourisation about this statement (note the ‘I have surely built you’), for the Temple was not really necessary for this purpose. The Ark itself was sufficient evidence that YHWH was among His people because it was ‘called by His Name (2 Samuel 6.2), and its unique holiness had been demonstrated by the death of Uzzah, while both the Tabernacle and the Sacred Tent had also had their own inaccessible Most Holy Places, with the cloud of YHWH certainly having fallen on the Tabernacle (Exodus 40.34). It thus gives the appearance of being unwarranted self-congratulation, and almost condescension, as though YHWH was dependent on Solomon for something that He had never had before. The only thing that partly saved it from being this was the later dedication in which he admitted that his Temple could not really contain YHWH in all His fullness because YHWH is too great (verse 27). It does, however, give an indication of the attitude that would bring about Solomon’s downfall. He was rather pleased with himself, and felt that God owed him something. After all, it had cost him a lot of his wealth. It was because he was so self-satisfied that he became prey to the temptations that followed.
We, who are aware of the folly of his words from knowing what happened afterwards, and from knowing that God’s everlasting dwellingplace is in the new Heaven and the new earth, need to be equally aware when we make our gifts to God that we do not see them as putting Him in our debt. For we must remember that all that we have is His, and we do but give Him what is already His own (1 Chronicles 29.14), and that the Scripture warns us that the haughty spirit comes before a fall (Proverbs 16.18).
8.14 ‘And the king turned his face about, and blessed all the assembly of Israel, and all the assembly of Israel stood.’
Having briefly dedicated the Temple to YHWH the king now turned to the people, many of whom were not equally convinced that this Temple was such a good thing. And from his position as priestly intercessor of his people he blessed ‘all the assembly of Israel’ while they stood on their feet before him. As we have suggested above, the words of the blessing sound very much like a defence of what he was doing. He was after all bringing about a major transformation of the religion of Israel. From the people’s viewpoint the ancient and revered Tabernacle in its ancient high place was being replaced by this brand new, and undoubtedly gorgeous Temple, which had, however, been built on a high place connected with what had within living memory been a pagan city, and had further pagan associations in view of its Tyrian and Sidonian input. It was foreign to their thinking, and many, especially among the more conservative countryfolk, would not have been very happy about the situation at all. It went against all their treasured traditions, and involved the ‘disappearance’ of the sacred Tabernacle, which they by now probably thought of as the original. (Even David had not dared to try to establish the Tabernacle as the Central Sanctuary in Jerusalem, and when he had transferred it from Hebron, possibly in reprisal for their support of Absalom, he had transferred it to Gibeon). So Solomon was seeking to win them round to acceptance of the Temple. And he sought to do it by fixing their attention on God’s choice of David, who had made them so prosperous and secure, and asking them to see it in that light. What this did do, however, was help to establish the importance of the Davidic covenant.
8.15 ‘And he said, “Blessed be YHWH, the God of Israel, who spoke with his mouth to David your father, and has with his hand fulfilled it, saying,”
He praised ‘YHWH, the God of Israel’ and stressed that it was He Who had spoken directly to David their ‘father’ (‘your father’ being intended to make them feel a part of it) and had now by His own hand fulfilled it. Thus he wanted them to see it as all of God.
8.16 “ ‘Since the day that I brought forth my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build a house, that my name might be there, but I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ ”
Then he stressed the words of YHWH, words which are, however, as he cites them, nowhere previously recorded. They are therefore possibly a very free interpretation of 2 Samuel 7.6-7. But we should note that even there the emphasis was on ‘NOT dwelling in a house, but on living in a tent’, and certainly NOT on ‘choosing out a city’. And Solomon basically acknowledged this when he stressed that YHWH’s choice initially was not of a city but of a person.
We can gather from Chronicles, if Solomon’s words are to be taken literally as they stand and not as a paraphrase, that David had possibly received a later revelation from YHWH once his own insistence had persuaded YHWH to let a Temple be built. Yet even if that is so the continual emphasis was on YHWH’s choosing of David to be over His people Israel, and not on the building of a Temple. The Temple comes through as very much David’s idea. YHWH was concerned with establishing the house of David, and the promises relating to it of the everlasting kingdom.
The Chronicler adds the words, in the mouth of Solomon, ‘and I have chosen Jerusalem that my name might be there.’ But this would appear to be Solomon’s rather hopeful interpretation of what was said to David, when Solomon was seeking to establish his own view on the matter with the people. The writer of Kings gives no indication anywhere that YHWH spoke of choosing Jerusalem. (We must remember that while Solomon’s words are an inspired record of what he said, that inspiration does not guarantee that what he said was true, especially when he was citing someone else. His words can only be seen as ‘inspired’ when he was speaking in a genuinely prophetic role, e.g. possibly in his prayer).
8.17 “Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of YHWH, the God of Israel.”
Solomon acknowledged that the idea of building a physical Temple was very much that of David (see 2 Samuel 7.2; and compare 1 Chronicles 21). He was using the love that they had had for David for all he was worth. But even then it was as something that was in David’s heart, not as something that came from YHWH’s heart.
8.18-19 “But YHWH said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart, nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who will come forth out of your loins, he will build the house for my name.’ ”
But then he stressed that YHWH had given His approval to David’s continuing demand, because He saw that it was made from a genuine heart and a right motive. This approval appears to have been given late in David’s life (1 Chronicles 21), after the incident of the numbering of Israel. But it is clear that the initiative came from David and received YHWH’s approval rather than it being proposed by YHWH. In fact a careful examination of all the narratives involved reveals that David had taken YHWH’s words in 2 Samuel 7.13 and had misinterpreted them precisely because the idea of a literal Temple like all the nations round about had become so firmly fixed in his own mind, and that he had then finally received YHWH’s approval (it was a very similar situation to that when YHWH had granted His permission for the kingship in 1 Samuel 8). There is nowhere a suggestion that YHWH had positively requested on His own initiative that a house be built to His Name.
However, once He had given His permission YHWH did insist that the house be built by one who was a man of peace. He did not want His house to be seen as a celebration of blood shed in war, and as a memorial of bloody victories. He wanted it to be seen rather as a symbol of peace and security. Thus He had insisted that the building of the house be left to David’s son, born from his loins. If such a house was to be built it was David’s son, brought up in peace, who should build a house for His Name.
