1 Kings 7:25
It stood on twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above on them, and all their hinder parts were inward.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
1 Kings 7:25-26. It stood upon twelve oxen — Of solid brass, which was necessary to bear so great a weight. Probably the water was drawn by cocks out of the mouths of these oxen. It contained two thousand baths — That is, five hundred barrels, the bath being a measure of the same bigness with the ephah, each containing about eight gallons. It appears from 2 Chronicles 4:5, that if filled up to the brim, it would receive three thousand baths. But it is probable they were not wont to put so much in it, lest, with the wind, it should run over; and that two thousand was the quantity usually kept in it.7:13-47 The two brazen pillars in the porch of the temple, some think, were to teach those that came to worship, to depend upon God only, for strength and establishment in all their religious exercises. Jachin, God will fix this roving mind. It is good that the heart be established with grace. Boaz, In him is our strength, who works in us both to will and to do. Spiritual strength and stability are found at the door of God's temple, where we must wait for the gifts of grace, in use of the means of grace. Spiritual priests and spiritual sacrifices must be washed in the laver of Christ's blood, and of regeneration. We must wash often, for we daily contract pollution. There are full means provided for our cleansing; so that if we have our lot for ever among the unclean it will be our own fault. Let us bless God for the fountain opened by the sacrifice of Christ for sin and for uncleanness.Josephus charged Solomon with a breach of the Commandment Exodus 20:4-5, on account of the oxen here and the lions for his throne. The charge expresses the prohibition which some Jews have conceived the Commandment to urge against the arts of sculpture and painting. 23-26. he made a molten sea—In the tabernacle was no such vessel; the laver served the double purpose of washing the hands and feet of the priests as well as the parts of the sacrifices. But in the temple there were separate vessels provided for these offices. (See on [297]2Ch 4:6). The molten sea was an immense semicircular vase, measuring seventeen and a half feet in diameter, and being eight and three-fourths feet in depth. This, at three and a half inches in thickness, could not weigh less than from twenty-five to thirty tons in one solid casting—and held from sixteen thousand to twenty thousand gallons of water. [See on [298]2Ch 4:3.] The brim was all carved with lily work or flowers; and oxen were carved or cut on the outside all round, to the number of three hundred; and it stood on a pedestal of twelve oxen. These oxen must have been of considerable size, like the Assyrian bulls, so that their corresponding legs would give thickness or strength to support so great a weight for, when the vessel was filled with water, the whole weight would be about one hundred tons [Napier]. (See on [299]2Ch 4:3). It stood upon twelve oxen, of solid brass, which was necessary to bear so great a weight. It is probably conceived that the water was by cocks drawn out of the mouths of these oxen. Three of these looked each way; partly for the more equal and convenient support of the vessel; and partly that divers persons might draw water out of it at the same time, which was frequently necessary, especially in great solemnities. It stood upon twelve oxen,.... Figures of them in brass, of full proportion:

three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east; and so turned to the four quarters of the world:

and the sea was set above upon them; as it were on the backs of them, and their mouths served as spouts or cocks, to let water out of it on all sides:

and all their hinder parts were inward; that they might not be seen, and which met in a centre; they that were north came against those that were south, and they in the east met with those to the west. The brass of the sea, according to Jacob Leon (r), weighed 1,800 arobas, and, with twelve oxen under, 33,500; each aroba being twenty five pounds weight.

(r) Relation of Memorable Things in the Temple, ch. 4. p. 21.

