And within the oracle he made two cherubim of olive tree, each ten cubits high.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Cherubim.—These were copied from the Tabernacle, but apparently with some differences, over and above the necessary increase of size, and the change of material from solid gold to olive-wood overlaid with gold. In Exodus 25:18-20; Exodus 37:7-9, they are described as having their faces towards the mercy-seat, and covering the mercy-seat with their wings. Here, from the careful description of the outstretched wings, of ten cubits in width for each cherub, meeting in the midst of the house and touching the walls, it would seem that they must have been turned so as to face the entrance. The cherubim over the ark are described only in three places in the Old Testament—in the passages in Exodus, here, and in the parallel 2Chronicles 3:10-13, and in those great visions of the priestly prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:4-25; Ezekiel 10:1-22) which have determined the imagery of the Apocalypse. In no case is their form distinctly mentioned, unless, by comparison of Ezekiel 10:14-15 with Ezekiel 1:10, it may be inferred to have been the form of a winged bull; whence would be naturally derived the golden calves of the idolatry introduced into Israel in the time of Jeroboam. Josephus, indeed, in his description of the Temple (Antt. viii. c. 3, § 3), expressly says that “no one can tell, or even conjecture, of what shape the cherubim were.” The tradition, therefore, must have been lost in the Second Temple, where there was no ark; and this is the more strange, because in Exodus 26:1 the cherubim are said to have been represented in the embroidery of the curtains, and here (in 1Kings 6:32; 1Kings 6:35) to have been similarly carved on the walls.
But, whatever the cherubim were, it is certain that they were in no sense representations or emblems of Deity, like the winged figures of Assyria or Egypt, with which they have been often compared. They appear to symbolise the great physical forces of the universe, as guided by superhuman angelic intelligence to serve the supreme will of God. Thus, when first mentioned in Scripture (Genesis 4:24), the cherubim are associated with “the flaming sword, turning every way, to guard the tree of life”; in Psalm 18:10, the Lord is said “to ride upon the cherubim,” and “come flying upon the wings of the wind”; in Ezekiel 1:10, the four living creatures, or cherubim, sustain the throne of God, and bear it away upon their wings; in Revelation 4:6-8; Revelation 5:8-9, the same living creatures unite with the elders representing the Church of redeemed humanity, in worship of the Lord upon His throne. The representation, therefore, of the cherubim in the Temple simply expresses the claim for Jehovah, the God of Israel, of such lordship over all creation as is hymned in the seraphic song of Isaiah 6:3. Possibly the change of attitude of the cherubim in the Temple denoted a change of idea, characteristic of Solomon and his age. The old attitude is clearly that of worship of God: the new rather of manifestation of His glory to man.1 Kings 6:23. Within the oracle he made two cherubims — These were different from, and much larger than those made by Moses, which were of solid gold, and arose out of each end of the mercy-seat, being of one piece with it, and looking one upon the other, Exodus 25:18-19. But these made by Solomon were of olive-wood, or, as it is in the Hebrew, of tree of oil; many sorts of which wood there were besides olive; as pine, cedar, &c. The heathen set up images of their gods, and worshipped them. These cherubim were designed to represent the servants and attendants of the God of Israel, the holy angels; not to be worshipped themselves, but to show how great he is whom we worship.
Here it may be proper to note, that the word דביר, debir, (which our translation constantly renders oracle,) comes from דבר, dabar, which signifies to speak; because God, who dwelt between the cherubim of the ark in the Mosaic tabernacle, declared his mind from thence, when he was consulted by the high-priest with Urim and Thummim. And it still retained this name, though we never read of any answer by Urim and Thummim in this temple. It is highly probable that, upon their rejecting the government of God, and turning the theocracy into a human government by kings, God ceased to direct and govern them by that divine oracle. During the reign of David, indeed, there are some footsteps of it, their new government by kings being not well established. So that we may suppose there was a mixture of the theocracy still with it, as may be gathered from 2 Samuel 2:1; 2 Samuel 21:1. But after that there is not the least glimpse of it; but they inquired of God by the prophets, 1 Kings 22:3; 2 Kings 3:11; 2 Kings 3:20. And, what is very remarkable, in the days of Josiah, when the high-priest was sent by that king to inquire of God, he applied to Huldah the prophetess for that purpose: which is a demonstration that the answer by Urim and Thummim ceased when God’s government was cast off by them; to which that oracle properly appertained. And therefore in all these places it would be more properly rendered, the most holy place. For though the ark was placed there, no oracles or words of the Lord were given from thence.1 Kings 6:27, so that the four wings, each five cubits long 1 Kings 6:24, extended across the whole sanctuary, the width of which was twenty cubits 1 Kings 6:20. The former looked toward one another, and were bent downward toward the mercy-seat; the latter looked outward, toward the great chamber. (See 2 Chronicles 3:13, and note.)
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.Exodus 25:18, which were of gold, and far less than these, and fixed in another place and posture.
