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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And he carved.—If we take this literally, we must suppose that this carving of the cherubim and the palm-trees, in addition to the general decoration of the “gourds and open flowers,” was spread over all the “walls of the house.” Otherwise we might have supposed it confined to the Oracle “within,” and to the partition “without,” which would seem more appropriate, as the cherubim belonged especially to the Oracle.
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.Carved figures of cherubims, as signs of the presence and protection of the angels vouchsafed by God to that place.
Palm trees; emblems of that peace and victory over their enemies which the Israelites duly serving God in that place might expect.
Within and without; within the oracle and without it, in the holy place.
within and without; on the walls of the most holy place, both within and without; and so upon the walls of the holy place, in each of which were these sculptures, which were very ornamental, and were emblematical; see Ezekiel 41:17.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)29. within and without] Both here and in the next verse these words can only refer to the inner and outer rooms, the most holy place and the holy place.Verse 29. - And he carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubims [lit. openings, i.e., gravings or indentations of cherubim, פִּתּוּחִים is used of gravings in stone, Exodus 28:11; Exodus 39:6: in metal, 28:36; 39:30] and palm trees and open flowers [The open flowers may well have been lilies (1 Kings 7:19, 22, 26). It is uncertain whether there were one or more rows of cherubim and palms. Keil, arguing from the analogy of Egyptian temples, contends for two or three rows, but it is doubtful how far the Israelites, notwithstanding their new and intimate relations with the country, would take Egypt and its idolatrous shrines for a model. Ezekiel 41:18 tends to show that the palm trees alternated with the cherubs. The cherubim may have had two faces, such as he describes (ver. 19), the face of a man on the one side, and the face of a young lion on the other side; but if so, they must have differed in form from those of the oracle. Possibly the open flowers formed a border, or were sculptured in festoons, above, and the gourds (or buds) formed a border below (as in the Kouyunjik slab). But as to this the text is silent. But while we are ignorant of the precise form and of the arrangement of these ornamental carvings, we are not wholly in the dark as to their symbolism. For everything in the temple, we may be sure, had a meaning. Let us inquire, then, into the significance of the cherubim, the palms and the flowers.
1. The Cherubim have been regarded by some as symbols of the invisible Godhead, by others as "representations of the heavenly spirits which surround the Lord of glory and set forth psychical life at its highest stage" (Keil); but it seems best to view them as symbols of all animal life, including the highest and perhaps not excluding the thought of Him who is the source and spring of life, the Anima animantium (cf. ch. 12:28). Hence they are spoken of as הַחַיּות (Ezekiel 1:5, 13, 15, etc.) "the living things" (compare τὰ ζῶα, Revelation 4:6, 8, 9), and even as הַחַיָּה "the life" (Ezekiel 10:14, 15, etc.) The cherubim consequently speak of the great animal kingdom before its Creator. "Creaturely being reaches its highest degree in those which have an anima, and among these, the lion, the bull, the eagle, and the man are the highest and most complete" (Bahr). These shapes, accordingly, were not inappropriate or unmeaning in a temple raised by the creature to the glory of the Creator.
2. Just as the cherubim speak of animal, so do the Palms of vegetable life. They are "the princes of the vegetable kingdom" (Linnaeus) "Amongst trees there is none so lofty and towering, none which has such a fair majestic growth, which is so evergreen, and which affords so grateful a shade and such noble fruits - fruits which are said to be the food of the blessed in paradise - as the palm" (Bahr), who also adds that it is said to have as many excellent properties as there are days in the year, and cites Humboldt as designating it the "noblest of plants forms to which the nations have always accorded the meed of beauty." Judaea, he further remarks, is the fatherland of the palm, so much so that the palm in later days became the symbol of Palestine (as on the well known coin with the legend Judaea capta). The palms, therefore, tell of the vegetable world, and of Him who fashioned its noble and graceful forms.
3. And very similar was the testimony of the Flowers. "Flowers and bloom have been, from ancient times to our own, the usual symbols of lifefulness .... So then by the flower work, as well as by the cherubim and the palm trees, was the dwelling of Jehovah, which was adorned therewith, designated as an abode of life" (Bahr). On the earthly dwelling place of the Eternal, that is to say, were everywhere pourtrayed the various tokens of His Almighty power and goodness. And the significance of each is the same. "Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created." They were graved] within and without. [These words, here and in ver. 30, are generally taken to mean "in the oracle and in the house." But it is worthy of consideration whether they do not rather signify, "in the house and in the porch." The latter was overlaid with gold (2 Chronicles 3:4). It is doubtful whether לַחִיצון on the outside, can be applied to any part of the interior, and here its application would be to the oracle (Thenius)]. 1 Kings 6:23. He made (caused to be made) in the hinder room two cherubs of olive wood, i.e., wood of the oleaster or wild olive-tree, which is very firm and durable, and, according to 2 Chronicles 3:10, צעצעים מעשׂה, i.e., according to the Vulgate, opus statuarium, a peculiar kind of sculpture, which cannot be more precisely defined, as the meaning of צוּע is uncertain. "Ten cubits was the height of it" (i.e., of the one and of the other). The figures had a human form, like the golden cherubs upon the ark of the covenant, and stood upright upon their feet (2 Chronicles 3:13), with extended wings of five cubits in length, so that one wing of the one reached to one wing of the other in the centre of the room, and the other wing of each reached to the opposite wall, and consequently the four extended wings filled the entire breadth of the Most Holy Place ( a breadth of twenty cubits), and the two cherubs stood opposite to one another and ten cubits apart. The wings were evidently fastened to the back and placed close to one another upon the shoulder-blades, so that the small space between their starting-points is not taken into consideration in the calculation of their length. The figures were completely overlaid with gold. The ark of the covenant was placed between these cherubs, and under the wings which pointed towards one another. As they were made like those upon the ark, they had evidently the same meaning, and simply served to strengthen the idea which was symbolized in the cherub, and which we have expounded in the Commentary on Exodus 25:20. Only their faces were not turned towards one another and bent down towards the ark, as in the case of the golden cherubim of the ark; but, according to 2 Chronicles 3:13, they were turned לבּית, towards the house, i.e., the Holy Place, so as to allow of the extension of the wings along the full length of the Most Holy Place.
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