It stood upon twelve oxen, three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
25. the sea was set above upon them] i.e. The bottom rested on the backs of the oxen. Thus the height from the ground to the rim would be five cubits, and the height of the oxen besides. Nothing is said of such a thing, but it is not unlikely that the water was drawn out through the mouths of the oxen.Verse 25. - It stood [Heb. standing] upon twelve oxen [The import of the number twelve is well explained by. Bahr, Symbolik, 1:201 sqq. Like seven, it is compounded out of three and four. But the primary reference here is to the twelve tribes], three looking toward the north, and three looking toward the west, and three looking toward the south, and three looking toward the east [So the tribes in the camp formed a square round the tabernacle, three on each side - east, south, west, and north (Numbers 2.)]: and the sea was set above upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward. The same regard of the cardinal points (see Bahr, Symbolik, 1:210 sqq.) has been noticed in the pomegranates on the capitals of the two columns. See note on ver. 20. Keil says the feet of the oxen no doubt rested on a metal plate, so that they were fixed and immoveable; but this lacks proof. The oxen would be immovable in any case, owing to the weight of the metal and the water. All conjectures as to the height and size of the oxen are necessarily of little value. In 1 Kings 7:19 and 1 Kings 7:20 a second decoration of the capitals of the pillars is mentioned, from which we may see that the rounding with the chain-like plaited work and the pomegranates enclosing it did not cover the capital to the very top, but only the lower portion of it. The decoration of the upper part is described in 1 Kings 7:19 : "And capitals, which were upon the top of the pillars, were (or, Hiram made) lily-work after the manner of the hall, four cubits." The lily-work occupied, according to 1 Kings 7:20, the upper portion of the capitals, which is here called כּתרת, as a crown set upon the lower portion. It was lily-work, i.e., sculpture in the form of flowering lilies. The words אמּות ארבּע בּאוּלם are obscure. According to Bttcher and Thenius, בּאוּלם is intended to indicate the position of the pillars within the hall, so that their capitals sustained the lintel of the doorway. But even if בּאוּלם were rendered, within the hall, as it is by Bttcher, it is impossible to see how this meaning could be obtained from the words "capitals upon the head of the pillars lily-work within the hall." In that case we must at least have "the pillars within the hall;" and בּאוּלם would be connected with העמּוּדים, instead of being separated from it by שׁוּשׁן מעשׂה. Even if we were to introduce a stop after שׁוּשׁן and take בּאוּלם by itself, the expression "in (or at) the hall" would not in itself indicate the position of the pillars in the doorway, to say nothing of the fact that it is only in 1 Kings 7:21 that anything is said concerning the position of the pillars. Again, the measurement "four cubits" cannot be understood, as it is by Thenius, as denoting the diameter of the capitals of the pillars; it must rather indicate the measure of the lily-work, that is to say, it affirms that there were four cubits of lily-work on the capitals, which were five cubits high, - in other words, the lily-work covered the four upper cubits of the capitals; from which it still further follows, that the plaited work which formed the decoration of the lower portion of the capitals was only one cubit broad or high. Consequently בּאוּלם cannot be understood in any other sense than "in the manner of or according to the hall," and can only express the thought, that there was lily-work on the capitals of the pillars as there was on the hall. For the vindication of this use of בּ see Ges. Lex. by Dietrich, s.v. בּ.

(Note: This is the way in which the earlier translators appear to have understood it: e.g., lxx ἕργον κρίνου κατὰ τὸ αὐλὰμ τεσσάρων πηχῶν ("lily-work according to the hall four cubits"); Vulg. Capitella... quasi opere lilii fabricata erant in porticu quatuor cubitorum; Chald. ארבע אמּין עובד שׁושׁנתא לקיט בוּלמּא (opus liliaceum collectum in porticu quatuor cubitorum); Syr. opus liliaceum idem fecit (Syr. wa-(ekad ke)set[a4wa4)) in porticu quatuor cubitis. These readings appear to be based upon the view supported by Rashi (בּאוּלם for כּאוּלם): lily-work as it was in the hall.)

There is no valid objection to the inference to which this leads, namely, that on the frontispiece of the temple-hall there was a decoration of lily-work. For since the construction of the hall is not more minutely described, we cannot expect a description of its decorations. - In 1 Kings 7:20 a more precise account is given of the position in which the crowns consisting of lily-work were placed on the capitals of this columns, so that this verse is to be regarded as an explanation of 1 Kings 7:19 : namely, capitals upon the pillars (did he make) also above near the belly, which was on the other side of the plait-work." הבּטן, the belly, i.e., the belly-shaped rounding, can only be the rounding of the lower portion of the capitals, which is called גּלה in 1 Kings 7:41, 1 Kings 7:42. Hence השּׂבכה לעבר (Keri), "on the other side of the plaited work," can only mean behind or under the plait, since we cannot suppose that there was a belly-shaped rounding above the caldron-shaped rounding which was covered with plaited work, and between this and the lily-work. The belly-shaped rounding, above or upon which the plaited work lay round about, might, when looked at from without, be described as being on the other side of it, i.e., behind it. In the second half of the verse: "and the pomegranates two hundred in rows round about on the second capital," the number of the pomegranates placed upon the capitals, which was omitted in 1 Kings 7:18, is introduced in a supplementary form.

(Note: Hermann Weiss (Kostmkunde, i. p. 367) agrees in the main with the idea worked out in the text; but he assumes, on the ground of monumental views, that the decoration was of a much simpler kind, and one by no means out of harmony with the well-known monumental remains of the East. In his opinion, the pillars consisted of "a shaft nineteen cubits in height, surrounded at the top, exactly after the fashion of the ornamentation of the Egyptian pillars, with seven bands decorated like plaited work, which unitedly covered a cubit, in addition to which there was the lily-work of five cubits in height, i.e., a slender capital rising up in the form of the calyx of a lily, ornamented with pomegranates." Our reasons for dissenting from this opinion are given in the exposition of the different verses.)

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