To build a house for His Name meant to build a house where His presence could be revealed (Genesis 13.4; Exodus 23.21; 34.5) and where the Ark, which bore His Name (2 Samuel 6.2), could find a home. The idea of ‘the Name of YHWH’ comes as early as Genesis 13.4 where we read that, ‘Abram called on the Name of YHWH’ (and even earlier in Genesis 4.26). In Exodus 23.21 YHWH could say of the Angel of YHWH, ‘My Name is in Him’. Thus in both cases ‘the Name’ represented YHWH’s own presence. Again in Exodus 33.19 YHWH ‘pronounced the Name of YHWH’ before Moses as an indication of His revealed presence, compare Exodus 34.5. We can see therefore why the Ark of God which symbolised His presence was ‘called by the Name of YHWH’ (2 Samuel 6.2), and why building the ‘Dwellingplace of YHWH’ was considered as being in order to house His Name. It was on this basis that Moses saw it as so important that there should always be ‘a place’ (the Hebrew article can never be pressed) where YHWH would cause ‘His Name’ to dwell there (Deuteronomy 12.5). Like 2 Samuel 6.2, Deuteronomy 12 looks back to the above references.
8.20 “And YHWH has established his word that he spoke, for I am risen up in the room of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as YHWH promised, and have built the house for the name of YHWH, the God of Israel.”
Then Solomon sought to convince them that the Temple was therefore based on YHWH establishing His word, on the grounds that Solomon himself had now risen up in David’s place and had sat on the throne of Israel as YHWH had promised, and had therefore built the house for the Name of YHWH the God of Israel, as a reminder of His presence and as a home for the Ark which was called by His Name (2 Samuel 6.2).
8.21 “And there have I set a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of YHWH, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.”
He then sought to link the Temple with the deliverance from Egypt and the covenant made at Sinai. For he pointed out that the Ark which he had set in the Temple was the very Ark in which was the covenant of YHWH, the covenant that YHWH had made with His people when He had delivered them out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 20). Thus the Temple was now linked closely with the covenant, and had been built as a result of YHWH’s words to David.
He no doubt hoped that that was the end of the matter. But as the future would reveal, many of the people were far from convinced. The Central Sanctuary in Jerusalem would not later have taken such a hold on Israel that it would prevent the split into two kingdoms. (It might have been somewhat different if it had still been established at Gibeon). Nor did it grip the hearts of all in Judah, even though the splitting of the two kingdoms would certainly have helped to focus the attention of many in Judah more on Jerusalem simply as a reaction to Israel’s desertion.
(It should be noted that there is nowhere any suggestion here that this was a fulfilment of Deuteronomy 12, nor on the fact that Jerusalem was the place that YHWH had chosen. All the emphasis is on the fact that it was David who was chosen, and that that was the reason why the Temple was being built in his own city).
Solomon’s Prayer Of Dedication Of The Temple (8.22-62).
Having, as he hoped, reconciled the people to having the Temple in Jerusalem as their Central Sanctuary, Solomon now reminded God of His covenant, and of His covenant love, admitted that the Temple that he had built could not really contain the God of Heaven and earth, the One Whom even the Heaven of heavens could not contain, and prayed that God would bless them as a result of their having their Temple. He asked Him to listen to their prayers when they prayed towards it, and as a result offer them forgiveness for their sins when they sinned and then repented, and went on to list seven possibilities of the way in which He could show His mercy when they had sinned and then sought His mercy.
Considering the examples that we have of similar sins in Leviticus 27 and Deuteronomy 28-29 what is really remarkable is how any real direct reference to them appears to be avoided. There are very occasional possible echoes of language, but certainly nothing substantial. To describe the prayer as ‘Deuteronomic’ (why not Levitical?) is therefore a total misrepresentation. All that can be said is that it contains occasional parallel ideas to one or the other without borrowing from either, and indeed contains echoes from the whole of the Pentateuch. Furthermore it must be said that even these echoes could easily be seen simply as resulting from traditional ideas conveyed during cultic recitation at the regular feasts.
But there is one further point to be noted and that is the emphasis of the prayer on ‘forgiveness’ (salach). It can hardly be denied that it is a central feature of the prayer and yet it is salutary to recognise that this concept of forgiveness (salach) is prominent in Leviticus and Numbers but almost unknown in what are often called the Deuteronomic writings up to this point.
Thus our conclusion is that we have in Solomon’s prayer a unique and carefully thought out independent prayer of the kind that we would expect from someone like Solomon. During the commentary on the verses we will be giving examples of parallel use of words and ideas found in the Pentateuch, (such as they are), and it will be noted that they are evenly spread over a number of books and of a kind which might have been expected of a young man who had attended the feasts and heard the whole of the Torah being read out, but who did not have it to hand while preparing his speech.
From a literary point of view it will also be noticed that verses 22 and 54 form a definite and specific inclusio. And what is also interesting is that while he began the prayer standing before the altar with his hands raised towards Heaven, he finished it kneeling on his knees before the altar with his hands spread forth towards Heaven. As we consider the depths which his prayer reached we are not surprised by this. He was clearly so deeply moved by the content of his intercession that as the people’s intercessor he eventually fell to his knees before YHWH. His prayer was no mere formality.
Note that in ‘a’ he is praying before the altar, and in the parallel he ceases praying before the altar. In ‘b’ he stresses the keeping of the covenant and the covenant-keeping nature of God, and in the parallel he considers seven possible breaches of covenant and their possible consequences, and prays that God will hear His people if they truly repent of them. In ‘c’ he calls on YHWH to keep His promises to David, and in the parallel he calls on Him in the same way to listen to the prayers of himself and his people. In ‘d’ he prays that the word of YHWH to David might be verified, and in the parallel he asks YHWH to listen to the prayer that he is praying this day. Centrally in ‘e’ he acknowledges that God will not really dwell on earth, because even the Heaven of heavens cannot contain Him.
8.22 ‘And Solomon stood before the altar of YHWH in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven,’
The most solemn moment of the dedication of the Temple had now come (such dedications at the building of temples is testified to elsewhere in the ancient Near East), and as the intercessor of Israel Solomon had well prepared himself. He stood before the altar of YHWH in the presence of all of assembled Israel, and spread forth his hands towards Heaven. But as already mentioned, he would shortly be so moved by some of the things that he was praying about that, by the end of the prayer, he would be on his knees (verse 54). For the idea of the spreading forth of the hands compare Exodus 9.33; Psalm 143.6 (a Psalm of David); Isaiah 1.15; and compare Exodus 17.11-12. The Chronicler informs us that he stood on a specially made bronze platform so that all could see him (2 Chronicles 6.13).
