And the oracle in the forepart was twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in the height thereof: and he overlaid it with pure gold; and so covered the altar which was of cedar.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)In the forepart.—Although this is a literal translation of the original, the sense is clearly (as the Vulgate renders the phrase) “in the inner part.” Gesenius supposes the meaning to be properly, “the wall facing the entrance;” thence the opposite, or “inner,” wall or region.
Covered the altar . . .—Our translators have been misled by the context to anticipate what is said below (1Kings 6:22). The meaning is “he covered the altar” (presumably of stone) “with cedar.”
(20-22) These verses describe the overlaying with pure gold of the panelling of the house and of the Oracle, the partition dividing them, and the altar of incense. Even the floor was similarly covered. (See 1Kings 6:30.)
And so covered ... - Rather, "and he covered the altar (of incense) with cedar." The altar was doubtless of stone, and was covered with cedar in preparation for the overlaying with gold. This overlaying was not gilding, but the attachment of thin plates of gold, which had to be fastened on with small nails. Such a mode of ornamentation was common in Babylonia, in Assyria, and in Media.
15-21. he built the walls of the house within—The walls were wainscotted with cedar-wood; the floor, paved with cypress planks; the interior was divided (by a partition consisting of folding doors, which were opened and shut with golden chains) into two apartments—the back or inner room, that is, the most holy place, was twenty cubits long and broad; the front, or outer room, that is, the holy place, was forty cubits. The cedar-wood was beautifully embellished with figures in relievo, representing clusters of foliage, open flowers, cherubims, and palm trees. The whole interior was overlaid with gold, so that neither wood nor stone was seen; nothing met the eye but pure gold, either plain or richly chased.In the forepart, or rather, which was in the inner part, to wit, of the house; called here in Hebrew, the forepart, not because a man first enters there, but because when a man is entering, or newly entered, into the house, it is still before him. Thus the same, or the like word proceeding from the same root, is oft used, as Leviticus 10:18 1 Kings 6:19,29,30,36 1 Chronicles 28:11.
Twenty cubits in the height thereof.
Object. The great house was thirty cubits high, above, 1 Kings 6:2.
Answ. It is probably affirmed by divers, that the most holy place was not so high as the holy place by ten cubits; which was no way inconvenient, nor against the rules of proportion observed in buildings. And as the second part of the building was far lower than the first, which was the porch; so the third part might be considerably lower than the second. And it might be lower either,
1. Outwardly, or in respect of the walls of it, which might be only twenty cubits high, and at that height covered with a flat roof; it being but decent that that eminently holy place should be distinguished from the less holy, even by its outward and visible shape. Or,
2. Inwardly, or within the walls of that part. For although this part might be vaulted at the top, as the holy place was, which vaulted roof some think was ten cubits high; yet here might be the difference, that the vaulted roof of the holy place lay open to view, whereas that of the most holy was covered with a flat roof from wall to wall, at the height of twenty cubits. So covered, i.e. with gold, 1 Kings 7:48 1 Chronicles 28:18. The altar, to wit, the altar of incense, which was put next to the most high place, 1 Kings 6:22.
Which was of cedar.
Object. This altar was made of shittim wood, Exodus 30:1.
Answ. Either that was covered with cedar, that it might be agreeable to the rest; all being cedar, as was said, 1 Kings 6:18. Or this was a new altar which Solomon made by Divine command and direction, delivered to him, either immediately, or by his father; of which see 1 Chronicles 28:12, &c. But this place may seem to be better translated thus, and he covered the altar with cedar; either to make it like the rest; or because this was a new altar made of stone, and therefore fit to be covered with cedar, that it might better receive and retain the gold wherewith this cedar was overlaid, 1 Kings 6:22.
was twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in the height thereof: and was a perfect square, and as the most holy place may be an emblem of the church triumphant, it may denote the perfection of its heavenly state; so the new Jerusalem is a foursquare, Revelation 21:16;
and he overlaid it with pure gold; make it rich, glorious, and magnificent, and may denote the glory of the heavenly state, Revelation 21:21; and so Florus (z), the Roman historian, calls it the golden heaven, as it were, into which Pompey went, and saw the great secret of the Jewish nation, the ark:
and so covered the altar which was of cedar; the altar of incense, which is here mentioned, because it was near the most holy place, 1 Kings 6:22; this altar by Moses was made of shittim wood, but Solomon's was of cedar it seems; unless, as the words will bear to be rendered, "he covered the altar with cedar" (a); though made of shittim wood, it had a covering of cedar over it; or if of stone, such a covering was on it, that it might better receive the gold which was afterwards put upon it.And the oracle in the forepart was twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in the height thereof: and he overlaid it with pure gold; and so covered the altar which was of cedar.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)20. the oracle in the fore-part] The two words thus rendered would, if they stood alone, be rendered ‘before the oracle.’ In this verse, however, this cannot be the meaning. But in standing before such a room as is here described, it is in front of you, and you see the interior. In this way ‘before the oracle’ may be taken to indicate what is seen when you stand there. Hence we may arrive at the sense in the R.V. ‘within the oracle was a space &c.’ It is difficult to assign any meaning to the A.V., and it may be that some error has crept into the text.
