1 Kings 8:63
And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the LORD, two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the LORD.
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(63) And Solomon offered.—The number here given, enormous as it is, can hardly be supposed due to any error in the text; for it is exactly reproduced in the Chronicles and by Josephus. Much explanation of it has been wasted through misunderstanding of the real difficulty involved. It is comparatively easy to conceive how such a mass of victims could be brought as offerings or consumed, when we consider the vastness of the assembled multitude from the whole of the great dominions of Solomon, dwelling in or encamped about the city. Even at the Passovers of the last days of Jerusalem the multitude of worshippers seems to have been numbered by hundreds of thousands. The real difficulty is to conceive how, even through the fourteen days of the festival, and over the whole of the hallowed portion of the court, the victims could have been offered. But it is not unlikely that on such an occasion it might be deemed sufficient actually to sacrifice only certain representative victims of each hecatomb, and simply to dedicate the rest to the Lord, leaving them to be killed and eaten elsewhere.

This profusion of sacrifices, good as expressing the natural desire of all to offer at such a time, may perhaps have involved something of the idea, so frequent in heathen sacrifice, and so emphatically condemned by the prophets, that the Lord would be “pleased with thousands of rams and ten thousands of rivers of oil”—something also of that display of the magnificence of the king and his people, even in the very act of homage to God, which the history throughout seems to imply. If so, in these ideas lurked the evils which hereafter were to overthrow the prosperity of Israel, and make the Temple a heap of stones.

1 Kings 8:63. And Solomon offered — By the hands of the priests, two and twenty thousand oxen, &c. — Not all in one day, but in seven, or, it may be, in the fourteen days mentioned 1 Kings 8:65. So the king and all Israel dedicated the house of the Lord — Began to set it apart for the work and services of God by these sacrifices and holy exercises.

8:62-66 Solomon offered a great sacrifice. He kept the feast of tabernacles, as it seems, after the feast of dedication. Thus should we go home, rejoicing, from holy ordinances, thankful for God's GoodnessThese numbers have been thought incredible, but they are not impossible. At least 100, 000, or 120, 000 men 1 Kings 8:65 were assembled; and as they all offered sacrifice with the king 1 Kings 8:62, the number of victims must have been enormous. Part of the flesh of so many victims would be eaten; but much of the meat may have been privately burned Leviticus 19:6, the object of the sacrifice being the glory of God, and not the convenience of the people. Profusion was a usual feature of the sacrifices of antiquity. 63. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord—The dedication was not a ceremony ordained by the law, but it was done in accordance with the sentiments of reverence naturally associated with edifices appropriated to divine worship. [See on [302]2Ch 7:5.] Solomon offered a sacrifice, by the hands of the priests.

A hundred and twenty thousand sheep; not all in one day, but in the seven, or, it may be, in the fourteen days, mentioned 1 Kings 8:65. So, i.e. by these sacrifices and holy exercises.

Dedicated the house of the Lord, i.e. began to set it apart for the work and service of God.

And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the Lord,.... Part of which belonged to the offerer, and with those Solomon feasted the people all the days of the feast of the dedication, if not of tabernacles also; for the number was exceeding large, as follows:

22,000 oxen, and 120,000 sheep; which, as suggested, might be the number for all the fourteen days; nor need it seem incredible, since, as Josephus (b) says, at a passover celebrated in the times of Cestius the Roman governor, at the evening of the passover, in two hours time 256,500 lambs were slain; however, this was a very munificent sacrifice of Solomon's, in which he greatly exceeded the Heathens, whose highest number of sacrifices were hecatombs, or by hundreds, but his by thousands:

so the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord; devoted it to divine and religious worship by these sacrifices: hence in imitation of this sprung the dedication of temples with the Heathens; the first of which among the Romans was that in the capitol at Rome (c) by Romulus; the rites and ceremonies used therein by them may be read in Cicero, Livy, Tacitus, and others (d).

(b) De Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 9. sect. 3.((c) Vid. Liv. Hist. Decad. 1. l. 1. p. s. & l. 2. p. 33. (d) Vid. Hospinian. de Templis, l. 4. c. 2. p. 451. & Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 6. c. 14.

And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings, which he offered unto the LORD, two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the {y} house of the LORD.

(y) Before the oracle where the ark was.

