1 Kings 8:35
When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against you; if they pray toward this place, and confess your name, and turn from their sin, when you afflict them:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(35, 36) When heaven is shut up.—Next, Solomon dwells on the plague of famine, from rain withheld, by which, in the striking language of the Law (Leviticus 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:23-24), “the heaven should be as brass, and the earth as iron,” and all vegetation perish from the parched land of Palestine, as now it seems actually to have failed in many places once fertile. In such plague he acknowledges the chastisement of God, sent to “teach Israel the right way,” and then to be withdrawn in mercy. The whole history of the famine in the days of Elijah is in all parts a striking commentary on this clause of the prayer.

1 Kings 8:35. When heaven is shut up — The lower or aerial heaven, in which the clouds are. This is compared to a great storehouse in God’s keeping, out of which nothing can be obtained so long as it is close shut up. And as he is said to bring the wind, (Psalm 135:7,) so the rain, out of this treasury.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.The oath come before ... - "The oath" is equivalent to "the man who swears the oath." A slight alteration in the present Hebrew text gives the sense "and he (the accused) go and swear before thine altar," etc. The threats and the promises, the punishments and calamities of 1 Kings 8:31-38 were distinctly named in the Law. See the margin reference. 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].

Heaven; the lower heaven, in which the clouds are; as Deu 11:17 Psalm 147:8.

Is shut up; the heaven is compared to a great store-house in God’s keeping, out of which nothing can be had so long as it is close shut up.

If they turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them; do not reject their prayers, because they are forced from them by their afflictions, as thou mayest justly do. When heaven is shut up,.... As it may be said to be when the air is quite serene, and not a cloud in it:

and there is no rain; in its season, neither the former nor the latter, as it was in the times of Elijah:

because they have sinned against thee; want of rain was threatened in case of sin, and was always the effect of it, Leviticus 26:19,

if they pray towards this place; in any part of the country where they were; for it sometimes rained on one city, and not on another, Amos 4:7.

and confess thy name; own his power and his providence, and the justness of his dealings with them:

and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them; their affliction being made useful, to bring them to a sense of their sin, and to repentance for it, and reformation from it; or, "when thou hearest" or "answerest them" (g); so the Targum, receives their prayer; thus the goodness of God leads to repentance.

(g) "cum exaudieris eos", Vatablus.

When heaven is {n} shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them:

(n) So that there is a drought to destroy the fruit of the land.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
35. When heaven is shut up] The king next intreats against a plague of drought. This also had been proclaimed in the Pentateuch as one of God’s methods of discipline and punishment. So Deuteronomy 11:17 the people are warned to beware of sin lest the Lord shut up the heaven that there be no rain; and in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 28:23) and Leviticus (Leviticus 26:19) the striking phrase is used ‘I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass.’Verse 35. - When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place [toward, because the inhabitants of the land everywhere would direct their prayers toward the holy oracle in Jerusalem (Psalm 28:2) ], and confess [praise] thy name, and turn from their sin, when [or because, כִּי] thou afflictest them. [LXX. ὅταν ταπεινώσης αὐτοὺς ( Humbling should be the result of affliction.] "That Thine eyes may be open upon this house night and day." אל־הבּית, speciali quadam providentia in hanc domum directi (Mich.). The following clause, "upon the place of which Thou hast said, My name shall be there" (namely, 2 Samuel 7:13, implicite), contains within itself the ground upon which the prayer rests. Because the name of God will be in the temple, i.e., because God will manifest His gracious presence there, He will also keep His eyes open upon it, so as to hear the prayer of Solomon directed towards it. הזּה המּקום אל (toward this place): because Solomon also was prayer in the court towards the temple. - In 1 Kings 8:30, "and hear the supplication of Thy servant and of Thy people Israel," he begins by asking that those prayers may be heard which the king and people shall henceforth bring before God in the temple. ושׁמעתּ corresponds to וּפנית in 1 Kings 8:28, and is more precisely defined by the following תּשׁמע ואתּה (as for these prayers), Thou wilt hear them up to the place of Thine abode, to heaven. אל שׁמע is a pregnant expression: to hear the prayer, which ascends to heaven. In the Chronicles we find throughout the explanatory מן. The last words, "hear and forgive," must be left in their general form, and not limited by anything to be supplied. Nothing but forgiveness of sin can remove the curse by which transgression is followed.

This general prayer is then particularized from 1 Kings 8:31 onwards by the introduction of seven special petitions for an answer in the different cases in which, in future, prayers may be offered to God in the temple. The first prayer (1 Kings 8:31, 1 Kings 8:32) has reference to the oaths sworn in the temple, the sanctity of which God is asked to protect. "If a man sin against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him, to cause him to swear, and he come (and) swear before the altar in this house, then wilt Thou hear," etc. אשׁר את does not mean either "granted that" (Thenius) or "just when" (Ewald, 533, a.), although אם is used in the Chronicles, and we might render it freely "when;" but את is simply an accusative particle, serving to introduce the following clause, in the sense of "as for," or "with regard to (such a case as) that a man sins" (vid., Ewald, 277, a.). אלה וּבא cannot be taken as anything but an asyndeton. For if אלה were a substantive, it would have the article (האלה) provided it were the subject, and the verb would be written בּאה; and if it were the object, we should have בּאלה, as in Nehemiah 10:30 (cf. Ezekiel 17:13). The prayer refers to the cases mentioned in Exodus 22:6-12 and Leviticus 26:17, when property entrusted to any one had been lost or injured, or when a thing had been found and the finding was denied, or when an act of fraud had been committed; in which cases the law required not only compensation with the addition of a fifth of its value, but also a trespass-offering as an expiation of the sin committed by taking a false oath. But as this punishment could only be inflicted when the guilty person afterwards confessed his guilt, many false oaths might have been sworn in the cases in question and have remained unpunished, so far as men were concerned. Solomon therefore prays that the Lord will hear every such oath that shall have been sworn before the altar, and work (עשׂית), i.e., actively interpose, and judge His servants, to punish the guilty and justify the innocent. The construction השּׁמים תּשׁמע (1 Kings 8:32, 1 Kings 8:34, 1 Kings 8:36, etc.) can be explained more simply from the adverbial use of the accusative (Ewald, 300, b.), than from השּׁמים אל in 1 Kings 8:30. בּראשׁו דּרכּו תּת, to give (bring) his way upon his head, i.e., to cause the merited punishment to fall upon him (cf. Ezekiel 9:10; Ezekiel 11:21, etc.). רשׁע הרשׁרע and צדּיק הצדּיק recall Deuteronomy 25:2. For כּצדקתו לו תּת compare 2 Samuel 22:21, 2 Samuel 22:25. - The following cases are all taken from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.

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