1 Kings 8:27
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(27, 28) Will God indeed dwell.—The thought expressed here exemplifies a constant antithesis which run through the Old Testament. On the one hand, there is the most profound and unvarying conception of the Infinity, eternal, invisible, incomprehensible, of the Lord, as “the High and Holy One who inhabiteth eternity,” whom “the heaven of heavens”—the heaven, that is, in all its vastest extent—“cannot contain;” and the spirituality of this conception is guarded by the sternest prohibition of that idolatry which limited and degraded the idea of God, and by rebuke of the superstition which trusted in an intrinsic sacredness of the Ark or the Temple. On the other hand, there is an equally vivid conviction that the Infinite Jehovah is yet pleased to enter into a special covenant with Israel, beyond all other nations, to reveal Himself by the cloud in the midst of His people, to bless, with a peculiar blessing, “the place which He chooses to place His Name there.” The two conceptions co-exist, as in the text, in complete harmony, both preparing for the perfect manifestation of a “God with us” in that kingdom of the Messiah, which was at once to perfect the covenant with Israel, and to include all peoples, nations, and languages for ever and ever. The words of Solomon in spirit anticipate the utterance of the prophet (Isaiah 66:1), quoted by St. Stephen against idolatry of the Temple (Acts 7:48), and even the greater declaration of our Lord (John 4:21-24) as to the universal presence of God to all spiritual worship. Yet he feels the reality of the consecration of the House raised by the command of God; and prays that all who recognise it by prayer “toward this house,” may enter into the special unity with God which it symbolises, and be heard by Him from heaven. By an instructive contrast, the Temple is described as the place where God’s “Name”—that is, His self-revelation—is made to dwell; but heaven, and it alone, as the true dwelling- place of God Himself.

1 Kings 8:27. But will God indeed dwell on earth? — Is it possible that the great and high and holy God, the infinite, the eternal, should stoop so low as to take up his dwelling among men? Behold the heaven, &c. — All this vast space of the visible heaven; nay, the third and highest, therefore most extensive heaven, called, for its eminence and comprehensiveness, the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee — For thy essence reacheth far beyond them, being omnipresent. Much less this house — Which, therefore, was not built as if it were proportionable to thy greatness, or could contain thee, but only that therein we might serve and glorify thee.8:22-53 In this excellent prayer, Solomon does as we should do in every prayer; he gives glory to God. Fresh experiences of the truth of God's promises call for larger praises. He sues for grace and favour from God. The experiences we have of God's performing his promises, should encourage us to depend upon them, and to plead them with him; and those who expect further mercies, must be thankful for former mercies. God's promises must be the guide of our desires, and the ground of our hopes and expectations in prayer. The sacrifices, the incense, and the whole service of the temple, were all typical of the Redeemer's offices, oblation, and intercession. The temple, therefore, was continually to be remembered. Under one word, forgive, Solomon expressed all that he could ask in behalf of his people. For, as all misery springs from sin, forgiveness of sin prepares the way for the removal of every evil, and the receiving of every good. Without it, no deliverance can prove a blessing. In addition to the teaching of the word of God, Solomon entreated the Lord himself to teach the people to profit by all, even by their chastisements. They shall know every man the plague of his own heart, what it is that pains him; and shall spread their hands in prayer toward this house; whether the trouble be of body or mind, they shall represent it before God. Inward burdens seem especially meant. Sin is the plague of our own hearts; our in-dwelling corruptions are our spiritual diseases: every true Israelite endeavours to know these, that he may mortify them, and watch against the risings of them. These drive him to his knees; lamenting these, he spreads forth his hands in prayer. After many particulars, Solomon concludes with the general request, that God would hearken to his praying people. No place, now, under the gospel, can add to the prayers made in or towards it. The substance is Christ; whatever we ask in his name, it shall be given us. In this manner the Israel of God is established and sanctified, the backslider is recovered and healed. In this manner the stranger is brought nigh, the mourner is comforted, the name of God is glorified. Sin is the cause of all our troubles; repentance and forgiveness lead to all human happiness.heaven of heavens - Compare Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 148:4. It seems to mean the heaven in its most extended compass. Solomon combines with his belief in Yahweh's special presence in the temple, the strongest conviction that He is no local or finite deity, but is ever present everywhere. Compare Psalm 139:7-10. 1Ki 8:22-61. His Prayer.

22. Solomon stood before the altar—This position was in the court of the people, on a brazen scaffold erected for the occasion (2Ch 6:13), fronting the altar of burnt offering, and surrounded by a mighty concourse of people. Assuming the attitude of a suppliant, kneeling (1Ki 8:54; compare 2Ch 6:24) and with uplifted hands, he performed the solemn act of consecration—an act remarkable, among other circumstances, for this, that it was done, not by the high priest or any member of the Aaronic family, but by the king in person, who might minister about, though not in, holy things. This sublime prayer [1Ki 8:22-35], which breathes sentiments of the loftiest piety blended with the deepest humility, naturally bore a reference to the national blessing and curse contained in the law—and the burden of it—after an ascription of praise to the Lord for the bestowment of the former, was an earnest supplication for deliverance from the latter. He specifies seven cases in which the merciful interposition of God would be required; and he earnestly bespeaks it on the condition of people praying towards that holy place. The blessing addressed to the people at the close is substantially a brief recapitulation of the preceding prayer [1Ki 8:56-61].