The altar of YHWH has not previously been mentioned in connection with the Temple (see 9.25), for the concentration had been on the items made of gold, but it was so necessary a part of ancient worship that it could be assumed. No temple would be complete without one. For the phrase ‘the altar of YHWH’ see Leviticus 17.6; Joshua 9.27; 22.28, 29. In contrast, in Deuteronomy it is always ‘the altar of YHWH your God’ (Deuteronomy 12.27; 16.21; 26.4; 27.6)
8.23-24 ‘And he said, “O YHWH, the God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keeps covenant and covenant love with your servants, who walk before you with all their heart, who has kept with your servant David my father that which you promised him. Yes, you spoke with your mouth, and have fulfilled it with your hand, as it is this day.”
His prayer was firmly based on the covenant that YHWH had made with his father David, which also intimately affected him, although very much as a part of the continuing covenant of Sinai. He addressed Him as ‘the God of Israel’, that is as the God Who had a personal interest in Israel, and yet he immediately expanded the thought to include the idea that YHWH is supreme and unique in Heaven and earth, a supremacy and uniqueness especially revealed in His keeping of His covenant promises. We can compare Exodus 15.11, ‘Who is like to you O YHWH among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness (set-apartness), fearful in praises, doing wonders?’.
‘Who keeps covenant and covenant love with your servants, who walk before you with all their heart’ can only refer to the covenant of Sinai, and was directly based on words which YHWH had spoken to David concerning ‘the Torah of Moses’ (2.3-4). This combination of ‘covenant’ and ‘covenant love’ is found in Deuteronomy 5.10; 7.9, 12. In keeping His covenant He reveals His covenant love, for otherwise our case would be hopeless. And that covenant love is shown towards those who walk before Him (see Genesis 17.1; 1 Samuel 2.30) ‘with all their hearts’ (2.4).
Note the idea of the people as ‘YHWH’s servants’. He is their king, and they are in subjection to Him, owning Him as their Overlord.
“Who has kept with your servant David my father that which you promised him. Yes, you spoke with your mouth, and have fulfilled it with your hand, as it is this day.” Solomon then connects the original covenant up with the matter that is now on their minds, the fulfilment of YHWH’s covenant with David as evidenced in the building of the Temple. As recent history had demonstrated, YHWH had kept His promises to David, and that keeping of His promises has now resulted in the building of the Temple. That was, of course, Solomon’s view. The original covenant had been about ‘the house of David’ not about the Temple (2 Samuel 7.4-17).
For the idea of ‘covenant love’ see Genesis 20.13; 24.12, 14, 27; 32.10; 39.2; Exodus 15.13; 20.6; 34.6, 7; Leviticus 20.17; Numbers 14.18, 19. For the combination of covenant and covenant love see Deuteronomy 5.10; 7.9, 12. For the phrase ‘Heaven above’ compare Genesis 49.25. For both ‘Heaven above’ and ‘earth beneath’ see Exodus 20.4; Deuteronomy 4.39; 5.8, but as it is in part of the ten major requirements of the covenant it would be a commonly used phrase. For walking before God see Genesis 17.1; 1 Samuel 2.30. For ‘walking before God with all their hearts’ see 1 Kings 2.4. For ‘fulfilled with your hand’ see 1 Kings 8.15.
8.25 “Now therefore, O YHWH, the God of Israel, keep with your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, “There shall not fail you a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children take heed to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.”
Solomon then reminded YHWH of the promise that he had made to his father David (2.4), “There shall not fail you a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children take heed to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.” And he called on YHWH to keep with David his father what He had promised him concerning the continuance of his house on the throne of Israel. Note the thought that in some way David was still in a position where the promise could be kept with him. It was therefore being suggested that he had some kind of continuance after death (compare Jesus’ argument in Matthew 22.31-32). What Solomon would, of course, sadly overlook was that the promises only applied if David’s sons walked before YHWH as David had. But that was something still in the future and not in his purview. He did not doubt his own heart at this moment. Fortunately the promise in 2 Samuel 7.4-17 was absolute and was not dependent on the obedience of David’s sons (which would produce chastisement but not rejection) but on the dependability of YHWH.
For there shall not fail you a man to sit on your throne’ and ‘take heed to their way’ compare 1 Kings 2.4,
8.26 “Now therefore, O God of Israel, let your word, I pray you, be verified, which you spoke to your servant David my father.”
Solomon then again prayed that God, as the God of Israel, would let the word that He had spoken be verified. Note the threefold progression in verses 24-26. ‘You have kept -- and have fulfilled it to this day’. ‘Now therefore keep --’. ‘Let your word be verified --.’ He was basing everything on God’s promise to David, and looking not only for the continuation of his own kingship, but, in the final two statements, for the final everlasting kingdom.
8.27 “But will God in very deed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built.”
But Solomon was very much aware of the greatness and the glory of God as revealed in the Scriptures, and recognised that such a God could not be limited to earth, even though He might have dealings with man on earth. He was after all the ‘Creator of Heaven and earth’ (Genesis 1.1), ‘the Judge of all the earth’ (Genesis 18.25), the One Who had a stairway between earth and Heaven and ministered on earth through His angels (Genesis 28.12-17), the One Who ‘will be what He will be’ (Exodus 3.14), the deliverer from and devastater of mighty Egypt (Exodus 20.2), the God of Sinai Who could come and go as He would (Exodus 19.16-18; 24.16-17), God Almighty (Genesis 17.1). How then could such a God be confined to a building on earth?
Indeed he recognised that God was so great that Heaven itself, and even the extremest Heaven, could not contain Him. He could break out in power wherever He would. How then could He be contained in a man built house? Such a concept was only unique, firstly in its concept of the overall greatness of the One God, and secondly in that it had as its background the Scriptures, for no nations of that day in fact believed that they could confine their gods to their temples. The difference lay rather in the fact that they thought that through their temples and their priests they could manipulate their gods, while Solomon was well aware that God could not be manipulated, and instead worked His own will. ‘I will be what I will be’ (Exodus 3.14). He was bound only because of His covenant promises, and even they were largely (although not wholly) dependent on the obedience of His servants. He was the One Who acted as He would, where He would.
8.28 “Yet have you respect to the prayer of your servant, and to his supplication, O YHWH my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which your servant prays before you this day,”
Yet although God was so great and so ‘wholly other’ he asked that He would listen to and respond to His servant’s prayer and supplication. Note again the threefoldness of his request. ‘have respect to the prayer of your servant’, ‘and to his supplications’, ‘to listen to the cry and the prayer which your servant prays before you this day’. He was praying from the heart.