62–66. The great sacrifice and festival (2 Chronicles 7:4-11)

63. And Solomon offered a sacrifice of peace offerings] It is ordered in the Law (Leviticus 7:15) that the greatest part of such peace offerings shall be eaten at the time of the offering. The fat and certain internal portions of the victim are to be consumed in the fire on the altar, but all else is to go for food. This explains in part the enormous number of animals mentioned in this verse. Not only among the Jews, but among all ancient nations, sacrifices were feasts, sometimes on a very large scale. Homer supplies abundant instances. The dedication of the Temple was an event for which all who could come were sure to assemble, and for the support of such an enormous crowd for fourteen days (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:8-9) the supply here mentioned need not be thought excessive. Great multitudes can assemble in Eastern climates, where the shelter of a roof at night is not a necessity, with less preparation, except for actual food, than is required in western lands. Josephus says “all the Hebrews feasted with their wives and children, moreover also the king celebrated the feast which is called the feast of Tabernacles grandly and magnificently before the Temple, feasting together with all the people.”

two and twenty thousand oxen] Contrary to his custom Josephus gives here a smaller number than that in the Hebrew text. He says twelve thousand oxen, but keeps the same number, one hundred and twenty thousand, for the sheep. Though it be said that the king offered this large sacrifice, we need not suppose that any great part of the offering was performed by him personally or in his presence. The next verse shows that provision was made for offering sacrifices in other places than on the brazen altar, viz. on temporary altars set up for the occasion.

Verse 63. - And Solomon offered a sacrifice [Solomon is mentioned as chief donor, and as the executive. But others shared in the gift] of peace offerings [Leviticus 7:11 sqq. This was especially the sacrifice of praise - it is called "the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace offerings," ib. vers. 13, 15. See Bahr, Symb. 2:368 sqq. In the peace offering, the fat was burnt on the altar, but the flesh was eaten (ver. 15; cf. Deuteronomy 12:7), so that this form of offering was, in every way, adapted to a festival. The idea that "ox after ox, to the number of 22,000, and sheep after sheep, to the number of 120,000, were consumed," sc. by fire (Stanley), is expressly excluded], which he offered unto the Lord, two and twenty thousand oxen, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep. [it is very possible that these numbers have been altered in course of transcription, as is the case with numbers elsewhere, but there is no ground for suspecting exaggeration or mistake. For, in the first place, the Chronicles and all the Versions agree with the text, and, secondly, the numbers, compared with what we know of the sacrifices offered on other occasions, are not unduly large, nor were they such that (as has been alleged) it would be impossible to offer them within the time specified. If, at an ordinary Passover a quarter of a million of lambs could be sacrificed within the space of two or three hours (Jos., Bell. Jud. 6:09.8), there can obviously have been "no difficulty in sacrificing 3000 oxen and 18,000 sheep on each of the seven days of the festival" (Keil). (But were not the sacrifices spread over fourteen days? ver. 65.) And it is to be remembered

(1) that "profusion was a usual feature of the sacrifices of antiquity Sacrifices of a thousand oxen (χιλιόμβαι) were not infrequent. According to an Arabian historian (Koto beddyn), the Caliph Moktader sacrificed during his pilgrimage to Mecca... 40,000 camels and cows and 50,000 sheep. Tavernier speaks of 100,000 victims as offered by the King of Tonquin" (Rawlinson, Stanley); and

(2) that the context insists on the ex traordinary number of victims. They were so numerous, we are told, that the brazen altar was quite inadequate to receive them (ver. 64). It has been already pointed out (note on ver. 62) that the people joined the king in the sacrifices. Indeed it is against not only ver. 62, but vers. 63, 65, to suppose that all the victims were offered by Solomon alone (Ewald, Stanley). If these numbers, therefore, include those offered by the people, we can the more readily understand them. For, by the lowest computation, there could hardly be less than 100,000 heads of houses present at the feast (Bahr, Keil), and if the numbers of David's census (2 Samuel 24:9) may be trusted, there may very well have been four or five times that number, and on such an occasion as that, an occasion altogether without precedent, every Israelite would doubtless offer his sacrifice of thanksgiving - the more so as a large number of victims would be required for the purposes of the subsequent feast. And as to the impossibility of the priests offering so prodigious a number within the specified time (Thenius, al.), we have only to remember

(1) that if there were 38,000 Levites (men over thirty years of age) in the time of David (1 Chronicles 23:3), or any thing like that number, there must have been at the very least at this period two or three thousand priests (Keil), and we can hardly think that at the dedication of so glorious a temple, in which they were so profoundly interested, many of them would be absent from Jerusalem. But if there were only one thousand present, that number would have been amply sufficient to perform all the priestly functions. For it was no necessary, part of the priests' office either to slay the victim, or to prepare it for sacrifice - that any Israelite might do (Leviticus 1:5, 6, 11; Leviticus 3:2, 8, etc.); the duty of the priest was strictly limited to "sprinkling the blood round about upon the altar" (Leviticus 3:2, 8; cf. 1:5), and burning the fat, the kidneys, etc., upon the altar (Leviticus 3:5). It is clear, consequently, that there is no difficulty whatsoever as to the manual acts required of the priests. It only remains to notice one other objection, viz., that the people could not possibly have eaten all the flesh of these peace offerings. But here again the answer is conclusive, viz.