Some have preferred to render literally thus, ‘And before the oracle—twenty cubits was it in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in the height thereof, and he overlaid it with pure gold—he overlaid also the altar with cedar.’ But the accents of the Hebrew do not favour such a parenthetic clause, and the last sentence is very awkward.
The LXX. (Vat.) omits at the beginning of the verse ‘before the oracle,’ then takes the next sentences as a specification of the size of the oracle, and makes an addition to the last clause thus, ‘and he made an altar before the oracle and overlaid it with gold,’ making no mention of the cedar at all. Most probably this represents the correct text.
and so covered the altar which was of cedar] We cannot, in the face of the preceding clause, translate otherwise than and he covered an altar with cedar. The construction in the two cases is identical. But then arises a difficulty. The altar in question was the altar of incense in the holy place. This stood in front of the vail which separated the most holy place (see Exodus 40:5; Exodus 40:26), and in Ezekiel 41:22 it is called ‘the altar of wood’ (cf. Exodus 30:1-6). From the description in the verse before us there must have been some substance underneath the wood. The LXX. (Alex.) solves the difficulty by reading ‘and he made’ for ‘and he covered,’ i.e. ויעשׂ for ויצף, καὶ ἐποίησε θυσιαστήριον κέδρου.Verse 20. - And the oracle in the forepart [or, the interior of the oracle. Keil, after Kimchi, maintains that לִפְנֵי is the construct of the noun לִפְנִים. See ver. 29, where it clearly means interior, as its opposition to "without" shows. The A.V. yields no sense] was twenty cubits in length, and twenty cubits in breadth, and twenty cubits in the height thereof [that is to say, it was a perfect cube. When we consider that the oracle of the tabernacle was a cube of ten cubits and the Holy City (Revelation 21:16; cf. Ezekiel 48:8-35, especially ver. 20) is a cube of 12,000 furlongs, we cannot but regard these measurements as significant. To the ancients the square seemed the most appropriate shape to express the idea of moral perfection. The idea of the cube consequently was that of entire completeness, of absolute perfection. A little light is thrown on this subject by the use of τετράγωνος among the Greeks. See the quotation from Simonides in Plat. Protag. 334 A; Arist. Rhet. 3:11; Eth. Nic. 1:10, 11, and compare the familiar "totus teres atque rotundus." The height of the oracle (internally) being only twenty cubits, while that of the house was thirty (ver. 2), several questions of some interest suggest themselves for consideration. It is perhaps impossible in the present state of our knowledge to arrive at any very positive conclusions, but it may be well, nevertheless, if only to show in how much uncertainty the architecture of the temple is involved, to state them. First among them is this: Was the roof of the temple flat or ridged? (See above on ver. 9).
(2) In either case, was the height of thirty cubits, or any uniform height, maintained throughout, or was the roof of the oracle some ten cubits lower than that of the house? The analogy of the tabernacle, of which the temple was a copy, would lead us to suppose that the ridge - if there was a ridge - of the entire building was level and unbroken, though the analogy of the Gothic church, which, we have already seen, is almost a reproduction of the temple, suggests that the oracle (like the chancel, and, it may be added, like the adytum of Egyptian temples) may possibly have had a lower roof. But
(3) supposing the same height was maintained from end to end, to what use, if any, was the vacant space of ten cubits (15 feet) between cieling and roof of oracle applied? It has been held by some that there was a chamber here, but that it was empty, being formed, in fact, not for use, but in order to procure the cubical shape of the oracle. Others contend that this upper room, or one which ran the entire length of the building, was designed to serve as a receptacle for the reliques of the tabernacle, and they would identify it with the עֲלִיות. (LXX, τὸ ὑπερῷον) of 2 Chronicles 3:9. And untrustworthy as Josephus is when not supported by independent evidence, it is worth mentioning here that beth he and the Talmud "persistently assert that there was a superstructure on the temple equal in height to the lower part" (Fergusson, who, consequently, is of opinion that there undoubtedly was some such superstructure, as in the tomb of Darius, near Persepolis (see Dict. Bib. 3. pp. 1456, 1-457), and that it was used for worship (2 Kings 23:12), where see note). Bahr, however, argues forcibly against this idea. He says, inter alia, that there was no approach provided to these chambers; but our account is so manifestly imperfect that this argument is at the best a precarious one. He sees in the "upper chambers" (the Hebrew word is plural) the upper stories of the side structure. He agrees, however, with Ewald that there was a chamber over the oracle, but thinks it was unoccupied. Keil identifies this space with the "upper chambers" of 2 Chronicles 3:9, and upon the whole this appears to be the most feasible view.