8.29 “That your eyes may be open towards this house night and day, even towards the place of which you have said, “My name shall be there,” to listen to the prayer which your servant shall pray towards this place.”
And his prayer was that YHWH would now accept this new Temple as he had accepted the Tabernacle so that YHWH’s eyes would be opened towards this house night and day, causing Him to listen to all the prayers that Solomon His servant would, as Israel’s intercessor, pray towards this place.
‘The place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there’. He wanted the Temple to be acknowledged as one of the places where He had ‘recorded His Name’ (Exodus 20.24. Throughout their history YHWH had chosen places where He would ‘record His Name.’ It had been so wherever the Tabernacle was established, for it had contained the ARK which ‘whose Name is called by the Name of YHWH of hosts Who sits among the Cherubim’ (2 Samuel 6.2). And that Tabernacle had finally settled in Shiloh (Joshua 18.1) once the country had rest (Joshua 11.23; 18.1; 23.1), at ‘the place which YHWH chose to put His Name there’ (Deuteronomy 12.5, 11, 21; 14.23, 24; 16.2, 6, 11; 26.2), and it had been there for centuries.
But as a result of the failure of the people to respond fully to the covenant Shiloh had ceased as the place where ‘YHWH had chosen to put His Name there’, and there had been a stage of fluidity. Now Solomon was praying that He would accept this Temple as such a place. The prophecy ‘My Name shall be there’ (see 8.16) had, according to Solomon, been made to his father David. And the very fact that He had allowed them to build the Temple indicated that that was His purpose for it. The idea of His Name being there was that it would be one place where He was present to listen to the prayers of His people without His being limited to that place.
For the idea of ‘eyes being opened’ see Genesis 3.5, 7; Numbers 24.3-4, 15-16. For ‘my Name shall be there’ compare 1 Kings 8.16. For the idea of ‘the Name’ see Genesis 4.25; Genesis 13.4; Exodus 20.24; 23.21; 34.5; Deuteronomy 12.5 etc.).
8.30 “And hearken you to the supplication of your servant, and of your people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place. Yes, hear you in heaven your dwelling-place, and when you hear, forgive (salach).”
He then conjoined Israel with himself and prayed that YHWH would not only hear Solomon’s prayers on behalf of the people, but would also hear their own prayers as well. And he knew that it would be needed, for part of YHWH’s covenant with David had included the idea of his sons going astray from YHWH (2 Samuel 7.14). And when that happened they would all need forgiveness, and especially the king himself. This idea of forgiveness is one found in Leviticus and Numbers (but interestingly not in Deuteronomy where the idea is presented in a different way). For this idea of God positively forgiving (salach) see Exodus 34.9; Leviticus 4-5 (eight times); 6.7; 19.22; Numbers 14.19-20; 15.25-28; 30.5, 8, 12, and the Davidic Psalms 25.18; 103.3. In Deuteronomy it appears only as a negative idea in Deuteronomy 29.20. It is thus not a Deuteronomic concept. And yet forgiveness is to be the very basis of the Temple’s effectiveness at being an instrument for reaching YHWH.
Solomon then listed seven ways in which YHWH’s people, and indeed other people, might call on Him or sin against Him, desiring His response. The first was in the cause of justice when men came before YHWH on oath, the second was when they might be smitten by their enemies because they had sinned against Him, the third was if the heavens were shut up so that there was no rain, for the same reason, the fourth was if natural disasters affected the land, the fifth was where foreigners might come to the Temple for His Name’s sake, the sixth was when His people went out to battle, and the seventh was if ever they found themselves captive in a foreign land, a common enough experience for many people in those turbulent and often violent days.
8.31-32 “If a man sin against his neighbour, and an oath be laid on him to cause him to swear, and he come and swear before your altar in this house, then hear you in heaven, and do, and judge your servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way on his own head, and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.”
The first scenario was where a man was called on to swear an oath before the altar in the Temple as to whether he was guilty or not. In such a case the prayer was that YHWH would respond justly and hear what was sworn, and act accordingly, condemning the guilty and bringing his judgment on his own head, and declaring the righteous to be righteous because he truly was ‘in the right’. See as examples Exodus 22.11; Numbers 5.19, 21. Note that by this prayer the Temple is seen as replacing the regular idea of being brought ‘before YHWH’ in the Tabernacle.
For the idea of swearing an oath before God compare Numbers 30.2; Joshua 2.17, 20. See for this particular case, as already mentioned, Exodus 22.11; Numbers 5.19, 21. Again it is not a Deuteronomic concept.
8.33-34 “When your people Israel are smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against you, if they turn again to you, and confess your name, and pray and make supplication to you in this house, then hear you in heaven, and forgive the sin of your people Israel, and let them remain in the land which you gave to their fathers.”
The second scenario was one where Israel were smitten before their enemies because they had sinned against YHWH (compare Joshua 7.1-5). The prayer was that if they then turned again to YHWH (repented), and confessed His Name (believed), and made supplication towards the Temple as the place where YHWH had established His Name’, then YHWH would hear from Heaven, and forgive their sin, and allow them remain in the land which He had promised and given to their fathers. In other words that they might not be driven out of their land in the way that YHWH had commanded that they drive the Canaanites out of it. Note the emphasis on ‘hear’ and ‘forgive’ and the consequence.
The change from ‘bring them again to the land’ to ‘let them remain in the land’ does not alter the basic Hebrew text. It simply requires a change of pointing (of pronunciation of the original consonants). It is required because if the people were outside the land they would not be able to ‘make supplication in this house’. For the phrase ‘smitten down before your enemies’ see Leviticus 26.17; Deuteronomy 28.25. For the idea of ‘the land that you gave to their fathers’ compare Deuteronomy 19.8; Joshua 18.3.
8.35-36 “When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against you, if they pray towards this place, and confess your name, and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, then hear you in heaven, and forgive the sin of your servants, and of your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk, and send rain upon your land, which you have given to your people for an inheritance.”
The next example is when heaven is shut up so that there is no rain as a consequence of the fact that they have sinned against YHWH. Palestine was especially dependent on rain because it had almost no permanent rivers. Thus rain at the proper season was vital for their agriculture. The idea that God’s people were dependent on YHWH for rain from Heaven is constant throughout the Law of Moses (specifically in Leviticus 26.4; Deuteronomy 11.11-17; 28.12, 24; compare 2 Samuel 1.21; Isaiah 32.15; 44.1-5; 55.10-13), for the rain filled the wadis and the natural wells, and produced the springs. See also 1 Kings 17-18.
