Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto king Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion.
There seems to be a contrast here between the more popular proceedings of David 2 Samuel 6:1, and the statelier system of his son, who merely summons the chief men as representatives of the nation. The rest of the people "assembled themselves" 1 Kings 8:2, and were mere spectators of the solemnity.
And all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto king Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.
The feast in the month Ethanim - i. e. the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Ingathering, the commemoration of the dwelling in booths at the time of the Exodus (margin reference), and the festival of thanksgiving on account of the completion of harvest Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:39; Deuteronomy 16:13. It was one of the three on which the people were required to "appear before the Lord."
And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark.
In 2 Chronicles 5:4, ""the Levites" took up the ark;" and by the Law the ark was the special charge of the Kohathites Numbers 3:31; Numbers 4:15. But all priests were Levites Joshua 3:3, though all Levites were not priests. And as Joshua had done Joshua 3:6; Joshua 6:6, so Solomon called upon the priests to bear the holy structure, allowing to mere Levites only the inferior honor of helping to transport the tabernacle and the vessels of the sanctuary.
And they brought up the ark of the LORD, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, even those did the priests and the Levites bring up.
And the tabernacle of the congregation - Not the tented structure erected for the ark on Mount Zion 2 Samuel 6:17 by David, but the original tabernacle made by Moses, which had hitherto remained at Gibeon (margin reference). The tabernacle and its holy vessels were probably placed in the treasury.
And king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel, that were assembled unto him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and oxen, that could not be told nor numbered for multitude.
And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims.
For the cherubims spread forth their two wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above.
And they drew out the staves, that the ends of the staves were seen out in the holy place before the oracle, and they were not seen without: and there they are unto this day.
It was forbidden to withdraw the staves wholly from the rings (margin reference); but they appear to have been now drawn forward in such a way that their ends or heads could be seen from the holy place, or great chamber of the temple, though without their being visible from the porch or vestibule. Either the doorway into the holy of holies was not exactly opposite the ark, but a little on one side; or, though that doorway was in the middle, opposite the ark, the doorway from the porch into the main chamber was not opposite to it. In Assyrian temples the arrangement of the outer door, the inner door, and the sanctuary, seems to have been designedly such that a mere passer-by on the outside should not obtain even a glimpse of the shrine. It is suggested that the withdrawal of the staves was intended as a sign that the ark had reached "the place of its rest," and was not to be borne about anymore.
There they are unto this day - This is a quotation from an author who lived while the temple was still standing. See also 1 Kings 9:21.
There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.
Comparing this statement with Hebrews 9:4, it would seem that Solomon, now that the sacred chest had reached its final resting-place, and stood in a large chamber surrounded by tables 2 Chronicles 4:8, removed the pot of manna and the rod from the interior, and set them elsewhere in the holy of holies.
And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD,
The cloud - the visible symbol of the divine presence - the Shechinah of the Targums - which halt been promised before the ark was begun Exodus 29:43, and had filled the tabernacle as soon as it was completed Exodus 40:34, and which had probably been seen from time to time during the long interval when we have no express mention of it, now once more appeared in full magnificence, and took, as it were, possession of the building which Solomon was dedicating. The presence of God in the temple henceforth was thus assured to the Jews, and His approval of all that Solomon had done was signified.
So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of the LORD.
As in the case of Moses Exodus 40:35, so now the glory of the Lord, the manifestation of the divine presence, which the cloud usually veiled, shone forth from it with such brilliancy, that mortal man could not bear the sight.
Then spake Solomon, The LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.
Rather, "The Lord spake of dwelling in the thick darkness" (margin reference). Solomon sees in the cloud the visible symbol of God's presence, and accepts the token as a proof that He has taken possession of the house built for Him, and will thenceforth dwell there 1 Kings 8:13.
I have surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in for ever.
And the king turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: (and all the congregation of Israel stood;)
Solomon had spoken the preceding words, addressed to God, with his face directed to the holy of holies. He now turned around and looked outward toward the people. The people "stood" to hear him the attitude of respect and attention. This first blessing seems to have been without speech - an inward prayer accompanied by the ordinary gesture of blessing.
And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which spake with his mouth unto David my father, and hath with his hand fulfilled it, saying,
The exact words of 2 Samuel 7 are not reproduced; only their general sense is given. In 1 Kings 8:18, what was merely tacitly implied was regarded as actually "said."