(1) that it was not necessary that all should be eaten, for the law expressly provided that if any of the flesh remained over until the third day, it should be burnt with fire (Leviticus 7:15; Leviticus 19:6), and

(2) no one can say what the number of people may not have been (see below on ver. 65), and

(3) the sacrifices were spread over fourteen days.] So the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord. 1 Kings 8:63Sacrifices and feast. - 1 Kings 8:62, 1 Kings 8:63. The dedicatory prayer was followed by a magnificent sacrifice offered by the king and all Israel. The thank-offering (שׁלמים זבח) consisted, in accordance with the magnitude of the manifestation of divine grace, of 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. This enormous number of sacrificial animals, in which J. D. Michaelis found serious difficulties, Thenius endeavours to set aside as too large, by calculating that as these sacrifices were offered in seven days, reckoning the sacrificial day at twelve full hours, there must have been about five oxen and about twenty-five sheep slaughtered and offered in sacrifice every minute for the king alone. This calculation would be conclusive, if there were any foundation for the three assumptions upon which it rests: namely, (1) that the number of sacrifices mentioned was offered for the king alone; (2) that the slaughtering and preparation of the sacrificial animals could only be performed by the priests and Levites; and (3) that the whole of the flesh of these sacrificial animals was to be consumed upon the altar. But these three assumptions are all erroneous. There is nothing in the account about their being "for the king alone." For it is obvious that the words "and Solomon offered a sacrifice" are not to be understood as signifying that the king had these sacrifices offered for himself alone, but that the words refer to the sacrifices offered by the king and all Israel for the consecration of the temple, from the simple fact that in 1 Kings 8:62 "Solomon and all Israel" are expressly mentioned as offering sacrifice, and that after the statement of the number of the sacrifices we find these words in 1 Kings 8:63 : "so the king and all the children of Israel dedicated the house of Jehovah." Moreover it is very evident from the law in Leviticus 1 and 3 that at the offering of sacrifice the slaughtering, flaying, and preparation of the sacrificial animals were performed by any Israelite, and that it was only the sprinkling of the blood against the altar and the burning of the sacrificial portions upon the altar which were the exclusive province of the priests. In order to form a correct idea of the enormous number of sacrifices which could be slaughtered on any one day we will refer again to the notice in Josephus (Bell. Jud. vi. 9, 3) already mentioned in the Comm. on the Pentateuch, p. 683 (translation), that in the reign of the emperor Nero the procurator Cestius directed the priests to count the number of the paschal lambs, and that they counted 250,000, which were slaughtered for the passover between the ninth and eleventh hours of the day, and of which the blood was sprinkled upon the altar. If then it was possible at that time to slaughter more than 250,000 lambs in three hours of the afternoon, and to sprinkle the blood upon the altar, there can have been no difficulty in slaughtering and sacrificing 3000 oxen and 18,000 sheep at the dedication of the temple on each of the seven days of the festival. As all Israel from Hamath to the brook of Egypt came to Jerusalem to this festival, we shall not be above the mark if we estimate the number of the heads of houses present at 100,000. And with very little trouble they could have slaughtered 3000 oxen and 18,000 sheep a day and prepared them for sacrificing. How many priests took an active part in this, we do not indeed know, in fact we have no information as to the number of the priests in Solomon's time; but we know that in the time of David the number of Levites qualified for service, reckoning from their thirtieth year, was 38,000, so that we may certainly assume that there were two or three thousand priests. Now if only the half of these Levites and priests had come to Jerusalem to the dedication of the temple, they alone could have slaughtered 3000 oxen and 18,000 sheep every day. And would not a thousand priests have been sufficient to sprinkle the blood of so many animals upon the altar and to turn the fat between the morning and evening sacrifice? If we divided these sacrifices among a thousand priests, each one would only have had to attend to the sprinkling of the blood and burning of the fat of three oxen and eighteen sheep each day. - But the brazen altar of burnt-offering might not have been large enough for the burning of so many sacrifices, notwithstanding the fact that only the fat portions of the thank-offerings were consumed, and they did not require much room; since the morning and evening burnt-offerings were added daily, and as festal offerings they would certainly not consist of a lamb only, but at least of one bullock, and they were burned whole, although the altar of burnt-offering with a surface of 144 square yards (see my bibl. Archol. i. p. 127) would hold a very large quantity of sacrificial flesh at once. In v. 64, however, it is expressly stated that Solomon sanctified the middle of the court, which was before the house of Jehovah, to burn the burnt-offering and meat-offering and the fat portions of the thank-offerings there, because the brazen altar was too small to hold these sacrifices. "The middle of the court" (החצר תּוך) is the whole of the inner portion of the court of the priests, which was in front of the temple-house and formed the centre of the court surrounding the temple. Of course we have not to imagine that the sacrifices were offered upon the stone pavement of the court, but must assume that there were auxiliary altars erected in the inner court around the brazen altar. By the burnt-offering and the meat-offering (belonging to it: ואת־המּנחה את־העולה) we are not to understand certain burnt-offerings, which were offered for a definite number of thank-offerings, as Thenius supposes. The singular and the definite article are both at variance with this. The reference is rather to the (well-known) daily morning and evening burnt-offerings with their meat-offering, and in this case, no doubt, to such a festal sacrifice as is prescribed in Numbers 28 for the great yearly feasts.
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