Again the thought was that if they prayed towards the Temple and confessed His Name (believed) and turned from their sin (repented) when He afflicted them in this way, He would hear in Heaven (note not in the Temple) and forgive their sins. And this would result from the fact that He would teach them the good way in which they should walk, and the consequence would be that rain came on their land, the land which was given to them as their inheritance.
Note once more the emphasis on ‘forgiveness, a central concept in this prayer, a concept which is taken from Leviticus and Numbers. For the phrase ‘when Heaven is shut up and there is no rain’ compare Deuteronomy 11.17. It is an idea also found in the Ugaritic literature (written prior to Israel’s entering into the land). For the idea that the land was given to them as their inheritance see Numbers 16.14; 26.53-54; 32.18; 34.2, 29; 36.2; Deuteronomy 4.21, 38; 12.9; 15.4; 19.10; 21.23; 24.4; 25.19; 26.1; Joshua 14-24.
8.37-40 “If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, if there be blasting or mildew, locust or caterpillar; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities (gates); whatever plague, whatever sickness there be, whatever prayer and supplication be made by any man, or by all your people Israel, who shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands towards this house, then hear you in heaven your dwelling-place, and forgive, and do, and render to every man according to all his ways, whose heart you know (for you, even you only, know the hearts of all the children of men), that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land which you gave to our fathers.”
Solomon then turned his thoughts towards the many natural disasters that could come on the land - famine, pestilence, blasting (by the Sirocco winds from the desert), mildew (a parasite fungus resulting from overmuch rain), locust and caterpillar, belligerent enemies, sickness and plague, and the plague within men’s hearts that set them to praying. And once they had recognised the plague that was in their hearts and spread forth their hands towards YHWH’s house (the Temple), Solomon asked that YHWH would hear ‘in Heaven His dwelling-place’, and would forgive, and work within His people a heart that feared His Name.
Note again his emphasis on the fact that YHWH’s supreme dwellingplace was not in the Temple but in Heaven, the need for repentance (a recognition of the plague in their own hearts), the necessary cry for forgiveness, and the desire for the action of YHWH in restoring their hearts, and their continuation in the land which YHWH had given to their fathers in godly fear. There was ever before their thoughts the fact that God’s judgment on the Canaanites had been that they would be driven out of the land that they inhabited. Thus he prayed that the same might not happen to Israel.
Note the thought which is contained here of prayer by individuals. This kind of disaster could strike at individual families, some here and some there, rather than the whole land.
In a verse where we might expect to find many parallels if any specific passage had been in mind there are in fact quite remarkably, given the subject matter, almost none. For famine in the sense in mind here see Genesis 12.10; 26.1; 41 often; Leviticus 26.19-20. For pestilence compare Leviticus 26.25; Numbers 14.12. For blasting and mildew compare Deuteronomy 28.22. For locusts see especially Exodus 10 (often) and Deuteronomy 28.38. There is no mention of caterpillar in the Law of Moses. But as these are common disaster experiences it is really a collection from general knowledge and common sense, which indicates a general knowledge of the whole Law of Moses, and of the land, rather than a concentration on any particular piece of literature. After all Solomon took a great interest in the phenomena of nature (4.33).
‘In the land of their cities (literally ‘gates’).’ The point here, of course, is that it was only their cities that could be besieged with the concentration being on their massive gates. But Solomon wanted to connect the idea with the land that YHWH had given them. This is an advancement on being smitten down by their enemies, which had in mind the open battlefield. Here prolonged sieges were in mind, of a kind carried out, for example, by David on Ammon (2 Samuel 10). Some see ‘in the land, in the gates’ as signifying both in the countryside and in cities.
8.41-43 “Moreover concerning the foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, when he shall come out of a far country for your name’s sake, (for they will hear of your great name, and of your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he shall come and pray toward this house, hear you in heaven your dwelling-place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you for; that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, to fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by your name.”
This quite remarkable emphasis on YHWH’s openness to the prayers of foreigners brings out Solomon’s breadth of vision. It visualised a time when foreigners would hear of what God had done and would come to the Temple to seek the God of Israel (see 10.1-13, 24-25; 2 Kings 5; compare Exodus 12.48; Numbers 15.14; Psalm 2.10. The idea was expanded by Isaiah 56.6 ff. For the idea of hearing what God has done see also Exodus 15.14-16).
It is a prayer that assumes a state of peace, expansion and prosperity like the time of Solomon, a time when Israel’s messengers and traders were going out to the world and were being received as honoured guests, and when the fame of Israel was being spread abroad. Then foreigners would learn of YHWH’s greatness and of what He had done for Israel, especially in delivering them from Egypt, and would come to worship Him and pray in His Temple. (Solomon was trying to bring home to the people the great vision that he had in building the Temple). And his prayer was that YHWH would hear the prayers of such people, and that YHWH would answer them from ‘Heaven His dwellingplace’, and do what they asked, so that all the peoples of the earth might know His Name, and fear Him, just as His people did. And the result would be that, as a consequence of their answered prayer, they would know that this Temple was distinctive from all others and was called by the Name of YHWH, because in a very real sense YHWH had manifested His presence there by answering their prayers.
For the phrase ‘far country’ see Joshua 9.6, 9. For ‘mighty hand’ and ‘outstretched arm’ see Deuteronomy 26.8. Compare Exodus 32.11, ‘with great power and with a mighty hand’.
8.44-45 “If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to YHWH towards the city which you have chosen, and towards the house which I have built for your name, then hear you in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.”
The final scenario is of the case where the war is being taken to the enemy (and therefore very different from verse 33, and having worse possible consequences) because YHWH has sent them. Then when from the land to which they have gone (‘by whatever way you shall send them’) they pray to YHWH towards the city which He has chosen, and the house which Solomon has built in His Name, he asks that YHWH will hear their prayer and supplication in Heaven, and hear and maintain their cause, giving them victory.
So praying towards the Tabernacle in the centre of the camp has now become praying towards the Temple in the centre of the land. Both were seen as the focal point through which Heaven could be reached because His Name was there, as a result of the presence of the Ark. Notice how Solomon was now trying to convince the people (and YHWH) that YHWH had chosen Jerusalem. This is the first mention of such an idea in Kings, and indeed in Scripture up to this point.