Of olive tree, or, of oily trees, which sometimes are distinguished from the olive trees, as Isaiah 41:19. Isaiah 41:19; see Nehemiah 8:15; for there are other trees besides olives, out of which oil is pressed, as pine trees, cypress trees, &c. and which some think are here meant; though the Targum interprets it of the olive tree: these cherubim are different from those made by Moses, and were besides them; these were larger than they; these were made of olive wood, they of gold; these stood on the floor of the house, they at the two ends of the mercy seat, and were made out of it, and were with it in this holy place in Solomon's temple: these two cherubim may be emblems of the angels in their greatness and glory, who are always in the presence of God, behold his face, and wait to do his will; or it may be rather of the two witnesses, said to be the two olive trees standing before the God of the whole earth, Revelation 11:3; who have boldness to enter into the holiest of all, and have sight and knowledge of the mysteries of the ark and mercy seat; have their commission from heaven, and speak according to the oracles of God; these are said to be of image work, 2 Chronicles 3:10; that is, of various forms, as the thee of a man, a lion, an ox, and eagle, Ezekiel 1:10. Dr. Lightfoot thinks (g) they resembled the two Testaments, which in their beginning and end reach the two sides of the world, the creation and the last judgment, and in the middle do sweetly join the one to the other:
each ten cubits high; half as high as the most holy place; emblems either of the high angels, those thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, or of men of uncommon size as to their gifts and grace.And within the oracle he made two cherubim of olive tree, each ten cubits high.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)23–30. Of the Cherubim within the oracle (2 Chronicles 3:10-12)
23. And within the oracle he made two cherubims] As the Hebrew word is already in the plural form, write cherubim. These cherubim were winged figures intended to represent some holy and heavenly form. They are first mentioned in Genesis 3:24, where some have thought that ‘the flame of a sword’ spoken of in connexion with them implies that the cherubim were aimed with this weapon. But this is not certainly to be deduced from the words. In 2 Chronicles 3:13 they are said to stand upon their feet, while the descriptions in Ezekiel (chapp. 1 and 10) make them to have four faces. (Cf. also Exodus 25:18-22). Their chief office in Scripture is to be a chariot for Jehovah (Psalm 18:11), and for this reason they were set up in the most holy place, where the divine presence was to manifest itself. Hence of God it is frequently said ‘who dwelleth’ or ‘sitteth upon the cherubim.’Verse 23. - And within the oracle [The description now passes on to the mysterious symbolic figures which were placed in the holy of holies] he made two cherubims [As to the nature, composition, and significance of the cherubim, see notes on Exodus 25:19; 37:7. The only particulars which will require notice here are those in which the cherub of the temple differed from that of the tabernacle] of olive tree [Heb. trees or wood of oil. The oleaster (wild olive) is supposed to be intended, the proper name for the olive tree being זַיִת (Nehemiah 8:15). The wood of the oleaster, which is firm, fine grained, and durable, was used by the Greeks for the images of their gods (Winer). The cherubim of the tabernacle were of solid gold; those of the temple, on account of their great size (fifteen feet high) were necessarily of less costly material. But though of wood, yet the most durable and beautiful of wood, the olive, was employed in their construction. It is noticeable how olive wood is employed for the cherubim and doors of oracle, and for the posts of the temple doorway; the less precious cedar was used for lining the walls and for Beams, etc., while for the floor and doors of house, the commoner cypress sufficed], each ten cubits high. [Half the height of the oracle. They occupied its entire width (ver. 24). 1 Kings 6:15. "And built them for it (the house - לו pointing back to הבּית) into the hinder room, into the Most Holy." דּביר is more precisely defined by the apposition הקּדשׁים קדשׁ, and therefore denotes the Most Holy Place. But there is a doubt as to its derivation and true meaning. Aquila and Symmachus render it χρηματιστήριον, Jerome λαλητήριον, or in the Vulg. oraculum, so that they derive it from דּבר, to speak; and Hengstenberg adopts this derivation in Psalm 28:2 : דּביר, lit., that which is spoken, then the place where the speaking takes place. Most of the more recent commentators, on the other hand, follow the example of C. B. Michaelis and J. Simonis, and render it, after the Arabic, the hinder portion or back room, which is favoured by the antithesis לפני היכל, the front sanctuary (1 Kings 6:17). The words of the text, moreover, are not to be understood as referring to a cedar wall in front of the Most Holy Place which rose to the height of twenty cubits, but to all four walls of the Most Holy Place, so that the wall which divided the hinder room from the Holy Place is not expressly mentioned, simply because it is self-evident. The words also imply that the whole of the hinder space of the house to the length of twenty cubits was cut off for the Most Holy Place, and therefore the party wall must also have filled the whole height of the house, which was as much as thirty cubits, and reached, as is expressly stated, from the floor to the roof. There remained therefore forty cubits of the house (in length) for לפני היכל, the front palace, i.e., the Holy Place of the temple (1 Kings 6:17). לפני, anterior, formed from לפני (cf. Ewald, 164, a.). - In 1 Kings 6:18 there is inserted in a circumstantial clause the statement as to the internal decoration of both rooms; and the further description of the Most Holy Place is given in 1 Kings 6:19. "And cedar wood was (placed) against the house inside, sculpture of gourds (colocynthides) and open buds." מקלעת is in apposition to ארז, containing a more minute description of the nature of the covering of cedar. מקלעת signifies sculpture, half-raised work (basso relievo); not, however, "that kind of bas-relief in which the figures, instead of rising above the surface on which they are wrought, are simply separated from it by the chiselling out of their outlines, and their being then rounded off according to these outlines" (Thenius). For although the expression מקלעות פּתּוּחי (1 Kings 6:29) appears to favour this, yet "merely engraved work" does not harmonize with the decorations of the brazen stands in 1 Kings 7:31, which are also called מקלעות. פּקעים are figures resembling the פּקּעת, or wild gourds (2 Kings 4:39), i.e., oval ornaments, probably running in straight rows along the walls. צצּים פּטוּרי are open flower-buds; not hangings or garlands of flowers (Thenius), for this meaning cannot be derived from פּטר in the sense of loosening or setting free, so as to signify flowers loosened or set free ( equals garlands), which would be a marvellous expression! The objection that, "flowers not yet opened, i.e., flower-buds, were not צצּים, but פּרחים," rests upon a false interpretation of the passage referred to.
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