1 Kings 8:21
And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the LORD, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.
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(21) Wherein is the covenant of the Lord—the Tables, that is, containing the “words of the covenant” (Exodus 34:28). This remarkable application of the word “covenant” illustrates strikingly the characteristics of the Divine covenants with man. Such covenants are not (like most human covenants) undertakings of reciprocal engagements between parties regarded as independent. For such a conception of the relation between God and man is monstrous. God’s covenants proceed simply from His will, expressed in His call to an individual or a nation. They begin in free grace and blessing from Him; they require simply that men should believe and accept His call, and act in obedience to that belief. Thus the Decalogue opens with the words, “I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage,” describing the gift of salvation from the mercy of God, which constituted Israel afresh as His peculiar people. (See Exodus 3:7-15.) On the ground of this salvation, rather than of His Omnipotence as Creator and Sustainer of the world, He calls for their obedience to the commandments, which are thus “the words of the covenant.” Similarly St. Paul, when (Romans 12:1) he calls Christians to absolute self-devotion, appeals to them by “the mercies of God,” on which he had so fully dwelt—the larger and more spiritual covenant in Christ.

1 Kings 8:21. I have set there a place for the ark — The token of God’s presence with us; wherein is the covenant of the Lord — That is, the tables of the covenant, in which are written the conditions of God’s covenant with our fathers. When he brought them out of the land of Egypt — And declared to them that by the tenure of this covenant they were to hold the land of Canaan.8:12-21 Solomon encouraged the priests, who were much astonished at the dark cloud. The dark dispensations of Providence should quicken us in fleeing for refuge to the hope of the gospel. Nothing can more reconcile us to them, than to consider what God has said, and to compare his word and works together. Whatever good we do, we must look on it as the performance of God's promise to us, not of our promises to him.The marginal reference completes the sense of this verse here. The passage is in accordance with archaic modes of speech, and is probably the more verbally accurate of the two. 14. the king turned his face about—From the temple, where he had been watching the movement of the mystic cloud, and while the people were standing, partly as the attitude of devotion, partly out of respect to royalty, the king gave a fervent expression of praise to God for the fulfilment of His promise (2Sa 7:6-16). The covenant of the Lord, i.e. the tables of the covenant, by a metonymy, wherein the conditions of God’s covenant with Israel are written. And I have set there a place for the ark,.... The most holy place:

wherein is the covenant of the Lord; the two tables of stone, on which were the covenant of the Lord, as the Targum:

which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt; as in 1 Kings 8:9.

And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the {g} covenant of the LORD, which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.

(g) The two tables in which the articles of the covenant were written.

21. the ark, wherein is the covenant of the Lord] It has just been said (1 Kings 8:9) that only the two tables of stone were in the ark. They must then be meant by ‘the covenant of the Lord,’ and this is borne out by such passages as Deuteronomy 4:23; Deuteronomy 29:25, where the covenant alluded to forms a part of the ten commandments. But ‘the book of the covenant’ (Exodus 24:7) appears to have included all the laws contained in Exodus 20-23.Verse 21. - And I have set there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of the Lord [Hence its name, "the ark of the covenant" (Exodus 34:28; cf. Deuteronomy 9:11)] which he made with our forefathers when he brought them out of the land of Egypt [vers. 9, 16]. SECTION II. - The Prayer. The prayer of dedication, properly so called, now begins. This solemn and beautiful composition was probably copied by our author from the "Book of the Acts of Solomon" (1 Kings 11:41), possibly from the "Book of Nathan the prophet" (2 Chronicles 9:29). It was evidently committed to writing beforehand, and would, no doubt, as a matter of course, be religiously preserved. The later criticism objects to its authenticity that the many references to the Pentateuch (compare ver. 12 with Exodus 19:9; ver. 31 with Exodus 22:11, Leviticus 5:1; ver. 33 with Leviticus 26:17, Deuteronomy 28:25; ver. 36 with Leviticus 26:25; ver. 50 with Leviticus 26:40, 42; ver. 51 with Deuteronomy 4:20, etc.) prove it to be of a later date. Ewald assigns it to the seventh century B.C.; but this is simply to beg the question of the date of the Pentateuch. It is obviously open to reply that these references only prove that the king was acquainted, as he was bound to be (Deuteronomy 17:18), with the words of the law. It divides itself into three parts. The first (vers. 22-30) is general; the second (vers. 31-53) consists of seven special petitions; the last (vers. 50-53) consists of a general conclusion and appeal to God's covenant mercy. Solomon extols this marvellous proof of the favour of the Lord. - 1 Kings 8:12. Then spake Solomon, "Jehovah hath spoken to dwell in the darkness." "Solomon saw that the temple was filled with a cloud, and remembered that God had been pleased to appear in a cloud in the tent of Moses also. Hence he assuredly believed that God was in this cloud also, and that, as formerly He had filled the tabernacle, so He would now fill the temple and dwell therein" (Seb. Schmidt). וגו יהוה אמר, which Thenius still renders incorrectly, "the Lord intends to dwell in the darkness," refers, as Rashi, C. a Lap., and others have seen, to the utterances of God in the Pentateuch concerning the manifestation of His gracious presence among His people, not merely to Leviticus 16:2 (I will appear in the cloud), but also to Exodus 19:9, where the Lord said to Moses, "I come to thee הענן בּעב," and still more to Exodus 20:21 and Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:19, according to which God came down upon Sinai בּערפל. Solomon took the word ערפל from these passages. That he meant by this the black, dark cloud which filled the temple, is perfectly obvious from the combination והערפל הענן in Deuteronomy 5:19 and Deuteronomy 4:11.

(Note: Thenius, however, has built up all kinds of untenable conjectures as to alterations of the text, upon the erroneous assumption that ענן means the light and radiant cloud, and cannot be synonymous with ערפל. Bttcher adopts the same opinion, without taking any notice of the striking remarks of Bertheau on 2 Chronicles 5:14.)

Solomon saw this word of Jehovah realized in the filling of the temple with the cloud, and learned therefrom that the Lord would dwell in this temple. Hence, being firmly convinced of the presence of Jehovah in the cloud which filled the sanctuary, he adds in 1 Kings 8:13 : "I have built Thee a house to dwell in, a place for Thy seat for ever." We are not to understand עולמים as signifying that Solomon believed that the temple built by him would stand for ever; but it is to be explained partly from the contrast to the previous abode of God in the tabernacle, which from the very nature of the case could only be a temporary one, inasmuch as a tent, such as the tabernacle was, is not only a moveable and provisional dwelling, but also a very perishable one, and partly from the promise given to David in 2 Samuel 7:14-16, that the Lord would establish the throne of his kingdom for his seed for ever. This promise involved the eternal duration of the gracious connection between God and Israel, which was embodied in the dwelling of God in the temple. This connection, from its very nature, was an eternal one; even if the earthly form, from which Solomon at that moment abstracted himself, was temporal and perishable. - Solomon had spoken these words with his face turned to the Most Holy Place. He then (1 Kings 8:14) turned his face to the congregation, which was standing in the court, and blessed it. The word "blessed" (יברך) denotes the wish for a blessing with which the king greeted the assembled congregation, and introduced the praise of God which follows. - In 1 Kings 8:15-21 he praises the Lord for having now fulfilled with His hand what He spake with His mouth to his father David (2 Samuel 7).

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