8.46-48 “If they sin against you (for there is no man who sins not), and you are angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and turn again, and make supplication to you in the land of those who carried them captive, saying, ‘We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have dealt wickedly,’ if they return to you with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to you towards their land, which you gave to their fathers, the city which you have chosen, and the house which I have built for your name,”
But in all cases victory could not be assumed, even though they have been sent by YHWH. For there they might well sin against Him (always an especial danger during a belligerent campaign) and as a result YHWH might be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy so that they were carried off captive to their enemy’s land, whether far or near (Cushan Rishathaim of Mesopotamia would be an example of ‘far’ - Judges 3.8). The carrying off of captives was not just something practised by the great nations like Assyria and Babylon. They simply did it on a huge scale. It was common practise with prisoners of war. And it was common practise whenever nations invaded another nation. Indeed one of the spoils that they looked for was plenty of slaves to sell on or keep for their own use. We have the perfect example in 1 Samuel 30.2, 5-6, 18-1 where one of the reasons for the Amalekite invasion was in order to take captives as slaves. Compare also Deuteronomy 20.14; 21.10-11 where it was simply assumed as a matter of course that Israel would do the same. We can hardly doubt that other nations reciprocated. Consider for example Naaman’s Israelite slave girl (1 Kings 5.2).
So this idea of being carried away captive did not require later history to make sense. Indeed in Leviticus 18.25-28; 20.22. YHWH had warned against the possibility of His ‘spewing them out’. It was thus to be expected. There would be many Israelites in captivity who had been there as a consequence of the wars described in the Book of Judges and since, and many more would be taken captive during the coming wars with Syria and other enemies. It was something that was happening all the time. And it was Solomon’s prayer that when such people were carried into captivity they might remember YHWH and call on Him from wherever they were, and admit that they were sinners who had behaved sinfully (for as Solomon has pointed out there are none who sin not), with the result that their captors would treat them more leniently. There was no suggestion of restoration from their captivity. It recognised that they would be there permanently and referred rather to compassion being shown to them in their captivity.
And the point was that wherever YHWH’s people were they should be able to look towards the land, and towards Jerusalem and towards the Temple, as they had once looked towards the Tabernacle, and be sure that YHWH would hear them. The spirit is more that of Leviticus 26.38-45 than of Deuteronomy 28-29, for in the latter there is a clear promise that they will be restored to their land, something which Solomon did not have in mind here (it is so clear in Deuteronomy that it is difficult to see how he could have overlooked it had he had that passage in mind). There is not even the hint of a return from captivity. This was indeed the condition of many Israelites who had been taken captive since the time of Joshua. It has nothing to do with the Exile. And we can safely say that while this prayer could have been prayed by someone who had in mind Leviticus 26 or who had a working knowledge of extracts from Deuteronomy (like, say, Solomon), it could not have been written by a thoroughgoing Deuteronomist.
Note again the emphasis on repentance (‘we have sinned, and have done perversely, we have dealt wickedly’) and on faith (‘if they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul -- and pray’), and on the desire that they receive forgiveness for all their sins and transgressions, because they were still the people of His inheritance. And he prayed that YHWH’s eyes might be opened towards them and He would hear their cry, because they were the chosen of YHWH (Exodus 19.5-6; 20. 1-18) in spite of their captivity.
For the warning about being carried away captive on a large scale as a judgment on His people way (but not in these specific terms) see Leviticus 26.33; Deuteronomy 28.64. For His eyes being open towards them see on verse 29.
8.49-50 “Then hear you their prayer and their supplication in heaven your dwelling-place, and maintain their cause, and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions in which they have transgressed against you, and give them compassion before those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them,”
The word used for ‘sinning’ here indicates gross rebellion. Thus the forgiveness is greatly needed. We note again the centrality of forgiveness in response to repentance, and the emphasis again that YHWH will hear them ‘in Heaven Your dwellingplace’. As we have seen forgiveness was a subject emphasised in Leviticus and Numbers, although there a sacrificial ministry was in mind (and would be assumed in most of Solomon’s prayer). Here there could be no sacrifices offered (at least as far as we are aware) because they were in a far off (or not so far off) land. That YHWH heard ‘from Heaven’, and not from some far off Jerusalem, was also important. Wherever they were He was within reach. And the whole point is that in the place of their captivity they would experience the compassion of their captors because they had repented towards Him.
8.51 “For they are your people, and your inheritance, which you brought forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron,”
Here the emphasis is not on the land as their inheritance (verses 34, 36, 40) but on the people themselves as His inheritance (Exodus 34.9; Deuteronomy 32.9), the people whom He had brought forth from Egypt (Exodus 20.2; 32.11; Leviticus 25.42, 55; 26.45; Deuteronomy 9.12, 26; compare 4.20), ‘from the midst of the furnace of iron’ (Deuteronomy 4.20; Jeremiah 11.4).
‘For they are your people and your inheritance.’ YHWH had proved it by delivering them and declaring His great favour towards them, both in the covenant and in giving them the land. They were His chosen race, His holy nation, His treasured possession (Exodus 19.5-6).
8.52 “That your eyes may be open to the supplication of your servant, and to the supplication of your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they cry to you.”
And Solomon’s hope was that because YHWH’s Central Sanctuary had again been established, the prayers of he and YHWH’s people might be more efficacious whenever they cried to Him. ‘That your eyes may be open’ takes up the thought of their being His people and His inheritance. That is why His eyes will be open towards them, not because of their own deserving, but because He has chosen them as His own.
8.53 “For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth, to be your inheritance, as you spoke by Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord YHWH.”
For the reason why YHWH would hear them was not to be because of the Temple, but because He had separated them from all the people of the earth to be His inheritance (Exodus 19.5-6; 33.16; Leviticus 20.24, 26 compare Deuteronomy 7.6; 14.2; 32.8). And this was in accordance with the Law of Moses in Exodus 33.16. For ‘brought forth out of Egypt’ see on verse 51.
It was a fitting statement on which to end his prayer, for it made clear that in the end it was not the Temple which was the be-all and end-all of things in his eyes, but the people. It was they who were YHWH’s treasured possession, and it was because He had chosen them and delivered them and made them His own within the covenant. They were a people separated to Him.
8.54 ‘And it was so, that, when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication to YHWH, he arose from before the altar of YHWH, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread forth toward heaven.’
This is the closing verse of the inclusio, which parallels verse 22. Solomon had now concluded ‘praying all this prayer and supplication towards YHWH’, and we learn that such had been his fervour that he had fallen on his knees with his hands still outstretched towards Heaven. Everyone who has truly prayed knows something of this experience, commencing by standing or sitting, and being so moved that they finish up on their knees. If only he could have maintained this zeal for YHWH to the end how different things would have been. But like so many he would get caught up by the world.
Solomon’s Closing Blessing Of The People (8.55-62).