Reflecting upon God’s performance of his promise concerning the building of the temple, he breaks forth into admiration, Is it possible that the great, and high, and lofty God should stoop so low, as to take up his dwelling here amongst men? O astonishing condescension!

The heaven; all this vast space of the visible heaven.

And heaven of heavens; the third and highest, and therefore the largest heaven, called the heaven of heavens here, as also Deu 10:14 Psalm 148:4, for its eminency and comprehensiveness.

Cannot contain thee; for thy essence teacheth far beyond them, being omnipresent.

How much less this house that I have builded? this house therefore was not built as if it were proportionable to thy greatness, or could contain thee, but only that therein we might serve and glorify thee. But will God indeed dwell on the earth?.... Is it true? Can any credit be given to it? Who could ever have thought it, that so great and glorious a Being, who inhabits eternity, dwells in the highest heavens, should ever condescend to dwell on earth? Such was the amazing condescension of Christ, the Son of God, to tabernacle in human nature with men on earth, to which Solomon perhaps might have respect; his temple being the figure of his body, in which the Godhead dwells, John 2:19.

behold, the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee; not, only the visible heavens, but the third heaven, where the throne of God is, and is the habitation of angels and saints; though there God makes the most glorious displays of himself yet he is so immense and infinite, that he is not to be comprehended and circumscribed in any place whatever:

how much less this house that I have builded? Though temples built for idols contain them, and are large enough, yet Solomon had no notion, when he built his temple, though it was for the name of God, that he was restrained to it, but dwelt everywhere, filling heaven and earth with his presence.

{i} But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?

(i) He is ravished with the admiration of God's mercies, who being incomprehensible and Lord over all will become familiar with men.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
27. will God in very deed dwell on the earth?] The LXX. adds ‘with men.’

the heaven and heaven of heavens] The expression is found in Deuteronomy 10:14; Ps. 67:36, Ps. 113:16, and is used to express the widest compass of heaven.

this house which I have builded] The LXX. adds ‘for Thy name.’Verse 27. - But [כִּי. Bahr refers for this use of the word to 1 Samuel 29:8; 1 Kings 11:22; 2 Kings 8:13; Jeremiah 23:18] will God indeed [Web. verily; same root as that of preceding verb, "verified." The repetition shows the connexion of thought. "But can these words be verified? Will God verily," etc.] dwell on the earth? behold the heaven and heaven of heavens [Same expression Deuteronomy 10:14. Cf. Psalm 115:16; Psalm 148:4; Isaiah 66:1. The Jewish belief respecting the seven heavens (see Wetstein on 2 Corinthians 12:2; Stanley, "Corinthians," l.c.) is of much later date, and a reference to it, or to the belief of some Rabbins in two heavens (after Deuteronomy 10:14), is altogether out of the question. The "heaven of heavens" = "all the spaces of heaven, however vast and infinite" (Gesen., cf. Psalm 148:4). The analogy of "holy of holies" would, however, suggest that not all the heavens, but the highest heavens are intended] cannot contain thee; how much less [אַפ כִּי: Ewald, 354 c] this house that I have builded? [Two points are to be noticed here.

(1) Solomon never denies for a moment that the temple was a real habitation of Jehovah, or that a real presence was manifested there. He only denies that the Deity is contained in earthly temples

(2) He had no unworthy ideas - such as were prevalent in that age - of God as a local deity, limited to space. The words clearly prove his grasp of the omnipresence and infinity of God. With this passage compare Psalm 139:7-10; Isaiah 66:1 (quoted in Acts 7:49), and Acts 17:24.] Ver 28. - Yet have thou respect unto the prayer of thy servant [ = the prayer I now offer, which is that thou wilt hear all future prayers offered here, mine and my people's] and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hearken unto the cry and to the prayer [Three words are used here, תְּחִנָּה תְּפִלָה, and רנָּה. The first (from הִתְפָלַל, precatus est; see ver. 29) is apparently a general term for prayer; the second (from חָנַן, propitius fuit) is properly a cry for mercy; hence an earnest prayer or supplication; while the third signifies a joyful cry; hence a mournful cry or prayer] which thy servant prayeth before thee today. "And Jehovah has set up His word." וגו ויּקם supplies the explanation of בידו מלּא (hath fulfilled with his hand) in 1 Kings 8:15. God had caused Solomon to take possession of the throne of David; and Solomon had built the temple and prepared a place there for the ark of the covenant. The ark is thereby declared to be the kernel and star of the temple, because it was the throne of the glory of God.
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