Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build an house for the LORD God of Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) Then he called.—And he called Solomon. When? After completing his preparations, and shortly before his death (1Chronicles 22:5). (Comp. 1Kings 2:1-9, especially 1Chronicles 22:3-4, of which we seem to hear echoes in the present speech.) Upon grounds of internal evidence we may pronounce this dying address of David to be an ideal composition, put into the king’s mouth by the unknown author whose work the chronicler follows: or rather, perhaps, by the chronicler himself, whose style is evident throughout. (Comp. the addresses attributed to David in 1 Chronicles 28)
For the Lord God of Israel.—There ought to be a comma after “Lord.” Literally the phrase would run, For Jehovah, the God of Israel. Thus the stress lies on the national aspect of the Deity, for whom Solomon was to undertake this national work.
DAVID’S PROHIBITED DESIRE AND PERMITTED SERVICE
1 Chronicles 22:6 - 1 Chronicles 22:16.
This passage falls into three parts. In 1 Chronicles 22:6 - 1 Chronicles 22:10 the old king tells of the divine prohibition which checked his longing to build the Temple; in 1 Chronicles 22:11 - 1 Chronicles 22:13 he encourages his more fortunate successor, and points him to the only source of strength for his happy task; in 1 Chronicles 22:14 - 1 Chronicles 22:16 he enumerates the preparations which he had made, the possession of which laid stringent obligations on Solomon.
I. There is a tone of wistfulness in David’s voice as he tells how his heart’s desire had been prohibited. The account is substantially the same as we have in 2 Samuel 7:4 - 2 Samuel 7:16, but it adds as the reason for the prohibition David’s warlike career. We may note the earnestness and the motive of the king’s desire to build the Temple. ‘It was in my heart’; that implies earnest longing and fixed purpose. He had brooded over the wish till it filled his mind, and was consolidated into a settled resolve. Many a musing, solitary moment had fed the fire before it burned its way out in the words addressed to Nathan. So should our whole souls be occupied with our parts in God’s service, and so should our desires be strongly set towards carrying out what in solitary meditation we have felt borne in on us as our duty.
The moving spring of David’s design is beautifully suggested in the simple words ‘unto the name of the Lord my God.’ David’s religion was eminently a personal bond between him and God. We may almost say that he was the first to give utterance to that cry of the devout heart, ‘My God,’ and to translate the generalities of the name ‘the God of Israel’ into the individual appropriation expressed by the former designation. It occurs in many of the psalms attributed to him, and may fairly be regarded as a characteristic of his ardent and individualising devotion. The sense of a close, personal relation to God naturally prompted the impulse to build His house. We must claim our own portion in the universal blessings shrined in His name before we are moved to deeds of loving sacrifice. We must feel that Christ ‘loved me, and gave Himself for me,’ before we are melted into answering surrender.
The reason for the frustrating of David’s desire, as here given, is his career as a warrior king. Not only was it incongruous that hands which had been reddened with blood should rear the Temple, but the fact that his reign had been largely occupied with fighting for the existence of the kingdom showed that the time for engaging in such a work, which would task the national resources, had not yet come. We may draw two valuable lessons from the prohibition. One is that it indicates the true character of the kingdom of God as a kingdom of peace, which is to be furthered, not by force, but in peace and gentleness. The other is that various epochs and men have different kinds of duties in relation to Christ’s cause, some being called on to fight, and others to build, and that the one set of tasks may be as sacred and as necessary for the rearing of the Temple as the other. Militant epochs are not usually times for building. The men who have to do destructive work are not usually blessed with the opportunity or the power to carry out constructive work. Controversy has its sphere, but it is mostly preliminary to true ‘edification.’ In the broadest view all the activity of the Church on earth is militant, and we have to wait for the coming of the true ‘Prince of peace’ to build up the true Temple in the land of peace, whence all foes have been cast out for ever. To serve God in God’s way, and to give up our cherished plans, is not easy; but David sets us an example of simple-hearted, cheerful acquiescence in a Providence that thwarted darling designs. There is often much self-will in what looks like enthusiastic perseverance in some form of service.
II. The charge to Solomon breathes no envy of his privilege, but earnest desire that he may be worthy of the honour which falls to him. Petitions and exhortations are closely blended in it, and, though the work which Solomon is called to do is of an external sort, the qualifications laid down for it are spiritual and moral. However ‘secular’ our work in connection with God’s service may be, it will not be rightly done unless the highest motives are brought to bear on it, and it is performed as worship. The basis of all successful work is God’s presence with us, so David prays for that to be granted to Solomon as the beginning of all his fitness for his task.