In his first blessing (verses 14-21), prior to his major prayer, Solomon had been concerned to establish the credentials of the Temple. Now, however, his concern was for the spiritual life of the people in a blessing which to begin with clearly echoes the last part of the Book of Joshua. Like Joshua he was calling on them once again to renew the covenant (see Joshua 24). He consequently called on YHWH not to forsake them but to incline their hearts to obey and follow Him, and to so hear the intercession that he had made that He would maintain the cause of His people and bring glory to His Name throughout the earth. And he then completed his blessing with a call to the people of Israel to walk truly with God in full obedience to His commandments.
Note that in ‘a’ Solomon blessed the assembly of Israel and pointed out what YHWH had done for them, and in the parallel the king and all Israel offered sacrifices before YHWH. In ‘b’ He calls on God to incline their heart to obedience to His commandments, and in the parallel he urges the people to obey His commandments. Centrally in ‘c’ he asks that YHWH would so hear the prayer that he had prayed that He might maintain their cause and bring glory to His own Name around the world.
8.55-56 ‘And he stood, and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, “Blessed be YHWH, who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. There has not failed one word (dabar) of all his good promise, which he promised by Moses his servant.”
Having completed his dedicatory prayer Solomon then stood and blessed ‘the assembly of Israel’, pointing out that YHWH had fulfilled, in an even greater way than He had previously, His promise to Israel of rest from all their enemies. He saw his day as being the culmination of all God’s promises of rest, for as he looked around the kingdom appeared stable, and no enemies were remotely threatening.
His words here very much have the closing chapters of the Book of Joshua in mind, with Solomon extending the ideas to his own day. We should consider, for example, Joshua 22.4, ‘and now YHWH your God has given rest to your brothers as He spoke to them’. Joshua 23.1, ‘and it came about after many days, when YHWH had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about.’ Joshua 23.14, ‘not one good word (dabar) has failed of all the good things which YHWH your God promised concerning you’ (said Moses).. Thus Solomon saw these words as finding even deeper fulfilment in the circumstances in which Israel now found themselves than they had in Joshua’s day. And we should note that in these words Joshua was leading Israel up to the point of renewing the covenant and renouncing all other gods (Joshua 24.23-25).
And many a time after that Israel had found rest from all their enemies. It was not a new concept. Consider for example Judges 3.11, 30; 5.31. But the problem was that every time that rest had been disturbed because other enemies had arisen. But now at last it appeared as though God had given permanent rest to His people.
This idea of God’s rest now given was again prominent in 2 Samuel 7.1, 11, where it led up to the giving of the everlasting covenant to David. And in 1 Kings 5.4 Solomon saw it as grounds for building the Temple, which he saw as associated with that covenant. It may well be that he had Deuteronomy 12.10-11 in mind where the arrival of God’s rest was to be followed by the establishing of His Sanctuary at the place where YHWH would choose, which Solomon now saw (and wanted the people to see) as Jerusalem. These words in Deuteronomy had already, however, been fulfilled, when Joshua renewed the covenant at the holy site at Shechem (Joshua 8.30), the place at which YHWH had clearly recorded His Name (note how Exodus 20.24-25 is cited as authority for his act), prior to His choosing Shiloh. And we need have no doubt that Joshua had arranged for the offering of burnt offerings on the altar on Mount Ebal (Joshua 8.30) at that covenant ceremony, for no covenant ceremony would have been complete without them. (See also 1 Chronicles 22.9, 18; 23.25).
And now as Solomon looked around at his great empire, and his doughty warriors, and his powerful chariots, he probably felt that they had attained to the ultimate rest. For what could possibly disturb the peace of such an empire? And he wanted it known that the Temple was closely connected with this final fulfilment of YHWH’s promises of rest, as the Sanctuary to supersede all sanctuaries. It must have appeared that all was well indeed.
8.57 “YHWH our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. Let him not leave us, nor forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.”
Solomon then expressed the heartfelt desire that YHWH would be with them as His people. ‘May YHWH our God be with us as He was with our fathers’. His hope was based on the evidence of YHWH’s faithfulness through history. This idea that YHWH would be ‘with them’ finds continual expression in Israel’s worship in Psalm 46.7, 11.
‘Let him not leave us, nor forsake us.’ And he prayed that YHWH would never leave them or forsake them. The words are taken from his father’s Psalm 27.9, ‘You have been my help, leave me not nor forsake me, O God of my salvation.’ And they echoed the promise given to David in the everlasting covenant that, ‘My mercy will not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul’ (2 Samuel 7.15). For God’s faithfulness to the king meant His faithfulness to his people. His dependence was on YHWH’s faithfulness to His promises.
But he recognised that God’s blessing depended on obedience, and so he called on God to incline their hearts to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments, statutes and judgments. He recognised that it could only be as a result of God’s specific work on their hearts that they were likely to be obedient (compare Philippians 2.13). The combinations cover every aspect of Mosaic Law. For the idea of ‘inclining hearts’ compare Judges 9.3; Psalm 119.36. To ‘walk in all his ways’ is found in Deuteronomy 10.12; 11.22; Joshua 22.5, although the thought is also contained in Genesis 5.24; 17.1; Leviticus 18.4; 26.3; Deuteronomy 5.33; 8.6; 26.17; 30.16. The combination of commandments, statutes and judgments in this order is found only in Deuteronomy 26.17; 30.16; but it is noteworthy that in Deuteronomy the ‘all’ in ‘all His ways’ is omitted in both cases. See also 2.3; 3.14; 6.12; Genesis 26.5; Exodus 15.26; Leviticus 26.3, 15; Deuteronomy 5.29, 31; 6.1, 2, 17; 8.11; 11.1; etc.; 2 Samuel 22.23. It is not therefore a direct citation from any source (although very close).
8.59-60 “And let these my words, with which I have made supplication before YHWH, be nigh to YHWH our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel, as every day shall require, that all the peoples of the earth may know that YHWH, he is God; there is none else.”
He then expressed the pious wish that the prayer that he had prayed might be near to God day and night so that He might ‘maintain the cause of His servant, and the cause of His people Israel, as every day shall require’. But, of course, the only way to ensure that that would be so would be to continue to pray it daily. Stale prayers are of little value. And that was where Solomon (Israel’s intercessor), in spite of all his wisdom, would fail. (How different it is for those who have a constant and unfailing Intercessor praying on their behalf day and night - Hebrews 7.25).
‘That he maintain the cause of (make the case effective of) His servant and His people Israel.’ This was a desire that YHWH would constantly step into their situation and see that they received what was right. It assumed obedience. It was only as they walked with Him that they had a right to blessing.