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 an house, that my name might be therein; but I chose David to be over my people Israel.
The marginal reference completes the sense of this verse here. The passage is in accordance with archaic modes of speech, and is probably the more verbally accurate of the two.
And it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel.
And the LORD said unto David my father, Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart.
Nevertheless thou shalt not build the house; but thy son that shall come forth out of thy loins, he shall build the house unto my name.
And the LORD hath performed his word that he spake, and I am risen up in the room of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and have built an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel.
And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the LORD, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.
And Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven:
The margin reference shows that the king was so placed as to be seen by all present, and that, before beginning his prayer, he knelt down upon his knees (compare 1 Kings 8:54).
And he said, LORD God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart:
Compare Deuteronomy 7:9.
Who hast kept with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him: thou spakest also with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as it is this day.
Therefore now, LORD God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that thou promisedst him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel; so that thy children take heed to their way, that they walk before me as thou hast walked before me.
Solomon's prayer is, perhaps, generally for the fulfillment of all the promises made to David in connection with the building of the temple. But there seems to be special allusion in this verse to the promise recorded in Psalm 132:14.
And now, O God of Israel, let thy word, I pray thee, be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David my father.
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?
heaven of heavens - Compare Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 148:4. It seems to mean the heaven in its most extended compass. Solomon combines with his belief in Yahweh's special presence in the temple, the strongest conviction that He is no local or finite deity, but is ever present everywhere. Compare Psalm 139:7-10.
Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer, which thy servant prayeth before thee to day:
That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place.
The choice of Jerusalem as the place seems to have been made by special revelation to David. See Psalm 78:68; Psalm 132:13; and compare 1 Chronicles 22:1.
Toward this place - Better (here and in 1 Kings 8:30) than the marginal "in." Wherever they were, the Jews always worshipped toward the temple. (See margin reference.)
And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.
And when thou hearest, forgive - literally, "both hear and forgive" - i. e., "hear the prayer, and forgive the sin" which alone causes God to chasten men or to withhold from them His choicest blessings.
If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house:
The oath come before ... - "The oath" is equivalent to "the man who swears the oath." A slight alteration in the present Hebrew text gives the sense "and he (the accused) go and swear before thine altar," etc. The threats and the promises, the punishments and calamities of 1 Kings 8:31-38 were distinctly named in the Law. See the margin reference.
Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.
When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house:
Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers.
When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them:
Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.
Teach them ... - Rather, "when thou art teaching them (by thy chastisement) the good way that they should walk in," i. e. when thou art still teaching, not taking vengeance.
If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpiller; if their enemy besiege them in the land of their cities; whatsoever plague, whatsoever sickness there be;
In the land of their cities - literally, "in the land of their gates." Hence, the marginal translation "jurisdiction," because judgments were pronounced in the town gates Deuteronomy 16:18. Another reading gives "in one of their cities."
What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house:
Know every man the plague of his own heart - i. e. perceive one's sinfulness, or recognize one's sufferings as divine chastisements, and sin as their cause.
Then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou, even thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men;)
That they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers.
Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake;
Nothing is more remarkable in the Mosaic Law than its liberality with regard to strangers, both in general Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 25:35; Deuteronomy 10:19 and in religious matters Numbers 15:14-16; Deuteronomy 31:12. It is quite in the spirit of these enactments that Solomon, having first prayed to God on behalf of his fellow-countrymen, should next go on to intercede for the strangers, and to ask for their prayers the same acceptance which he had previously begged for the prayers of faithful Israelites.
(For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house;
Great name - A somewhat rare expression. It does not occur at all in the Pentateuch; though "mighty hand" and the "stretched out arm" are so frequent Exodus 6:6; Exodus 13:9; Deuteronomy 9:29 : only once in Joshua Jos 7:9; and twice in the Psalms Psa 76:1; Psalm 99:3. About the time of the captivity the use of the phrase became more common Ezekiel 36:23; Jeremiah 10:6; Jeremiah 44:26.
Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name.
That all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee - Solomon prays that the result of Yahweh's hearing the prayers of pagans addressed toward the temple may be the general conversion of the world to the worship of Him. Compare Psalm 96:1-13; Psalm 98:1-9.