Next, David recalls to his son God’s promise concerning him, that it may hearten him to undertake and to carry on the great work. A conviction that our service is appointed for us by God is essential for vigorous and successful Christian work. We must have, in some way or other, heard Him ‘speak concerning us,’ if we are to fling ourselves with energy into it.
The petitions in 1 Chronicles 22:12 seem to stretch beyond the necessities of the case, in so far as building the Temple is concerned. Wisdom and understanding, and a clear consciousness of the duty enjoined on him by God in reference to Israel, were surely more than that work required. But the qualifications for God’s service, however the manner of service may be concerned with ‘the outward business of the house of God,’ are always these which David asked for Solomon. The highest result of true ‘wisdom and understanding’ given by God is keeping God’s law; and keeping it is the one condition on which we shall obtain and retain that presence of God with us which David prayed for Solomon, and without which they labour in vain that build. A life conformed to God’s will is the absolutely indispensable condition of all prosperity in direct Christian effort. The noblest exercise of our wisdom and understanding is to obey every word that we hear proceeding out of the mouth of God.
III. There is something very pathetic in the old king’s enumeration of the treasures which, by the economies of a lifetime, he had amassed. The amount stated is enormous, and probably there is some clerical error in the numbers specified. Be that as it may, the sum was very large. It represented many an act of self-denial, many a resolute shearing off of superfluities and what might seem necessaries. It was the visible token of long years of fixed attention to one object. And that devotion was all the more noble because the result of it was never to be seen by the man who exercised it.
Therein David is but a very conspicuous example of a law which runs through all our work for God. None of us are privileged to perform completed tasks. ‘One soweth and another reapeth.’ We have to be content to do partial work, and to leave its completion to our successors. There is but one Builder of whom it can be said that His hands ‘have laid the foundation of this house; His hands shall also finish it.’ He who is the ‘Alpha and Omega,’ and He alone, begins and completes the work in which He has neither sharers nor predecessors nor successors. The rest of us do our little bit of the great work which lasts on through the ages, and, having inherited unfinished tasks, transmit them to those who come after us. It is privilege enough for any Christian to lay foundations on which coming days may build. We are like the workers on some great cathedral, which was begun long before the present generation of masons were born, and will not be finished until long after they have dropped trowel and mallet from their dead hands. Enough for us if we can lay one course of stones in that great structure. The greater our aims, the less share has each man in their attainment. But the division of labour is the multiplication of joy, and all who have shared in the toil will be united in the final triumph. It would be poor work that was capable of being begun and perfected in a lifetime. The labourer that dug and levelled the track and the engineer that drives the locomotive over it are partners. Solomon could not have built the Temple unless, through long, apparently idle, years, David had been patiently gathering together the wealth which he bequeathed. So, if our work is but preparatory for that of those who come after, let us not think it of slight importance, and let us be sure that all who have had any portion in the toil shall share in the victory, that ‘he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.’1 Kings 2:2 note.
6. Then he called for Solomon … and charged him—The earnestness and solemnity of this address creates an impression that it was given a little before the old king's decease. He unfolded his great and long cherished plan, enjoined the building of God's house as a sacred duty on him as his son and successor, and described the resources that were at command for carrying on the work. The vast amount of personal property he had accumulated in the precious metals [1Ch 22:14] must have been spoil taken from the people he had conquered, and the cities he had sacked.