And his final aim was that all the peoples of the earth might see YHWH’s unique faithfulness to His people and recognise that it indicated that ‘He is God and there is no other’ (compare 18.39; Deuteronomy 4.35; Isaiah 45.5).
8.61 “Let your heart therefore be perfect with YHWH our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.”
He then called on the people to make this true by having hearts that were fully dedicated towards God and to His covenant so that they would walk in His statutes and keep His commandments, as they were doing at this time. The call was for full obedience to the covenant as expressed in the Law of Moses.
8.62 “And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before YHWH.’
The blessing then resulted in a whole hearted response from Israel as the king and all the people ‘offered sacrifice’ before YHWH. This would be done by their laying their hands on and slaughtering the animals, with the priests acting on their behalf in the presentation of the blood.
The Great Sacrificial Offering And Feast (8.63-66).
This special feast of dedication commenced seven days prior to the Feast of Tabernacles (thus incorporating the Day of Atonement). Large scale offerings were made during it, and they were of such a dimension that the bronze altar, which was apparently the one thing that had been brought from the Tabernacle for current use, was of insufficient size for the purpose of both offering the burnt offering and burning the fat of the multitudinous wellbeing (peace) offerings. The consequence was that the middle of the Inner court had to be especially hallowed so as to assist with the burning of the fat. What in fact was probably hallowed for the purpose may well have been the great rock (eighteen metres (sixty feet) by fourteen metres (forty five feet) by around one and a half metres (five feet)) which we know from later tradition was situated in the Inner court area, and which later gave its name to the present ‘Dome of the Rock’, for when examined this bore the marks of having been used for sacrifices. But that is by no means certain.
The Feast of Tabernacles then followed, and at the end of ‘the eight day’ of that feast the people returned to their temporary booths full of rejoicing at what had occurred. They would return home on the morrow in the same spirit.
Note that in ‘a’ large-scale sacrifices were offered of ‘wellbeing’ offerings, and in the parallel they returned home from the feast with rejoicing. In ‘b’ the king and the people dedicated the house of YHWH, and in the parallel a special seven day feast of dedication was held prior to the feast of Tabernacles. Centrally in ‘c’ the central inner court was sanctified for the offering of sacrifices because the brazen altar was insufficient for the number of sacrifices.
8.63 ‘And Solomon offered for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which he offered to YHWH, two and twenty thousand oxen, and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of YHWH.’
As we gather from the previous verse and from the following verse ‘Solomon’ signifies ‘him and all the people’, with Solomon prominent in the process. The daily burnt offerings and meal offerings would have to be offered, but on top of those were offered a multitude of sacrifices of peace (wellbeing - shelamim) offerings in honour of YHWH. Of these offerings only the fat was burned, the remainder, apart from what was given to the priests, contributing toward their feasting. They numbered twenty two sacrificial units of oxen and one hundred and twenty sacrificial units of sheep (the sacrificial units may have been literally in ‘thousands’ (eleph) or they may have been related to the size of the ‘wider families’ (eleph)). How large a number this came to we do not necessarily know, but the huge crowds gathered on this special occasion, urged on by the king, would require huge amounts of meat.
Similar huge offerings at feasts for the dedication of new buildings have been testified to at Nimrud, Ashur and Nineveh, accompanied by similar feasting and rejoicing.
8.64 ‘The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that was before the house of YHWH, for there he offered the burnt-offering, and the meal-offering, and the fat of the peace-offerings, because the brazen altar that was before YHWH was too small to receive the burnt-offering, and the meal-offering, and the fat of the peace-offerings.’
In fact so huge were the numbers of offerings and sacrifices that the bronze altar, which had been brought from the Tabernacle (which would explain why no altar was made earlier), and which was five cubits (just over to metres or seven and a half feet) by five cubits, was insufficient for the task. The brazen altar would be required for the morning and evening burnt offerings and meal offerings, and for the special burnt offerings and sin offerings of the Feast of Tabernacles (see Numbers 29.12-39), thus to handle the fat from the multitudinous wellbeing offerings as well would have proved too much for it. So the middle of the Inner court was hallowed especially for the purpose. This Inner court probably contained the massive stone described above, which may well have been co-opted as an emergency altar. It may have been this experience that resulted in the making of a bronze altar twenty cubits by twenty cubits by ten cubits in height as described in 2 Chronicles 4.1.
8.65 ‘So Solomon held the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly, from Libo-Hamath to the wadi of Egypt, before YHWH our God, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days.’
The number of people present at the feast is emphasised. There were more than attended the usual annual feasts. (No doubt Solomon’s invitation had been hard to refuse). For they formed ‘a great assembly’, coming from as far north as Libo-Hamath, a city attested to in the Egyptian execration texts and situated roughly a hundred and sixty miles north of Dan (Dan was the most northern part of Israel prior to the time of David. Compare ‘from Dan to Beersheba’). It was seen as the ‘ideal’ boundary of Israel (Numbers 34.8; Joshua 13.5; Amos 6.14). And from as far down as the Wadi of Egypt. Alternately some prefer to translate lebo-Hamath as ‘the approaches to Hamath’, recognising that Hamath itself was a friendly vassal state (2 Samuel 8.10). And this was for a feast of extra length, commencing seven days before the Feast of Tabernacles and going on until ‘the eighth day’ of the Feast of Tabernacles, thus lasting for fourteen days.
The Wadi of Egypt, many miles south of Gaza, was the southernmost area of occupation prior to reaching Egypt and was known by the Assyrians as Nahal (Wadi) Musri.
8.66 ‘On the eighth day he sent the people away, and they blessed the king, and went to their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that YHWH had shown to David his servant, and to Israel his people.’
And on ‘the eighth day’ of the Feast of Tabernacles (Numbers 29.35; Leviticus 23.36; compare John 7.37), presumably towards sunset, Solomon gave permission for the feast to end and the people to go home, and they returned to their ‘tents’ (their temporary booths) full of rejoicing ready, for the homeward journey on the morrow. The rejoicing at the Feast of Tabernacles was proverbial for it signified the end of the agricultural year, but this was a special joy for it included the thought of what YHWH had done for Israel in the goodness that He had shown towards David, and therefore to Israel His people.
‘Blessed the king.’ Gave him praise and thanked God for him because of what he had done for Israel. (They were hardly likely to do anything else, but they did have good reason to be joyful, especially at the end of such a prolonged feast).
For Kings part 1 (1-4) click here
For Kings part 3 (9-11) click here
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