This house ... - literally, as in the margin. In Scripture, when God's Name is said to be "called upon" persons or things, it seems to be meant that God is really present in them, upholding them and sanctifying them. This passage therefore means, that the pagan, when their prayers, directed toward the temple, are granted, will have a full assurance that God is present in the building in some very special way.
If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, whithersoever thou shalt send them, and shall pray unto the LORD toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house that I have built for thy name:
Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.
If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;
Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness;
Bethink themselves - literally, as in the margin - i. e. "reflect," "consider seriously." Compare Deuteronomy 30:1.
Sinned, done perversely, committed wickedness - The words here used seem to have become the standard form of expressing contrition when the time of the captivity arrived and the Israelites were forcibly removed to Babylon (compare the margin reference). The three expressions are thought to form a climax, rising from negative to positive guilt, and from mere wrongful acts to depravation of the moral character.
And so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies, which led them away captive, and pray unto thee toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name:
Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause,
And forgive thy people that have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions wherein they have transgressed against thee, and give them compassion before them who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them:
Compassion ... - Not merely such compassion as Evil-Merodach showed toward Jehoiachin 2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34, but such as Cyrus and Artaxerxes showed in allowing the captive Jews to return to their own land Ezra 1:3; Nehemiah 2:6.
For they be thy people, and thine inheritance, which thou broughtest forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the furnace of iron:
The furnace of iron - Egypt is so called as a place of severe trial and affliction.
That thine eyes may be open unto the supplication of thy servant, and unto the supplication of thy people Israel, to hearken unto them in all that they call for unto thee.
For thou didst separate them from among all the people of the earth, to be thine inheritance, as thou spakest by the hand of Moses thy servant, when thou broughtest our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord GOD.
And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.
If the prayer of Solomon be, as it has all the appearance of being, a genuine document of the time, preserved in the archives to which the authors of both Kings and Chronicles had access, all theories of the late origin of Deuteronomy must be regarded as baseless. While references are not infrequent to other portions of the Pentateuch, the language of the prayer is mainly modelled upon Deuteronomy, the promises and threats contained in which are continually before the mind of the writer. (See the margin reference).
And he stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice, saying,
Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.
The LORD 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 unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.
Incline our hearts - This is a doctrine which first appears in Scripture in the Davidical Psalms (see the margin reference and Psalm 141:4). Solomon in this prayer seems to be thoroughly penetrated with his father's spirit.
And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the LORD, be nigh unto the LORD our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require:
That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God, and that there is none else.
Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.
As at this day - i. e. "as ye are now doing, in coming with pious intentions to this festival."
And the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the LORD.
And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the LORD, two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD.
These numbers have been thought incredible, but they are not impossible. At least 100, 000, or 120, 000 men 1 Kings 8:65 were assembled; and as they all offered sacrifice with the king 1 Kings 8:62, the number of victims must have been enormous. Part of the flesh of so many victims would be eaten; but much of the meat may have been privately burned Leviticus 19:6, the object of the sacrifice being the glory of God, and not the convenience of the people. Profusion was a usual feature of the sacrifices of antiquity.
The same day did the king hallow the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD: for there he offered burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings: because the brasen altar that was before the LORD was too little to receive the burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings.
The middle of the court - Or, "the whole area of the court " - all the "mid" space within the enclosing walls, which thus became one huge altar, on any part of which victims might be offered at one and the same time.
And at that time Solomon held a feast, and all Israel with him, a great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt, before the LORD our God, seven days and seven days, even fourteen days.
A feast necessarily accompanied such a sacrifice as Solomon was holding. Compare Leviticus 19:5. On the present occasion there was a double festival - first, the Feast of the Dedication, from the 8th to the 15th of the month Ethanim (or Tisri), and then the Feast of tabernacles, from the 15th to the 22nd 1 Kings 8:2. On the day after this, "the eighth day," counting from the commencement of the second seven, and the twenty-third day of the month (margin reference "m"), Solomon dismissed the people to their homes.
The entering in of Hamath - Compare Numbers 13:21, note andmargin reference. The phrase marks the extreme northern boundary of the holy land.
The river of Egypt - The Wady-el-Arish, the only large water-course on this coast (margin reference).
On the eighth day he sent the people away: and they blessed the king, and went unto their tents joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the LORD had done for David his servant, and for Israel his people.
Their tents - i. e. "their homes." The word "tents" was used for "houses" from an old habit of speech, which had come down from the time when the Israelites were a nomadic nation.