(4) How was the cieling, whether with or without this upper chamber, and whether at the height of twenty or thirty cubits - how was it supported? For "no cedar beam could be laid across a space of twenty cubits without sinking in the centre by its own weight." Fergusson hence argues that the roof must have been carried on pillars - four in the sanctuary and ten in the hall. He remarks that they were used in the house of the Forest of Lebanon, where they were less suitable than here]: and he overlaid it [lit. made it shine] with pure gold [marg. shut up (from סָגַר clausit). Cf. Job 28:15 (Heb.) The same gold is described as טָהור (Exodus 25:11) and טוב (2 Chronicles 3:8). It is called "shut up gold," not because it was concealed (κειμέλιον), but because of the exclusion of impure ingredients (Vulg. aurum purissimum). The lavish use of gold in the interior of the temple - its weight 600 talents (75,000 lbs.), its value almost incalculable - was not for mere display (for most of it was never seen except by the priests), but was symbolical of light and purity (Job 37:22, 23; Revelation 21:18), and stamped the place as the abode of Him who dwelleth in light (1 Timothy 6:16). See Bahr in loc. The palace of the Lord must be "exceeding magnifical." The overlaying was not gilding, but laminae of gold were attached to the woodwork with nails. This art was probably derived from Egypt (Exodus 25:11, 13). Egyptian figures ornamented with gold plates are found both in the Louvre and British Museum. See Wilkinson, "Ancient Egyptians," 2. p. 233 sqq.) Rawlinson remarks that "such ornamentation was common in Babylon, in Assyria, and in Media." See Isaiah 46:6; Herod. 1:98; Layard, 2:264. In addition to the gold, the house was garnished with precious stones (2 Chronicles 3:6). Cf. 1 Chronicles 29:2, 8]; and so covered the [Heb. an] altar which was of cedar. [The italics in the A.V. lead us to suspect a mistranslation, and such it proves to be. What the writer means, supposing the present text to be retained, is, not that Solomon covered the cedar altar with gold, but that he overlaid the (stone?) altar with cedar. It is true the article is wanting, but this may perhaps be accounted for by the fact that the altar is now mentioned for the first time (Keil). It is much more probable, however, that the text has been slightly corrupted. The LXX. reads, καὶ ἐποίησε θυσιαστήριον (Cod. Alex. adds κέδρου), which proves that the Seventy had וַיַּעַשׂ instead of וַיְּצַפ in their text. If so, the absence of the article is at once explained, and an unmeaning repetition in ver. 22 avoided. The mention of the altar - of course it is the altar of incense that is meant: the altar of burnt sacrifice was outside the building - in connexion with the oracle is significant. In ver. 22 it is called the "altar that (belonged) to the oracle," because it stood just outside it. In the tabernacle it was placed "before the vail" (Exodus 30:6; Exodus 40:5, 26; Leviticus 16:12-18), and it occupied this position because the incense burned upon it was offered before the Invisible Presence within. It is an argument in favour of the textual emendation suggested above that the altar in the tabernacle was of wood (Exodus 30:1), and that Ezekiel speaks of the "altar of wood" (Ezekiel 41:22), the altar of sacrifice being of earth stones (Exodus 20:24, 25), or brass (2 Chronicles 4:1) If we retain the Received Text we are almost compelled to believe that this altar was also of stone, as they would hardly cover a wooden altar with wood. 1 Kings 6:14-22. Internal covering of the house, and division into Holy and Most Holy. - 1 Kings 6:14 (cf. 1 Kings 6:9) resumes the description of the building of the temple, which had been interrupted by the divine promise just communicated.
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