and charged him to build an house for the Lord God of Israel; which charge was given a little before his death, after he had made great preparations for this work, as appears from 1 Chronicles 22:5.Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build an house for the LORD God of Israel.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2 Samuel 24:25 the conclusion of this event is shortly narrated thus: David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, and Jahve was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel. In the Chronicle we have a fuller statement of the יהוה יעתר in 1 Chronicles 21:26. David called upon Jahve, and He answered with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt-offering (1 Chronicles 21:27); and Jahve spake to the angel, and he returned the sword into its sheath. The returning of the sword into its sheath is a figurative expression for the stopping of the pestilence; and the fire which came down from heaven upon the altar of burnt-offering was the visible sign by which the Lord assured the king that his prayer had been heard, and his offering graciously accepted. The reality of this sign of the gracious acceptance of an offering is placed beyond doubt by the analogous cases, Leviticus 9:24; 1 Kings 18:24, 1 Kings 18:38, and 2 Chronicles 7:1. It was only by this sign of the divine complacence that David learnt that the altar built upon the threshing-floor of Araunah had been chosen by the Lord as the place where Israel should always thereafter offer their burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as is further recorded in 1 Chronicles 21:28-30. and in 1 Chronicles 22:1. From the cessation of the pestilence in consequence of his prayer and sacrifice, David could only draw the conclusion that God had forgiven him his transgression, but could not have known that God had chosen the place where he had built the altar for the offering demanded by God as a permanent place of sacrifice. This certainly he obtained only by the divine answer, and this answer was the fire which came down upon the altar of burnt-offering and devoured the sacrifice. This 1 Chronicles 21:28 states: "At the time when he saw that Jahve had answered him at the threshing-floor of Ornan, he offered sacrifice there," i.e., from that time forward; so that we may with Berth. translate שׁם ויּזבּח, "then he was wont to offer sacrifice there." In 1 Chronicles 21:29 and 1 Chronicles 21:30 we have still further reasons given for David's continuing to offer sacrifices at the threshing-floor of Ornan. The legally sanctioned place of sacrifice for Israel was still at that time the tabernacle, the Mosaic sanctuary with its altar of burnt-offering, which then stood on the high place at Gibeon (cf. 1 Chronicles 16:39). Now David had indeed brought the ark of the covenant, which had been separated from the tabernacle from the time of Samuel, to Zion, and had there not only erected a tent for it, but had also built an altar and established a settled worship there (1 Chronicles 17), yet without having received any express command of God regarding it; so that this place of worship was merely provisional, intended to continue only until the Lord Himself should make known His will in the matter in some definite way. When therefore David, after the conquest of his enemies, had obtained rest round about, he had formed the resolution to make an end of this provisional separation of the ark from the tabernacle, and the existence of two sacrificial altars, by building a temple; but the Lord had declared to him by the prophet Nathan, that not he, but his son and successor on the throne, should build Him a temple. The altar by the ark in Zion, therefore, continued to co-exist along with the altar of burnt-offering at the tabernacle in Gibeon, without being sanctioned by God as the place of sacrifice for the congregation of Israel. Then when David, by ordering the numbering of the people, had brought guilt upon the nation, which the Lord so heavily avenged upon them by the pestilence, he should properly, as king, have offered a sin-offering and a burnt-offering in the national sanctuary at Gibeon, and there have sought the divine favour for himself and for the whole people. But the Lord said unto him by the prophet Gad, that he should bring his offering neither in Gibeon, nor before the ark on Zion, but in the threshing-floor of Ornan (Araunah), on the altar which he was there to erect. This command, however, did not settle the place where he was afterwards to sacrifice. But David - so it runs, 1 Chronicles 21:29. - sacrificed thenceforward in the threshing-floor of Ornan, not at Gibeon in the still existent national sanctuary, because he (according to 1 Chronicles 21:30) "could not go before it (לפניו) to seek God, for he was terrified before the sword of the angel of Jahve." This statement does not, however, mean, ex terrore visionis angelicae infirmitatem corporis contraxerat (J. H. Mich.), nor yet, "because he, being struck and overwhelmed by the appearance of the angel, did not venture to offer sacrifices elsewhere" (Berth.), nor, "because the journey to Gibeon was too long for him" (O. v. Gerl.). None of these interpretations suit either the words or the context. חרב מפּני נבעת, terrified before the sword, does indeed signify that the sword of the angel, or the angel with the sword, hindered him from going to Gibeon, but not during the pestilence, when the angel stood between heaven and earth by the threshing-floor of Araunah with the drawn sword, but - according to the context - afterwards, when the angelophany had ceased, as it doubtless did simultaneously with the pestilence. The words וגו נבעת כּי can therefore have no other meaning, than that David's terror before the sword of the angel caused him to determine to sacrifice thereafter, not at Gibeon, but at the threshing-floor of Araunah; or that, since during the pestilence the angel's sword had prevented him from going to Gibeon, he did not venture ever afterwards to go. But the fear before the sword of the angel is in substance the terror of the pestilence; and the pestilence had hindered him from sacrificing at Gibeon, because Gibeon, notwithstanding the presence of the sanctuary there, with the Mosaic altar, had not been spared by the pestilence. David considered this circumstance as normative ever for the future, and he always afterwards offered his sacrifices in the place pointed out to him, and said, as we further read in 1 Chronicles 22:1, "Here (הוּא זה, properly this, mas. or neut.) is the house of Jahve God, and here is the altar for the burnt-offering of Israel." He calls the site of the altar in the threshing-floor of Araunah יהוה בּית, because there Jahve had manifested to him His gracious presence; cf. Genesis 28:17.
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